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Rare sightings of big bug draw fans from around the world

ONONDAGA, N.Y. (AP) --- Students from Japan and a researcher from New Zealand are among the scientists and hobbyists flocking to central New York for rare sightings of a big bug. The area's cicada (sih-KAY'-duh) brood emerges once every 17 years. The Post-Standard says the eastern U.S. is one of three places in the world with periodical cicadas. The others are the Pacific Ocean island of Fiji, where cicadas emerge every eight years; and northern India, where they emerge every four years. In New York, some of the cicada fans have congregated at a farm and brewery in Onondaga (ah-nahn-DAH'-gah), just south of Syracuse. Several researchers recorded audio and video as the cicada...Keep on reading: 
Rare sightings of big bug draw fans from around the world.....»»

Category: newsSource: inquirer inquirerJun 14th, 2018

Germany, England seal World Cup qualification; Poland close

em>By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press /em> Germany and England booked places at the World Cup in Russia next year, while Poland was made to wait for qualification in Europe despite thrashing Armenia 6-1 on Thursday. Defending champion Germany never looked like missing out as early goals helped it to beat Northern Ireland 3-1 in Belfast, maintaining its perfect record with nine wins from nine games in Group C. England qualified in contrasting fashion, scraping past Slovenia 1-0 thanks to Harry Kane's injury-time strike in a poor team performance at Wembley Stadium. Robert Lewandowski scored a hat trick in Yerevan, Armenia, to become Poland's all-time highest scorer and put his team on the verge of qualification. A draw later between Montenegro and Denmark would have meant Poland clinched Group E, but Christian Eriksen gave Denmark a 1-0 win in Podgorica to keep alive its slim hope of topping the group. Group winners qualify automatically for the finals in Russia. Here's a closer look at the action across the three groups: strong>GROUP C /strong> Northern Ireland hadn't lost a qualifier in Windsor Park for four years, but it got off to a bad start when Germany's Sebastian Rudy fired the ball inside the top corner from distance in the second minute. Sandro Wagner brought a good save from Michael McGovern and hit the post before he finally scored in the 21st to give Germany a comfortable lead. Joshua Kimmich wrapped it up late, and Josh Magennis got the enthusiastic home fans singing again with the home side's consolation after a corner in injury time. Northern Ireland was already assured of at least second place, but only the top eight runners-up from the nine groups advance to playoffs. Already out of contention, the Czech Republic defeated Azerbaijan 2-1 in Baku to move to third, and Mohamed 'Moi' Elyounoussi scored a hat trick as Norway routed San Marino 8-0. Germany coach Joachim Loew said before his side's game in Belfast that he wants to complete qualifying with 10 wins from 10 games, a feat accomplished previously by only Spain before it won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. strong>GROUP E /strong> With his third hat trick in the campaign, Poland striker Lewandowski became the most prolific scorer in a European qualifying campaign with 15, one ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo. Lewandowski curled in a free kick to tie Wlodzimierz Lubanski's record as Poland's all-time leading scorer on 48 goals and then added two more to own it outright with 50. Following Denmark's 1-0 win in Montenegro, Poland leads by three points over Denmark, and it needs a point from the last-round match on Sunday against Montenegro in Warsaw to automatically qualify as the group winner. Denmark, which handed Poland its only defeat in the group stage by 4-0, hosts Romania in the last round and must win to top the group. strong>GROUP F /strong> Kane secured England's place in the fourth minute of additional time when he latched onto Kyle Walker's cross and struck under goalkeeper Jan Oblak for the side's flattering win over Slovenia. It was a rare highlight on a dreary and subdued night that highlighted the limitations of Gareth Southgate's Russia-bound team. England, which hasn't missed a World Cup since 1994, could still be joined in Russia next year by neighbor Scotland. Martin Skrtel's own goal gave Scotland a 1-0 victory over 10-man Slovakia in Glasgow. The Scots, missing from the World Cup since 1998, will be guaranteed second place and a potential place in the playoffs if they beat Slovenia in the last round of games on Sunday. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 6th, 2017

Kolarov scores from free kick, Serbia beats Costa Rica 1-0

By ANNE M. PETERSON ,  AP Sports Writer SAMARA, Russia (AP) — Aleksandar Kolarov scored from a left-footed free kick in the 56th minute and Serbia opened its World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica on Sunday. After David Guzman was handed a yellow card, Kolarov curled the ensuing free kick over the wall. Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who plays for Real Madrid, couldn't reach it. Serbia, which missed out on the 2014 tournament, had the early advantage in a tough group that includes five-time champion Brazil and Switzerland. After a scoreless first half, Navas fought off a barrage of challenges to open the second with the boisterous Costa Rican fans cheering him on at Samara Arena. The final moments of the match were marked by a squabble on the sidelines as Nemanja Matic got into a tussle with a Costa Rican coach. Players from both teams rushed toward the scrum but it was quickly diffused. The Ticos were the surprise of the last World Cup, sweeping through to the quarterfinals in Brazil before being ousted by the Netherlands on penalties. It was the furthest the small Central American nation had advanced in soccer's premier tournament. But there was some uncertainty surrounding the Ticos after a pair of friendly losses heading into the World Cup, including a 4-1 rout by Belgium a week ago. Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic, who replaced Slavoljub Muslin last year, put together a veteran defense with Kolarov, who plays for Roma, and former Chelsea player Branislav Ivanovic. Also included were Manchester United midfielder Matic, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who had an apparent falling out with Muslin but was brought to Russia by Krstajic. The opening half between Costa Rica and Serbia was back and forth from the start: Aleksandar Mitrovic's header missed the target in the opening minute and moments later Marco Urena's angled shot for Costa Rica was saved in the left corner by Vladimir Stojkovic. Ivanovic made his record 104th appearance for the national team, surpassing Dejan Stankovic's mark. The 34-year-old Ivanovic had matched Stankovic's record last Saturday in a 5-1 friendly win over Bolivia. Stankovic, known as "Deki," played for the national team from 1998-2013, through three different eras: Yugoslavia, Serbia-Montenegro and finally Serbia. Ivanovic currently plays for Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg, but he's best known for his time at Chelsea (2008-17). Costa Rica defender Ronald Matarrita was ruled out of the World Cup earlier this week because of a right hamstring injury. He was replaced on the roster by Kenner Gutierrez. GROUP DYNAMICS Costa Rica advanced out of the group stage in Brazil with victories over Uruguay and Italy and a draw with England, but the country's players insisted in the run-up to Sunday's game that this team should not be judged on the past. "There's always a lot of talk about four years ago, but this is a new World Cup, a new history," Costa Rica defender Giancarlo Gonzales said. "Some of us are repeating, but there are teammates who are playing their first World Cup. We know the eyes of the world are on us." Costa Rica will next face Brazil on Friday in St. Petersburg, while Serbia plays Switzerland on Friday in Kaliningrad. KEYS TO SUCCESS Milinkovic-Savic gave Navas a workout in the first half, and while he didn't score, he is clearly a potent weapon for Serbia. He challenged Navas in the 27th minute from just outside the box, but Navas fell on the ball. Navas also stopped Milinkovic-Savic's bicycle kick in front of goal in the 42nd minute, but it was ruled offside. Currently with Italian club Lazio, rumors have swirled that Manchester United might be interested in the dynamic 23-year-old Milinkovic-Savic......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2018

Messi misses penalty, Iceland holds Argentina to 1-1 draw

By GRAHAM DUNBAR,  AP Sports Writer MOSCOW (AP) — Lionel Messi missed yet another penalty kick and Iceland held on for a 1-1 draw against Argentina in an impressive World Cup debut on Saturday. Messi failed to give his team the lead when his 64th-minute penalty was stopped by Hannes Halldorsson. The Iceland goalkeeper dived to his right and got two hands behind the ball. It was Messi's fourth missed penalty in his last seven attempts for Argentina and Barcelona. The Argentines took the lead in the 19th minute when Sergio Aguero scored with a rising left-footed shot. Alfred Finnbogason equalized for Iceland four minutes later after Argentina goalkeeper Willy Caballero pushed a low cross into the forward's path. The penalty was awarded after Aguero was pushed in the back by Hordur Magnusson as both chased Messi's floated cross in the 63rd. The small Nordic island nation's team created several first-half chances despite having only 22 percent possession, and pushed back Argentina's waves of second-half attacks. Messi had a final chance to redeem his team with the final kick of the game, but his free kick from 25 yards failed to clear a solid Iceland defensive wall. At the end, Messi retreated alone into the center circle with his head bowed and hands on his knees. Iceland played its debut on soccer's biggest stage like it belonged alongside the 2014 runners-up. Before trailing, Iceland could have taken the lead but Birkir Bjarnason side-footed a shot wide of goal when Caballero was exposed. That chance came in a nervous ninth minute for Argentina's defense, which seemed unsettled by Iceland's strength and their own unease with loose balls in the penalty area. No Iceland defender was at fault for failing to stop Aguero's goal. The forward executed a classy spin move to create his chance when a miscued shot by Marcos Rojo arrived at his feet near the penalty spot. It was a finish worthy of Argentina great Diego Maradona, who was watching in the VIP section at Spartak Stadium. The FIFA ambassador was puffing a large cigar despite smoking being banned in all World Cup venues. KEY TO SUCCESS Argentina fans booed and whistled when the giant stadium screen showed that Halldorsson was man of the match. But his faultless handling and excellent shot-stopping was deserving of the accolade. In contrast, Caballero caused uneasy moments for his defense in the first half. Iceland also protected Halldorsson well with swarming running and tackling to shut down Messi and Argentina's attacking lanes. Messi has missed more than 20 penalty kicks in his career, showing there is perhaps one flaw in his genius. GROUP DYNAMICS This was the first game in Group D, which looks even more evenly balanced now than it did at kickoff. Croatia and Nigeria are also in the group. Argentina will next play Croatia on Thursday in Nizhny Novgorod, while Iceland plays Nigeria on Friday in Volgograd......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 16th, 2018

Neymar makes spectacular return as Brazil beats Croatia 2-0

By Mauricio Savarese, Associated Press LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Only three months ago, Brazil striker Neymar was on an operating table and in danger of missing the World Cup in Russia. Those fears largely disappeared Sunday when Neymar returned to action with smart dribbling, fluent passing and an impressive individual goal, which he celebrated with his surgeon. Playing for the first time since February, Neymar scored the opener in Brazil's 2-0 friendly win against Croatia in Liverpool after coming on for the second half. He then ran to hug Brazilian soccer confederation doctor Rodrigo Lasmar on the sidelines at Anfield. "I am so happy to play football again. I have waited and worked a lot for this. I suffered, these were very tough three months," Neymar said. "When I saw the ball hit the net I only thought of those that helped me, Dr. Lasmar, my family, friends." Neymar, who also withstood a few challenges in the game, received the ball from midfielder Philippe Coutinho in the 68th and dribbled past Croatia defenders Sime Vrsaljko and Duje Caleta-Car. He smashed the ball into the net from around five meters (yards) with his right foot. The Brazilian injured the same foot playing for Paris Saint-Germain and underwent surgery in Brazil in early March. He did not warm up with the Brazilian team on Sunday, which had again raised concerns among supporters. Neymar said he was 80 percent at his best for the Croatia game. Brazil coach Tite said Neymar's return was "above the expected standard." "Neymar is only human, but he came back above my expectations too," Tite said. "I was expecting much less." Neymar had replaced midfielder Fernandinho at halftime with the score at 0-0. He quickly made his mark and raised the hopes of Brazilian fans for the World Cup, which starts June 14. Tite wasn't getting carried away, though. "Neymar is going to have ups and downs like he had in training until the third, fourth game (on his return). Then he will have his normal standard," Tite said. Croatia captain Luka Modric was among many impressed with Neymar. "It is beautiful to watch him play again, he is special, one of the best in the world," Modric said. Brazil "improved in the second half after Neymar made the difference." Liverpool's Roberto Firmino scored Brazil's second goal in the 90th. After Casemiro put the ball in the penalty box, Firmino controlled with his chest and sent the ball over Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic to step up his challenge for a starting position in the team. Brazil captain and No. 9 Gabriel Jesus was replaced by Firmino after an hour. "I am here to help Brazil. I respect Tite's opinion (in starting with Jesus) 100 percent," Firmino said. The striker also thanked local fans for their support, saying "it is good to play at home." The same Liverpool supporters who cheered Firmino went out of their way to jeer Coutinho, who left the Reds for Barcelona earlier this year. Until Neymar stepped onto the pitch it was Croatia which had the best opportunities in a match that seemed headed for a dull draw. Defender Dejan Lovren had the best chance to open with a header that grazed Brazil goalkeeper Alisson's right post after a corner. When Fernandinho went off, Coutinho played a greater role and Brazil's game improved. The five-time World Cup champions play their last pre-World Cup friendly against Austria on June 10. Monday will be a rest day for the team and Brazilian media claimed midfielder Fred will be traveling to Manchester for medical tests before signing a deal with Manchester United. Tite did not confirm the move but said: "Our orientation is for them (players) to solve (transfers) as quickly as possible so they keep their head and effort focused on Brazil. If I were the manager there, I would try to sign him too." Brazil's World Cup opener is on June 17 against Switzerland......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 4th, 2018

Kompany exits early as Portugal holds Belgium to 0-0 draw

BRUSSELS (AP) — European champion Portugal held Belgium to a tame 0-0 draw Saturday, a result overshadowed by fears that defender Vincent Kompany may have sustained an injury early in the second half. Without waiting to be substituted, the injury-prone Kompany walked off shortly after the break after appearing to overstretch while making a defensive challenge. It was not immediately clear if he was injured or left the field as a precaution. The Manchester City defender's career has been blighted by injuries, but he appeared fit ahead of the pre-World Cup friendly at the King Baudouin stadium. Midfielder Kevin De Bruyne said it was too early to say whether 32-year-old Kompany was seriously hurt. "Maybe he only has something small to deal with," De Bruyne said. Kompany's departure was the major talking point in a disappointing goalless draw which underscored that Belgium's star-studded squad still has work to do if it is to live up to its billing as one of the favorites to win the World Cup in Russia. Belgium fans jeered their team off the pitch at full time. Portugal was without Cristiano Ronaldo, who was rested after winning the Champions League a week ago with Real Madrid. Without him, Portugal missed the handful of chances it managed to carve out. Portugal faces neighbor Spain, Iran and Morocco in Group B at the World Cup, while Belgium is in Group G alongside England, Panama and Tunisia. Belgium opened strongly, outplaying Portugal in the midfield, but could not turn its pressure into a goal. Portugal weathered the early storm and gradually took control. In the closing minutes of the first half, Bernardo Silva saw his powerful shot deflected just wide by City teammate Kompany and Gelson Martins shot across the face of the goal as Portugal came close to breaking the deadlock. Belgium's only serious effort of the opening half came when Yannick Carrasco shot just wide in the 31st minute. Belgium coach Roberto Martinez made four changes in the break, but the substitutes could not change the team's fortunes. Despite the Red Devils' wealth of midfield and attacking quality, it was left back Jan Vertonghen who came closest after the break. The Tottenham defender nearly marked his 100th appearance for Belgium with a goal, but saw Portugal goalkeeper Beto tip his effort over the bar just before the hour mark. "It wasn't bad, but we could do better," De Bruyne said. "We still have two or three weeks to get ready.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2018

Atletico celebrates Europa League title on streets of Madrid

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Thousands of fans lined the streets to salute Atletico Madrid players as they paraded through the Spanish capital Friday to celebrate the team's Europa League triumph. Players, coaches and club officials met with the city mayor and the community president before parading through some of the city's main roads and plazas on an open bus. They ended the night on the Fountain of Neptune — the club's traditional celebration spot — where a stage and large screens were set up to welcome the players. Each team member was introduced to loud chants from the crowd packing the plaza, and the team's captain Gabi and other players draped an Atletico scarf around the Neptune statue. Antoine Griezmann heard fans and his teammates call for him to stay at the club for another season. Griezmann, who scored twice in the team's 3-0 win over Marseille on Wednesday, is rumored to be on his way out of Atletico. Barcelona is reportedly interested in signing the France forward. Fernando Torres, one of the club's greatest idols, is definitely leaving at the end of the season. The veteran forward received some of the loudest cheers from the crowd, along with popular coach Diego Simeone. "I've won a lot of things in my career, but without a doubt this is the best one," said the 34-year-old Torres, who won a Champions League trophy with Chelsea plus two European Championships and a World Cup with Spain. "I remember when I was an 11-year-old and I was here as a fan celebrating the team's double in 1996. At the time I had a dream of one day being here where I am right now. To all kids who have a dream, nothing is impossible, especially if you are an Atletico fan." Atletico president Enrique Cerezo, in a speech after meeting with local officials, proudly foresaw Atletico "playing the Champions League final in our stadium" next year. The final will be held at the club's Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. "We want to be back here in a year celebrating the title," he said. Atletico was eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League this year after having lost two finals to city rival Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016. Atletico needs a home draw against Eibar on Sunday to secure second place in the Spanish league, behind champion Barcelona. Atletico's women's team, which won the Spanish league, paraded along with the men's team. Thousands of Atletico fans had already packed the Fountain of Neptune plaza shortly after the team won its third Europa League title......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2018

Manila Open beach volley draws stellar cast

Local fans get the rare chance to watch world-class beach volley action when the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Manila Open fires off tomorrow at the Sands SM by the Bay at the MOA grounds......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsMay 1st, 2018

Barcelona unable to find its stride in Champions League

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Suddenly, the Champions League has become a tough challenge for Barcelona. The Spanish club thrived in nearly every competition it played over the last few years but has failed to succeed recently in the top European club competition. Lionel Messi and his teammates lost to Roma 3-0 on Tuesday in Italy, relinquishing a 4-1 first-leg win and getting eliminated in the quarterfinals for the third straight season. "All we can do is apologize to our fans for the way we lost," Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. "This is the toughest loss since I've been with Barcelona, because of the way it happened. I'd be lying if I said that this could help us in some way in the future, because last year we lost in a similar manner." Barcelona was eliminated by eventual runner-up Juventus last season, losing 3-0 in Turin and being held to a scoreless draw at home in the second leg. In 2016, Barcelona fell to Spanish rival Atletico Madrid 3-1 on aggregate, winning 2-1 at home and losing 2-0 in Madrid. "We want to be contending for the Champions League title year after year," Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said. "We were hopeful of advancing to the semifinals after having played a great first leg. Now we have to carefully analyze what happened and try to move on." Since 2015, when it won its last Champions League title, Barcelona was dominant in other competitions, winning two Spanish leagues, three Copa del Reys, one Club World Cup, one UEFA Super Cup and one Spanish Super Cup. Messi was a crucial component in nearly all of those triumphs for Barcelona, but the playmaker performed below expectations in the team's recent Champions League failures. He didn't score in the six quarterfinal games that led to Barcelona's recent eliminations. The team's other players couldn't do enough help Barcelona advance then, and this time Messi had even less support. Neymar left in the offseason, and the players who joined the club after his departure were not able to play up to the same level. Ousmane Dembele, touted as the main replacement for the Brazil forward, was marred by injuries and wasn't able to establish himself as a reliable attacking partner for Messi and Luis Suarez. Dembele was on the bench Tuesday, entering the match in the final minutes as a substitute. Philippe Coutinho also arrived to help fill Neymar's absence, but he was ineligible to play in the Champions League because he had already played for Liverpool earlier in the tournament. Right back Nelson Semedo, another offseason signing for Barcelona, was the player unsuccessfully trying to stop Roma defender Kostas Manolas when he scored the 82nd-minute decisive goal for the hosts on Tuesday. This was Barcelona's first Champions League loss under coach Ernesto Valverde, who replaced Luis Enrique at the end of last season. "We have a very competitive team and it will recover from this," Bartomeu said. "We still have other tournaments to play and we have to focus on them." Although the loss in Rome ended Barcelona's chances of winning the treble, the team remains in good position to win the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey. Barcelona has an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid with seven matches left, and it will face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final on April 21 trying to win its fourth straight Copa title. "It will be very difficult to recover," said veteran Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta, who most likely played in his last Champions League match. "But we don't have any other option. On Saturday we have another match to play and we have to give our best to try to win the titles that are still achievable." Barcelona hosts third-place Valencia on Saturday looking to achieve a Spanish league record of 39 consecutive games unbeaten. It shares the record that Real Sociedad set in 1979-80......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 12th, 2018

France s poor defending exposed again as Colombia wins 3-2

By Jerome Pugmire, Associated Press SAINT-DENIS, France (AP) — France's casual defending was exposed again as ruthless Colombia rallied from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in a World Cup warmup on Friday. European Championship runner-up France scored twice inside 26 minutes through striker Olivier Giroud and wide midfielder Thomas Lemar. But poor concentration from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris let Colombia back in two minutes later, when Luis Muriel's cross eluded him and went in. Roared on by huge swathes of yellow-shirted fans at Stade de France, Colombia leveled in the 62nd when striker Radamel Falcao swept in James Rodriguez's perfect cross from the right for his 29th international goal. A clumsy foul just inside the penalty area from Samuel Umtiti gifted Colombia a chance to win, and substitute Juan Quintero slammed the spot-kick past Lloris in the 85th. "Colombia really showed the character of a World Cup side. Not only did we turn the match around, we won it," Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said through a translator. "The players really understood what they needed to do. They switched positions on the pitch and things changed." Colombia's fans, seemingly filling half the stadium, celebrated wildly at the final whistle. France coach Didier Deschamps, meanwhile, has plenty of thinking to do prior to Tuesday's game away to World Cup host Russia in St. Petersburg. It must have felt like deja vu for Deschamps. His side twice led away to World Cup winner Germany in November, only to draw 2-2. Against a spirited and tough-tackling Colombia, France often gave the ball away too easily, particularly in midfield. Colombia caused panic with every attack, particularly down the flanks. "Our first half hour was of the highest quality. It seemed easy at 2-0 but it never is," Deschamps said. "Colombia knows how to hurt you. We made a few mistakes and they really taught us a lesson, we'll have to learn from it." Deschamps further underlined his players' shortcomings. "There's a lot of quality in this team but it's not enough. The highest level requires much more determination," he said. "We had the same amount of possession in the first and second half without the same result. It's happened before, when we've alternated between good and less good, and the second half really wasn't good." Giroud's 30th international goal moved him level with Jean-Pierre Papin and France great Just Fontaine, who holds the single-tournament scoring record for a World Cup with 13 goals in 1958. It has been a frustrating season for Giroud, who became No. 3 striker at Arsenal following the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund. He moved to Chelsea in January, but he has managed only one goal so far for the Blues. But back with France, Giroud shook off his club woes. He swiveled and slammed a shot into the roof of the net in the 11th minute after a handling error from goalkeeper David Ospina — his former Arsenal teammate — from left back Lucas Digne's cross. France's second goal owed nothing to luck. Antoine Griezmann's backheel found Kylian Mbappe, who dummied a defender and passed left to Lemar. He steadied himself before smacking a powerful shot past Ospina and into the right corner. Ospina denied the lively Griezmann shortly before the break, but for all of its flair France leaves holes at the back. Muriel volleyed wide in the 50th and, shortly after, Lloris saved his angled shot. France also has friendlies against Ireland, Italy and the United States before its World Cup opener against Australia on June 16. Les Bleus then face Peru and Denmark in the group stage......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 24th, 2018

With LA as backdrop, NBA opens latest ASG chapter

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com LOS ANGELES — There’s a very real chance of seeing it all at the NBA All-Star Game from the world’s greatest players and athletes, who are trained to entertain. And they deliver on that, every year, for the most part. Which brings us to this year’s showpiece: Will we finally see the All-Stars play defense, or not? Simple question. Over the last three years, they game morphed into a blob of uncontested shots and layups with the pace of a NASCAR event and the intensity level of a turtle race. Last year Steph Curry comically dropped to the floor rather than putting his body between Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rim (maybe wisely, but still). That was a flash-point moment. Perhaps because of fear of getting injured, or maybe the body just needs a break after a half-season, players rarely spent much energy trying to stop anyone. That led to wild and repetitious scoring sprees, where the losing team averaged 170 points, and ultimately, new changes designed to encourage players to at least simulate a real game and turn it up two notches. And so, Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) game at Staples Center will serve as the laboratory rat and perhaps usher a new era for the midseason game. If today’s players treat it the way the old-timers did, then this could be special. If not, this could be 194-187. “I think it’ll be different,” said Curry. The rules committee was alarmed enough by the public backlash of the last two games, where the winning West team came a combined 12 points from hitting the 200-point mark, that the traditional format was scrapped. No longer is it East vs. West, now it’s the leading vote-getter in both conferences choosing their own squad, regardless of conference. Therefore, Team Stephen will tip against Team LeBron with the mixed squads lending some intrigue and could cure the defense and intensity issues. As an added bonus, each member of the winning team will receive $100,000 vs. $25,000 for the losers, although it must be mentioned that the only player in an All-Star uniform making below eight figures is Karl-Anthony Towns. Still, the idea was to raise the incentive level and hoping it raises the fourth-quarter heat. The coach of the LeBron team, Dwane Casey of the Raptors, said he plans to do his part by shuffling the minutes based on who’s trying the hardest. “I went to our players individually and asked two questions: ‘Do you want to put on a show, or do you want to win? Let me know.’ I’d like them to go and compete. I want to win. We owe it to the league and the fans to let them know that the NBA isn’t about rolling the ball out there. There are a lot of fundamental things we can do on the court, and it starts with the All-Star Game, with everyone watching.” It helps that the game will feature a few subplots designed to make it interesting. Such as: LeBron and Kyrie Irving, together again. They had a mysterious split last summer after Irving, two years removed from a championship in Cleveland and with the chance of additional chances to win another, demanded and received a trade. He’s in Boston now, creating a rivalry with Cleveland whereas none existed before the deal. But apparently there was no acrimony generated by the split and the two have remained on decent terms, based on the chatter between them. Nothing personal, in other words. And anyway, LeBron chose Irving for this team. The reunion, says Irving, will be “pretty awesome.” LeBron: “Listen, anytime I get an opportunity to be with a fellow teammate of mine on the same court, and then you add on the fact of what we were able to accomplish in the three years, they just make it special. You automatically start thinking about the moments. There was a time when I was in Miami when I thought about if there was a chance for me to be Kyrie's teammate at All-Star Weekend. I thought about that. I didn't think it would be possible, and then we became teammates. We were on the same All-Star court together as teammates. Those thoughts still go into my head of how great it was to break the drought in our city, over 50-plus years, when the both of us had magical, magical Finals runs. So, it's always special. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, together again. Well, the two ex-Thunder ‘mates did play for the West squad last season, yet kept their distance, both on and off the court, the entire weekend. Also, they had testy exchanges this season, evidence that if nothing else, the competitive spirit between them remains high. Yet, all seems civil regarding the split two years later, maybe because Westbrook gained a half-measure of revenge when Paul George arrived this season. Curry and James Harden, together. As team captain, Curry selected Harden, and at least for one weekend, the two will put aside some natural conflict. One: They’re among the leading candidates for the MVP award, and those in the Harden camp believe he was robbed of the second MVP won by Curry. Two: The Warriors and Rockets are engaged in a thermal race for top spot in the West, with the Rockets beating Golden State twice this season so far. (Side note: Curry responded “Ha” the other day when asked who should win the MVP this year, him or Harden. Just “ha.”) Joel Embiid. The fun-loving big man makes his All-Star debut and promises to bring his infectious personality to the game and also his astonishing skills, rare for a seven-footer. Look for Embiid to make a strong big for game MVP and doing so apologetically. His competition could come from Antetokounmpo and either winner would signal a victory for a league looking for yet another superstar. But, the game itself. Will it be taken seriously? “We've talked about it.” said Irving. “Like I said, I think it's more individually based in terms of the competitive fire. But I know that we're pretty excited to be out there and compete and go at one another for a little bit and have a little fun.” Last year, Antetokounmpo was playfully chastised by his teammates for going full-tilt and challenging shots and essentially treating it like a playoff game. It was his first All-Star appearance and he was surprised by the mild tone of the pace. Victor Oladipo, a first-timer this year, doesn’t believe that’ll happen to him. “My competitive nature is going to get the best of me,” he said. The unspoken concern, of course, is injury, although there’s no documented case of a player ever pulling up lame in the game. Imagine the outcry, for example, if the intensity soars and someone grabs a body part. The fallout will be steep, and with that in mind, many coaches tell their players to ease off the gas pedal. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” said Casey, “but we want to change the narrative about this game and how it’s played. I find that when players do things half-way or go through the motions, that’s when they’re more liable to get hurt.” And so, with that in mind, with a revamped format and a bit more pocket change for the winner and an audience that would like to see some floor burn for a change, the All-Stars just could make this game interesting. That starts with defense. “The challenge is, if you’re going to play to win, you’re going to compete on the defensive end, especially in transition,” said Casey. “That’s where the all-star game kind of deteriorates. You got to start your transition defense, our one on one defense, and put defense in the game because if you don’t, it will be 160, 170 points. I don’t know if we’re going to change it all in one game, but that’s our goal is to try to be more serious on defense, and not trick passes and trick shots and circus mentality. “These guys can entertain and also play defense and give a more competitive game. They are good enough to pull it off. That’s what I hope to see and what fans hope to see.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 19th, 2018

With LA as backdrop, NBA opens latest ASG chapter

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com LOS ANGELES — There’s a very real chance of seeing it all at the NBA All-Star Game from the world’s greatest players and athletes, who are trained to entertain. And they deliver on that, every year, for the most part. Which brings us to this year’s showpiece: Will we finally see the All-Stars play defense, or not? Simple question. Over the last three years, they game morphed into a blob of uncontested shots and layups with the pace of a NASCAR event and the intensity level of a turtle race. Last year Steph Curry comically dropped to the floor rather than putting his body between Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rim (maybe wisely, but still). That was a flash-point moment. Perhaps because of fear of getting injured, or maybe the body just needs a break after a half-season, players rarely spent much energy trying to stop anyone. That led to wild and repetitious scoring sprees, where the losing team averaged 170 points, and ultimately, new changes designed to encourage players to at least simulate a real game and turn it up two notches. And so, Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) game at Staples Center will serve as the laboratory rat and perhaps usher a new era for the midseason game. If today’s players treat it the way the old-timers did, then this could be special. If not, this could be 194-187. “I think it’ll be different,” said Curry. The rules committee was alarmed enough by the public backlash of the last two games, where the winning West team came a combined 12 points from hitting the 200-point mark, that the traditional format was scrapped. No longer is it East vs. West, now it’s the leading vote-getter in both conferences choosing their own squad, regardless of conference. Therefore, Team Stephen will tip against Team LeBron with the mixed squads lending some intrigue and could cure the defense and intensity issues. As an added bonus, each member of the winning team will receive $100,000 vs. $25,000 for the losers, although it must be mentioned that the only player in an All-Star uniform making below eight figures is Karl-Anthony Towns. Still, the idea was to raise the incentive level and hoping it raises the fourth-quarter heat. The coach of the LeBron team, Dwane Casey of the Raptors, said he plans to do his part by shuffling the minutes based on who’s trying the hardest. “I went to our players individually and asked two questions: ‘Do you want to put on a show, or do you want to win? Let me know.’ I’d like them to go and compete. I want to win. We owe it to the league and the fans to let them know that the NBA isn’t about rolling the ball out there. There are a lot of fundamental things we can do on the court, and it starts with the All-Star Game, with everyone watching.” It helps that the game will feature a few subplots designed to make it interesting. Such as: LeBron and Kyrie Irving, together again. They had a mysterious split last summer after Irving, two years removed from a championship in Cleveland and with the chance of additional chances to win another, demanded and received a trade. He’s in Boston now, creating a rivalry with Cleveland whereas none existed before the deal. But apparently there was no acrimony generated by the split and the two have remained on decent terms, based on the chatter between them. Nothing personal, in other words. And anyway, LeBron chose Irving for this team. The reunion, says Irving, will be “pretty awesome.” LeBron: “Listen, anytime I get an opportunity to be with a fellow teammate of mine on the same court, and then you add on the fact of what we were able to accomplish in the three years, they just make it special. You automatically start thinking about the moments. There was a time when I was in Miami when I thought about if there was a chance for me to be Kyrie's teammate at All-Star Weekend. I thought about that. I didn't think it would be possible, and then we became teammates. We were on the same All-Star court together as teammates. Those thoughts still go into my head of how great it was to break the drought in our city, over 50-plus years, when the both of us had magical, magical Finals runs. So, it's always special. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, together again. Well, the two ex-Thunder ‘mates did play for the West squad last season, yet kept their distance, both on and off the court, the entire weekend. Also, they had testy exchanges this season, evidence that if nothing else, the competitive spirit between them remains high. Yet, all seems civil regarding the split two years later, maybe because Westbrook gained a half-measure of revenge when Paul George arrived this season. Curry and James Harden, together. As team captain, Curry selected Harden, and at least for one weekend, the two will put aside some natural conflict. One: They’re among the leading candidates for the MVP award, and those in the Harden camp believe he was robbed of the second MVP won by Curry. Two: The Warriors and Rockets are engaged in a thermal race for top spot in the West, with the Rockets beating Golden State twice this season so far. (Side note: Curry responded “Ha” the other day when asked who should win the MVP this year, him or Harden. Just “ha.”) Joel Embiid. The fun-loving big man makes his All-Star debut and promises to bring his infectious personality to the game and also his astonishing skills, rare for a seven-footer. Look for Embiid to make a strong big for game MVP and doing so apologetically. His competition could come from Antetokounmpo and either winner would signal a victory for a league looking for yet another superstar. But, the game itself. Will it be taken seriously? “We've talked about it.” said Irving. “Like I said, I think it's more individually based in terms of the competitive fire. But I know that we're pretty excited to be out there and compete and go at one another for a little bit and have a little fun.” Last year, Antetokounmpo was playfully chastised by his teammates for going full-tilt and challenging shots and essentially treating it like a playoff game. It was his first All-Star appearance and he was surprised by the mild tone of the pace. Victor Oladipo, a first-timer this year, doesn’t believe that’ll happen to him. “My competitive nature is going to get the best of me,” he said. The unspoken concern, of course, is injury, although there’s no documented case of a player ever pulling up lame in the game. Imagine the outcry, for example, if the intensity soars and someone grabs a body part. The fallout will be steep, and with that in mind, many coaches tell their players to ease off the gas pedal. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” said Casey, “but we want to change the narrative about this game and how it’s played. I find that when players do things half-way or go through the motions, that’s when they’re more liable to get hurt.” And so, with that in mind, with a revamped format and a bit more pocket change for the winner and an audience that would like to see some floor burn for a change, the All-Stars just could make this game interesting. That starts with defense. “The challenge is, if you’re going to play to win, you’re going to compete on the defensive end, especially in transition,” said Casey. “That’s where the all-star game kind of deteriorates. You got to start your transition defense, our one on one defense, and put defense in the game because if you don’t, it will be 160, 170 points. I don’t know if we’re going to change it all in one game, but that’s our goal is to try to be more serious on defense, and not trick passes and trick shots and circus mentality. “These guys can entertain and also play defense and give a more competitive game. They are good enough to pull it off. That’s what I hope to see and what fans hope to see.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 18th, 2018

Barcelona s Pique scores late to silence Espanyol crowd

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Jeered from his first touch of the ball, Barcelona defender Gerard Pique found a way to silence Espanyol fans in Sunday's Catalan derby. Pique scored a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw as the Spanish league leader narrowly avoided losing to its crosstown rival for the second time in less than three weeks. The outspoken Pique celebrated by putting a finger in front of his mouth as if to tell the crowd to be quite. "We have a responsibility as players, but we are also humans and we react to what happens," Pique said. "Part of the crowd was insulting my family. There is a limit to everything." Pique had previously made comments criticizing Espanyol, and the crowd showed their disapproval by jeering him nearly every time he touched the ball. His 82nd-minute goal helped Barcelona extend its unbeaten streak in the league to 22 matches, surpassing the record set under coach Pep Guardiola in 2009-10. It also left Barcelona nine points in front of Atletico Madrid, which defeated third-placed Valencia 1-0 later Sunday. Gerard Moreno put Espanyol ahead midway through the second half and Pique equalized with a header in a heated match at RCDE Stadium. "These types of situations motivate Pique," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "His gesture comes as part of the rivalry that is natural in a derby." There were shoves and heated discussions throughout the match, which was played under steady rain and on a heavy pitch. Messi, who provided the cross for Pique's goal, came off the bench near the hour-mark after getting some rare rest time from Valverde. Espanyol had ended Barcelona's 29-match unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals on Jan. 17, when Messi missed a penalty kick. Barcelona eventually eliminated Espanyol by winning the second leg 2-0. After that match, Pique's tone when talking about Espanyol infuriated rival fans and prompted an official complaint by the club. Pique did not back down on Sunday, questioning Espanyol's links to Barcelona because it moved its base to nearby Cornella and has a foreign owner. The Espanyol crowd was furious after Pique's celebration on Sunday. Right after the goal, Moreno fouled the defender, prompting a heated altercation between players from both teams. Moreno had to be contained as he tried to go after Pique. There were also discussions in the tunnel to the changing rooms. "One player won't silence our crowd," Espanyol coach Quique Sanchez Flores said. "His gesture was what it was. Our fans are above that." Pique's only other goal this season was also against Espanyol. ___ CORREA WINNER Atletico Madrid moved nine points clear of third-placed Valencia with Angel Correa's second-half winner at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Correa scored with a superb shot into the top corner from outside the area, giving Atletico its second consecutive victory. "We played against one of the best teams in La Liga and we were superior," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. Uruguay defender Diego Godin had to be substituted early in the second half after a hard collision with Valencia goalkeeper Neto, injuring his mouth and apparently losing some teeth. Defender Stefan Savic was replaced in the first half, also because of an injury. ___ ATHLETIC'S RUN ENDS Athletic Bilbao's nine-game unbeaten streak ended with a 2-0 loss at Girona. Cristhian Stuani scored a goal in each half for the hosts, which moved to ninth in the standings. Athletic was debuting defender Inigo Martinez, who was acquired from Basque Country rival Real Sociedad as the club's most expensive signing at nearly 30 million euros ($37 million). Athletic defender Yeray Alvarez returned to action more than eight months after being sidelined for testicular cancer treatment. ___ DRAW IN DERBY Leganes and Getafe could not manage more than a 0-0 draw in the derby between rivals based just south of Madrid. Host Getafe had the best chances, twice hitting the woodwork in a match played under light snow during parts of the second half. It was the fifth straight game without a loss for Leganes, which rested several regular starters ahead of its game at Sevilla in the Copa del Rey semifinals on Wednesday. The teams drew 1-1 in the first leg in Leganes last week......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 5th, 2018

Rare giant lily pads draw impressive crowds to Paraguay lagoon

  An off-the-beaten-path corner of Paraguay has become a tourist attraction this month as visitors flock to see a rare delight floating on a hidden lagoon: giant round water lilies spanning over 1.5 meters (five feet). These aquatic plants (their scientific name is Victoria cruziana but locals call them "alligator lilies") sprawling enough that they can provide a hiding place for a small alligator. They appear just every third or fourth southern hemisphere summer. Over in Piquete Cue, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of Asuncion, fans of botany, water lilies and the unusual pay about $5 (about P250) for one memorable boat ride to the bright yellowish green star of t...Keep on reading: Rare giant lily pads draw impressive crowds to Paraguay lagoon.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 9th, 2018

LOOK: Six must-see matches at 2018 World Cup

By James Ellingworth, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — Next year's World Cup sees an old rivalry revived as Spain and Portugal meet in the group stage. Defeat for either 2010 World Cup winner Spain or reigning European champion Portugal means they would need to be careful against fellow Group B nations Morocco and Iran to avoid early elimination. Meanwhile, reigning champion Germany starts its defense against Mexico at Moscow's vast Luzhniki stadium in another centerpiece game. Here are six World Cup group stage games to watch: ___ RUSSIA vs. SAUDI ARABIA June 14, Moscow It may look more like a friendly than a show-stopping World Cup opener, but the first game of the tournament is always special. Ranked 63rd and 65th in the world respectively, the Saudis and Russians are the worst teams in the tournament according to FIFA. At least they're evenly matched, which could make for an exciting spectacle. Saudi Arabia won their only previous meeting 4-2 in a 1993 friendly. ___ PORTUGAL vs. SPAIN June 15, Sochi For many, this will be the game that really kicks off the World Cup in style — Cristiano Ronaldo against Andres Iniesta, the reigning European champion against the 2010 World Cup winner. Spain beat Portugal at the 2010 World Cup, and again in the semifinals of the 2012 European Championship, going on to win the tournament both times. Their World Cup meeting on the Black Sea coast may not be a thriller, though — the 2010 games finished 1-0, and the second was a goalless draw decided on penalties. ___ ICELAND vs. ARGENTINA June 16, Moscow The smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup has a huge reward. Lionel Messi's Argentina risks becoming the latest victim of the Icelanders, who beat England and drew with Portugal at last year's European Championship, winning the hearts of neutral fans across the continent along the way. If Argentina drops points, it will be under more pressure to beat tenacious Croatia and Nigeria in its next games. The stadium in Moscow has a capacity of 45,000 — or more than 10 percent of Iceland's population of around 330,000. If last year is anything to go by, there will be a huge exodus of Icelanders heading to Russia. ___ GERMANY vs. MEXICO June 17, Moscow The title defense begins here for Joachim Loew and Germany. The venue — Moscow's 81,000-capacity Luzhniki — befits a world champion, while Mexico brings quality opponents like forward Javier Hernandez and midfielder Giovani dos Santos. Anything less than a win will be a disappointment for Germany, which beat Mexico 4-1 in the Confederations Cup semifinals in June. Germany showed its immense strength in depth by winning that tournament with an experimental team lacking some of its biggest stars. Sweden and South Korea are on hand in Group F to take advantage of any dropped points. ___ SERBIA vs. SWITZERLAND June 22, Kaliningrad Switzerland is a long way from the Balkans, but there could be a Yugoslavian rivalry in Group E. The Swiss have several players of Kosovan and Albanian heritage in their squad, such as midfielders Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, while the coach is Vladimir Petkovic, who comes from a Bosnian Croat background. That won't escape the attention of the Serbian fans, whose games against other Balkan nations routinely require heavy security because of the region's long-running rivalries between ethnic groups. With Brazil the heavyweight in Group E, both teams will likely fight for second place, with Costa Rica also in the mix. ___ ENGLAND vs. BELGIUM June 28, Kaliningrad It's almost an English Premier League game when England meets Belgium in their final group stage game. England coach Gareth Southgate predicts "banter" at various Premier League clubs, thanks to Belgium's Premier League stars like Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Romelu Lukaku. Belgium's coach Roberto Martinez is a Premier League fixture too from his time with Everton and Wigan. If both England and Belgium have won their preceding games against Panama and Tunisia, the meeting could lose its edge — but if either team risks elimination it will be a crucial fixture......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 2nd, 2017

FIFA advisers: ‘Danger’ for gay fans at World Cup in Russia

MOSCOW --- FIFA's anti-discrimination advisers are warning gay soccer fans going to the 2018 World Cup in Russia that displays of affection could be met with an aggressive response from intolerant locals. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay sentiment remains strong and intensified after a law was introduced in 2013 prohibiting dissemination to minors of "propaganda" legitimizing homosexuality. As fans prepare their trips after Friday's World Cup draw, the FARE network said it will produce a guide spelling out the threats to be prepared for in Russia. "The guide will advise gay people to be cautious in any place which is not seen to be welcoming ...Keep on reading: FIFA advisers: ‘Danger’ for gay fans at World Cup in Russia.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsNov 29th, 2017

Italy defeat no surprise: Sweden is jinx opponent

By Daniella Matar, Associated Press MILAN (AP) — Italy's failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades shouldn't come as a shock to those who believe in fate, destiny and jinxes. Yes, Italy was expected to beat Sweden in their playoff. But the Scandinavian country has been associated with some of the Azzurri's darkest moments in football. Italy's run of bad luck with Sweden dates all the way back to 1950 when, having won the previous two World Cups, it suffered its first ever defeat in the tournament -- at the hands of the Swedes. As a result, it failed to progress to the second round. Eight years later, Italy needed just a point to qualify for the World Cup but surprisingly lost to Northern Ireland. That was the last time Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup. The tournament was held in Sweden. And the last time Italy failed to qualify for a major tournament, was the 1992 European Championship. The Azzurri had to beat the USSR to qualify but hit the post in a 0-0 draw and missed out on the finals — held in Sweden. Italy also failed to qualify for Euro 1984 despite being the then world champion, after two qualifying defeats to Sweden — including a 3-0 loss in Naples. Perhaps the most famous incident of Sweden costing Italy dearly came at Euro 2004. Only one result would have knocked Italy out of the tournament. Denmark and Sweden were angered by suggestions they would throw the game to progress together. But the match between the Nordic neighbors ended in a 2-2 draw and the Azzurri were out. That match was one of those where a certain result suits both teams, and Italians remain embittered — with players being asked about it in the buildup to Monday's playoff. In the previous game at Euro 2004, Zlatan Ibrahimovic had burst onto the international stage with an astonishing back-heeled goal five minutes from time to secure a 1-1 draw for Sweden against Italy. And after beating Italy 1-0 on aggregate in the playoffs for the 2018 World Cup, Sweden is yet again Italian soccer fans' least favorite country......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 15th, 2017

Lego House in Denmark to host sleepover party for one family

The recently opened Lego House in Denmark, a 12,000-square meter house made up of 12 million bricks, will be hosting a rare sleepover experience for one lucky family, in partnership with Airbnb. Once the last of the guests go home and the doors to the general public close, one family will remain, spending the night building Lego creations under the guidance of a master Lego builder and falling asleep to pixelated dreams of a Lego waterfall above their heads, as well as a pet Lego cat at their feet. Winners will have the run of the house to themselves and be left to explore areas like the Masterpiece Gallery, which showcases Lego creations from fans around the world; behold the ...Keep on reading: Lego House in Denmark to host sleepover party for one family.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsNov 5th, 2017

The thunderclap heads to Russia: Iceland gets World Cup spot

em>By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press /em> MADRID (AP) — The Icelandic thunderclap is making its way to Russia. Iceland added to its incredible European Championship campaign by becoming the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup on Monday. That means the Viking chant popularized by Iceland fans at Euro 2016 will be heard across Russia next year. Iceland secured an automatic berth by defeating Kosovo 2-0 in Reykjavik to win Group I and kick-start celebrations in the island nation of about 330,000 people. Fireworks were set off after the match at a packed Laugardalsvollur Stadium, and captain Aron Gunnarssonled immediately led the crowd in the traditional chant in which players and fans yell and clap their hands at a rhythmic crescendo that is likened to a Viking war chant. The chant was a success when Iceland made its major tournament debut at the Euros in France last year, when it stunned by reaching the quarterfinals after drawing with Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in the group stage and eliminating England in the last 16. Serbia also qualified for the World Cup for the second time since becoming an independent nation in 2006. Ireland secured a playoff spot from Group D, while Gareth Bale's Wales was eliminated only 15 months after reaching the semifinals at Euro 2016. Spain and Italy won their last qualifying games in Group G, which had already been won by the Spaniards. Italy was already assured of a playoff spot. Here's a look at the action on Monday: strong>GROUP D /strong> Serbia qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 2010 by beating Georgia 1-0 in Belgrade with a goal by Aleksandar Prijovic's in the 74th minute. The result left Wales and Ireland to decide their fate in the Celtic showdown in Cardiff, and the Irish got the victory and a playoff berth after James McClean's 57th-minute goal following a defensive mix-up by the Welsh. 'That last half hour seemed an eternity,' Ireland manager Martin O'Neill said. 'We had to withstand pressure but we knew at some stage we would have to try to win the game and we did it.' Bale couldn't play for Wales because of injury. Serbia finished with two more points than Ireland, and four more than Wales. The Irish will try to qualify for the World Cup for a fourth time — and first since 2002. They will not be seeded in the playoffs draw which will take place on Tuesday. strong>GROUP G /strong> Spain ended its qualifying campaign by beating Israel 1-0 in Jerusalem, while Italy scraped past Albania 1-0 in Shkoder in another poor effort which will do little to inspire confidence in coach Gian Piero Ventura and his team. 'We have some limitations at the moment but today there was the desire to try and do things,' Ventura said. With a World Cup berth already secured, Spain played without most of its regular starters in Jerusalem but won thanks to a long-range strike by Asier Illarramendi in the second half It finished unbeaten with nine wins and a 1-1 draw against Italy in Turin last year. The Italians ended five points behind Spain. Macedonia beat Liechtenstein 4-0 in the match between the two bottom sides in the group. Liechtenstein was outscored 39-1 in its 10 qualifiers. strong>GROUP I /strong> Iceland made history by beating last-place Kosovo with a goal by Gylfi Sigurdsson in the first half and another by Johann Gudmundsson in the second, keeping the momentum from its inspiring run at Euro 2016. The result left the Icelanders two points in front of Croatia, which beat Ukraine 2-0 in Kiev to secure the playoff spot. Ukraine ended three points behind Croatia in third place. It was the tightest group in European qualifying. Iceland entered the final round with a two-point lead over both Croatia and Ukraine. Kosovo completed its maiden qualifying campaign for a major tournament with a single point from a draw at Finland. Iceland, unbeaten in 13 competitive home games, will be the smallest nation in terms of population to play in soccer's showcase event. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 10th, 2017

Ronaldo lifts Portugal to win, sets up Switzerland showdown

BASEL, Switzerland (AP) — Substitute Cristiano Ronaldo lifted Portugal to a labored 2-0 win at Andorra on Saturday, and set up a showdown against Switzerland next week that will decide who advances to the World Cup. Ronaldo was rested and watched the first half from the bench. Without its superstar, the European champion struggled against the 144th-ranked minnow. In desperation, Ronaldo was sent on and his 63rd-minute goal helped earn an eighth straight win in Europe Group B. However, Switzerland ran its win streak to a perfect nine with a comfortable win at home over Hungary 5-2. An embarrassing error by Hungary goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi presented an 18th-minute opening goal to midfielder Granit Xhaka and got Switzerland cruising to victory. Portugal hosts the Swiss on Tuesday in Lisbon and needs a win to top the group on goal difference. Switzerland needs only a draw to win the group and send Ronaldo and Portugal to the playoffs again. Portugal advanced to the 2010 and 2014 finals via the playoffs. Ronaldo's goal was his 15th in the qualifying group, tied for the most in Europe with Robert Lewandowski of Poland. He also helped create Portugal's second goal in the 86th scored by Andre Silva, an eighth for the forward in the group. strong>SWISS BLISS /strong> Switzerland was handed the lead when Gulacsi lost his footing after controlling a back pass. The ball rolled out to Xhaka and the midfielder easily sidestepped the prone goalie to score into an empty net. Gulacsi was also at fault for the fourth Swiss goal in the 49th. The 'keeper tipped a curling Steven Zuber shot softly into the air and across the goal line instead of over the crossbar. Zuber also teed up Fabian Frei, and scored the third just before halftime by slipping a shot past the advancing Gulacsi. Captain Stephan Lichtsteiner rifled home to make it 5-1. Both Hungary goals stemmed from goalkeeper Yann Sommer's poor handling in the goalmouth, with chances taken by Richard Guzmics and Roland Ugrai in the second half. Swiss fans cheered the return after a one-year injury absence of forward Breel Embolo. He replaced Haris Seferovic, who missed a clear open-goal chance from three meters in the first half. Also, Faeroe Islands drew with Latvia 0-0 to ensure finishing no worse than fourth in the group. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 8th, 2017

Donnie Nietes: A Decade of Championship Greatness

The Philippines has produced many boxing legends, from the likes of Pancho Villa and Gabriel “Flash” Elorde to Luisito Espinosa and Gerry Peñalosa, and Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr. However, none of those mentioned above can measure to the longevity of the reign of one Filipino boxing champion, who up to this day remains on top of his game and has never been beaten in a world title fight. His name is Donnie Nietes. For Donnie 'Ahas' Nietes, the journey to greatness started on September 30, 2007, when he defeated Thailand's Pornsawan Porpramook for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) minimumweight title. The victory gave Nietes his first world boxing championship, but nobody knew back then that it was the start of what would end up as the longest reign in Philippine boxing history. Believe it or not, ten years after he became a world champ for the first time, Nietes remains a world champion, only in a heavier weight class that is the flyweight division. Previously, Gabriel 'Flash' Elorde held the record for holding the world junior lightweight title from 1960 to 1967, a period of seven years. Nietes held the WBO minimumweight title from 2007 until 2011, when he was forced to relinquish it after winning the WBO light flyweight crown on October 8, 2011. Nietes held the WBO light flyweight crown until 2016, when he gave it up to move up in weight and challenge for the world flyweight title. From September 2007 until May 2016, Nietes reigned uninterrupted as world champion in two weight categories -- a period of almost nine years, thus making him the longest reigning champion in Philippine boxing history. In April 2017, Nietes added another feather on his cap by winning the IBF flyweight title and becoming the country's third three-division world champ after Manny Pacquiao and, Nonito Donaire Jr. Overall, Pacquiao won an unprecedented eight division titles while Donaire captured four regular world crowns. But here's what sets Nietes apart from Pacquiao and Donaire Jr.: Neither Pacquiao nor Donaire Jr. enjoyed a title reign as long as Nietes.' Also, unlike Pacquiao and Donaire, Jr., Nietes has never been knocked out in a world title fight. Nietes has actually never lost when a world title is at stake as the only loss in his career happened in a non-title bout in September 2009 against Angky Ankota. Nietes is unbeaten in his last 32 fights, with only three fights ending in draws. He answered, “After I lost that fight against Ankota, I trained hard to improve my skills and movement. I stay focused during practice. I give my best and I work really hard. For me, it is very important to always have self-discipline” the humble champion added. Nietes is also the true “Mexecutioner,” as he has never lost to a Mexican challenger. Ahas is 16-0 with one draw against Mexican opponents. Whenever he fights in Mexico, he always gets the rock star treatment that he truly deserves as boxing fans there know very well of his greatness. While he does not get the same adulation here, the good thing is that Filipinos still have a chance to appreciate and cheer for Nietes as he seems to get even better and stronger through the years.  Nietes is a tireless workhorse in the ring, which explains why he remains a world champion to this day despite being already 35 years old. He has no trouble making the weight for his fights which speaks well of his conditioning. When he is asked about his motivation, he answered, “I always get prepared whenever I have a scheduled fight. I want to remain a World Champion and give honour to my family and my team ALA boxing stable”. Nietes also offers an unconventional fighting style that allowed him to stay this long as world champion. On offense, Nietes can box and brawl and owns an overhand right that carries above-average power. On defense, Nietes' penchant to crouch low has made him a hard target to find. Nietes always keeps himself ready for the next fight. On regular days, the Filipino Champion loves to do biking. Sometimes he travels with groups.  span style="font-size: 13px;">Sometimes by himself. But what makes it really special is that his biking group conducts a feeding program for children on those provinces that they visit. “For me its dual purpose, I could stay fit through biking and at the same time I could share my blessings with other people and meet new friends.” /span> Giving back has always been part of Nietes’ goals, as someone who grew up in poverty. He was working as a janitor in the ALA Boxing Gym before taking up boxing. From his modest earnings as boxing champion, Nietes has built two homes, one in Mandaue and the other in his native Bacolod, and financed his siblings' education. He describes himself as a kind, simple and an ordinary person. “I am a boxer who is trusts in God. Before my fight, I always pray because on the ring, there is no one to help me but God.” When asked about his humble beginnings, he says, “In order to succeed, you must listen to the advice of your parents. For me, the number one rule is to honour them and avoid disobedience. They always tell me to do good deeds. We must follow. We may not agree with their decisions but your parents is always thinking on what is good for you” he added. In his most recent interview, an overjoyed Nietes expressed his appreciation for all his supporters and the people behind the success of his career, saying, “I would not have been celebrating my 10th year as a world champion if I weren’t given the chance to box in the first place, so I want to thank my manager, sir ALA,” talking of the ALA Boxing Group’s top honcho, Tony Aldeguer. “I’m very grateful to my promoter, ALA Promotions, our partner TV network ABS-CBN, the local and international media, my family, friends, fans, and of course, God Almighty who made all this happen. It has been a long journey, but nothing beats the happiness I feel being identified as Donnie “Ahas” Nietes, the longest-reigning Filipino world champion” he added. Unbeaten in the last 13 years and a world champion in three weight divisions, Nietes has indeed earned his place in the pantheon of great Filipino world champions. Thankfully, Filipinos can still witness his greatness because the country's longest reigning boxing champion is not done winning yet.  br />   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 30th, 2017