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Coach of England wins the nation s heart by being a nice guy

By Danica Kirka, Associated Press LONDON (AP) — In an age of tattoos, tongue piercings and tensions over Brexit, a soft-spoken man in a dark blue waistcoat and striped tie is uniting England amid dreams of victory in soccer's World Cup. Coach Gareth Southgate is the buttoned-down leader of a new generation of players who speak softly and let their victories silence critics. And England supporters have found that refreshing after years of underperforming teams led by stars such as David Beckham, who became as much a celebrity as an athlete. "He's very much about a team spirit. It's more about the collective — you can see it in the way he deals with the squad," said Paul Willis, who was in the stands last Saturday in Samara, Russia, when England reached the semifinals with a 2-0 victory over Sweden. "We had superstars, but we didn't have a team." Southgate's focus on teamwork and civility has made him an unlikely icon in a country that is deeply divided by bitter arguments over plans to leave the European Union and a widening gap between rich and poor. England Captain Harry Kane may be the tournament's leading scorer, but fans are donning waistcoats and ties — even as the country enjoys an unusually hot summer — in homage to Southgate as pundits extol the 47-year-old coach's calm leadership. "He has shown us the value of courtesy, kindness, hard work and that most derided of virtues, niceness," columnist India Knight wrote in the Sunday Times. "He has redefined not just how to be a manager, but how to be a man." Southgate displayed his character after England's July 3 victory over Colombia, offering a supportive hug to Colombian player Mateus Uribe after his miss in a penalty shootout helped England advance. The England coach understood Uribe's agony, having missed a similar shot at the 1996 European championships. The moment of empathy also reminded the country how Southgate once lampooned his own failure with a Pizza Hut commercial in which he wore a bag over his head to shield his identity from angry fans. Southgate's compassion sparked a hashtag for the coach's real and imagined acts of kindness such as "#GarethSouthgateWould stop and help you put the chain back on your bike even if he was all dressed in his waistcoat and late for the game." Southgate became manager less than two years ago after the Football Association's first choice was forced out after unguarded comments to undercover reporters. Since then he has quietly ushered out the last of the old stars and brought together a group of youngsters who modestly shrug off compliments and give kudos to their teammates. Perhaps more importantly, he recognized the contribution of the fans, something that had been eroded during the superstar era. After every game, Southgate and his players walk across the field to applaud the supporters who have traveled to Russia to cheer for the team. "We had lost a bit of connection," Willis, a 57-year-old fan from Birmingham, said of past regimes. "That is now back. All the team and the back room applaud our input to the game." That has also translated into huge support back home in football-mad England. At least 20 million people, 38 percent of England's population, watched Saturday's victory over Sweden, according to figures from the BBC. Commentators say the actual number was much higher because so many people watched the game on huge screens in parks and shopping centers. London authorities are inviting 30,000 fans to the city's Hyde Park for a screening of Wednesday's semifinal against Croatia. Fearing demand will far exceed that, authorities stressed that only those with tickets should come to the park. Ticket services reported hundreds of people were trying to dump theater tickets for Wednesday because they had more pressing business elsewhere. Social media sites are urging fans to wear waistcoats — please don't call them vests — to the office ahead of the big match — a "Waistcoat Wednesday" if you will. Marks & Spencer, the official tailor to the England team, says sales of the grandfatherly garments have doubled during the World Cup. Rio Ferdinand, one of the previous "golden generation" of players who is now a commentator for the BBC, has been leading the cheers for this year's team, asking fans to post video of their beer-throwing, chest-bearing, flag-waving celebrations after the win over Sweden. On Sunday, Ferdinand tweeted his own mea culpa for past failures, while also highlighting Southgate's unique contribution. "Why weren't the golden generation... the golden generation???" he tweeted. "We as players look at ourselves first...we never performed....but sometimes you have to be allowed to perform! Gareth is allowing this current @England to do this." That's paying off. Kane, who turns 25 later this month, has scored six goals in the tournament. Dele Alli, 22, came back from injury to score the team's second goal against Sweden. Fabian Delph, 28, played the last 15 minutes of Saturday's game after missing the previous game against Colombia because Southgate allowed him to go home for the birth of his third child. Southgate himself recognizes the contributions of everyone, from the physiotherapists to the players who push their teammates in practice but rarely get into a game, even to fans back home. "Our country has been through some difficult moments recently in terms of its unity, and I think sport has the power to do that and football in particular has the power to do that," he said. "So for us, we can feel the energy and we can feel the support from home, and that's, that's a very special feeling. It's a privilege." Barring that, it does help to have a snappy waistcoat. "Quite frankly, I don't care what he wears," Willis said. "He can wear a tutu if we carry on winning.".....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJul 11th, 2018

Young and united, England looks good as a title contender

By Graham Dunbar, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — A famous song lyric neatly describes the upbeat feeling around England's rejuvenated national soccer team. It's not "football's coming home." Instead, try the old punk rock line: "If the kids are united, they will never be defeated." The positive emotions of England's young players are evident toward coach Gareth Southgate despite the 2-1 loss to Croatia in extra time in the World Cup semifinals. "You've brought belief and the love of football back. Thank you boss from the whole nation," 20-year-old forward Marcus Rashford wrote on his Twitter account Thursday. You’ve brought belief and the love of football back. Thank you boss from the whole nation ❤️⚽️ pic.twitter.com/2meUAFlIN5 — Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) July 12, 2018 Over-achieving in a first major international test for Southgate and many of the squad has banished the anxiety that harmed too many England teams in recent years. Rashford, a sharp and fast second-half substitute in Moscow on Wednesday, is not even the youngest of Southgate's players in Russia. At 19, Trent Alexander-Arnold impressed in the Champions League final for Liverpool in May, and weeks later started his first World Cup game, against Belgium. "It has been an honor to be a part of this special team. We will be back stronger," Alexander-Arnold wrote on Twitter early Thursday. Absolutely devastated that our journey is over! We enjoyed every moment as a nation, I’d like to thank all the staff and fans for being behind us. It has been an honour to be a part of this special team. We will be back stronger 💔🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 pic.twitter.com/LErwj4QqZm — Trent Arnold (@trentaa98) July 11, 2018 Alexander-Arnold, a quick, right-sided defender, will need to force his way into the team past Kieran Trippier, perhaps the standout success of England's tournament. Trippier delivered world-class corners, crosses and free kicks, including the fifth-minute goal against Croatia that raised hope of a first World Cup final berth since 1966. The Tottenham player gave an emotional endorsement of Southgate, who seems likely to guide England's team to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. "It all comes from the manager, unbelievable manager for me personally, the way he handles the team," Trippier said at the Luzhniki Stadium. "He sets the tone, he brought this team together." A relatively late bloomer at 27, Trippier is a rare England player who will turn 30 before kickoff in Qatar on Nov. 21, 2022. The four attackers who started Wednesday, including 24-year-old captain Harry Kane, are between 22 and 25. The heart of the defense — John Stones, Harry Maguire, plus goalkeeper Jordan Pickford — are in the same age bracket. It's a talent pool setting up England as a serious title contender in the coming years. There is still room for envy if England can bear watching the World Cup final on Sunday. In the midfield duels, France fields the elegance and power of Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante against Croatia's precise pair of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. There isn't likely to be a Modric-type player in England's team ahead of the 2020 European Championship to help retain the ball, pace the play, and manage the toughest games. Those are the kinds of qualities England needed after halftime against Croatia. "If we're in the position again, we'll be better off because of the experience of what we've just had," said 28-year-old Jordan Henderson, who was Liverpool's captain in that Champions League final loss to Modric and Real Madrid. The incentives are huge. Euro 2020 is being hosted across 12 countries, but England could qualify and be placed in a group based at Wembley Stadium, travel for two knockout rounds, then come home for the semifinals and final at Wembley. "The aim if we're at the Euros in two years' time is to go again," said Kane, who should be Southgate's chosen captain for years to come. Before qualifying starts next March, England is in a fascinating group for the inaugural UEFA Nations League, which starts in September. Spain, under new coach Luis Enrique, visits Wembley on Sept. 8. England then travels to face Croatia on Oct. 12. The return games will be completed by November......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 13th, 2018

Belgium, team of tomorrow, hopes to finally win now

By Ronald Blum, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — Belgium is the team of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. De Rode Duivels, as the Red Devils are known, have been playing for 114 years and remain in search of their first major title. A polyglot known for waffles, chocolate and beer, the nation of 11 million hopes for soccer to join the national identity, boosted by a golden generation that includes Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bryune. Belief is growing. Philippe, King of the Belgians, was on hand wearing a bright red tie and team scarf. "Belgium is a small country, you know? So we're very happy that we have this kind of talent," defender Toby Alderweireld said after Saturday's 5-2 rout of Tunisia all but clinched a round-of-16 World Cup berth. "Hopefully we can do something special." Lukaku tied Cristiano Ronaldo for the tournament lead with four goals, becoming the first with consecutive two-goal games in the World Cup since Diego Maradona and Gary Lineker in 1986. Hazard also scored twice , and Michy Batshuayi added a 90th-minute goal after failing to convert a trio of prime chances. Belgium opened with a 3-0 victory over Panama and has an 8-2 goal difference. Ranked third in the world behind defending champion Germany and Brazil, the Red Devils have become a chic choice to join the exclusive club of eight World Cup winners: Brazil (five), Germany and Italy (four), Argentina and Uruguay (two), and England, France and Spain (one). "Belgium was not the favorite because of the history of the country — and especially the history of the other countries," said former Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf, now a Fox analyst. "They're growing. Also, they're playing with important team spirit. So for me, it's not really a big surprise what they're doing at the moment." Training is conducted in English under Spanish coach Roberto Martinez, who spent a decade managing in England. Postgame interviews sound like a corridor at European Union headquarters in Brussels, with players alternating among English, French, Dutch and Spanish. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has picked up a Scouse accent after five seasons with Liverpool. Seventeen of the 23 players were on Champions League clubs last season, a glamorous group that includes Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain. "That gives them the confidence and the experience to play at the highest level. That is what a World Cup is about," Mignolet said. "For us, it's now the third tournament in a row where we play, which gives you the experience, so nobody's really fussed about the occasion anymore. Maybe the two tournaments were a bit different where we arrived and we were thinking about what was going to happen. Everything was new." After completing the group stage against England on Thursday, Belgium would face Colombia, Poland, Senegal or Japan in the second round, and then could have a possible quarterfinal against Germany, Brazil or Mexico. Since losing their first match under Martinez to Spain two years ago, Belgium is unbeaten in 21 games (16 wins) and has outscored opponents 72-17 during the run. But while outscoring Panama and Tunisia by 8-2, the defense and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois looked like they could be exploited by better opposition. "Today what I saw is a team that it was prepared to suffer, prepared to work for each other, and we look well-balanced in that respect," Martinez said. "So when you've got that, then the individuals can show their talent." Lukaku has 15 goals in his last 10 international matches but left in the 59th minute after injuring an ankle ligament. Hazard came off nine minutes later with a calf problem, and forward Dries Mertens came out in the 86th after an ankle issue. Belgium came closest to a title at the 1980 European Championship, losing 2-1 to a German team that got a pair of goals from Horst Hrubesch. It has reached semifinals twice at major events, losing 2-1 to West Germany at the 1972 Euros and to Maradona's Argentina at the 1986 World Cup. After missing two straight World Cups, the Red Devils returned four years ago, beat the U.S. in extra time in the round of 16, then lost to Argentina in the quarters. At the 2016 Euros, they wasted an early lead in a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Wales. Given the past and the sound and fury that would follow any misstep, Martinez wants to manage expectations. "To be a favorite in a World Cup, you need to have the know-how of winning a World Cup," he said. "The World Cup is something that probably gives you an advantage psychologically when you've won it before.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 24th, 2018

Falcons show playoff poise in 26-13 win over upstart LA Rams

By Greg Beacham, Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons jumped to an early 13-point lead before the Rams mounted two swift scoring drives. Los Angeles went to the Coliseum locker room at halftime with just a three-point deficit amid raucous cheers from a home crowd thirsty for playoff success. And then Matt Ryan and the tough, tested Falcons showed the upstart Rams what postseason poise is all about. Ryan passed for 218 yards and hit Julio Jones for an 8-yard touchdown with 5:48 to play, and the defending NFC champion Falcons advanced from the wild-card round with a 26-13 victory over the Rams on Saturday night. Devonta Freeman rushed for an early score and Matt Bryant kicked four field goals for the Falcons (11-6), who spoiled the Rams' first playoff game in 13 years with a methodical performance derived from hard-earned experience. Atlanta's journey to the Super Bowl last season ended infamously with that blown 28-3 lead against New England. In their first playoff game since, the Falcons allowed no surprises from the NFC West champion Rams (11-6). "We knew it was a situation we've been through before," Atlanta defensive tackle Dontari Poe said. "We just had to keep playing and use what we've learned." Jones caught nine passes for 94 yards for Atlanta, which never trailed while winning playoff games in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. Against an opponent that had just six players on its roster with prior postseason appearances, the Falcons' experience showed through. "I think having gone through these situations, understanding what it's like, the atmosphere, those kinds of things, knowing that it's going to be tough, all those things kind of carry forward," Ryan said. "But at the end of the day, experience or no experience, you've got to execute." The Falcons advanced to face the top-seeded Eagles on Jan. 13 in Philadelphia. "Doesn't matter where we're going, we're going," Ryan said. "And that's the most exciting part." A raucous crowd of 74,300 packed the Coliseum on a crisp evening for the first NFL playoff game in the nation's second-largest city since early 1994. Los Angeles went 21 years without pro football before the Rams returned last season, and the franchise emphatically ended a 13-year streak of non-winning seasons this fall with an inspiring run to the Rams' first division title since 2003. But the Falcons have been here before, and they showed it. The Falcons jumped to their early lead by capitalizing on two mistakes by Pharoh Cooper, the Rams' Pro Bowl kick returner. Atlanta's offense then chewed up the clock and field position, with the first drive after halftime consuming 8:15. "To end with a time of possession over 37 minutes, that's hard to do in our league," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "There was a nine-minute drive to start the second half, and I thought that really set the tone." The Falcons' defense did more than enough to slow down the NFL's highest-scoring offense, harassing Jared Goff into a 24-for-45 performance in his playoff debut. "They did a real nice job there moving the ball up the field and keeping us on the sideline," Goff said. "That can sure get you out of your rhythm." Robert Woods caught nine passes for 142 yards for the Rams, but rookie Cooper Kupp scored their only touchdown late in the first half. Atlanta held MVP candidate Todd Gurley to 101 yards rushing — just 43 in the first three quarters — and four receptions for a mere 10 yards. The Falcons ruined a celebratory night for the Rams, who rebounded from a rough homecoming season in 2016 with an outstanding debut year under 31-year-old Sean McVay, the youngest head coach to reach the playoffs in NFL history. "You see why the Falcons are the defending NFC champs," McVay said. "Certainly this is a humbling game. ... This is an experience that we can learn from. But I don't think this game was too big for our guys." The Rams' offense finally figured it out late in the first half: Goff made several sharp throws on a 79-yard drive ending in Kupp's TD catch, and Sam Ficken's first field goal trimmed the halftime deficit to 13-10. But the Rams' defense simply couldn't get off the field in the third quarter, whether due to missed tackles or clever play-calling by the Falcons. Los Angeles trimmed the lead to 19-13 with 10:49 to play, but the Falcons made another drive highlighted by a beautiful 52-yard screen pass from a blitz-avoiding Bryant to Mohamed Sanu. Jones then caught the sixth playoff TD pass of his career. Goff drove the Rams deep into Falcons territory, but LA turned it over on down at the Atlanta 5 with 2:05 to play. The Falcons stopped the Rams again on downs at midfield with 1:08 left. SARK'S RETURN Although the Falcons' offense took a step back in production this season, Atlanta chipped away at the Rams' defense throughout the Coliseum return of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who coached USC here until 2015. Ryan was methodical under relentless pressure from All-Pro lineman Aaron Donald, repeatedly avoiding trouble and making big throws. Freeman rushed for 66 yards, and Sanu had that key 52-yard gain on a screen pass. "Great call by Sark," Ryan said. COOPER'S MISTAKES Cooper is headed to the Pro Bowl after his outstanding regular season as a kick returner, but the second-year pro's misadventures in his playoff debut cost the Rams dearly. He muffed a punt that bounced off teammate Blake Countess in the first quarter, and Bryant subsequently hit the Falcons' first field goal. After Bryant's second field goal later in the quarter, Cooper got stripped by Damontae Kazee during a kickoff return at the Rams 32, and the Falcons drove for Freeman's short TD run. UP NEXT After the Falcons' defensive performance against Goff, they look like a potential problem for the powerful Eagles without quarterback Carson Wentz in the early Saturday divisional playoff game......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 7th, 2018

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

Atletico puts new stadium to the test in Champions League

A look at what's happening around the Champions League this week: ___ strong>ATLETICO'S HOME SUCCESS /strong> Atletico Madrid will try to extend its successful home streak when it makes its Champions League debut at the new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Wednesday against Chelsea. It will be Atletico's third match at the venue which replaced the Vicente Calderon Stadium, where Atletico was unbeaten in its last 11 games in the European competition. Atletico has won both of its matches at the Wanda Metropolitano — 1-0 against Malaga and 2-0 against Sevilla, both in the Spanish league 'The Metropolitano has the feel of a Roman circus,' Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. Barcelona travels to Portugal to face Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday, riding a seven-game winning streak that includes the emphatic 3-0 win over Juventus in its Champions League opener. Sporting, off to a great start in the Portuguese league, can make it two wins in a row to start its Group D campaign. On Tuesday, Sevilla will host Maribor, which is coming off its first loss of the season against Atletico Madrid. ___ strong>MOSCOW CHALLENGE /strong> The Champions League provides Russian authorities with a key test of their World Cup readiness this week, and a glimpse at the welcome fans can expect next year. Two of England's fiercest rivals, Liverpool and Manchester United, play on consecutive nights in Moscow. Liverpool is first up against Spartak Moscow on Tuesday, and CSKA Moscow plays United the following night. There isn't typically disorder when the teams — separated by about 30 miles (48 kilometers) in northwest England — meet on home soil. But since England fans were attacked by Russians at the 2016 European Championship in Marseille, concerns have heightened about hooliganism in the 2018 World Cup host nation. United and Liverpool fans have been advised by the British government not to wear club colors on the streets of Moscow and to avoid walking alone. On the pitch, United and CSKA both won their opening games in Group A. Liverpool and Spartak are chasing their first wins after starting Group E with draws. ___ strong>DORTMUND THRIVING BUT FLAWED /strong> Real Madrid heads to Germany to face on Tuesday a Borussia Dortmund side enjoying its best start to the Bundesliga. Dortmund hadn't even conceded a goal in five domestic games until Lars Stindl netted Borussia Moenchengladbach's consolation in a 6-1 rout on Saturday. While Dortmund has scored 19 goals in six league games, there is no perfection in the high pressing game. The team remains prone to lapses at the back and opponents can suddenly find themselves with wide spaces to run into behind the Dortmund defense. That happened three times alone in the first half against 'Gladbach but it didn't prove as costly as when Dortmund visited London earlier this month and lost its Group H opener against Tottenham 3-1. ___ strong>NEEDING NEYMAR /strong> A bust-up between Edinson Cavani and Neymar combined with a goalless draw at Montpellier have generated a sense of trouble at Paris Saint-Germain ahead of Bayern Munich's visit on Wednesday. Cavani and Neymar have reportedly made peace after arguing on the pitch, but PSG dropped its first points this season following a dismal performance at Montpellier that raised concerns about the side's dependence on its Brazilian star. Neymar sat out Saturday's game because of a toe injury and his absence was obvious. Facing a very defensive side which closed spaces efficiently, PSG did not find a way to break the deadlock in a 4-3-3 system that lacked rhythm and creativity. 'We need to push more in order to score goals,' PSG coach Unai Emery said. 'This match leaves us with a lot of things to analyze in order to continue our progression.' Neymar is expected to return for the Bayern game in Group B. ___ strong>ROMA'S NEGATIVE STREAK /strong> Roma will be hopeful of ending a woeful away record in the Champions League when it travels to Azerbaijan for the first time, to play Qarabag on Wednesday. Including qualifying, Roma has won only one of its past 13 matches on its travels in Europe's elite competition, with that sole victory coming against Basel in 2009. But coach Eusebio Di Francesco will be hopeful of success against Qarabag, which lost 6-0 at Chelsea in the last round. He will again look to an in-form Edin Dzeko, who netted his fifth goal in three matches in Saturday's 3-1 win over Udinese. Stephan El Shaarawy scored twice in that match and Di Francesco has described him as 'the ideal attacker' for his preferred 4-3-3 formation, which he hopes will boost Roma in Europe as well as domestically. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 25th, 2017

WORLD CUP KICKOFF: A look at the World Cup’s final day

MOSCOW (AP) — Here’s a look at what’s coming up at the World Cup , which is down to its final day, featuring the title match Sunday in Moscow between France and Croatia. PUTIN REAPPEARS The Russian president has kept a fairly low profile at the World Cup considering he’s more or less the man behind the tournament. Vladimir Putin attended the opening match a month ago in Moscow, a 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia that kicked off a surprising quarterfinal run for the home team. That’s evidently the only soccer he’s seen in person, though he has hosted a handful of events involving FIFA officials in and around Red Square, including a Saturday evening concert at the Bolshoi Theater. Putin was to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Sunday ahead of the final, then attend the match at Luzhniki Stadium a short drive from the Kremlin before heading off to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Finland on Monday. WORLD CUP-CLASS ENTERTAINMENT If Putin is into Puerto Rican pop, he’s in for a treat. The tournament’s official song, “Live It Up,” has showed up at World Cup stadiums about as often as Putin himself. It will be showcased Sunday when Will Smith joins singers Nicky Jam and Era Istrefi in performing it during the closing ceremony. The song is innocuous enough, but that doesn’t mean some controversy couldn’t crop up. Though the three avoided anything sensitive during their news conference this week, Istrefi has ruffled feathers in the past on a topic that caused problems earlier in the tournament: An ethnic Albanian from Kosovo, she upset some conservative Serbs last year when she shot a music video inside an Orthodox Church. FIFA fined several Swiss players, also ethnic Albanians, who made pro-Albania symbols with their hands in a comeback win over Serbia in the group stage. WHO’LL TAKE HOME THE HARDWARE England’s Harry Kane has six goals to his credit, making him a near lock to win the Golden Boot , awarded to the tournament’s top scorer. The awards based on judgment calls are more up in the air. Croatia midfielder Luka Modric is a good bet to be named player of the tournament if he plays well again and Croatia wins. But the Golden Ball could just as easily go to Kylian Mbappe or Antoine Griezmann if France triumphs. Best goalkeeper? Maybe the toughest call of all. The two playing Sunday — France captain Hugo Lloris and Croatian sensation Danijel Subasic — and England’s Jordan Pickford all have strong cases in a tournament where several ’keepers have excelled. OH, AND THAT OTHER TROPHY Will France win its second World Cup, or Croatia its first? That could come down to the Croats’ stamina. No team has played three extra-time matches in the same World Cup, as Croatia has done in its past three contests. Moreover, France has had one more day to prepare because its semifinal preceded Croatia’s. “An extra 24 hours is a really big thing at this stage of the tournament,” Belgium coach Roberto Martinez noted Saturday, allowing for what edge his side might’ve had in its 2-0 win over England in the third-place match. On the other hand, Croatia has defied logic on this once already. It was faced with a fast, younger, relatively rested team in its semifinal against England, just as it is against France. After going down a goal, the Croats steadily grew stronger, controlling the game and beating opponents to the ball as if they were the ones with fresh legs, finally getting the winner in extra time. France will be favored for a lot of other good reasons , but another upset shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been watching Croatia or the rest of this upset-filled World Cup. Catch the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Final between France and Croatia on July 15, Sunday, 11 PM LIVE on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD and via livestream......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 15th, 2018

All those oh, so nears and more for England at World Cup

By Rob Harris, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — They sing of alcohol and agony, and of all those oh, so nears. The anguished English now have another line to add to the lyrics of "Three Lions": Football's not coming home. There was no penalty heartache this time, like in the semifinals at the 1990 World Cup or 1996 European Championship. But a 2-1 loss to Croatia in extra time stopped England from reaching its first World Cup final since 1966. "It hurts a lot," England striker Harry Kane said. "It's going to hurt for a while." The fans sang of 30 years of hurt in 1996. Two years later, they refreshed it to 32. But the Lightning Seeds, an English musical act, stopped producing updates after that. It's now 52 years and counting. England came very close on Wednesday. For more than an hour, Gareth Southgate's young team led Croatia before the weary, aging opposition sprung back into life at the Luzhniki Stadium. Now, on their way to St. Petersburg for a third-place playoff against Belgium, there are just so many agonizing misses to replay in their heads. Kane. Jesse Lingard. Raheem Sterling. Chances to build on the lead secured by Kieran Trippier's free kick in the fifth minute. While Trippier did Bend it like Beckham for his goal, this generation of England players is far removed from the celebrity-obsessed David Beckham-era that straddled the millennium. They even managed to win a game on penalties, breaking the streak of five tournament shootout losses, in the round of 16. "Wasn't to be this time," British Prime Minister Theresa May wrote on Twitter amid the latest Brexit turmoil within her government, "but it's been a great journey that's made the country proud." There is a genuine sense of warmth between this squad and its followers. The apathy of just four years ago — when the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium was more than half empty — replaced by a newfound affection for the national team under Southgate. Fans could relate to players like Kane, Trippier and John Stones, who toiled through lower leagues to eventually reach the pinnacle of the game. The coach even became an unlikely fashion icon. "If we have brought joy back home, which I know we have," Southgate said, "that has been worthwhile." Tens of thousands packed into Hyde Park in central London to watch Wednesday's match, roaring in delight and flinging beer in the air when Trippier scored. Thousands more made the journey from England to Russia, packing into the Luzhniki after shunning the group stage. Even after Mario Mandzukic's 109th-minute goal, a young squad was saluted for exceeding expectations with its deep progress in this year's tournament. "They are still maturing and Croatia have some hardened warriors," Southgate said. "They have broken through a number of barriers over the last few weeks. We have made such strides with our supporters." And still they sang , long after the final whistle as midnight approached, about "drinking all your vodka." There are sorrows to drown, but this was not an embarrassment for England. No need to rip up the script that has seen England recover from the humiliation of being denied a place at the 2008 European Championship by Croatia with a coaching blueprint instilled through all age groups winning titles. Champions last year at both the under-17 and under-20 World Cups, collecting the main prize will have to wait at least until 2022. A timepiece at the national team's St. George's Park base has been counting down to the final in Qatar. It was compared to the Doomsday Clock when new leadership took charge at the Football Association. But Southgate has real optimism that his team can hit its peak in the Gulf in four years — from Kane up front to Jordan Pickford in goal. "It's clear to everyone the progress that's been made in terms of the level of performances and the quality of the group," Southgate said. "This is a thoroughly different journey." English soccer has now had its reset moment. The country came to Russia to regain respect. From the ignominy of the failure to win a game at the 2014 World Cup to the meek collapse against Iceland in the round of 16 at Euro 2016. "This team has taken us to a place that we never thought we would ever have imagined we would get," Gary Neville, England's assistant coach during the Euro 2016 campaign, said on British broadcaster ITV. "They have taken the nation with them." For all the playfulness in practice with rubber chickens, splashing around with unicorns in a pool and the sense this was a group of friends having fun on an extended summer vacation, there was always a steely, winning mindset. There should be tinges of regret about falling short at a World Cup where defending champion Germany was eliminated in the group stage, and Argentina, Brazil and Spain fell before the semifinals. England does not appear in semifinals very often. Southgate was in the last one 22 years ago. A post-match news conference after the loss to Croatia looked like the last place he wanted to be. "I'm trying to get the balance right," Southgate said, "of recognizing that tonight was a wonderful opportunity for us and you can't guarantee that those opportunities will ever come again." Football will come home in two years when Wembley Stadium stages seven games, including the semifinals and final, at the 2020 European Championship. Southgate has to find a way to get his team one step further than in Russia. Without just coming oh, so near......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 12th, 2018

A look back at Roger Federer s record 8 Wimbledon titles

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press LONDON (AP) — Roger Federer's paths to his record eight Wimbledon championships were each different, of course. Different opponents. Different degrees of difficulty. Same old Federer. A year ago, for example, he did not drop a set the entire way, becoming the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1976 to claim the title at the All England Club in that unblemished manner. In 2009, in contrast, Federer was pushed to the very limit, edging Andy Roddick 16-14 in the fifth set of a final that remains the longest, by games, of any Grand Slam title match in tennis history. Here is a year-by-year look at Federer's trophy runs at Wimbledon: ___ No. 1: 2003 Final: Beat Mark Philippoussis 7-6 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (3). Grand Slam Title: 1 Age: 21 At Stake: Pegged for great success, Federer had yet to get past the quarterfinals of a major tournament. Close Call: Federer dropped only one set, to Mardy Fish in the third round, but the toughest moment came in the round of 16, when Federer needed treatment on his aching back while beating Feliciano Lopez. Key Quote: "There was pressure from all sides — also from myself. I wanted to do better in Slams." — Federer. ___ No. 2: 2004 Final: Beat Andy Roddick 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-4. Grand Slam Title: 3 Age: 22 At Stake: His first attempt to defend a major championship. Close Call: After dropping the first set, then trailing by a break at 4-2 in the third, Federer used a rain delay to change strategy, opting to charge the net more. He made that switch on his own, because he'd been without a coach since firing his a little more than six months earlier. It worked: Federer won 24 of the next 28 points on his serve. Key Quote: "This is a very important phase in his career as well, that he could step back, not rely on somebody, get to know himself, get to know his own tennis and technique." — Federer's mother, Lynette. ___ No. 3: 2005 Final: Beat Roddick 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-4. Grand Slam Title: 5 Age: 23 At Stake: Trying to become the first man in 50 years to win his first five major finals. Close Call: None, really. Federer dropped merely one of 22 sets he played over the two weeks, a tiebreaker against 25th-seeded Nicolas Kiefer in the third round, but quickly recovered to win that match 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-1, 7-5. Key Quote: "It's hard for him, because I really played a fantastic match — one of the best of my life. Today it seemed liked I was playing flawless." — Federer. ___ No. 4: 2006 Final: Beat Rafael Nadal 6-0, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 6-3. Grand Slam Title: 8 Age: 24 At Stake: Entering the championship match, Federer was 0-4 that season against Nadal — including a loss in the French Open final weeks earlier — and 55-0 against everyone else. Close Call: Once again, nothing to speak of, because Federer dropped just one set all tournament, this time in the final. Nadal did serve for the second set at 5-4, but missed three forehands and double-faulted to get broken there, before ceding the ensuing tiebreaker. Key Quote: "I'm very well aware of how important this match was for me. If I lose, obviously, it's a hard blow for me — he wins French, Wimbledon back-to-back. It's important for me to win a final against him, for a change, and beat him, for a change." — Federer. ___ No. 5: 2007 Final: Beat Nadal 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-2. Grand Slam Title: 11 Age: 25 At Stake: Joining Borg as the only men in the last 100 years to win Wimbledon five years in a row. Close Call: After dropping just one set (in a quarterfinal against 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero) along an unusually short road to the final (fourth-round foe Tommy Haas withdrew with an injury), Federer got all he could handle against Nadal. Key Quote: "He's an artist on this surface. He can stay back. He can come in. No weaknesses. I believe if he continues the way he's doing and stays away from injuries and has the motivation, he'll be the greatest player ever to play the game." — Borg. ___ No. 6: 2009 Final: Beat Roddick 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14. Grand Slam Title: 15 Age: 27 At Stake: Breaking Sampras' record for most major singles trophies won by a man and reasserting his supremacy at Wimbledon after losing a 9-7 fifth set to Nadal in the 2008 final. Close Call: What could be a closer call than that fifth set? Federer's only break of the day came in the match's 77th and last game. Also worth remembering is that 2017 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee Roddick led the second-set tiebreaker 6-2 but did not convert any of the four points that would have given him a two-set lead. Key Quote: "He's a legend. Now he's an icon." — Sampras. ___ No. 7: 2012 Final: Beat Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. Grand Slam Title: 17 Age: 30 At Stake: Tying the record held by Sampras and William Renshaw (who played in the 1800s) for most Wimbledon men's championships, plus ending a personal 2½-year Grand Slam drought. Close Call: Federer dropped the first two sets in the third round against 29th-seeded Julien Benneteau of France, then was two points away from losing a half-dozen times, but pulled out a 4-6, 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-1 comeback. Key Quote: "Oh, my God, it was brutal. The thing, when you're down two sets to love, is to stay calm, even though it's hard, because people are freaking out, people are worried for you." — Federer. ___ No. 8: 2017 Final: Beat Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4. Grand Slam Title: 19 (he added No. 20 at this year's Australian Open) Age: 35 At Stake: Breaking the mark for most men's singles titles at the All England Club after coming up just short with losses to Novak Djokovic in the 2014 and 2015 finals. Close Call: Nothing whatsoever. The closest thing to a close call came in the semifinals, when 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych pushed Federer to tiebreakers in each of the first two sets. Cilic was hampered by foot blister in a final that was lopsided throughout. Key Quote: "Wimbledon was always my favorite tournament. Will always be my favorite tournament. My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here." — Federer......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 2nd, 2018

WATCH: Thirdy’s game-winner takes down Greek U21 national team

Ateneo de Manila University is in Greece to toughen up for its looming tile defense. “I want to see our character,” head coach Tab Baldwin in the Blue Eagles’ last game in the 2018 Filoil Flying V Preseason Tournament before flying to Athens. Thirdy Ravena and company have been doing just that, having won their first game. And on Sunday (Philippine time) they did just that again, with Ravena, in particular, adding to his clutch credentials. Thirdy Ravena was not nice to the Greek Under-21 national team. He wins this one for Ateneo! #UAAPSeason81 📸 team manager @epokquimps pic.twitter.com/Gk9wvHPvcG — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) June 24, 2018 With Ateneo down by one in the dying seconds to Greece’s Under-21 team, the ball was inbounded to Matt Nieto who then found Ravena at the top of the key. Cool and collected, the UAAP Season 80 Mythical selection rose and lauched a long-range missile. It found the bottom of the net and it proved to be the game-winner for the Blue Eagles, 84-82. Yes, the UAAP champions have defeated the Greek U21 national team, the reigning kings of FIBA Europe Under-21. And now, they turn their attention to a couple more tuneup games before heading home on July 27. A day later, Ateneo then takes on resurgent NCAA power Colegio de San Juan de Letran in the quarterfinals of the Filoil Preseason. —— Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 24th, 2018

Q& A: Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com A year ago, on the night of the 2017 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls switched gears. Jimmy Butler was traded to Minnesota, taking with him any pretense that the Bulls were a legitimate playoff team. In that moment, Chicago committed to a rebuild, which is to say, a dive into the draft lottery where coach Fred Hoiberg and his team presumably would be rewarded not for how many games they won but how many they lost. By whatever means necessary. Soon after Butler was moved to the Timberwolves, veteran point guard Rajon Rondo was waived. A few months later, Dwyane Wade was cut loose (via a handsome buyout) to bounce through Cleveland to Miami. The Bulls moved forward with three young pieces courtesy of the Wolves -- wing Zach LaVine, guard Kris Dunn and the No. 7 pick in 2017, rookie forward Lauri Markkanen -- and a general acceptance that getting from there to here was going to bring a lot of pain. Some of that was literal: Bobby Portis slugged teammate Nikola Mirotic in a preseason practice, breaking two facial bones and putting Mirotic on the shelf for 23 games. Some of it was figurative: the frustration of a season that began as a 3-20 mess and ended in a 10-28 slog. In between, though, the Bulls somehow put together a 14-7 stretch that offered a glimpse of what 2018-19 might be. It also cost them precious lottery balls, eventually leaving them with the No. 7 pick (and No. 22, after dealing Mirotic in February to New Orleans) in Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) Draft. Hoiberg, who went from an alleged coaching “hot seat” during two .500 seasons, wound up with more job security as a coach headed toward 50 defeats and beyond. He spoke with NBA.com about his and the Bulls’, er, challenging season. This is edited from a pair of longer conversations, one at the end of the regular season, the other within the past week. NBA.com: So you go through everything that was 2017-18, dutifully lose 55 games and wind up at No. 7 instead of in the top three for the Draft. The inevitable question is, was it worth it? Fred Hoiberg: Obviously you’re disappointed. You were hoping to move up. But we’re confident we’re going to get a good player with the No. 7 pick and we’re confident we’ll get a good player with the 22nd pick. NBA.com: C’mon, this isn’t our first rodeo. I get that people don’t like to use the word “tanking,” but the Bulls’ marching orders last season were pretty clear. FH: I don’t think you can look at it that way in the midst of your season. The players are competitive, your staff is competitive. You want to play as well as you can and put yourself in a position to win. When you look at the successful stretch that we had in December and January, you think about carrying those things forward and then adding, based on who we get, to the roster. There was some real frustration that we didn’t get a lot of wins at the end. But we developed some younger players and saw what we had with some of our guys. NBA.com: When you guys had that run before the season’s midpoint, winning seven in a row (first team in NBA history with such a long winning streak immediately after a losing streak of 10 in a row) and 10 of 12, did you and the front office ever consider a Plan B? As in, maybe, show potential free agents how good your supporting cast could be, in hopes of luring big-name help this summer? FH: I think we did. What we showed was a really good foundation and a young core that we can build around. When I look back at it, I just wish we could have had more opportunity to work with it and see what it would have looked like. When Zach LaVine came back [Jan. 13 from ACL knee surgery], the plan was for him to play about 20 minutes a night. Then his third game, Kris Dunn fell against Golden State and had that concussion [that cost him 11 games, before missing the final 14 with a toe injury]. It’s too bad we didn’t get the full look. But players like Cam Payne, Denzel [Valentine], Bobby, Robin [Lopez], Justin Holiday all had career years.   NBA.com: You had a lot of injuries down the stretch. Not to suggest that they weren’t all legit, but were you instructed at any point by VP John Paxson or GM Gar Forman to dial it back after that 14-7 success? FH: No, we weren’t. And the big thing from the very beginning of last season, the two things we wanted to see, was competing at a high level every night and the development of our players. I think we accomplished that. NBA.com: What -- in your background as a player, coach, competitor, you name it -- prepared you for this past season? FH: Part of what prepared me for this was, I had been through this as a player. I went from four really competitive teams in Indiana, playing with someone as driven and helpful as Reggie Miller, taking me under his wing. There were other great veteran players who helped me just to survive and taught me a lot. Larry Brown was the coach, then Larry Bird my last two years.   Then when I came to Chicago, I knew it would be an opportunity to play. But it was a rebuild. Eventually I got thrust into the role of captain, as the oldest player on team at 28. It really helped me with what we’re going through now. I learned how important it is to keep guys’ morale up and be positive through the ups and downs. I give our guys all the credit in the world for remaining so positive, keeping up a great work ethic and still being sponges in wanting to learn. NBA.com: What were the takeaways from the best and healthiest part of last season? FH: We got a pretty good feel for what Kris Dunn can be. He really evolved into being a closer for our team. Lauri was closing games for us, taking big shots as a 20-year-old kid. Zach had the game against Minnesota. What people fail to remember about Zach, he averaged over 22 points a game in February and really got into a pretty good rhythm. Then he had some knee soreness and wound up sitting for the rest of the year. But we had some flashes of what this can turn into. NBA.com: Niko paid for his role in sparking that hot streak. FH: Niko was great. He missed those first 23, and I thought our team handled that adverse situation about as well as anybody could, not letting it affect us in a negative way. We were able to move past it. You even saw the chemistry that Niko and Bobby played with when they were out there together. NBA.com: How hard was it personally downshifting from a team that had gone to the playoffs to one that didn’t put a priority on winning? FH: When the move was made on draft night, when those three kids came in, right away there was an excitement. Everyone had seen what Zach had done. He was a highlight reel and had those slam dunk championships. He plays the game with ease on the offensive end. His athletic tools and ability to get up and down the floor. Kris, everybody absolutely loved coming out of the draft [in 2016]. Then he had an up-and-down rookie season. Helping him to get that swagger back that he had coming out of Providence took some work, but he was aching to put that work in. Markkanen, I know the guys upstairs knew how good he was but I had no idea. I didn’t study him because we had the 15th pick. He comes over after a grueling summer -- summer league, Eurobasket with all that pressure in front of his home fans -- and he was exhausted. But then you saw every day, “Man, this kid is really good.” You’re thinking, we could probably put the ball in this kid’s hands. Then he goes up and dunks over a whole team and you say, “My God, this kid’s more athletic than we thought. He uses his feet, he’s got anticipation, he’s got toughness.” He showed a little more every day. NBA.com: Was it difficult asking a proud veteran like Robin Lopez to put it in idle over the final 25 games? FH: I think he understood. He’s been a part of a lot of different situations. He was great. He continued to lead. He continued to practice hard. He talked to the bigs as they came off the floor. NBA.com: Was your own health challenged at all by the stress of this season? Your past issues related to your heart are widely known, and coaching an NBA team even in the best of times is a demanding job. FH: After two open-heart surgeries, I do have to sometimes check myself. There are so many things you can over-concern yourself with in this business. Then you look back a week or two later and say, “My God, why did I put so much effort into that one stupid thing that happened?” You have to let go sometimes. My family is so important for me with that. You get some normalcy in your life. [At night, lying in bed, Hoiberg can hear a valve in his heart every time it beats. He let a visitor listen, too, and sure enough... ] If this ever affected me to the point where I had to throttle back, I would move on to something else. When I had my first surgery and they removed the diseased tissue from the aorta that had an aneurysm in it, they got rid of the problem. The valve deteriorated after they put a new valve in and they had to go in again, but the diseased tissue no longer was there. If it was a risk, I’d be doing something else. But it’s a constant reminder. You think you’re going to get used to it, but you never really do. My wife will be lying next to me and she hears it. NBA.com: When you look back on 2017-18, is it like “Casablanca” for you guys? As in, you’ll always have December? FH: It was fun to see how much the work paid off. Everyone was putting so much into it to get out of that slump. You can say, we had something to build on there. But whenever I talked to our team, before or after, it was all about competing on a nightly basis. Being consistent with their effort. I couldn’t be more proud of how they handled it. They were on time. They kept trying to get better. They worried about what they could control. I didn’t have to have even one of those conversations where I sat a guy down and said, “You’re not playing hard enough.” I did have a few conversations where I said, “You need to move the ball more.” [laughs] NBA.com: Big difference, coaching relative kids after the so-called “three alphas” of Butler, Wade and Rondo? Jimmy seemed eager to stay here to win. FH: Jimmy did so many things for this team. He was great to coach. You knew every night you were going to get an unbelievable effort. A guy who never backed down. Who never shied away from the big shot. And was going to defend at a high level every time he stepped on the floor. So Jimmy was missed in a lot of ways. But when you look at the young guys’ abilities, it’s exciting. NBA.com: What do you make of having better job security now that the losses are mounting, compared to those .500 seasons? FH: I don’t think any one of the 30 guys in our position pay attention to that. You can’t do your job if you do. You go in and try to improve as an individual, as a staff, as a team. Our first year, Derrick Rose suffered an orbital fracture in the first workout. We had 10 rotation players who missed double-digit games. Two starters missed 50 or more [Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah]. Niko had that botched appendix surgery. The next year was a completely different team. Nobody predicted we’d be a playoff team but we were and had a good chance to beat Boston before Rondo got hurt. NBA.com: When you’re not coaching veterans, is it a purer form, as far as installing “your” system vs. tailoring things to them? FH: You always look for the best system, the best approach. The basics don’t change, but [in 2016-17] we had a lot more isolation players, so we ran more of those types of actions. This [past] year, more ball movement, player movement fit this group better. We had longer, harder practices as opposed to a veteran group as the year went on. NBA.com: Since the end of the season, how much time have you put in on developmental activities and draft preparation? FH: We’ve had a lot of guys in and gotten a lot of work in, in the early part of the offseason. We’re looking forward to working again after the draft with some new young players as part of the roster. It’s all about moving forward. NBA.com: As you look back over the past year, with the script flipping to the point where the Bulls wanted to win by losing and maybe lost -- some draft position, anyway -- by winning, what goes through your mind? FH: What was Donovan Mitchell [the Rookie of the Year finalist chosen by Utah]? The 13th pick? You just never know with the draft. You play hard, you get the culture established the way you want it and things take care of themselves. What really would have been devastating would have been ending the season with negativity, with your team not playing hard, with your team disinterested. That’s something that would be a real cause for concern going into an offseason. But our guys felt good about themselves. Some were sacrificing in a big way and pulling for younger guys. They were playing hard, they were cheering for each other. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and 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 NewsJun 19th, 2018

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

Talk about political football: No Eagles at the White House

By Jill Colvin and Jonathan Lemire, Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — Taking on the NFL and football's Super Bowl champs, President Donald Trump gave the boot to a White House ceremony for the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday and instead threw his own brief "Celebration of America" after it became clear most players weren't going to show up. Both sides traded hot accusations about who was to blame. Trump tried to turn the fracas into a referendum on patriotism and tie it to the dispute over players who have taken a knee during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality. However, Eagles players never knelt during the "Star-Spangled Banner," throughout the 2017 season and their march to the Super Bowl. The White House accused Eagles team members of pulling a "political stunt" and abandoning their fans by backing out at the last minute. Indeed, few apparently were going to come, though some expressed disappointment that they'd been disinvited and complained Trump was unfairly painting them as anti-American. Through it all, Trump appeared to revel in fanning the flames of a culture war that he believes revs up his political base. Trump had long been leery of the Eagles' planned visit to the White House, in part because the team's owner, Jeffrey Lurie, has been a Trump critic, and because several players have been vocal critics of the league's new policy that requires players to stand if they're on the field during the national anthem or else stay in the locker room. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the team notified the White House last Thursday that 81 people, including players, coaches, managers and others would be attending the Super Bowl celebration. But she said the team got back in touch late Friday and tried to reschedule, "citing the fact that many players would not be in attendance." The Eagles proposed a time when Trump would be overseas. Eagles officials declined comment on the White House version of events, sticking with a simple earlier statement: "We are truly grateful for all of the support we have received and we are looking forward to continuing our preparations for the 2018 season." No one connected with the team said the players' reluctance to attend had anything to do with the national anthem, as Trump tried to portray the situation. And comments by star players in the current pro basketball finals indicated it's not about football. "I know no matter who wins this series, no one wants the invite anyway. So it won't be Golden State or Cleveland going," said LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. There was no disagreement from Stephen Curry, who angered Trump last year when he said he wouldn't go to the White House after the Warriors' NBA triumph, leading the president to disinvite him and his team. Trump, furious about the small number of Eagles who were coming, scrapped Tuesday's visit, believing a low turnout would reflect poorly upon him. He had told aides last year he was embarrassed when Tom Brady, star quarterback of that season's champion New England Patriots, opted to skip a White House visit. Instead, the president held what he dubbed a "patriotic celebration" that was short and spare. A military band and chorus delivered the Star-Spangled Banner and God Bless America, with brief Trump remarks sandwiched in between. "We love our country, we respect our flag and we always proudly stand for the national anthem," Trump said. The White House crowd of roughly 1,000, mostly dressed in business suits, was light on Pennsylvanians and heavy on administration and GOP Party officials. Several in attendance blamed the players, not the president, for torpedoing the Eagles event. John Killion, a lifelong Eagles fan who now lives in Florida and traveled to Washington to see his team, said he was "devastated and infuriated" by a breakdown he blamed on the Eagles owners. "I waited my whole life for the Eagles to win the Super Bowl and they were going to be congratulated at the White House. And I don't really care who you like or dislike, it shouldn't be about that," he said. Bill Fey, a Republican state committeeman from southern New Jersey and an Eagles fan, called the decision "a black eye as far as I'm concerned with the NFL. I think that everyone should come to the White House. This is the peoples' house." Still, he said, "I think the Eagles did what they thought was necessary. I don't blame anyone." Trump's own patriotic event was not without its controversy. Following the playing of the anthem, a heckler shouted from the audience: "Stop hiding behind the armed services and the national anthem!" prompting boos. A Swedish reporter posted video of a man kneeling as the anthem was played. In a statement Monday, Trump placed the blame on Eagles players he said "disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country." Besides the fact that none of the Eagles had taken a knee during the anthem in 2017, defensive end Chris Long said the NFL anthem policy change and Trump's reaction to it were not even discussed by the players in meetings about making the visit. Those deciding to stay away had various reasons beyond Trump's opposition to the protests, including more general feelings of hostility toward the president, one official said. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who had planned to skip the ceremony "to avoid being used as any kind of pawn," said in a statement that at the White House a "decision was made to lie, and paint the picture that these players are anti-America, anti-flag and anti-military." Trump has long railed against the protests that began in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began silently kneeling on the sidelines during the anthem to raise awareness around racism and, specifically, the killing of black men by police. At a rally last September, Trump suggested NFL owners fire "son of a bitch" players who "disrespect" the flag by kneeling. As for politics, Trump believes the anthem controversy is a winning issue for him and was pleased that last month's announcement of the league's new policy returned it to the news, according to people familiar with the president's thinking but not authorized to discuss private conversations. Even so, Trump made clear Tuesday he doesn't believe the policy goes far enough, tweeting: "Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!" The president told one confidant Monday that he aims to revive the issue in the months leading up to the midterm elections, believing its return to the headlines will help Republicans win votes. Trump's attempt to drive a wedge between the team and its fervent fan base could have political consequences in Pennsylvania, which Trump won by just 44,000 votes in 2016. The politics are already playing out in the state's Senate race, where Republican Rep. Lou Barletta is challenging Democratic incumbent Bob Casey. Barletta attended the White House ceremony sans Eagles, "representing the proud Pennsylvanians who stand for our flag." Casey tweeted he would be "skipping this political stunt at the White House" and invited the Eagles on a tour of the Capitol instead. ___ Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Catherine Lucey in Washington, Errin Haines Whack in Philadelphia and Associated Press Pro Football writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 6th, 2018

Tunisia coach calls up 29 players for World Cup camp

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul has called up 29 players including Rennes forward Wahbi Khazri for a World Cup training camp. The list features several French league players, with Montpellier midfielder Elyess Skhiri and Nice forward Bassem Srarfi among others. Tunisia will be without its best player at the World Cup after forward Youssef Msakni injured his cruciate knee ligament while playing for his club last month. Esperance Tunis forward Taha Yassine Khenissi has also been ruled out because of a muscular injury. Tunisia will take on Portugal on May 28 in Braga before traveling to Switzerland for another friendly against Turkey. Tunisia will play its final warmup match in Russia against Spain on June 8. Tunisia plays England on June 18 and also faces Belgium and Panama in Group G......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2018

Liverpool into Champions League, Man City reaches 100 points

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Liverpool qualified for the Champions League at the expense of Chelsea, Swansea was relegated, and champion Manchester City made it to 100 points as the loose ends were tied up on a typically high-scoring final day of the Premier League season on Sunday. It was also the end of an era in England's top flight, with Arsene Wenger taking charge of his final game as Arsenal manager after 22 seasons. He went out with a 1-0 win at Huddersfield. Liverpool only needed to draw with Brighton to secure another season in the Champions League, but manager Juergen Klopp fielded an attacking team and was rewarded with a 4-0 victory at Anfield. Mohamed Salah scored one of the goals, taking the Egyptian to a league-high 32 goals for the campaign — the most in a 38-game Premier League season. That meant Chelsea will not be playing in Europe's elite competition for the second season in three years. The London club finished fifth after a 3-0 loss at Newcastle, in what could prove to be Antonio Conte's last league game as manager. The final-day "miracle" that Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal required didn't happen, with the Welsh club losing 2-1 to Stoke to end its seven-year stay in the league and ensure Southampton stayed up. Swansea had needed to win and Southampton to lose to Man City, with a 10-goal swing in goal difference. So it didn't matter that Southampton conceded late to lose 1-0 to City, although that did mean Pep Guardiola's side became the first team to post 100 points in a Premier League season. It is the latest milestone reached by City, which has also claimed the most total wins (32), goals (106), victories in a row (18) and away wins (16) in this record-breaking season. The 19-point margin to second place Manchester United is also a record, as is the goal difference of plus 79. Tottenham beat Leicester 5-4 in the highest-scoring game of the day to secure third place above Liverpool. United was already assured of second place before its 1-0 win over Watford, in Michael Carrick's final game for the club. ANOTHER TROPHY FOR SALAH Fittingly, it was Salah who guided Liverpool back into the Champions League and he ended a sun-kissed afternoon at Anfield lifting the Golden Boot for being the Premier League's top scorer this season. His 32-goal haul was two more than Harry Kane, the winner for the past two seasons. There were wonderful scenes soon after as Liverpool's fans cheered Salah's daughter, Makka, as she kicked about a ball on the field. Dejan Lovren added a second before Dominic Solanke and Andrew Robertson scored their first goals for Liverpool to complete a routine victory in its last match before playing the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 26. Liverpool ended up in fourth place for the second straight season. Chelsea ended the season without even a whimper, and in the Europa League. Four days after drawing 1-1 at home, the deposed champions looked bedraggled in losing to Newcastle thanks to goals by Dwight Gayle and Ayoze Perez, who scored twice in the second half. SWANSEA DOWN Swansea fans channeled their anger toward chairman Huw Jenkins and the club's American majority shareholders, Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien, after the team's relegation was confirmed with a loss to a team that started the day in last place. Jenkins was conspicuous by his absence from his customary seat in the directors' box but that did not prevent Swansea supporters urging Jenkins to "get out of our club" from the first minute. Andy King's goal gave Swansea hope of an unlikely final-day comeback, but Badou Ndiaye and Peter Crouch scored to ensure already relegated Stoke would not end the season bottom. That position went to West Bromwich Albion, which lost 2-0 at Crystal Palace. WENGER'S FAREWELL In the 22nd minute, Huddersfield fans joined Arsenal supporters in rising to their feet inside the John Smith's Stadium to applaud Wenger in his 1,235th game in charge of the Gunners. A plane flew over the stadium, carrying the message "Merci Arsene, we will miss you too" in response to Wenger's goodbye speech last week at the Emirates Stadium. "I should have announced every week my goodbye," Wenger said, "because people have been so nice with me." Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the final scorer of the Wenger era, sliding in to convert Aaron Ramsey's cross in the 38th minute for the only goal. Arsenal finished sixth in the Premier League — the lowest under Wenger, who will stay working. "Whether that is managing or not... I am addicted and I don't think that can be cured," Wenger said. CITY'S CENTURY City left it to virtually the last kick of its last match to reach the magical 100-point barrier. Gabriel Jesus, on as a substitute, found space to lift the ball over goalkeeper Alex McCarthy in the fourth minute of additional time, prompting wild celebrations among City's players. Pep Guardiola reacted to the team's 106th league goal of the season by leaping out of his seat in the dugout and punching the air. Jesus removed his shirt and twirled it in celebration in front of City's supporters. The players were still on the field 20 minutes after the final whistle. City will celebrate on the streets of Manchester on Monday with an open-top bus parade......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: England looks to beak cycle of pain

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press MANCHESTER, England (AP) — England is attempting to break a cycle of heartache and humiliation at major tournaments that plunged the birthplace of football to its lowest ebb. A loss to Iceland in the last 16 of the 2016 European Championship was perhaps the ultimate embarrassment. Or maybe that came when the English endured their shortest World Cup campaign two years earlier whey they were only in contention for eight days. Before that, there were penalty shootout losses in 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2012. And before that, who could forget Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" goal that denied England in the World Cup semifinals in 1986? It's no surprise that the nation's expectations are low heading to Russia. England coach Gareth Southgate has long been tempering his team's prospects. Defender Kyle Walker even acknowledged it would be a "miracle" if England won football's biggest prize this year. England won the 1966 World Cup, but has only reached the semifinals of a tournament twice since then. What next for one of the underachievers of international football? Encouraging draws in recent friendlies against Brazil, Germany and Italy show the English are heading in the right direction but they have been here before in the run-up to tournaments. Here's a closer look at the England team: COACH Southgate was promoted from England's under-21 team to become coach of the senior side in September 2016, with the appointment widely viewed with skepticism because of his lack of managerial experience in top-level soccer. However, opinions are changing on the former England defender who missed the decisive penalty in a shootout against Germany in the European Championship semifinals in 1996. He has made brave selection decisions — dropping Wayne Rooney, for starters — and has implemented a bold approach that has seen the team adopt a three-man defense and play the ball out from the back as much as possible. GOALKEEPERS Long-time starter Joe Hart has lost his place after a tough two years on loan at Torino and West Ham from Manchester City, with Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland moving ahead in the pecking order. Pickford, whose distribution is superior to Butland's, is expected to begin the World Cup as first choice. Hart should still be in the squad as third-choice goalkeeper, with Southgate valuing his experience gained playing for City and at international level since 2010. DEFENDERS Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young — attacking full backs with good delivery and energy — look to be England's starting wing backs, so it is the center-back combination that will be occupying Southgate's thoughts. John Stones and Harry Maguire are favorites to start even though the former is fourth choice at Manchester City and has barely played in 2018, while the latter is inexperienced. Kyle Walker, a pacey right back, has impressed in recent friendlies as a right-sided center back and other options include Joe Gomez, James Tarkowski and Alfie Mawson. MIDFIELDERS England will play with either two or three central midfielders, depending if the team is deployed in a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 formation, and they are likely to be functional, hard-working players. It's a far cry from the days when the country could call upon stars of the Premier League like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes. Instead, Southgate will rely on selfless players such as Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier, Jake Livermore and the unheralded Lewis Cook, who will keep their shape and allow the wing backs and forward players to offer a goal threat. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain definitely out injured and Adam Lallana unlikely to prove his fitness, the injury-prone Jack Wilshere could again make the plane as a wildcard midfielder. FORWARDS The most straightforward department for Southgate: Harry Kane will start as the central striker, with Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford as backups. Kane has been hit and miss for Tottenham this season, especially in recent weeks after returning quicker than expected from an ankle injury, but is England's most lethal striker and arguably its most important player. Raheem Sterling will be the main support for Kane, maybe along with either Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli or even 22-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek if Southgate opts for a 3-4-3 formation. GROUP GAMES England, which is based just outside St. Petersburg, opens Group G against Tunisia in Volgograd on June 18. The team then plays Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on June 24 and finishes against Belgium in Kaliningrad on June 28......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 1st, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Tunisia reorganizes after loss of Msakni

By Bouazza Ben Bouazza, Associated Press TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — With creative forward Youssef Msakni sidelined, Tunisia will be fielding a team at the World Cup that includes several foreign-born players. Msakni carried the team to its fifth World Cup, capped by a hat trick in the penultimate qualifier in Guinea, but he picked up a cruciate knee ligament injury while playing for his Qatari club. Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul is expected to use a group of foreign-born players, mainly from France. The move that could unsettle a team already in robust shape after being unbeaten in qualifying. Tunisia's squad is a mix of players mainly from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, France and domestic leagues. Here's a closer look at the Tunisia team: COACH A former assistant under Roger Lemerre when Tunisia won the African Cup of Nations in 2002, Maaloul took over from Henri Kasperczak two matches into World Cup qualifying for his second spell as coach after a brief tenure in 2013. Maaloul played for Tunisia for a decade from 1985-95. One of very few African coaches in charge of a national team, he has transformed Tunisia from a fairly dour, defensive outfit to one more willing to attack since he took over after the African Cup of Nations in early 2017. He needs to ensure the decision to bring in new players at the expense of some of the men who got Tunisia to the World Cup doesn't upset the team balance or alienate squad members. GOALKEEPERS Maaloul's biggest decision may be the first name on the sheet after saying he was yet to decide. Aymen Mathlouthi, who is beginning to show frailties at 33 and after 11 years in the team, can no longer be certain of his starting spot. Maaloul must figure out whether to drop the captain and sacrifice experience for 28-year-old Farouk Ben Mustapha, who has been highly-praised in the Saudi league. DEFENDERS Maaloul said he was leaning toward starting the World Cup with the formation used in friendly wins over Iran and Costa Rica in March. That would see 22-year-old French-born Ellyes Skhiri, who made his debut against Iran after a late call-up, start in central defense. Other contenders are 24-year-old home-based player Yassine Meriah, the experienced Syam Ben Youssef and Mohamed Amine Ben Amor. If it's a four-man back line, expect to see right back Dylan Bronn, another French-born newcomer. Ali Maaloul has been a regular on the left. Both can also operate as wingers in a five-man midfield if Tunisia goes with a three-man defense of big, strong center backs. MIDFIELDERS The challenge of filling the void left by Msakni will likely fall on France-born attacking midfielder Wahbi Khazri. He played for the Tunisia and France youth teams before committing to Tunisia. Khazri was partnered in the center of midfield by Anice Badri in Tunisia's last match — forming a potent attacking threat. They are all versatile, operating as attacking midfielders or in a more advanced position in the forward line. Saif-Eddine Khaoui is a similar attack-minded midfielder who has forced himself into the team's plans. Ferjani Sassi has the role of shoring up the middle of the field as the holding midfielder. FORWARDS Depending on whether Khazri, Badri, Sliti and newcomer Khaoui are deployed, there may be room for one or perhaps no out-and-out strikers. Ahmed Akaichi and Taha Yassine Khenissi have experience of operating alone up front but recent formations could mean Tunisia's forward line will be based on the versatility of the four attacking midfielders. GROUP GAMES Tunisia plays England on June 18 and then face Belgium on June 23 before finishing Group G against Panama on June 28......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 1st, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Germany gets reality check before defense

By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — Germany coasted through World Cup qualifying with 10 wins out of 10 and a European record 43 goals before getting a reality check. The World Cup holders haven't won any matches since qualifying for Russia. After drawing friendlies against England, France and Spain, Joachim Loew's team lost 1-0 to Brazil to end a 22-game unbeaten run. Becoming the first team since Brazil in 1962 to defend their World Cup title now looks even trickier for the Germans. "We're not as good as we're made out to be, or as some think we are," midfielder Toni Kroos said. "There's huge room for improvement." The recent slump in friendly matches could be a blessing in disguise if it eradicates any complacency going into the World Cup. "I'm not worried. In 2014 and 2010 we also lost in March," Loew said. "You can be sure that we'll improve." The first task for Loew's side will be to top Group F to avoid a likely second-round clash against Brazil. Here's a closer look at the Germany team: COACH Loew was assistant coach to Juergen Klinsmann during Germany's "summer fairytale" hosting of the 2006 World Cup and was promoted to the top job after its third-place finish. Loew favors a fast-paced possession-based game, pressing opponents to recover the ball and switching quickly from defense to attack. He has overseen steady progress since taking over, reaching the final of the 2008 European Championship, claiming third place at the 2010 World Cup and reaching the semifinals at Euro 2012 before finally winning a title in convincing fashion at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A disappointing semifinal exit to France at Euro 2016 followed, but Loew laid the groundwork for a successful World Cup title defense by winning the Confederations Cup with a young team of promising talent last year in Russia. Loew hasn't been afraid to test young talent, and Germany's strength in depth means one of his hardest tasks is leaving players out of the 23-man squad. Loew also has the unfortunate tendency to find himself in the headlines for other reasons. The 58-year-old has previously apologized after being caught on camera picking his nose or in other compromising positions during games. GOALKEEPERS The biggest concern is captain Manuel Neuer's fitness. The Bayern Munich goalkeeper sustained a repeat of the hairline metatarsal fracture in his left foot while training last September and hasn't played since. Marc-Andre ter Stegen could well establish himself as the No. 1 with doubts over Neuer's fitness. The Barcelona goalkeeper has overcome a shaky start to his international career and helped Germany win the Confederations Cup. Bernd Leno of Bayer Leverkusen and Kevin Trapp of Paris Saint-Germain are also options, while Sven Ulreich has been filling in impressively for Neuer at Bayern. DEFENDERS Bayern defender Jerome Boateng faces a race to be fit with a thigh injury sustained in the Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid in April. Bayern teammate Niklas Suele would be an able replacement to partner Mats Hummels in the center. Another Bayern player, Joshua Kimmich, has emerged to soften the blow of Philipp Lahm's retirement at right back. The modest Jonas Hector will likely keep his place on the left despite Cologne's relegation. MIDFIELDERS Toni Kroos will be among the first names on Loew's team sheet. The Real Madrid midfielder is the driving force behind the side. He will likely be partnered by Juventus' Sami Khedira, who provides more of a defensive presence, with Mesut Ozil in front, flanked on either side by Thomas Mueller and Marco Reus — if the latter proves his fitness. Reus has been unlucky with injuries and has only recently returned to shine again for Dortmund. But Germany has a wealth of options in midfield, with Ilkay Gundogan, Leon Goretzka, Leroy Sane, Julian Draxler, Julian Weigl and Julian Brandt all providing ample backup options. FORWARDS Timo Werner seems sure of his place after another good season for Leipzig, albeit with most of his goals in the first half of the campaign. The 22-year-old Werner has seven goals in 12 international appearances, but it's his runs into space and the problems he causes defenders that benefit the team. Loew will likely bring one of Mario Gomez or Sandro Wagner as a more experienced option for Werner, while Mario Goetze is another option to play up front if he gets recalled following a disappointing season for Dortmund. Goetze scored the winning goal for Germany to beat Argentina in the 2014 final. GROUP GAMES Germany kicks off its title defense near its tournament base in Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium against Mexico on June 17. The side then faces a long trip south to Sochi for its second game against Sweden on June 23, before wrapping up Group F against South Korea in Kazan four days later......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2018

Depay scores again as Lyon beats Nantes to go 2nd in Ligue 1

By Jerome Pugmire, Associated Press PARIS (AP) — Memphis Depay scored for a sixth straight game and created the other goal as Lyon beat Nantes 2-0 to move up to second place in the French league on Saturday. He netted a superb strike in the 40th minute and helped set up Bertrand Traore in the 68th. Depay has scored or created 14 of Lyon's 18 last goals. In the chase for an automatic place in next season's Champion League, Lyon is one point ahead of Monaco, which again dropped points after drawing at home to Amiens 0-0. Monaco will drop down to fourth if Marseille wins at Angers on Sunday. A Marseille victory will move it level with Lyon, which has a vastly better goal difference. The team finishing third has to go through the playoffs - unless Atletico Madrid wins the Europa League in Lyon - but Depay is doing his best to help Lyon take the direct route to Europe. He is finishing the season in the kind of form which saw the Netherlands forward once hailed as a future star . Receiving a pass from Nabil Fekir on the edge of the penalty area, he flicked the ball behind his standing leg with his right foot and then whipped a fierce strike with his left into the bottom corner for his 16th league goal. Midway through the second half, Depay cut inside from the left and beat two defenders. He was about to shoot but the ball ran to Traore, who slotted in from a better position. "Of course I'm important to the team and I try to continue to the end of the season. But it's not only me, it's a collective," Depay said. "We have to win the last three games." Depay, who joined from Manchester United midway through last season, would not say if he will stay if Lyon qualifies for the Champions League. "That's a question I cannot answer," he told Canal Plus television. "I don't look at the future." French champion Paris Saint-Germain hosts Guingamp on Sunday. PSG coach Unai Emery is leaving the club at the end of the season. MONACO'S SLUMP Having lost its French title, Monaco is doing its best to throw away second place. The draw with Amiens means Monaco has only five points from the last five games, opening the door for Lyon and Marseille in the race for second place. Monaco and Amiens each had a player sent off late. OTHER MATCHES Lille picked up a vital win by beating last-place Metz 3-1 in a relegation scrap. Lille remains in 19th place, however, because fellow struggler Troyes beat Caen 3-1 to stay in 18th — the relegation playoff place. Troyes is still counting on the aging legs of 41-year-old midfielder Benjamin Nivet, who was among the scorers. Nice is chasing a Europa League place but is one point behind fifth-place Saint-Etienne after drawing 1-1 at Strasbourg. Mario Balotelli scored from the penalty spot in the second half — his 15th goal of the season — to earn a point for Nice. Also, Bordeaux beat Dijon 3-1......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2018

UE: Rod Roque – The Accidental Coach

“Nakakatawa nga eh. I’ve never played volleyball in my life! Never!” A fact University of East head coach Rod Roque admitted when he talked to sports scribes after his first stint with the Lady Warriors in just the sixth game of the squad in the UAAP Season 80 women’s volleyball tournament. Just two days before, Francis Vicente parted ways with UE after three and a half seasons with a futile 2-45 win-loss record. The Lady Warriors absorbed their 12th straight defeat since Season 79 a day before he resigned. Then they found Roque, the school’s representative to the UAAP Board, a perfect fit. But with a losing record and a team lacking confidence, why would UE hire an interim coach that had no volleyball background? The answer is simple. The school’s management wanted someone that they can trust, a person who has been loyal to the Recto-based university and a tactician that can hold the fort until they can find a proper replacement. Plus, it’s an added bonus that the man they chose for the interim spot made miracles in their boy’s volleyball program. Heck, the man gave UE high school more titles than the other teams’ number of boy’s crowns combined. But Roque is also quick to temper UE management’s expectations. “Siympre mahirap because people might expect a miracle. Sabi ko naman sa management when they told me, sabi ko, ‘Don’t expect a miracle because a miracle doesn’t happen overnight.”   A Twist of Fate Roque may not have the volleyball background like the other UAAP coaches but he excelled in a different kind of sport.      “High school, college, noong estudyante pa ako gymnast ako,” said Roque, a true-blooded Red Warrior with a BS Physical Education degree. He was a member of the national men’s all-around gymnastics team and even represented the country in different international tournaments. “Nakapunta kami sa Asian Youth, sa National games. Di ko lang nalaro yung SEA (Southeast Asian) Games,” he said. After finishing his Masters degree in UE in 1992, Roque grew tired of gymnastics and decided to pursue his love of teaching, working as a PE instructor in the same university. Then fate brought him into coaching high school boy’s volleyball.         “Una ko na-discover sa intramural volleyball. Kumuha kami ng player noong intrams. Nagtayo kami ng team, nananalo naman kami. So yun na yung umpisa,” he said. With the UE boy’s team success, the late athletic director Brenn Perez saw a lot of potential with the Junior Warriors and he decided to field the squad in the UAAP.   “Nakita ng director namin, si Mr. Perez na nagtsa-champion kami sa mga invitational. So nag-propose siya sa UAAP na isama na ‘yung UAAP jrs volleyball. Ayun. Since 1996 nagstart yung UAAP Jrs. volleyball sa (UE),” said Roque. But UE wasn’t as successful as it was in the other tournaments the Junior Warriors joined. De La Salle-Zobel was lording it over since the boy’s tournament started in 1995. The Junior Spikers built a dynasty from Season 57 to 62. Then Roque’s crew got its payback. UE completed a grand slam from 2001 to 2003. DLSU-Zobel snatched a crown in Season 66 but Roque was set to make history. The Junior Warriors reigned supreme for the next 11 years. Under Roque’s tutelage, UE was invincible for more than a decade, dating from 2005 to 2015 - the longest title streak of any team in any UAAP volleyball division. From 1995 to 2016 the Junior Warriors landed 22 straight Final Four appearances. Roque handled the National Capital Region’s boy’s volleyball team for 10 years, earning five Palarong Pambansa gold medals. Out of UE’s 14 titles, Roque had 10 for the Junior Warriors before taking a bigger role as UE’s athletic director after Perez passed away from a heart attack in 2009. “Nag-retire (ako as coach) kasi na-promote ako. Naging assistant director na ako. After that, two years, ginawa na akong director,” he said. “Busy na ‘yung schedule. Hindi ako makapag-ensayo.”   Back as Coach UE has been lumbering at the cellar for years both in the men’s and women’s divisions. While the Junior Warriors were copping titles, the school’s college teams were getting beaten black and blue season after season. Under Vicente’s watch, the Lady Warriors sported a 2-45 win-loss record. The Red Warriors, who named a new coach before Season 80 in national men’s volleyball team coach Sammy Acaylar, didn’t fare any better. Five games into the season, UE decided to part ways with their coaches. Acaylar resigned citing conflict of schedule a he was appointed as Perpetual Help athletic director while Vicente left because of ‘personal reasons’. But sources said that Vicente was sacked a day before Acaylar tended his resignation. While Roque struggled to turn around the campaign of the Red Warriors, his stint with the Lady Warriors was sort of ‘miraculous’. He dropped a four-setter against Far Eastern University in his debut but again became an architect of UE’s historic feat – this time in the women’s division. The Lady Warriors closed the first round with a surprise 25-22, 22-25, 14-25, 25-20, 15-13 shocker over Adamson University that ended their 12-game slide since Season 79. Just three days later, UE stunned University of Sto. Tomas, 25-23, 18-25, 28-26, 26-24, in a historic first win against the traditional powerhouse Tigresses at least since the start of the Final Four format in 1994. It marked the first time since Season 74 that the Lady Warriors won back-to-back games. It opened the eyes of volleyball fans that the Lady Warriors have talented players like Shaya Adorador, Mary Anne Mendrez and libero Kath Arado. “Na-notice kasi namin na takot silang magkamali. Takot silang magkamali kaya lalo silang nagkakamali. Pero para sa akin OK lang magkamali but make sure babawi ka,” said Roque. “Natutuwa naman ako kasi nagkakamali sila pero bumabawi.” The Lady Warriors eventually dropped their next three games after that back-to-back wins but gave Adamson, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University quite a scare before succumbing. But with the change of culture brought by Roque, teams are now wary of the Lady Warriors, which will return to action on April 8 against slumping National University. UE will wrap up its campaign against FEU and University of the Philippines – the last remaining games of Roque before he leaves his post to make way to a new head coach. “This season lang talaga ako,” said Roque. With him on board, the Lady Warriors are playing like a team looking to prove that they are better than just being a win fodder for other squads. Roque made the players respect themselves. He gave UE volleyball the respect it deserves.   ---   Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 31st, 2018

Ahead of biggest match in history, Thomas Dooley wants the Azkals to go back to ‘enjoying football’

In the coming week, the Philippine Azkals find themselves back on the pitch as they’re set to play twice, in an International Friendly match against Fiji on Thursday, March 22nd, in their final 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifier match against Tajikistan on Tuesday, March 27th, both at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila. While the match against Fiji is just a friendly and will serve as a tuneup, the match against Tajikistan is quite possibly the most important match in Philippine football history. A win next Tuesday sends the Azkals into the AFC Asian Cup tournament for the first time in history. And to make sure that they Azkals play at their best in both those games, head coach Thomas Dooley wants to see his boys having fun on the pitch. “The most important thing that I want to see is the players having fun, enjoying the game, enjoying football, because that’s the main focus that we had in this camp, we want to have a positive camp,” said Dooley during the pre-match press conference, Wednesday. After beginning the Group Stage of the qualifiers with back-to-back wins against Nepal and Tajikistan in early-mid 2017, the Azkals went on a three-month stretch that saw them draw all their succeeding Qualifiers matches, including a 0-0 draw in their second round go-around against Nepal. A win would have already sealed the Philippines’ spot in the AFC tournament. Now, ahead of their upcoming matches, Dooley says that he’s liking what he’s seeing from the team. “I can see that in the last couple of days, we only had two days, three and a half, but I can see that it’s a great atmosphere that we have, and just would see that in the game [Thursday] that they’re enjoying to be there, playing nice football, and the playing the way we would like to play against Tajikistan.” While having fun is an important aspect of the game, Dooley isn’t losing sight of the ultimate task, which is to get wins. “We want to win those games of course, we want to win any game, but if I have to make a choice between winning games tomorrow and Tajikistan, I would rather lose [on Thursday] and win against Tajikistan, but it’s not like that in life. You have to always prepare for every single game.” “Players have to take it serious, and the most important thing I want to see is the players enjoying to be back on the field, with a fresh mind and a fresh brain and fresh legs and bodies, and this is something I would like to see, and I’m pretty sure you’re going to see that.” Dooley added.   Catch the Azkals as they take on Fiji in an International Friendly Match on Thursday, March 22nd, LIVE on LIGA channel 86 and LIGA HD channel 183. Kickoff is at 7:30 PM.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 21st, 2018