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Nations League: Ronaldo s Portugal looks for another title

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press PORTO, Portugal (AP) — The inaugural UEFA's Nations League reaches its conclusion this week with the competition's Final Four in Portugal, when Cristiano Ronaldo will try to lead the hosts to another European title. For England, it's a chance to lift an international trophy for the first time since the 1966 World Cup, while a revamped Netherlands squad and Switzerland will also be fighting for the title. Portugal meets Switzerland in the first semifinal on Wednesday in Porto, while England takes on the Dutch on Thursday in the nearby city of Guimaraes in northwestern Portugal. The winners play the final on Sunday in Porto, with the losers meeting in the third-place match in Guimaraes. Ronaldo, who led Portugal to its first major title at the 2016 European Championship, took some time off from the national team after its elimination in the round of 16 of the World Cup last summer, but he is back at full strength for the inaugural Nations League at home. He didn't play in any of the team's matches in the competition last year, though he was back for the European qualifiers earlier this year. "We want to win it not only because we are playing at home, but because we want to win titles," Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. "And winning the first edition of the Nations League would be great." UEFA launched the Nations League to try to give national teams more meaningful games and reduce the number of friendlies. The creation of yet another UEFA competition attracted a lot of criticism at first but eventually it produced some exciting games. With a format in which only the group winners advanced, and which included relegation between leagues, there were several matches with high stakes involved, especially in the final rounds. England needed a late winner by Harry Kane against World Cup runner-up Croatia to eliminate Spain and seal the team's spot in the Final Four. "Some people were skeptical against the Nations League, especially the clubs. They didn't think this could be an interesting competition," Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic said, through a translator. "But it's the contrary. Every single team in every single league wanted to win. We are happy to be here, and I think in the future we will see that this competition might become even more interesting." The tournament also gave smaller nations a better chance of qualifying for the 2020 European Championship, as all group winners in the four leagues were guaranteed a place in a qualifying playoff. For a team like England, though, the competition is mainly another opportunity to win an official title, something it hasn't done it in more than five decades since that World Cup at home. The Englishmen have been on a roll recently, having made it to the semifinals of the World Cup last year. They followed that up with convincing wins over Spain and Croatia in the Nations League, and began the year with a 5-0 rout of the Czech Republic and a 5-1 victory over Montenegro in European qualifying. Switzerland is yet to win an international trophy, and the Netherlands hasn't won a title since the 1988 European Championship when current coach Ronald Koeman still played for the national team. The Dutch eliminated World Cup-winner France and Germany in its Nations League group. "You are playing for a trophy," Dutch forward Memphis Depay told UEFA's website. "That's very important for us. We need to try to get used to winning trophies if we want to be a successful team, because that's what successful teams do. And when you're this close, two games away from the prize, then that's a great goal." The Nations League winner will be taking home a prize of 10.5 million euros ($11.7 million), with 9 million euros ($10 million) going to the runner-up......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 5th, 2019

Gatecrasher Tottenham takes on storied Liverpool in CL final

By Rob Harris, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Familiar territory for Liverpool. So very unfamiliar for Tottenham. The second all-English Champions League final in history pits one of Europe's most successful clubs against a side unexpectedly gatecrashing the continent's elite. After losing last year's final to Real Madrid, Juergen Klopp's Liverpool has another shot at lifting the European Cup for a sixth time on Saturday. Tottenham doesn't get its hands on trophies often. The north London club is contesting a Champions League final for the first time, the culmination of an improbable run that has shaken the soccer establishment. "It is something that we have changed at the club," Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen said. "How people look at the club. How people think about us players at Spurs." Much has been made of Liverpool's 29-year domestic title drought — that came within a couple of points of ending three weeks ago — but Tottenham's stretches back exactly twice as long to 1961. Despite that, the club has made an unexpected march to the biggest game in club soccer without anything near the kind of lavish spending that clubs like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have thrown — unsuccessfully — toward the same pursuit. Manager Mauricio Pochettino hasn't even been able to sign a single player in the last two transfer windows — a first for a Premier League club — because of a frugal environment brought on by the club's recently completed $1 billion-plus new stadium. And yet he has just celebrated a fourth consecutive top-four finish in the Premier League by seeing off bigger spending rivals Arsenal and Manchester United. Qualifying for the Champions League is seen as an achievement alone for a club which has only reached four second-tier European finals, mostly recently winning the now-defunct UEFA Cup in 1984. Since Pochettino took charge in 2014, Tottenham's net spend on transfers is estimated to be less than 30 million pounds ($38 million). That is around a sixth of Liverpool's net spend over the last five years. "You can either take it that the manager has got full confidence in what he's worked with in the last two years, that he believes in you and doesn't want to bring in anyone to challenge for your position," Tottenham defender Danny Rose said before flying to Madrid. "Or you can take it that nobody wants to join Tottenham, the club hasn't been able to provide the funds to buy anyone." That's not the accusation leveled at Liverpool owner John Henry, who also runs the Boston Red Sox in MLB. Klopp's answer to losing last season's final was jettisoning blundering goalkeeper Loris Karius and — briefly — breaking the goalkeeping transfer record to sign Alisson Becker from Roma for $85 million. That final in Kiev was agony for Mohamed Salah, who was forced off in the opening half hour with a shoulder injury before Liverpool lost 3-1. The striker has struggled to live up to the 44 goals he scored last season, with a haul of 26 in all competitions in a front three alongside Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Now the target is preventing Liverpool falling to a third Champions League final loss since the club's last victory in 2005. "Everything feels better this time around," Salah said, "and we have more experience than the last time." That experience pushed Manchester City to the final day in the Premier League title race and amassed 97 points that would usually be enough to secure the crown. "If there was a prize for the biggest development in the last 12 months then it's going to the Reds, that's how it is," Klopp said. "The boys did a really amazing job, but we get that it's about winning competitions." Pochettino faces the same jibes as Klopp about his inability to land a trophy. Although Klopp did win the Bundesliga twice at Borussia Dortmund before joining Liverpool in 2015 — but also lost a Champions League final with Dortmund and a Europa League final with Liverpool. Pochettino, a former Argentina defender, is now in his third managerial role after Espanyol and Southampton, and still awaiting a winner's medal. Winning the biggest prize in Europe wouldn't be bad place to start for a manager so often linked with moves to bigger clubs. "We can provide our fans and our people and our family, of course, the best happiness in football that you can provide," Pochettino said. "I think today to talk about individual thing is a little bit embarrassing and ashamed because you know I think I am not important." But Pochettino has taken much of the credit for steering Tottenham to the final after collecting only one point from the opening three group stage games. Progress to the round of 16 was only secured thanks to a late equalizer by Lucas Moura at Barcelona in the group finale. Even after Harry Kane limped out of the quarterfinals first leg against Manchester City, Tottenham found a way to cope without its leading striker. Fernando Llorente's goal — and a favorable stoppage-time VAR denial of Raheem Sterling's strike — clinched a frenzied aggregate win at City. In the semifinals, Moura scored with almost the final kick of the second leg to complete a hat trick and overturn a 3-0 aggregate deficit. If Kane recovers from his ankle injury, Moura is likely to return to the bench. "No one expected us to be here at start of competition," Rose said. "No one expected us to be here after the quarters or the semis." Liverpool also pulled off an improbable semifinal result to see off Barcelona by recovering from 3-0 down. And form is on Klopp's side heading into Saturday's game at the Atletico Madrid stadium. Although Tottenham only finished two places below Liverpool in fourth, there was a 26-point gap between the sides and the north London club lost both league encounters 2-1. "It's not that we were five levels above them," Klopp said. "But that's how a final actually should be.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 31st, 2019

Ceferin stresses big clubs with closed Champions League idea

By Rob Harris, Associated Press UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin told leaders from European leagues not to forget the importance of big clubs in generating cash during a private meeting in which plans were detailed for a closed-off Champions League favoring the elite. A recording and images obtained by The Associated Press from the meeting at the UEFA headquarters on Wednesday highlights the schism between clubs and leagues over the ability to influence UEFA as it considers revamping its club competitions starting with the 2024-25 season. The dramatic proposal, shown during the meeting in Nyon, would lock in 24 of the 32 slots in the Champions League without the need to qualify annually through domestic leagues and would introduce promotion from and relegation to the Europa League. The plan has infuriated domestic leagues, particularly La Liga President Javier Tebas, who views UEFA as too closely aligned to the vision of European Club Association head Andrea Agnelli of Juventus. In a letter obtained by the AP last month, European Leagues President Lars-Christer Olsson floated the possibility of an investigation to determine whether the ECA was abusing a dominant position as UEFA was lobbied for more games between leading clubs. "Speaking about big clubs, this is a typical populist tool that is used in Europe not only in football," Ceferin told European Leagues representatives in the closed-doors meeting. "More and more the rich are taking everything from you and we the rich will help. Is that logical? I don't think so. And it's true big clubs are taking a lot of money, the most the biggest amount of money because of their results. And it's true that we have to think about that. But they're also bringing a lot of money on the table which is very easily forgotten." Hitting out at claims he is "killing football," Ceferin rebuked members of the European Leagues organization over public criticism and warned his executive committee could have pushed ahead with a revamp of competitions without discussing it with them. "We will not insult, but the more shouting there will be, the less consultation process there will be," Ceferin said. "Shouting in the media tells us much more about those people than about UEFA," Ceferin added. "We were listening about what will happen here, about how we are killing football, destroying football — despite the fact that UEFA is the only organization in European football that shares money as solidarity to every single country in Europe." The early UEFA vision, if approved, would see the Champions League group stage start a month earlier in August and double the size of each group to eight teams. But 24 of the 32 clubs in the 2024-25 group stage could retain their places the following season regardless of their domestic league finish. That would give certainty to leading clubs that attract the biggest television audiences but reduced opportunities for outsiders. Four Champions League teams will be relegated each season into the next season's second-tier Europa League. They would be replaced by the Europa League semifinalists, who would be promoted. Only four qualifying places would be left for national champions competing in preliminary rounds. It would leave the Dutch league runner-up — as Ajax was before reaching the Champions League semifinals this season — with no ability to qualify. Promotion and relegation is also envisaged between the Europa League and a third-tier competition that has yet to launch. The third competition, first revealed by the AP in 2015, would kick off in the 2021-22 season with a 32-team format in eight groups of four. But it could be enlarged to 64 teams from 2024, with four groups of 16 teams, possibly arranged by region, according to the UEFA documents. "You have to know that the ones who are shouting generate huge revenues and don't share anything with the others in Europe," Ceferin said. "The ones who really have problems respectfully and humbly wait for our explanation. And that's why we want to discuss we want to discuss because of the ones who deserve. That we discuss the ones who need our help and not the ones who are scared about their personal interest." In 2016, Ceferin decried a secret deal over Champions League changes agreed just before he was elected to succeed Michel Platini as UEFA president. Ceferin was frustrated UEFA caved into demands of Spain, Germany, England and Italy to guarantee them 16 of the 32 Champions League group-stage places. Now Ceferin is giving the impression he is consulting more by bringing leagues and clubs to meetings in Nyon. But his unhappiness with officials from leagues was clear in the tone. "We can go to the ExCo and decide and not ask anyone and your representative in the ExCo go can vote against," Ceferin said, referring to Olsson, who sits on the executive committee. "But we don't want to do it. That's why we are discussing. Legal action threats, I will not comment that much. As a lawyer with 25 year experience, this is quite the joke." Ceferin called on European Leagues officials to approach the talks "with some class without hostility and without false solidarity" and challenged them to come forward with proposals. "I hope we will exchange many important ideas and arguments," Ceferin said. "And if we do that we will come at the end to a solution that will be good for all the European football and — trust me or don't trust me — but the fact is that for UEFA that's our goal. We cannot do what clubs say and we cannot do what league say. We will do what is right for European football. And we will protect it together.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 11th, 2019

UEFA puts future Champions League ideas to league officials

By Graham Dunbar, Associated Press NYON, Switzerland (AP) — UEFA has included promotion and relegation, plus places for more teams, in its future vision for the Champions League and other club competitions. European Leagues president Lars-Christer Olsson told reporters that UEFA leaders proposed the ideas in a meeting Wednesday. It was part of year-long talks about changing competition formats and prize money distribution models that would take effect in 2024. The leagues are competing for influence with the European Club Association, whose own plans are reflected in UEFA's opening proposal. "There are ideas about promotion and relegation. It's a different system to the one we have today," Olsson said at UEFA headquarters. "The total picture is that there would be more clubs involved." Olsson said there was "not a big difference" between UEFA's presentation Wednesday and the ECA's confidential proposal at UEFA in March that has since been reported. He declined to give more details before UEFA updates its 55 member federations on May 17 in Budapest, Hungary. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, who hosted the 2 ½-hour meeting, said talks currently involve "only ideas and opinions" and are more transparent than the previous round in 2016 before he was elected. Decisions then favored clubs from Europe's wealthiest leagues. "Our aim is to find a solution that reflects the changes in the game, preserves the position of UEFA's competitions as the most attractive and exciting in the world, while providing significant solidarity funding across European football," Ceferin said in a statement. UEFA expects to announce any changes next year after further rounds of meetings with clubs, leagues and other stakeholders including broadcasters worldwide. "This is the first meeting of several," said Olsson, suggesting the 29-nation European Leagues group could agree a counter proposal at an October assembly in London. The leagues want Champions League entries to be decided only on the merit of domestic league placings and winning a UEFA competition. That has been a basic principle since the European Cup kicked off in 1955 with only national league champions playing. Club leaders want placings in Champions League groups, possibly doubled in size to eight teams, to secure some entries for the next season's edition. Bigger groups also would satisfy elite clubs who want more games against each other and prize money increases funded by new broadcasting rights deals. The ECA's move toward a closed league system is seen as protecting the elite group from new challengers. It follows Juventus and Real Madrid — whose officials hold the top two positions in the ECA — being eliminated in the Champions League by Ajax. Though Ajax is a four-time European champion, it had to advance through three preliminary rounds last August as runner-up in the mid-ranked Netherlands league last season. Olsson welcomed Ajax's return to the top 24 years after last winning the Champions League. "Competitions (themselves) are more important than individual clubs. There will always be clubs to play (in them)," he said. It is unclear if possible extra places in UEFA competitions from 2024 would be added in larger group stages or only in expanded preliminary rounds. Starting in September 2021, and for three seasons until 2024, there will be 32 teams in the group stages of each of the Champions League, Europa League and a new third-tier competition. The round-robin groups have four teams each playing six games. The leagues have pushed for a fairer distribution of more than $2 billion in annual Champions League prize money to help close a widening wealth gap between clubs. UEFA said it would share around €240 million ($268 million) in solidarity payments this season to clubs across Europe......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

European leagues: Most clubs oppose changes in competitions

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — A "vast majority" of European teams are against plans by elite clubs to radically change the shape of the Champions League, according to the organization representing national leagues. The European Leagues group hosted a meeting Tuesday of around 250 clubs in the Spanish capital and said most are against proposals submitted by the European Club Association that kicked off consultation to agree changes that will take effect in 2024. The ECA's strategy is mostly shaped by rich and storied clubs who want to play each other more often — possibly in groups doubled in size to eight teams — and secure year-on-year Champions League entry through a high placing in those groups. That proposal would represent the biggest change to the Champions League since some domestic league runners-up were allowed entry in 1997. The clubs' idea is fiercely opposed by the leagues, which fear fans and broadcasters could lose interest in their competitions if Champions League entries can be secured elsewhere. "A lot of clubs made their position very clear, including clubs and representatives from ECA," European Leagues President Lars-Christer Olsson said. "The domestic competitions have to be the basis for the international competitions." "We are sure that fans are supporting our ideas," said Olsson, who helped oversee the modern Champions League as former CEO of UEFA for several years until 2007. The leagues want to make sure more domestic winners can have direct access to the Champions League from 2024 instead of having to go through more qualifying rounds with fewer chances to reach the lucrative group stage. Until 2018, the Champions League preliminary rounds including teams from all 55 UEFA member countries offered 10 of the 32 Champions League group-stage places, which shared up to $2 billion in prize money. Changes that took effect this season favored wealthy countries. Teams from Spain, England, Germany, Italy now avoid the preliminaries and only six of the 32 places are on offer to qualifiers. One of those qualifiers, Ajax, is in the semifinals. Ajax advanced through the knockout rounds with victories over Real Madrid and Juventus — two clubs pushing hardest for a better deal for elite clubs. Juventus president Andrea Agnelli — who leads the ECA and sits with Olsson on the UEFA executive committee — attended Tuesday's meeting which he had asked his members to boycott. ECA members will meet June 6-7 in Malta to discuss the proposal made in their name. Agnelli wrote to ECA officials last month criticizing the European Leagues for trying to preserve the "status quo." He has also suggested more promotion and relegation between the Champions League and second-tier Europa League which has been dominated for the past decade by Spanish and English clubs. "We are not against change," Olsson said Tuesday, "but we have significant concerns if that change should be based on what is released by Agnelli in his letter to the clubs." ECA vice chairman Edwin van der Sar, representing Ajax, told reporters that rumors about promoting a closed league or playing weekend games in European competitions were not the clubs' goal. "To develop European football, it's important to play more interesting and meaningful games and sometimes that doesn't happen in the leagues," said Van der Sar, suggesting the Dutch Eredivisie did not help Ajax players develop fully. "All things evolve and European football needs to evolve also," the former Ajax, Juventus and Manchester United goalkeeper said, citing a third-tier UEFA competition that kicks off in 2021. That project is provisionally called Europa League 2. The ECA already met with UEFA leadership to discuss the changes, and Olsson will lead a leagues delegation to UEFA's offices in Switzerland on Wednesday. The meeting in Madrid was organized by Spanish league president Javier Tebas, a longtime critic of the proposed changes. "The entire football industry would be affected by these changes," said Tebas, saying the league would consider legal actions if the clubs' favored formats went into effect. "It would be a very complicated scenario.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2019

Unlikely heroes may miss final as Kane, Salah set to return

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Lucas Moura and Divock Origi have been the unlikely heroes for Tottenham and Liverpool in the Champions League this season. They kept alive their team's hopes of winning the European title with crucial goals and decisive performances. Without them, the English sides probably wouldn't have made it to Saturday's final in the Spanish capital. But despite helping their teams reach the final at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, both may miss out on playing in the match because of the return from injuries of Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah. Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino will have to choose between the in-form Moura and the recently injured Kane, while Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp will have to sit Origi or rearrange his attack to leave him in the lineup along with Salah. Neither coach gave anything away on Friday. "If Pochettino says his exact lineup, call me and I will tell you our lineup as well," Klopp said. "If not, then I thought I'd keep at least a few question marks open." Pochettino kept quiet. "It's not going to be easy to take a decision," he said. "We are going to take the best decision to try to win. It's so painful when this type of game arrives and you can only use 11 players from the beginning." Moura has been starting since Kane hurt an ankle ligament in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. The Brazilian scored the hat trick that allowed Tottenham to come from behind and beat Ajax 3-2 in the second leg of the semifinals, helping the English club overcome a 1-0 home loss in the first match. The hat trick included a stoppage-time goal that sealed the comeback and the team's first-ever final appearance. Moura, who joined from Paris Saint-Germain in January 2018, also scored a crucial late equalizer against Barcelona in the team's final group game in December, securing the English club a spot in the knockout stage. "All of this is a dream and now I have the opportunity to play in the final and to win the competition I have always dreamt about," Moura told UEFA.com. "Without a doubt it's the best moment of my career." Origi replaced Salah after the Egyptian had a concussion in a game against Newcastle in the Premier League just before the second leg against Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals. Origi scored a late winner against Newcastle after replacing Salah in the second half, then was crucial in the return match against Barcelona, scoring twice in the 4-0 win that put the team in the final for the second straight season. Kane has been a mainstay in the Tottenham attack, but even before his injury some had been calling for Moura to get more minutes in the squad. The versatile 26-year-old Brazilian can play in different attacking positions, including as an attacking midfielder, and could even play alongside Kane if Pochettino wanted to. For Moura, the Champions League final could give him another opportunity to show Brazil coach Tite he made a mistake by leaving him out of next month's Copa America squad. Tite announced the team shortly after Moura's superb display in the Champions League semifinals, but they weren't enough to persuade the coach. Salah fully recovered from his concussion and is more certain to make his Champions League return on Saturday. He played only about 30 minutes in last year's final because of a shoulder injury sustained in the 3-1 loss to Real Madrid. Origi also is versatile in attack and may get to start alongside Salah and Sadio Mane. The 24-year-old Belgian will have added competition from Roberto Firmino, though, who also had been out injured but is fit for the final. "These are always tough decisions," Pochettino said. "But it's part of my job to decide the starting 11 and to try to win the game.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 1st, 2019

Spaniards with little to cheer for in Champions League final

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — It will be an unusual Champions League final for Spain. Madrid will be hosting the final again after nearly a decade, but the country's streak of having at least one team playing for the European title ended this year after five straight seasons, giving home fans little to cheer for when Liverpool faces Tottenham at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Saturday. The all-English matchup will be the first Champions League final without a Spanish club since 2013, when Bayern Munich defeated Borussia Dortmund in a match between German teams. Since then, Real Madrid made it to the final four times, Atletico Madrid twice and Barcelona once. "We were used to seeing Real Madrid in the final all these years," said Francisco Javier Diaz de Castro, a 55-year-old Real Madrid supporter. "It's a weird feeling to think that this time we won't see it fighting for the Champions League trophy. When we finally get to watch the final in Madrid, the team struggles and can't make it. I guess that's how it goes in soccer." Real Madrid won four titles in its recent streak, beating Atletico in 2014 and 2016, Juventus in 2017 and Liverpool in 2018. Barcelona lifted the trophy in 2015, and it had also won it in 2006, 2009 and 2011. There was at least one Spanish club in seven of the last 10 Champions League finals. This time, tough, as the Spanish capital prepares to host its first final since Inter Milan defeated Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in 2010, Spanish clubs are already starting to plan their offseason. On Saturday, there are only two Spanish players with a chance of playing in the final — Tottenham forward Fernando Llorente and Liverpool defender Alberto Moreno. Here's a look at some of the reasons why there won't be any Spanish clubs in this year's final in Madrid: BARCELONA After dominating in the domestic competitions in recent years, Barcelona turned its focus on trying to win the Champions League again. It last won the competition in 2015, when it defeated Juventus in the final in Berlin. Barcelona cruised through a group that included finalist Tottenham, Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven, winning four matches and drawing two to end six points ahead in first place. It also didn't face major difficulties as it got past Lyon in the round of 16 and Manchester United in the quarterfinals, being able to make it to the semifinals after three straight eliminations in the last eight. The team's dominance continued in the first leg of the semifinals against Liverpool, when it won 3-0 at the Camp Nou and looked set to finally return to the final. But the team collapsed in England, losing 4-0 to see its title hopes vanish. "We are still recovering from what happened in Liverpool. At least I am," Lionel Messi said last week. "Our performance was lamentable. It was a very tough loss for us." REAL MADRID The three-time defending champions never really got close to making it to the final. In a frustrating season that included two coaching changes, Real Madrid couldn't advance past the round of 16 in the European competition, being eliminated after a demoralizing 4-1 loss to Ajax at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. It had won its group against Roma, Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow, but its campaign included consecutive losses to CSKA — 1-0 in Russia and 3-0 at the Bernabeu. The early Champions League elimination led to the return of coach Zinedine Zidane, who was at the helm when the club won its last three European titles. ATLETICO MADRID After four straight seasons reaching at least the quarterfinals, Atletico was coming off a disappointing group-stage elimination and was hopeful of playing in the final again at its own stadium. It qualified from a group that included Borussia Dortmund, Club Brugge and Monaco, but the draw for the round of 16 set up an encounter against Juventus and old foe Cristiano Ronaldo. Things went well in the first leg, with the Spanish team winning 2-0 at home, but Ronaldo thrived in the return match, scoring a hat trick in a 3-0 win that ended Atletico's hopes. VALENCIA Valencia was the only other Spanish club in the Champions League this season, and it couldn't get past a group that included Juventus, Manchester United and Young Boys. It finished third, ahead only of the Swiss club......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 30th, 2019

Ronaldo favored to win his 4th FIFA award as world's best

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> Cristiano Ronaldo's remarkable run of success can continue with a fourth FIFA award as the world's best player on Monday. A European champion with club and country last year, the Real Madrid and Portugal forward is favored to beat great rival Lionel Messi and France forward Antoine Griezmann when winners of the rebranded Best FIFA Football Awards are presented in Zurich. Messi leads Ronaldo 5-3 in their career-long duel for FIFA's top individual prize. However, Ronaldo is set to complete a hat-trick of major awards for 2016 after taking home trophies presented by UEFA and France Football magazine's prestiguous Golden Ball. FIFA will also name the best women's player, and the best coaches in men's and women's soccer. Voting is by national team captains and coaches, selected journalists and — for the first time — an online poll of fans. Each category counts for 25 percent of the points. Here is a look ahead to the awards ceremony: ___ CRISTIANO RONALDO After Messi in 2015, it was Ronaldo's turn to win the Champions League in 2016 as the prolific scorer netted 16 goals in the competition. He also got the decisive penalty in a shootout after a 1-1 draw with Griezmann's Atletico Madrid. But where he really dominated Messi was on the national-team stage. Ronaldo captained Portugal to a long-awaited first title at the European Championship — two weeks after Messi's Argentina again lost the Copa America final to Chile. Portugal seemed a long way from glory, and faced a humiliating group-stage exit, before Ronaldo's two goals helped salvage a 3-3 draw with Hungary. He also netted in the 2-0 semifinal win against Wales. In the final against host France, Ronaldo went off injured in the first half, then returned to the bench for extra time as — with his knee strapped — he passionately urged teammates on to a 1-0 win. For good measure, Ronaldo scored a Club World Cup final hat trick against Kashima Antlers in December, but that was after FIFA voting had closed. ___ LIONEL MESSI Messi looks to extend a streak of being winner or runner-up in nine straight seasons since placing second behind Kaka of Brazil in 2007. Last year, Messi and won a Spanish league and Cup double with Barcelona. Yet there was another painful Copa America final loss — a third straight year Argentina lost a major final without scoring — and a Champions League quarterfinal exit against Atletico. Nearing his 30th birthday, Messi's prolific scoring rate has not slowed, and 10 goals in the Champions League group stage means that Ronaldo's season record of 17 — set in 2013-14 — is within his sight this year. ___ ANTOINE GRIEZMANN Griezmann's goals helped get France and Atletico Madrid into major finals in 2016. In the Champions League final in Milan, Atletico trailed 1-0 to its city rival when Griezmann missed with a penalty kick that struck the crossbar. Still, he confidently converted his kick in the penalty shootout. Griezmann's six goals at Euro 2016 made him the tournament top scorer. In a tricky round of 16 match, his two goals overturned an early Ireland lead, and he also struck twice — including a coolly taken penalty — against favored Germany in the semifinals. However, he missed two good chances in the final against Portugal as France 1-0 in extra time. ___ COACHING AWARD Could the coach of a provincial club side beat the men who coached European champions Real Madrid and Portugal? Yes, when that coach is Italian Claudio Ranieri and his team, unheralded Leicester City, won an English Premier League title that delighted and stunned fans worldwide. Zinedine Zidane started 2016 having never coached a senior match. The newly appointed Madrid coach won a Champions League title within five months and started 2017 riding a 37-match unbeaten run. Fernando Santos marshalled one of the less obviously talented Portugal teams of recent years to win Euro 2016 despite winning only one of its seven matches during the 90 minutes. ___ WOMEN'S AWARDS Germany's Olympic gold medal-winning team is favored to sweep the awards. Midfielder Melanie Behringer is challenging two past FIFA award winners: defending champion Carli Lloyd of the United States and five-time winner Marta of Brazil. All three coaching candidates are previous FIFA award winners: Silvia Neid of Germany, last year's winner Jill Ellis of the United States and Pia Sundhage of Sweden. ___ FIFA AWARDS FIFA has added a Fan Award to its annual ceremony, and all three candidates from an online poll are European. Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, whose fans sang You'll Never Walk Alone before a Europa League match at Anfield; Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord; and the Iceland fans at Euro 2016 for their inspirational clapping salute to players after games. A fans' vote will also decide the Puskas Award for best goal. The candidates are: Marlone of Corinthians, Daniuska Rodriguez of the Venezuela women's Under-17 team, and Mohd Faiz Subri of Malaysian side Penang. FIFA will also present a Fair Play award, and members of the players' union FIFPro worldwide have voted to select a World XI team. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 7th, 2017

Copa America guests still alive before final decisive games

By Eric Nunez, Associated Press PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) — Both Copa America guests are still alive as the last round of group stage matches begins, a feature that doesn't seem to please some of their South American opponents. Qatar and Japan, who this year played in the Asian Cup final, are in third place in their groups. The top two in each group and the two best third-place finishers advance to the quarterfinals. If Argentina is prematurely eliminated, it will be because of Qataris with little international experience who are preparing for the 2022 World Cup. Japan sent to Brazil an under-23 team that is being groomed for the Tokyo Olympic Games next year. Asian champion Qatar has so far drawn with Paraguay 2-2 and lost to Colombia 1-0. "We have come to compete, not to take pictures, even if we admire the players of the teams we are facing," Qatar's Spanish coach Felix Sanchez said on Saturday. "Our main goal is to evaluate ourselves in a tournament of this caliber, so demanding." After winning the Asian Cup, Sanchez's contract was extended until the end of the next World Cup. On Sunday, his team will have the chance to upset Lionel Messi. "It would be beautiful to qualify no matter if it is against a monster like Argentina," Sanchez said. "It will be a great step, even though we know they are also trying to advance to the next stage." The Qataris have already been invited to return to next year's Copa, split between Colombia and Argentina. Australia will be a guest side in 2020. Japan was thrashed by Chile 4-0 but held favorite Uruguay to 2-2 after leading twice. On Monday the young Japanese can eliminate Ecuador to advance and, depending on other results, possibly face host Brazil in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The list of Copa America guests in past editions is long: Mexico, Costa Rica, United States, Jamaica, Honduras, Panama, Canada and Japan. Mexico had the best result among those, reaching the final in 1993 and in 2001. Paraguay coach Eduardo Berizzo said he doesn't like the idea of teams outside of the Americas such as Qatar and Japan playing the Copa America. "Playing among all American teams, that is logic," Berizzo said after drawing Qatar. "We should think of a Copa America with Central and North Americas integrated. I never saw any European cup with South American teams. I strongly believe that Copa America needs to be played by American teams." Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said business was the main reason to invite teams to the Copa America. "We are few countries in South America to organize a tournament with 10 teams, even more so with four phases like in a World Cup," Tabarez said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 23rd, 2019

Sugod Malaya working to promote diversity in Football

Football has yet to shed its image of being a rich kid’s sport in the country, but Allianz Philippines and Sugod Malaya are showing that “the most beautiful sport in the world” is best played in an equal playing field. It doesn’t matter what your background or social standing is, as long as you are committed and dedicated to playing the game. “Globally, Allianz is known to be a staunch supporter of football, and we want to promote that same passion here in the Philippines. When Sugod Malaya came to us for help, we immediately saw that they are an organization that represents our goals and ideals for the sport—that it’s not just a game to be played by a few, but by all,” said Gae Martinez, Chief Marketing Officer of Allianz Philippines. Established six years ago, Sugod Malaya is a nonprofit football club that has close to 300 active members today—from the well-to-do to the poorest of the poor. “When we started, our dream was to establish a club that is really free, regardless of whatever the player’s background is,” said Mark Duane Angos, Secretary General and one of the founders of Sugod Malaya. He acknowledged that football in the Philippines suffered the reputation of being a game that is only played in gated communities and Sugod Malaya seeks to change that. “We were forming a team back then and realized that it lacked diversity. At that time, I was doing a community outreach program for San Beda and got in touch with folks in Tondo,” Angos said. The club eventually got four kids from the area to play with their team in Bacolod which, along with Iloilo, are considered the “Meccas” of football. “When they played in Bacolod, they really played well together,” Angos shared. From the 11 kids they had back then, the club has grown significantly. More than half of its members come from impoverished backgrounds, with 30-40 percent coming from the poorest of the poor. “At first, we were only relying on the generous donations of our club’s parents until we wanted to expand and solidify the program. In the end, it became more than just a football club; it also became a tool for community development. It is now a club that provides an opportunity for kids from all backgrounds to play and, at the same time, have their talent seen and discovered by the global community,” Angos said. While they consider their games in Iloilo and Bacolod to be memorable ones, nothing could beat their excitement in playing for international leagues. Sugod Malaya has played in the Borneo Cup in Malaysia and the Singa Cup in Singapore, and has likewise done well in their stints in other Asian countries. Most recently, Sugod Malaya experienced how it is to play European football when they played in Barcelona, Spain. They played in the Mediterranean Cup and competed against Barcelona FC’s famed La Masia squad, the youth team that produced global football megastars Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta. Angos said they almost gave up the idea of joining while they were in their planning stage. “We knew, from the perspective of cost, that Barcelona would be too much even though its organizers were nice enough to give us partial subsidy. At some point, we thought of backing out because we felt that participating in one tournament might affect our entire program—we have a team playing in Europe and getting that experience, but then the other scholars would be suffering because we’d run out of funds and resources. So when Allianz and like-minded individuals came in, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel,” he revealed, adding that they knew of Allianz’ dedication to football. “When we heard that they were willing to help us, we were excited. We are very thankful and, at the same time, excited to see that we have represented Allianz well,” he pointed out. Even though the much stronger Barcelona team defeated Sugod Malaya, the kids remain determined. “You can see that it (playing against Barcelona) reinforced their determination,” Angos said. In playing in Barcelona, the kids realized how different football is being played in Europe. “In the Philippines, they would cheer for you when you make a goal. In Spain and the rest of Europe, the crowd will clap and appreciate your good pass, even if you don’t score, and when you make a good save. They can appreciate the strengths of the whole team,” Angos shared. He added that because of Allianz’ support in getting the kids to play in Spain, many other opportunities for the club came up. They were invited to play in Colombia (a team that they won over during the friendly competition), Ireland, and Portugal, among others. “The Colombian coach said that our play is unpolished, which is not a bad thing because it makes it unpredictable and exciting,” Angos said, adding that the other clubs have compared their style to that of Manny Pacquiao’s. In the end, what Mark and the rest of Sugod Malaya wants to achieve for the sport in the country, is to make Filipinos realize that “Football is a sport for the Filipinos.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 11th, 2019

Ronaldo and Van Dijk face off in Nations League final

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press PORTO, Portugal (AP) — The final of UEFA's newest competition will feature another clash between Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk, two players likely to be competing for the world player of the year award this year. The inaugural Nations League will come to an end on Sunday in Porto with Ronaldo's Portugal taking on the Netherlands of Van Dijk. The Portuguese superstar and the thriving Dutch defender haven't met since last year's Champions League final, when Ronaldo's former team Real Madrid came out on top of Van Dijk's Liverpool. Ronaldo will try to lead Portugal to its first title since the 2016 European Championship, while Van Dijk will look to help the Netherlands lift its first international trophy since the 1988 European Championship. Victory at Estadio do Dragao will give the Dutch some redemption after failing to qualify for the last two major tournaments, the 2018 World Cup and the 2016 European Championship. Van Dijk, touted as one of the best central defenders in the world, called Ronaldo "a fantastic player" but downplayed their matchup. "We play Portugal, we are not playing Cristiano Ronaldo," he said. "They have a very good team. It's going to be tough. We need to be ready." Van Dijk, who hasn't allowed anyone to dribble past him in more than 60 consecutive matches, lifted the Champions League trophy last week with Liverpool, being voted the man of the match in the final against Tottenham in Madrid. He is expected to be in the running for the world player of the year award for the first time. He has already been named player of the year in the English Premier League. Ronaldo has won the world player of the year award five times. "He's already had a really good season," Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum said of his teammate. "I think he's been trying to stop everyone he plays against. But it's not up to us to decide if he wins the Ballon d'Or. For us, he's the best defender in the world, and if you look at his season, he definitely deserves the Ballon d'Or, but it's not up to us, it's up to other people to decide." Van Dijk also was voted man of the match in the Netherlands' 3-1 win over England on Thursday in the Nations League semifinals. Ronaldo was man of the match for Portugal when it defeated Switzerland 3-1 on Wednesday in the other semifinal. Ronaldo scored a hat trick, with two of his goals coming in the final minutes. "The Netherlands are an excellent team," Ronaldo told UEFA's website. "They have been playing pretty well. I've been watching them in recent matches and they have an excellent squad with great players — young players and more experienced players, which makes their team even stronger." Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman said he is not planning to change his defense plans to adapt to Ronaldo's threat. "We know he's one of the best," Koeman said. "And the nicest thing in football is that you cannot stop (a player like him) 100 percent (of the time) because sometimes he's too good. We know the qualities of that player, and of course we need to defend well when we have the ball, we need good defensive organization, but it's not a special marking (system), one on one, because we don't like that." The Netherlands eliminated the last two World Cup winners in the qualification round of the Nations League, Germany and France. Portugal reached the semis by getting past Italy and Poland. On Sunday, the hosts will be without veteran central defender Pepe, who broke his right shoulder against Switzerland. Koeman, who played at the 1988 Euros, said he should have all of his players available even though the Netherlands had one less day to rest for the final. The winner on Sunday will be crowned the first champion of the competition UEFA created to give national teams more meaningful games and reduce the number of friendlies. The winner receives 10.5 million euros ($11.8 million). The runner-up will get 9 million euros. The amounts include the 4.5 million euros all four semifinalists have already secured. The final marks the swansong of 45-year-old Spanish referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco. England and Switzerland will play the third-place match in Guimaraes earlier on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 9th, 2019

Southgate wants one last victory from England

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press PORTO, Portugal (AP) — Coach Gareth Southgate wants one last victory so England can finish its impressive season on a high. After making it to the last four in the World Cup and earning some high-profile victories after that, England plays Switzerland in the third-place game of the UEFA Nations League on Sunday in Guimaraes. "No England international is a practice match, every time you wear this shirt, there's an importance for you, for the country, for the supporters," Southgate said Saturday. "We want to finish the season on a good note, with a healthy performance." England finished fourth at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and earned convincing victories against Spain and World Cup runner-up Croatia in the Nations League. This year, it started with a 5-0 rout of the Czech Republic and a 5-1 victory over Montenegro in 2020 European Championship qualifiers. Southgate's team arrived at the inaugural Nations League as a title favorite, in contention for its first international trophy since winning the World Cup as far back as 1966. But two sloppy defensive mistakes in extra time of the semifinal against the Netherlands led to a 3-1 loss. "We lost an important game on Thursday and we've got thousands of fans here and we need to make sure that our performance is one that gives them something back," Southgate said. "That we finish the season in the right manner having had a very good season." England has not celebrated a competitive title since the World Cup at home more than five decades ago, and it has lost its last five semifinals it played, dating back to the 1968 European Championship. "We're at the stage now where we know as a team we're close to getting into finals and getting into the opportunities to win trophies, but we haven't got there yet so everybody is disappointed with that, throughout the camp," Southgate said. "What's been encouraging is that it's very clear the players are highly motivated as we go forward, that they know we've got to be spot on in the way that we play and the way we prepare." Host Portugal will play against the Netherlands in the Nations League final later on Sunday in Porto. UEFA created the Nations League to give teams more meaningful matches and reduce the number of friendlies. Despite some criticism at first, especially from clubs, the tournament provided some exciting games throughout its four leagues......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 9th, 2019

Spain, Poland stay perfect in Euro 2020 qualifying

By Karel Janicek, Associated Press PRAGUE (AP) — Spain and Poland maintained perfect records in qualifying for the 2020 European Championship by winning their third straight games on Friday. Spain took a 4-1 victory home from Faeroe Islands while Poland also won away, 1-0 at North Macedonia. Israel beat Latvia 3-0, thanks to Eran Zahavi's hat trick, to surprisingly stay in contention for a spot in the final tournament and Ukraine routed Serbia 5-0. In the last rounds of qualifiers before the summer break, world champion France and powerhouses Croatia, Germany and Italy will be in action on Saturday while the Netherlands, Portugal, England and Switzerland wrap up play in UEFA's inaugural Nations League final four on Sunday. SPAIN SHINES Sergio Ramos put Spain in front after six minutes with his 19th international goal and Jesus Navas followed with his first score for "La Roja" since 2013. Klaemint Olsen beat goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to reduce the lead, but an own goal by goalkeeper Teitur Gestsson made it 3-1 before halftime and Jose Gaya closed things out in the 71st minute. Assistant coach Robert Moreno once again took charge of Spain with Luis Enrique absent due to personal reasons. Enrique continues to do most of the planning for Spain's training and receives also video of the sessions at his home in Barcelona. It's unclear when he might return. Spain tops Group F with nine points, two more than Sweden, which beat Malta 3-0. The two leaders face off on Monday. SCHICK ON TARGET England had taken command of Group A with big wins over the Czech Republic (5-0) and Montenegro (5-1), but its participation in the Nations League gave the others a chance to catch up. In Prague, the Czech Republic came from a goal down to spoil the coaching debut of Bulgaria's 1994 World Cup star Krasimir Balakov. Ismail Isa headed home from close range to put Bulgaria in front after just three minutes. But Patrik Schick slotted home a first-half equalizer and scored the winner early in the second half. The Czechs, who have qualified for each European championship since the 1993 breakup of Czechoslovakia, are three points behind England in second. Bulgaria has two points, the same as Montenegro and Kosovo, which drew 1-1 in Podgorica. SERBIA SUFFERS Ukraine moved to the top of Group B with seven points by routing Serbia. Viktor Tsygankov scored twice in a three-minute span of the first half and Yevhen Konoplyanka sandwiched a pair of goals around one from Roman Yaremchuk after the break. Luxembourg drew 1-1 at Lithuania to stay second in the group with four points. It will face a more serious test on Monday when it plays at Ukraine. Portugal has two points after a slow start, one more than Serbia. ZAHAVI UNSTOPPABLE Krzysztof Piatek's overhead kick goal early in the second half may have proved Poland's favorite status, but it was again Israeli's Zahavi who stole the show in Group G. Zahavi curled in a free kick in the ninth minute and added two more goals in the second half, giving him seven in three qualifiers. Poland's nine points are two more than Israel, while Austria registered its first points with a 1-0 win over Slovenia. DUFFY THE RESCUER Shane Duffy scored with five minutes remaining to give Ireland a 1-1 draw with Denmark that kept it at the top of Group D. Substitute Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg put Denmark in front in the 76th minute, only for Duffy to equalize late with a header. Ireland has seven points, three more Switzerland. Georgia is third with three points after beating Gibraltar 3-0, and Denmark has two points......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 8th, 2019

Season over, Real Madrid faces turbulent summer

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The best thing for Real Madrid about this season is that it is finally over. A humiliating 2-0 loss at home to Real Betis on the last day of the Spanish league on Sunday brought to a close one of the most disappointing seasons in years for the most successful team in European club competition. Madrid's last match exemplified the collective decline of a group of players who had won four of the previous five Champions League titles but found themselves practically out of the running for any major trophies months ago. Defenders often a step too slow, midfielders unable to maintain ball possession, and forwards incapable of producing sufficient scoring chances, much less put the ball in the net. Madrid finished in third place and 19 points adrift of champion Barcelona, the largest-ever deficit with its fiercest rival by the end of a season. Madrid was effectively out of the league title race by January and was eliminated from the Champions League and Copa del Rey in early March, leaving the club with nothing to play for other than pride. And pride couldn't stop the team from failing to get a win in its last five away matches, or ending the season with back-to-back losses. Coach Zinedine Zidane wants his players to remember this feeling. "When you want to try harder and you can't even achieve the smallest little thing, it is complicated," Zidane said. "We have to accept that it has been a bad season. We can't forget it; we have to have it very present in the future so it can help us improve." Now Zidane and club president Florentino Pérez can finally put in motion their plans to breathe some life into a squad that performed far below what its fans expect. "Football is motivation ... Next season this is going to change," Zidane said. WHO'S OUT? Candidate No. 1 to leave is Gareth Bale. Bale arrived at Madrid in 2013 as the biggest signing in football history. Six years, multiple titles and more than 100 goals later, Zidane looks more than ready to part ways with the Wales winger. Zidane has rarely counted on Bale since he returned to the club in March nine months after stepping down, becoming Madrid's third manager of the season following the failures of Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari. Bale didn't leave the bench on Sunday in what many believed was his last game for Madrid. But with Bale under contract until 2022, his exit may hinge on finding a club that can cope with the 29-year-old winger's salary of a reported 15 million euros a season. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas is reported to be unwanted after he became a second-choice player following the signing of Thibaut Courtois. The future of midfielders Toni Kroos and Francisco "Isco" Alarcon and defender Marcelo are also in doubt after their sub-par campaigns, while Zidane has shown little interest in playing midfielders Dani Ceballos, Marcos Llorente and left back Sergio Reguilón. "Nobody is going to take away what these players did for five years," Zidane said. "(But) we don't have excuses. We ask our fans for forgiveness because we have the obligation to give it our all." WHO'S IN? Of all the names floated, Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard's is the most commonly heard. His contract with Chelsea expires in 2020 and he may be ready before then for a change after seven years in London. The other major name is Manchester United star Paul Pogba, who Zidane has said he admires. But unless Madrid can somehow succeed in prying Kylian Mbappé away from Paris Saint-Germain, then the goals that went missing when Cristiano Ronaldo left last year won't be found in a single player. Zidane will still have to solve the pending problem of retooling a team that spent most of the last decade feeding that goal-scoring machine called Ronaldo. If not, then next season may not be much better......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 21st, 2019

Financial case a cloud over unprecedented City titles feat

By Rob Harris, Associated Press LONDON (AP) — After the FA Cup was raised aloft by Manchester City's players, the Wembley Stadium pyrotechnics didn't cast a cloud over the team's unprecedented sweep of English soccer's men's trophies. The only shadow came from the investigations by soccer authorities into leaked documents that allegedly show the game's costliest squad was assembled thanks to mechanisms employed to try to circumvent spending regulations. A 6-0 rout of Watford on Saturday, delivered by players who cost more than $200 million in transfer fees, ensured the FA Cup joined the Premier League trophy, League Cup and Community Shield already in City's possession. The only piece of silverware missing is from the competition City could be banned from next season: the Champions League. City arrived at Wembley reeling from UEFA investigators last week sending the governing body's judges a file into how the Abu Dhabi-owned club sought to allegedly dupe the governing body to comply with Financial Fair Play. And the team left the national stadium with manager Pep Guardiola seething to face questions about the cloud over City's feat. "We are not guilty (until) proven," Guardiola said. "Would I say this club makes a step forward from the big investment from Sheikh Mansour? Definitely. Can you do that without top players? No way. That money helps to buy the incredible players we have? Yes. "After that we wait. If we are punished, we will accept it. But I listen to my chairman and my CEO, they give me the arguments for why they are under investigation and I trust them. When they tell me we were fair, we did it absolutely following the rules, I'm sorry, I believe them. If the opponents and contenders believe that's it's just the money ... it is OK they will be a problem." Guardiola is the only City figure publicly responding to questions about the FFP investigation, despite not being a director. Leaving Wembley, City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak only gave a thumb's up when asked about the club's potential Champions League ban. Leaks of internal correspondence published by German outlet Der Spiegel last year showed how City used companies linked to the Abu Dhabi ownership to boost revenue in an attempt to curb losses and comply with UEFA regulations. City hasn't disputed the authenticity of the documents. The Football Leaks group also published details showing how Roberto Mancini, who managed City from 2009 to 2013, received more pay from a team Sheikh Mansour owns in Abu Dhabi to work as a consultant than from the Manchester club. Mancini was the last City manager to win the FA Cup in 2012. City hasn't responded to questions sent by The Associated Press in November asking if Guardiola had any similar arrangements to Mancini, and the manager was infuriated to be asked Saturday if he received any payments from Abu Dhabi. "Do you know the question you are asking me — if I receive money from another situation today?" Guardiola said. "Do you think I deserve to make this kind of question ... the day I won the treble, if I received money from another situations?" Guardiola is yet to provide an answer. City did not respond to a follow-up text message on the issue......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2019

Mentality of giants : Self-belief fueling Klopp s Liverpool

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Like the rest of the soccer world, Juergen Klopp had his doubts. Given the scenario — the big first-leg deficit, the presence of Lionel Messi on the other side, injuries to important players — the Liverpool manager just wasn't sure, deep down, that his team could come back from 3-0 down to beat Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals. So he laid down a challenge. "I said to the boys before the game, 'I don't think it's possible, but because it's you I think we have a chance. Because you have the mentality of giants,'" Klopp said, recalling some of his final words before kickoff on arguably the greatest night of soccer in Anfield history. That Liverpool managed to pull off the most unlikely of 4-0 victories in the second leg is a testament not only to the quality of the team Klopp has put together but also the belief he has instilled in a group of players who don't know when they are beaten. They've shown it all season. The late goals — however bizarrely they have come — in wins over Everton, Tottenham and, most recently, Newcastle have kept Liverpool in the Premier League title race with Manchester City to the final weekend. The backs-to-the-wall 1-0 win over Napoli in the final group game in the Champions League, which sent the Reds through courtesy of the head-to-head tiebreaker of goals scored. The mental fortitude to rebound from losing to Real Madrid in last season's Champions League final in the most painful way, certainly for Mohamed Salah after his first-half shoulder injury in that match. So maybe the comeback against Barcelona was natural for this machine that Klopp has created, albeit one that has yet to win a trophy under the German coach. And it feels entirely justified that if Liverpool is to fall short in the Premier League — the team is one point behind City with a game to play — it still has the chance to end the season with some silverware in a competition that has become so synonymous with this storied English club, a five-time European champion. "I am really happy having another chance to get things right," Klopp said, referring to the 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in Kiev. "Last year, we felt we have to go back, we cannot let it stand like this. I am not sure it will happen again, so it's so special." For Klopp, it is a chance to end his six-match run of losses in cup finals stretching back to the 2013 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich, when he was coach of Borussia Dortmund. Since then, he has lost two German Cup finals with Dortmund and then three title matches with Liverpool — in the English League Cup (2016), the Europa League (2016), and last year's Champions League. "I know what people say about me and losing finals," Klopp said in one of his many candid moments in a post-game news conference during which he often seemed lost for words. There's certainly no self-doubt among his players. Check out, for instance, Andrew Robertson pushing Messi on the head with two hands while the Barcelona forward was on the ground one minute into the match. This a defender who, in 2017, was playing for Hull but is now one of the most highly regarded left backs in the world. Look at Trent Alexander-Arnold, who — at the age of 20 — had the audacity to pull off a 79th-minute corner routine in which he pretended to walk away from the ball only to spin around and cross for Divock Origi to sweep in the fourth and clinching goal while Barcelona's defenders looked the other way. It was such clear-thinking amid the furnace that was Anfield on Wednesday. And then there's Origi, an afterthought at Liverpool at the start of the season after spending last year on loan at Wolfsburg in Germany before being reportedly close to sealing a loan move to Huddersfield. Now here he is, scoring the late winner against Newcastle on Saturday and adding two more against Barcelona three days later. Salah was out, recovering after a concussion. Roberto Firmino was missing, too, with a muscle strain. And Naby Keita was recently ruled out for the season. Even during the game, Robertson was taken off at halftime with a calf injury and captain Jordan Henderson played on after hurting his right knee in the first half. Henderson was everywhere in the second half, eclipsing more-esteemed Barcelona midfield rivals Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic and helping to nullify Messi as the Argentine dropped deep. "The belief we have in the changing room is amazing," Henderson said. "Look at the supporters and the lads." Indeed, the night ended with Liverpool's players and coaching staff standing arm-in-arm in a line in front of jubilant supporters in The Kop, singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" — the club's anthem. Together, they'll head to Madrid for the final, feeling it's their destiny to win European soccer's biggest prize for the sixth time......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

UEFA president says travel tricky for fans at Euro 2020

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Soccer fans will face 'a challenge' when traveling between games at the continent-wide 2020 European Championship, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said Thursday. The tournament will be held in 13 cities across Europe to mark its 60th anniversary, ranging from the Irish capital of Dublin in the west to the Azerbaijani city of Baku in the east. 'Of course it's a challenge if fans have to travel thousands and thousands and thousands of kilometers across Europe,' Ceferin said at a ceremony in the Russian host city of St. Petersburg. 'It can be very interesting but it can be a big challenge even for a big organization such as UEFA. I think everything will be fine, I'm sure.' UEFA will pair cities for the group stage to try to reduce travel distances for fans, though the exact system won't be revealed until later. Having 13 host countries also means everyone has to go through qualifying. In the past, hosts qualified automatically, even when the tournament was held in two countries at once, such as Poland and Ukraine in 2012. Ceferin also said he was dedicated to ensuring Europe would receive more qualifying spots when FIFA expands the World Cup to 48 teams from 2026, up from its current allocation of 13. 'We will fight for as much possible,' he said. 'The best quality of football in the world is in Europe.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Klinsmann believes US Soccer made progress before his firing

GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer br /> LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jurgen Klinsmann is proud of his half-decade in charge of the U.S. national team, and the coach believes he left successor Bruce Arena in a position to make the Americans even better. Klinsmann made his first public remarks since his firing when he spoke Friday at a convention of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in downtown Los Angeles. Klinsmann agreed to speak at the session before losses in the first two games of the final round of World Cup qualifying led to his dismissal. Klinsmann also was the program's technical director for his final three years in charge, supervising every aspect of the team's development and training. 'The results will tell in the future if it helped Bruce to achieve the goals that are set,' Klinsmann said. 'But I think whenever you have the chance to put your stamp on a program, you do it with everything you have, and that's what I tried to do. I think we achieved a lot within the system of U.S. Soccer, connecting a lot of dots — even though there are so many out there that are disconnected, which we know. But now it's there for the next group of leaders to continue that.' When his team lost at home to Mexico and at Costa Rica late last year, falling into an early hole in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Klinsmann was fired by the U.S. Soccer Federation on Nov. 21 after 5 1/2 years. Klinsmann didn't appear to agree with the decision, but he understands how it was reached. 'You have to be measured against benchmarks,' Klinsmann said. 'You cannot lose to Costa Rica and Mexico (if) that's the benchmark. Then that's the benchmark, and you have to live with that.' Klinsmann took the U.S. job after stints in charge of the German national team and Bayern Munich. The Americans won 16 games in his first year in charge, and they later claimed the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and a spot in the second round of the 2014 World Cup. But the program encountered several recent setbacks, and criticism grew for Klinsmann's style and strategy. The Americans still reached last year's Copa America semifinals before getting routed 4-0 by Argentina. Klinsmann wryly recalled that loss, saying it was a 'fair question' to ask how U.S. Soccer could accept such a blowout. Hyperbolizing, he said a team led by Lionel Messi 'could have given us eight' against the best American squad. Arena, who coached the U.S. from 1998 to 2006, opened the first training camp of his second stint this week, welcoming roughly 30 Major League Soccer-based players to a month-long camp. The U.S. resumes qualifying at home against Honduras on March 24, then plays four days later at Panama. Arena's roster includes several players ignored by Klinsmann, who at times seemed to preferred those on European clubs. He also engaged in public clashes with popular veterans, most notably leaving Landon Donovan off the 2014 World Cup team. Klinsmann, a World Cup champion player with West Germany in 1990, looks at his relationships with the top American players through the lens of experience now. 'I think as a player, you are kind of in a mindset where you know it always better than the coach, so you go through your career as a player and you never have the perfect coach,' he said. 'Later on, when you become a coach, you realize you were so wrong.' Klinsmann got a standing ovation from the audience of soccer coaches after his hour-long remarks during an interview and question-and-answer session. The coaches in attendance asked Klinsmann extensively about his technique and philosophy around numerous aspects of the job. 'As coaches, it's important to look outside and see, 'How do they do it there?'' Klinsmann said. 'We are always learning. I want to encourage you to understand how a better plan can be built.' As for his unfinished work with the U.S. team, Klinsmann sounded philosophical about that, as well. 'I think we all need to be aware that we're just part of a certain timeline, and then somebody else takes over and takes it to the next level in his own way,' he said. 'But a lot has been done in the last five years which I've been really proud of.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

FIFA to expand World Cup to 48 teams in 2026

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> ZURICH (AP) — FIFA will expand the World Cup to 48 teams, adding 16 extra nations to the 2026 tournament which is likely to be held in North America. President Gianni Infantino's favored plan — for 16 three-team groups with the top two advancing to a round of 32 — was unanimously approved Tuesday by the FIFA Council. It meets Infantino's election pledge of a bigger World Cup, and should help fund promised raises for FIFA's 211 member federations. With 80 matches instead of 64, FIFA forecasts the equivalent of $1 billion extra income at current rates from broadcasting and sponsor deals, plus ticket sales, compared to $5.5 billion revenue forecast for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. FIFA projects an increased profit of $640 million despite some extra operating costs and prize money for teams. FIFA's six continents should find out by May how many extra places they will each get. UEFA wants 16 European teams at the tournament, which is strongly favored to be played in North America. The CONCACAF region has not hosted the World Cup since the 1994 tournament in the United States. American, Canadian and Mexican soccer leaders have had informal talks about a co-hosting bid. Africa and Asia could be winners in a bigger World Cup with up to nine places each. They had only five and four teams, respectively, at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Still, FIFA said it expects the standard of soccer to drop compared to the 32-team format locked in for the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar. The 'absolute quality' of play, defined by high-ranked teams facing each other most often, is achieved by 32 teams, FIFA acknowledged in a research document sent to members last month. It made 10,000 tournament simulations to reach that conclusion. Instead, Infantino wants to create fervor and months of anticipation back home in the 16 extra nations which would qualify, some probably making their World Cup debut. FIFA has pointed to Costa Rica, Wales and Iceland as examples of teams which overachieved at recent tournaments. FIFA must break with soccer tradition to make its new format work after an original 48-team plan — with an opening playoff round sending 16 'one-and-done' teams home early — was unpopular. Instead, three-team groups will replace the usual groups of four to create simple progress to a knockout bracket. However, it leaves one team idle for final group games and could risk collusion between the other two teams. FIFA said it could guard against result-rigging by introducing penalty shootouts after group games that end in draws. Despite the 16 extra games, FIFA believes the current maximum of stadiums needed will stay at the 12 used by Brazil and Russia. However, the demand for more training bases and hotels means developed countries would be better equipped to win future hosting contests. North America is the strong favorite for 2026 because European and Asian countries are blocked by a FIFA rule excluding continents which hosted either of the two previous tournaments. Russia will host the World Cup next year and Qatar in 2022. South America has been focused on a centenary tournament including original 1930 host Uruguay, and African nations are seen as lacking existing capacity and unlikely to fund multi-billion dollar infrastructure spending. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

Walker enjoys the views and his game, takes lead at Kapalua

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer br /> KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — With a chance to take the lead at Kapalua, Jimmy Walker missed in the one spot he was trying to avoid. The way he was hitting his wedges Thursday, it really didn't matter. Walker hit a tough pitch to a tight pin on the elevated green to 3 feet for birdie on the par-5 15th, and he nearly holed a lob wedge from 78 yards on the final hole for an 8-under 65 that gave him a two-shot lead in the SBS Tournament of Champions. He's still three days away from atoning for a playoff loss to Patrick Reed two years ago at Kapalua, though it was an ideal start for the PGA champion in ideal conditions on the west end of Maui, except for a short burst of pineapple showers. Jim Herman got in one last round with his former employer — President-elect Donald Trump — a few days before Christmas, then came out to the Plantation course where he once got in a round of golf in tennis shoes and rental clubs while on his honeymoon. Herman, a former assistant at Trump National, was 6 under through 13 holes when his round stalled. Even with four wedges in hand over the final five holes, he had to settle for pars and a 67. Justin Thomas and Ryan Moore also were at 67. In his first competition in three months, Jason Day had a pair of three-putts but still managed a 70. Defending champion Jordan Spieth wasn't so fortunate. He never got his putter going, turned a birdie into bogey on the 15th and had to birdie the final hole for a 72. Walker had the Tournament of Champions in hand two years ago until Reed holed out from a fairway to start an unlikely rally and won in a playoff. Walker won the following week on Oahu at the Sony Open for the second straight time. 'I love the scenery. I'm a very visual person, so I enjoy looking out and watching the whales when I'm walking around. Just a pretty place,' Walker said. 'Everybody's in a good mood. I love stepping off the plane and the air is just awesome. Something does it for me here.' Walker was curious about a short club in his bad when he came to Kapalua, though it wasn't any of his wedges or his putter. He was so determined to be more accurate off the tee that Walker cut 2 inches off his driver while at home at Texas during the offseason. He liked the way it felt and had Titleist make him one without the duct tape. Hitting fairways is not a big issue on the expansive Plantation Course, though it showed his willingness to go old school to fix a longtime problem. This driver is 42 inches, just an inch shorter that a typical driver a generation ago. 'I didn't bring anything else, so this is the club I've got with me,' he said. 'This is a tough golf course for that because it's such a big place and you want to just kill it, and I had to keep reminding myself today why I put it in and why did it to hit the fairway, hit the middle of the fairway.' He was in the middle of the fairway on the 15th with caddie Andy Sanders reminding him to hit it hard, that through the green was better that leaving it at the bottom of a deep swale to the right. But with the ball below his feet, and the wind coming out of the left, he wound up bailing out. 'That was probably my favorite wedge shot,' Walker said. Daniel Berger made bogey on the par-5 18th and was at 68, along with Jason Dufner. The group at 69 included Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama, who is going after his fourth consecutive victory worldwide. Herman qualified by winning the Shell Houston Open and brought back strong memories. He abandoned the mini-tours, took a job at Trump's course in Bedminster, New Jersey and got married. The honeymoon was a cruise around the Hawaiian Islands, and he had seen enough of Kapalua that when the ship stopped on Maui, Herman headed for the Plantation course. 'I see the pictures on our computer all the time,' he said. Herman never imagined returning as a PGA Tour winner, but what a journey. He became Trump's regular partner, Trump encouraged him and helped back one last bid to play professionally, he finally got to the big leagues and made it back to Kapalua. The round with Trump was just before Christmas. They were partners. They won. Not much changed. 'He's the same guy to me,' Herman said. 'But now I get to call him Mr. President.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017