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From unused sub to scorer, Saul redefines Spanish midfielder

Spain's Saul Niguez, front left, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's opening goal during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Spain and Croatia at the Manuel Martin.....»»

Category: newsSource: philippinetimes philippinetimesSep 14th, 2018

Vive la France! And a lot of other nations, too

By Ronald Blum, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — Antoine Griezmann's father emigrated from Germany, and the France forward's mother is of Portuguese decent. Paul Pogba's parents arrived from Guinea. Kylian Mbappe's dad is from Cameroon, his mom Algerian. Immigrants, sons of immigrants and grandsons of immigrants bonded together with scions of families that have been French for generations, all for the rouge, blanc et bleu. And for only the second time, France is the World Cup champion. About two-thirds of Les Bleus' roster included players with immigrant backgrounds, a mini-United Nations of soccer talent. "That is the France that we love," Griezmann said through a translator after Sunday's 4-2 victory over Croatia ended the most exciting World Cup final in decades. "It's beautiful to see it." Griezmann's free kick was headed in by Mario Manduzkic for the opening own-goal in the 18th minute, and then he converted a penalty kick for a 2-1 lead in the 38th after video review spotted a handball by Ivan Perisic. Mbappe's speed led to the third goal in the 59th . He added a goal of his own in the 65th , at 19 becoming the second-youngest scorer in a World Cup final behind 17-year-old Pele in 1958. Vive la diversite! A day after Bastille Day, the party was on. "The diversity of the squad is in the image of this beautiful country that is France," midfielder Blaise Matuidi, whose parents are from Angola and Congo, said through a translator ahead of the match. France won on a humid night in Russia, with thunderclaps during play and a downpour during the trophy presentation. Quite different from that indelible summer evening at Stade de France in 1998, when fans in the arena and throughout Paris sang "La Marseillaise" until dawn and young teenagers drove cars while their intoxicated parents sat in passenger seats. People called that team "Black, Blanc, Beur," noting how white, black and North African players came together. Zinedine Zidane, a son of Algerians, headed in a pair of first-half corner kicks against heavily favored Brazil. Patrick Vieira, born in Senegal, fed Normand-born Emmanuel Petit for the third in the 3-0 win. This year's team was perhaps even more diverse. Defender Samuel Umtiti was born in Cameroon and backup goalkeeper Steve Mandanda in Zaire. Others descended from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Mococco and Senegal, plus Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain. "There may be players who come from different origins, but we do have the same state of mind," Griezmann said. "We all play for the same jersey, the cockerel. For our country, we give everything we have. As soon as you wear the jersey, we do everything for each other." He scored the go-ahead goal after the first video review-created penalty kick in a World Cup final. During a delay of about four minutes that might have unnerved less-composed players. Griezmann told himself to pretend it was a league match. "Carry on and do the same thing as I normally do," he remembered thinking. At 27, he in his prime but in the penumbra of Spanish soccer at Atletico Madrid, toiling in a league that Barcelona and Real Madrid dominate. He led the 2016 European Championship with six goals and tied for second with four at the World Cup, three on penalty kicks, earning the Bronze Ball as third-best player behind Croatia midfielder Luka Modric and Belgium forward Eden Hazard. Griezmann kissed the trophy, knowing his generation will be revered in the same way Zidane, Petit, Thierry Henry, Lilian Thuram and Fabien Barthez remain renowned from Calais to Cannes. "From tonight on, I'm sorry for them, but they are going to be different," coach Didier Deschamps said. "Those 23 players will be linked forever, forever. Whatever happens — they might follow different paths, but they will be marked forever and they will be together thanks to this event." Griezmann, man of the match in a World Cup final, will be on posters throughout the republic, asked for endorsements, a mainstay of commercials. He will asked for autographs for the rest of his life. "I'm going to be in the history of French football with my team," Griezmann said. "We don't quite realize it yet. Our children will very proud to have our names.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 16th, 2018

Messi nets 4 goals to keep Barcelona with perfect record

em>By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press /em> MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi added to his impressive start to the season by scoring four goals and helping Barcelona rout Eibar 6-1 to extend its perfect record in the Spanish league on Tuesday. Messi converted a penalty in the first half and scored three more goals in the second to give Barcelona its fifth straight victory in the league. The Argentina playmaker took his tally to 12 goals in eight matches this season, including nine in the five league games. Messi had already scored a hat trick in Barcelona's 5-0 rout of Espanyol in the Catalan derby two rounds ago. The result gave Barcelona a five-point lead over Sevilla, which hosts Las Palmas on Wednesday. Real Sociedad, six points back, is at Levante on Thursday. Defending champion Real Madrid, seven points behind Barcelona, hosts Real Betis on Wednesday. It has been a rather unexpectedly good start to the season for Barcelona, which began the league amid turmoil after seeing Neymar leave for Paris Saint-Germain and losing the Spanish Super Cup match to Real Madrid. It is the best start to the league for Messi, who in 2011-12 had scored eight goals after five matches. He is the league's leading scorer, with four goals more than Simone Zaza of Valencia, who had a hat trick in a 5-0 rout of Malaga earlier Tuesday. 'He is one of the smartest players I've ever seen on a field,' Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said of Messi. 'You don't really know how, but he is always in good position. He is extraordinary.' It was the fourth time Messi has scored four goals or more with Barcelona. Brazil midfielder Paulinho and Denis Suarez also scored for the Catalan club, while Sergi Enrich netted Eibar's goal. Barcelona was without Ousmane Dembele, who injured his left thigh at the weekend and is expected to be sidelined for up to four months. The young France forward, Barcelona's top signing during the transfer window, traveled to Finland to undergo surgery on a ruptured tendon. He made only three appearances after arriving to replace Neymar. Valverde left Luis Suarez on the bench and started with Gerard Deulofeu, Denis Suarez and Messi as a false '9'' in the attack. Paulinho, the Brazil midfielder who came off the bench to score the winner against Getafe on Saturday, also made it to the starting lineup. 'Today we have been able to rest certain players and give playing time to others who needed to play and it turned out well,' Valverde said. ___ strong>LOSING AGAIN /strong> Valencia won 5-0 with a hat trick by Simone Zaza to hand Malaga its fifth straight loss to start the season. Zaza scored his three goals eight minutes apart early in the second half to give Valencia its first victory after three straight draws and move the club into third place. Forward Santi Mina and Rodrigo also scored for the hosts at Mestalla Stadium.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 20th, 2017

Atletico, Barcelona, Sevilla power through in Copa

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Atletico Madrid was so poor in the first half against fourth-division visitor Sant Andreu that a shock Copa del Rey elimination wasn't a far-fetched possibility on Wednesday. But three goals in the opening 10 minutes of the second period guided Atletico's second-string team to a 4-0 victory at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Barcelona and Sevilla also beat lower division clubs, while Villarreal recorded an 8-0 rout of second tier Almeria with four goals by Cameroon striker Karl Toko-Ekambi. Thomas Lemar scored for Atletico in the 48th minute, Nikola Kalinic in the 53rd, Angel Correa in the 55th and Victor "Vitolo" Machin in the 81st to secure Diego Simeone's team a place in the last 16 following a 5-0 aggregate victory. "We struggled in the first half. We weren't able to play with quick transitions," said Simeone after his 400th Atletico match. "Everything changed in the second half. After the first goal the team played more freely." Atletico was without Diego Costa because of injury, while Antoine Griezmann and several other regular starters were rested by Simeone, who was banned from the bench as he served the second of a three-game suspension following a rant in a Copa match against Sevilla last season. Substitute Lemar went on at halftime and was key for Atletico, opening the scoring with a right-footed shot from outside the area. Kalinic added a header and Correa produced a fine finish with the outside of his right foot. Vitolo's goal from close range came after a pass by Saul Niguez. BARCELONA BOOST Barcelona advanced 5-1 on aggregate after its reserves cruised past third division Cultural Leonesa 4-1 at Camp Nou Stadium. Denis Suarez scored a goal in each half while Munir El Haddadi and Malcom were on target before halftime. Josep Sene netted in the second period for Cultural, the club owned by the Qatari state. Barcelona midfielder Ricard "Riqui" Puig, 19, set up one of Suarez's goals on his debut. "It was a dream come true," Puig said. "I used to come to this stadium when I was three." Malcom went off in the final minutes with an apparent knee injury. TOKO-EKAMBI'S NIGHT Toko-Ekambi became the first Villarreal player to score four goals in a match this century, leading the club to an 11-3 aggregate win. He netted three times in the first half and once in the second. Carlos Bacca scored twice, while Gerard Moreno and Dani Raba added a goal each. TOP-TIER CLASHES In all first-division ties, Girona came from behind to defeat Alaves 2-1 and advance 4-3 on aggregate, while Real Sociedad beat Celta Vigo 2-0 to go through 3-1 overall. Alaves struck first at Montilivi Stadium in Catalonia with an own-goal by Pedro Alcala in the 62nd minute, but the hosts rallied through Alex Granell in the 74th and Cristian "Portu" Portugues in the 79th to reach the last 16 for the first time. Sociedad sunk Celta with two superb goals by Mikel Oyarzabal and Adnan Januzaj. Oyarzabal netted in the 10th with a booming long-range shot into the top corner, and Januzaj scored in the 27th with a curling strike. OTHER RESULTS Sevilla edged third division Villanovense 1-0 to advance following a 0-0 first-leg draw. Andre Silva scored the winner early in the second half, converting the rebound after missing a penalty. Valladolid came from behind to defeat second tier Mallorca 2-1 and progress 4-2 on aggregate......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 6th, 2018

Rejuvenated Dutch strike late, into Nations League s Final 4

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press The Netherlands' recovery from one of the lowest ebbs in its history continued with a last-gasp qualification for the Final Four of the inaugural UEFA Nations League on Monday. Virgil van Dijk volleyed home a 90th-minute equalizer to seal a dramatic Dutch comeback in a 2-2 draw in Germany, allowing Ronald Koeman's rejuvenated side to top its qualifying group on goal difference ahead of France, and join fellow group winners Portugal, England and Switzerland in a five-day finals competition in June. So instead of seeing Kylian Mbappe, France's new wonderkid and star of the team's World Cup triumph in Russia in July, vying for another piece of international silverware, soccer fans will get to see if the Netherlands truly has turned the corner. The slump of the Dutch has been profound since they finished third at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. They failed to qualify for an enlarged European Championship in 2016 and also didn't make it to the World Cup this year. Three coaches — Guus Hiddink, Danny Blind, and Dick Advocaat — came and went. And with Dutch soccer at club level also in strife, debate swirled as to how one of the long-time heavyweights of the world game could recover. Under Koeman, though, the future of the Oranje looks bright. Youngsters like center midfielder Frenkie de Jong and center back Matthijs de Ligt are regarded as two of the most promising players in the world; Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum have returned to their best form over the last 18 months; and, in Van Dijk, the Netherlands has one of the best defenders around. A rock for Liverpool this season and last, Van Dijk — soccer's most expensive defender following his $99 million move from Southampton in January — sidefooted in a cross from the left to follow up an 84th-minute goal from Quincy Promes that gave the Dutch a glimmer of hope in Gelsenkirchen. The Germans had gone 2-0 up after 19 minutes thanks to Timo Werner's dipping shot from 25 meters and Leroy Sane's deflected effort from just inside the area. They couldn't hold on, though, and finished group play with no wins, just two points, and in something of a crisis. They didn't get out of their group in Russia in a dismal defense of their World Cup title, while relegation to League B of the Nations League — featuring Europe's second-tier teams — had already been confirmed after failing to win any of their first three group games. Germany coach Joachim Loew opted to stay in the job after the World Cup, but is now under mounting pressure. The Nations League, a new competition devised by UEFA to replace unpopular international friendlies with competitive matches between teams of a similar level, appears to have won over the skeptics, and the lineup for the Final Four is intriguing if hardly a marketer's dream. Portugal, which will be playing on home soil, has a superstar in Cristiano Ronaldo who should be back in the team after an extended absence from international soccer since the World Cup. England has Harry Kane, the top scorer at the World Cup, and a talented, dynamic group of young players under forward-thinking coach Gareth Southgate. Switzerland, which hasn't reached a quarterfinal of an international tournament since 1954, will be the outsider. The Netherlands, at No. 15, will be the lowest-ranked team in the competition but should not be discounted. This victory came three days after the team produced one of its best performances in years to beat France 2-0, while it beat Portugal 3-0 in March and Germany by the same score at home in the Nations League. The draw for the Final Four, which comprises of two semifinals and then a third-place playoff and final, will take place in Dublin on Dec. 3. Some other loose ends were tied up in the Nations League, which offers teams a second chance to qualify for the European Championship in 2020. The 16 group winners in Leagues A, B, C and D — or the next best-placed teams who have not already qualified via the European qualifiers starting in March — will progress to the Nations League playoffs and compete for the last four qualifying places for Euro 2020. NORWAY, MACEDONIA PROMOTED Norway was promoted to the second-tier League B after finishing top of Group C3 with a 2-0 win at Cyprus. The Norwegians started the final round of group play tied for points with Bulgaria, which could only draw at home to Slovenia 1-1. Macedonia went up to League C after beating Gibraltar 4-0 to top Group D4. Armenia, the only team that could have finished above Macedonia, ended up second after drawing at Liechtenstein 2-2. SLOVAKIA RELEGATED Slovakia was relegated to League C after losing at neighbor Czech Republic 1-0, with Patrik Schick scoring the winner in the first half with a deft lob over the goalkeeper on a counterattack. Denmark was already guaranteed promotion to the top tier and Ireland was sure of being relegated before they drew 0-0 in Aarhus......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 20th, 2018

Real Madrid fires coach Lopetegui after big loss to Barca

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — In just months, Julen Lopetegui has lost two of the most high-profile coaching jobs in the world. Lopetegui was finally fired by Real Madrid on Monday, less than five months after he was sacked by Spain before the World Cup for not telling federation officials he accepted the Madrid job. The latest firing followed a meeting by the club's board of directors on Monday, a day after the team was crushed by Barcelona 5-1 at Camp Nou Stadium. Santiago Solari, coach of Real Madrid B, will take charge for the Copa del Rey match against third-division club Melilla on Wednesday. Spanish media speculated Solari, a former Madrid player, was in the running for the permanent job along with former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and Belgium manager Roberto Martinez. The firing caps a horrible few months for Lopetegui and is likely to deal a significant setback to his career. After doing well with Spain's youth teams, he had a lackluster stint with Portuguese club Porto, but gained prominence after revamping Spain and turning it into a contender entering the World Cup. "I want to thank the club for the opportunity it gave me and the players for their effort," Lopetegui told the local news agency EFE. "I wish the team the best for the rest of the season." Madrid said in a statement it sacked 52-year-old Lopetegui to "change the team's dynamic while all of its objectives for the season were still reachable." The board of directors believed there was a huge difference between the quality of the squad and the results it was achieving. The board noted the team has eight players nominated for the Ballon d'Or award, something unprecedented in the club's history. They have lost five of their last seven matches. "We know that results are important for a coach," Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said after the Barcelona match. Lopetegui, who led the team practice on Monday morning, was hired by Madrid to replace Zinedine Zidane, who quit after leading the club to the last three Champions League titles. Losing the clasico left Madrid ninth in the Spanish league, seven points behind leader Barcelona after 10 rounds. It hasn't won in five straight league matches, with four losses, and recently reached its worst scoring drought ever. The club had a decent start to the season but things went sour as the squad struggled to produce goals in its first season without Cristiano Ronaldo in nearly a decade. Madrid didn't replace the superstar; its only high-profile signing was goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. In 14 matches with Lopetegui, Madrid won six, lost six, and drew two. After the Copa match on Wednesday, Madrid hosts Valladolid in the Spanish league, and visits Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League. "We have to move on as soon as possible because there is a lot of season left," Ramos said. To make things worse, veteran left back Marcelo is expected to be out for a few weeks because of a muscle injury. Forward Mariano Diaz is also injured and is likely to be out for at least a week. Solari, aged 42, is a former Argentina midfielder who played for Real Madrid in the early 2000s and helped the team win the 2002 Champions League. He also played for Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan. He has been coaching Real Madrid B since 2016, taking over not long after Zidane left to coach the main squad. Lopetegui is the second La Liga coach to be fired. The first was Leo Franco of promoted club Huesca, currently last in the 20-team standings......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 30th, 2018

With Messi out, Suarez takes leadership role for Barcelona

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Even though it ended up a blowout, there was a moment in Barcelona's 5-1 win over Real Madrid on Sunday when the result seemed in the balance. Madrid had just pulled a goal back after overcoming the control Barcelona had imposed to take a 2-0 lead into halftime, and the hosts didn't have Lionel Messi to come to the rescue. That was when Luis Suarez stepped up to add two more goals to his first-half penalty to complete a hat trick that has placed Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui's job in serious peril. "Almost every season I score against Madrid," Suarez said. "They came out of the restart going for the match. They pressured us a lot and had chances to draw level. We scored the third goal and took advantage of our speed and the open space to wrap it up." His second goal was a superb header, as he powered a soft lob from Sergi Roberto past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. That goal came when his teammates were under pressure after Marcelo had scored and Luka Modric hit the post. Suarez also showed quality marksmanship on his penalty, driving it just inside the post and the diving Courtois, as well as fine finishing to chip in his third goal. "He scored three goals today, but the work of Luis is always there," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. As work goes, Suarez multitasks. The Uruguayan bumps and battles with opposing defenders, makes runs to free up teammates, offers an outlet up front, and helps form part of Barcelona's intricate passing attack. Suarez dedicated his first goal to his family by lifting his shirt up to reveal a T-shirt with a image of this three children on it. "This week my third child was born and her siblings wanted to come with me today, since mommy and Lauti are watching from home," Suarez said. The 31-year-old Suarez has scored nine times in 11 matches against Madrid since joining the Spanish champions after he left Liverpool following his biting of an Italy defender in the 2014 World Cup. Since then, Suarez has been on his best behavior, and become one of the club's veteran leaders. Suarez scored the winner in a 2-1 victory over Madrid that helped Barcelona secure the league title late in the 2014-15 season. The next season he scored twice in a 4-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu that Messi also missed. He netted in a 1-1 draw with Madrid in 2016-17, and also in a 3-0 win at Madrid and a 2-2 draw at home last season. But the Uruguay striker has been especially important recently with Messi on the sidelines. Since Messi broke his arm in the first half against Sevilla on Oct. 20, Barcelona has outscored its opponents 9-3, including four goals by Suarez. Messi went down while Barcelona was leading Sevilla 2-0. Suarez immediately stepped up by scoring a third goal in an eventual 4-2 victory. He set the tone against Inter Milan in the Champions League last week, assisting Rafinha for the opening goal of a 2-0 win. But Suarez had saved his best for Sunday night, when he fueled a lopsided win that Barcelona's fans will savor. THE RIGHT MOVES Madrid's comeback attempt was triggered by Lopetegui sending on Lucas Vazquez as a right back at the start of the second half. Lethargic until then, Madrid surged forward in waves and Vazquez helped start the move that led to Marcelo's goal. Valverde then made three moves that all contributed directly to goals by catching Madrid off-balance in defense. Valverde swapped Rafinha for right back Nelson Semedo, which allowed him to move Roberto into attack. The versatile Roberto created three scoring chances for Suarez. Valverde also sent on forward Ousmane Dembele and midfielder Arturo Vidal. Dembele dribbled free in the area and crossed for Vidal to head in the fifth goal to complete Madrid's humiliation. "I thought we needed players who could use their speed because we no longer had the control we had in the first half," Valverde said. "The back-and-forth was risky. Sergi helped us get out on the attack.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 29th, 2018

Paco Alcacer making most of 2nd chance with Spain

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Close to seeing his career stagnate, Paco Alcacer is making the most of a second chance to become Spain's top striker. Alcacer scored twice in his first appearance for Spain in two-and-a-half years to lead a 4-1 away win at Wales in a friendly last week. On Monday, the former Barcelona player will likely feature again when Spain hosts England in Seville seeking a second win over Gareth Southgate's team in the incipient Nations League. "I'm happy that I was able to help the team by doing what we strikers are supposed to, which is provide goals," Alcacer said after Thursday's match in Cardiff. "I just have to keep this good dynamic going." The 25-year-old Alcacer has been rejuvenated since leaving Barcelona on loan for Borussia Dortmund in August, a turnaround that has ended a hiatus from Spain's national team that was in danger of becoming a permanent adios. Previous to his two goals for Spain against Wales, Alcacer had scored seven times in a four-match scoring run for Dortmund. That streak included netting a spectacular hat trick that he completed on the last kick of the game for a 4-3 win over Augsburg. Ironically, Alcacer's slide toward oblivion at Barcelona began under current Spain coach Luis Enrique when he was condemned to a reserve role behind the superstar trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez in 2016-17. Not even Neymar's departure at the start of last season changed the situation at Camp Nou for Alcacer. Favoring other players, new coach Ernesto Valverde gave him fewer appearances than Luis Enrique. So Alcacer decided that his best option was to leave Spain and try his luck in Germany. And it turned out that Alcacer just needed a chance to play. With his brace against Wales, Alcacer showed his leading quality as a striker. He is not the fastest, the strongest, nor the slickest passer; he is a pure goal scorer who excels at putting one-touch shots in-between the posts. Against Wales, Alcacer fired a rising right-footed shot into the near corner for the lead— and his first goal with Spain since Oct. 2015. He then put the win beyond doubt by poaching a clearance in the area to make it 3-0. "Alcacer is playing superbly because he is on a scoring streak, but overall his attitude has been marvelous," said Luis Enrique, who called Alcacer up to fill the void left by the injured Diego Costa. Alcacer was not supposed to need a comeback story. Four years ago, former Spain manager Vicente del Bosque considered Alcacer, along with Alvaro Morata, as his strikers of the future. The then Valencia player led Spain in qualifying for the 2016 European championship with five goals, but when he struggled to score for his club in the run-up to the tournament Del Bosque dropped him from his squad. Banished to the bench following his move to Barcelona from Valencia, Alcacer was also ignored by Julen Lopetegui in his two-year tenure that took Spain to last summer's World Cup. Circumstances, however, have put Alcacer in good position to now succeed for "La Roja." While competition remains fierce in the positions of midfielder and playmaker for Spain, the striker job is up for grabs. Long gone are the days when David Villa and Fernando Torres flourished up front for the 2010 world champions, as both Costa and Morata have failed to show they can be counted on for goals. Alcacer said that he had been preparing for this return to his best form. "It's about several things," he said, "about getting on a hot streak, about self-confidence, about having playing time, and, above all, about working each day when you are not playing so you can be ready.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 15th, 2018

Madrid and Atletico draw in derby, Barcelona stays ahead

Real Madrid's Raphael Varane, top right, goes for a header with Atletico Madrid's Saul Niguez, top left, during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at t.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philippinetimesRelated NewsOct 1st, 2018

Liz Cambage emotional after win over Spain

By Doug Feinberg, Associated Press SAN CRISTOBAL DE LA LAGUNA, Spain (AP) — Liz Cambage teared up as the final seconds ran off the clock and Australia was set to advance to the gold medal game of the Women's Basketball World Cup for the first time since 2006. Getting this far, she finally feels validated. "This is the furthest I've been at this level. I've never played a gold medal game at this level," Cambage said choking up. "I've also carried a little bit of a weight on my shoulders for eight years. My first world, we didn't even medal. It was the worst the Opals had done. The next Olympics we got bronze, the girls had never done it before. I felt I was bad luck for the Australia team. It's not a nice feeling. This is the furthest I've been at this level. I'm proud of myself and proud of these girls." Cambage was the biggest reason why they've reached the gold medal game. She had 33 points and 15 rebounds to lead Australia to a 72-66 win over Spain on Saturday. Trailing 58-50 to start the fourth quarter, Australia scored the first nine points of the period, including six by Cambage to take a 59-58 lead. The teams went back and forth over the next few minutes. Spain led 64-61 with 4:01 left before Cambage converted a three-point play to tie the game. That started an 11-2 run to close the game. As the clock wound down, Australia was celebrating. Australia will play the U.S. trying to win its second gold medal ever. The Opals won the gold in 2006 — the last time the Americans didn't win. "What we're chasing, you dream of as little girls," Cambage said. "I watched Penny Taylor and Lauren Jackson win that medal (in 2006). It's been a battle for all these years. We have such a strong group. Anyone can win on any given day." It will take a tremendous effort by the Australians to knock off the U.S. Australia is 0-17 against the U.S. in the World Cup and Olympics, including going 0-10 in the worlds. "It is a big challenge, one we're looking forward to," Australia coach Sandy Brondello said. "I believe in this team. One game, anyone can beat anyone. We have to play at our best. We need all 12 players playing at our best. USA is the favorites and we'll give it our best shot, hopefully that's good enough." The Australians will need another huge game from Cambage, who is the leading scorer in the tournament. She might not have the Spanish crowd to fire her up in the gold medal game. The 6-foot-8 center was enemy No. 1 of the Spanish fans in their semifinal on Saturday night — a role she relished. After getting a foul in the first half, she cupped her hand to her ear to get them to jeer louder. When she blocked a shot in the fourth quarter, Cambage pounded her chest to the fans on the baseline which drew an unsportsmanlike foul call from the officials. "I got to do my thing. I got to play the bad guy tonight," Cambage said smiling. "I always said Kanye's line 'scream from the haters' has a nice ring to it. I loved being booed I don't know if I need to see a psychologist about that. Having the crowd against me is something that has always picked me up. I don't know what it is. I've been getting it since I was a kid.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 30th, 2018

Madrid and Atletico draw in derby, Barcelona stays ahead

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Barcelona is getting some help from its rivals to stay ahead in the Spanish league despite falling into its worst slump in two years. The defending champion failed to win for the third straight game on Saturday, being held by Athletic Bilbao to 1-1 at home. But it was enough to retain its lead after Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid couldn't manage more than 0-0 in the derby at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Real Madrid hasn't won in two consecutive games, being unable to take advantage of Barcelona's struggles. Atletico has won two in a row, but hasn't reached the top because of a poor start. Real Madrid and Barcelona are tied on points, one more than Sevilla, and two more than Atletico, which extended its unbeaten streak in league matches at the Bernabeu to six. Sevilla moved up after defeating Eibar 3-1 in a match marked by the collapse of a railing that left a few fans injured as they fell onto the pitch while celebrating a goal. DERBY DRAW The Madrid derby ended with goalkeepers Jan Oblak and Thibaut Courtois getting the better of the attackers in the few times the teams got near the goal. "I'm not satisfied with the result because we deserved the victory," Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui said. "We created some clear scoring chances." The loudest celebration by Real Madrid fans came when Brazilian teenage sensation Vinicius Junior made his first-team debut, but he entered in the final minutes and didn't do much. Lopetegui couldn't count on left back Marcelo and midfielder Francisco "Isco" Alarcon because of injuries. Gareth Bale was replaced at halftime with an apparent injury. "It was a difficult match, as it always is when we play here," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "We were better in the first half but in the end it was a fair result." Atletico beat Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup final in the beginning of the season. BARCELONA'S STRUGGLES Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde put Messi in the game early in the second half, but the playmaker couldn't rally the team to victory. He did set up an 84th-minute equalizer by Munir El Haddadi, but it was already too late. Athletic, winless since the first round, opened the scoring before halftime through Oscar De Marco. Sergio Busquets also was rested ahead of Barcelona's Champions League match at Tottenham on Wednesday. He entered the match early in the second half to replace the injured Sergi Roberto. "We have the squad and players to remain strong without depending on only one player," Messi said. "We have to improve on many things, but this is just the beginning, the league is very long." Messi said Barcelona has to stop "conceding goals in every match." The team has conceded five goals in its last three matches, and eight in total in the league this season. RAILING COLLAPSE Sevilla followed its 3-0 rout of Real Madrid with a 3-1 win at Eibar, a match that had to be stopped for a few minutes in the second half because fans fell onto the pitch when a railing collapsed. Some fans were carried away on stretchers, although local media said no serious injuries were immediately reported. WINLESS NO MORE Valencia's winless streak is finally over. A first-half goal by Kevin Gameiro — and a second-half penalty kick save by goalkeeper Neto — gave Valencia its first win in eight matches in all competitions. It was the fifth winless game for Sociedad in the last six league rounds, keeping the Basque Country club near the middle of the table. Sociedad has yet to win at its renovated Anoeta Stadium this season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 30th, 2018

Hertha hands Bayern a 2-0 defeat on Niko Kovac s return

By CIARAN FAHEY,  Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — Hertha Berlin defeated Bayern Munich 2-0 in the Bundesliga on Friday, dealing its former player Niko Kovac his first loss as coach of the German champion. Kovac was part of Hertha's midfield with Pal Dardai - who is now Hertha's coach - from 2003 to 2006. Dardai outwitted him this time, as veteran forward Vedad Ibisevic and league top-scorer Ondrej Duda struck in the first half to hand Bayern its first defeat in all competitions this season. "We deserved to win," a beaming Dardai said after securing Hertha's first win over Bayern since 2009. "We scored nice goals at important times." It was also the second consecutive league game that Bayern dropped points, after Augsburg struck late to snatch a 1-1 draw on Tuesday. "We don't have to start making everything bad now," Kovac said defiantly. "We'll see that we're successful again in the next games." The win moved Hertha level on 13 points with Bayern, which leads on goal difference but can be overtaken after this weekend's games. The 34-year-old Ibisevic rewarded the home side's promising start when he converted a penalty in the 23rd minute. Defender Jerome Boateng - also back at his former club - conceded it by bringing down Salomon Kalou with a careless challenge, after Manuel Neuer made a brilliant save to deny Ibisevic's initial header. Bayern responded with more pressure. Joshua Kimmich did brilliantly to elude defender Karim Rekik with a flick, only for teammate Franck Ribery to block his goal-bound shot. Just before the break, Kalou played in Valentino Lazaro, who cut the ball back for Duda to rifle in under the bar. It was the Slovakia midfielder's fifth goal of the season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 29th, 2018

Montreal making a (big) move as MLS season winds down

By ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer   The North is making noise in the East. And no, it's not Toronto FC. The Montreal Impact are unexpectedly in the MLS playoff picture after a steady climb up the standings. The Impact plummeted to second-to-last place in the Eastern Conference in the 12th week of the season. But they currently sit in sixth — and just above the line for postseason contention. They're five points in front of seventh-place D.C. United, their opponent on Saturday at Audi Field. "I think the confidence in the guys is only growing, and we're really coming together over what we know we're capable of," said forward Quincy Amarikwa, who was acquired in August. After failing to make the playoffs last season — a year after reaching the Eastern Conference finals — the Impact dismissed coach Mauro Biello. Additionally, four players retired, including fan favorite Patrice Bernier and Andres Romero. Laurent Ciman was traded to LAFC. Former Aston Villa manager Remi Garde was hired as head coach and first team director of player personnel to restart the club. The Impact also added central midfielder Saphir Taider, who played for three seasons with Bologna. The results came slowly and the Impact lost 11 of their first 15 games. The team was overly dependent on veteran midfielder Ignacio Piatti. The turnaround has included eight wins and four draws in the last 15 matches, including last week's 1-1 draw against NYCFC that denied New York City a chance to clinch a spot in the playoffs. The team started September with a decisive 3-0 victory at home over the Red Bulls followed by a 4-1 road victory over the Philadelphia Union. Garde, however, spent last week warning that Montreal should not be complacent. "Right now we're getting a lot of praise. Probably too much. Yes, the team has improved a lot this year," Garde said. "But in this league, praise is useless when a couple of bad results can change everything." The Impact have four matches left — two home and two away — to secure their postseason spot. For comparison's sake, Toronto FC won the MLS Cup last season and currently sit in ninth place in the East, out of the current playoff picture. The Vancouver Whitecaps are in the eighth spot in the West, and on Tuesday dismissed coach Carl Robinson.   GAME OF THE WEEK: Kind of a no-brainer, but the top two teams in the East, Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls, meet Sunday at Red Bull Arena. An Atlanta victory would cement the Union's spot in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League. And it's always fun to watch Josef Martinez, who already broken the league's single-season goal record and now has 30 and counting. Atlanta is also closing in on the single-season points record. With 63 points and four games to go, the United are within reach of Toronto FC's record of 69 set last season. The Red Bulls won't have top goal-scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips because of yellow card accumulation.   PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Philadelphia Union forward Jay Simpson earned Player of the Week honors after scoring both goals in Philadelphia's 2-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City last Sunday. It was Simpson's first start of the season.   ROBINSON OUT: The Whitecaps surprised many with the dismissal of coach Robinson before the season had wrapped up. Vancouver is outside playoff contention with five games left. The move came Tuesday following Sunday's 2-1 loss at home to FC Dallas. The Whitecaps players were told before practice. Kendall Waston told reporters afterward he was unhappy with the decision. "I was thinking five games to go, if it was the right moment. Personally, I don't think it was the right moment, but I'm not in charge of the club. I'm just a player, I'm just an employee," the team captain said. "I don't agree, but it's my personal opinion." Forward Kei Kamara called the decision shocking, adding that players should have won games. "We should feel responsible as players because they gave us the chance to prove them right, day in and day out, and in games," Kamara said. Craig Dalrymple, the technical director of the Whitecaps FC Academy, will serve as interim coach......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 27th, 2018

Wolfsburg is on the rise again in the Bundesliga

By CIARAN FAHEY,  Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — From champions to relegation survivors, Wolfsburg's recent woes on the field have coincided with those of Volkswagen, the German club's main backer. However, the car manufacturer is on the rise again after its emissions scandal, and so is the soccer team after back-to-back seasons in the relegation playoffs. Wolfsburg opened its Bundesliga campaign with wins over highly rated Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen. The 2009 champions, now under coach Bruno Labbadia, are well-organized and playing with a commitment and hunger that had been lacking since 2015. That was the year Wolfsburg finished second behind Bayern Munich and won the German Cup before the breaking of the Volkswagen scandal. Results, coincidentally, suffered thereafter. The win over Leverkusen was unexpected, and the first time in 13 tries that Labbadia won against his former side. "We drew a lot of strength from the relegation playoff (against second-division club Holstein Kiel) and on top of that the team worked really hard in pre-season," Labbadia said Saturday after his team's sixth consecutive win across seasons and including the German Cup. Wolfsburg even had to come from behind after Leon Bailey put Leverkusen ahead. The players didn't panic, but combined well and fought for the equalizer, which came through an own-goal by goalkeeper Ramazan Ozcan. New signing Wout Weghorst then got his first Bundesliga goal and Renato Steffen sealed it with another. "It was really pleasing to see how much of a unit we were and how the team got the deserved reward for the performance," Labbadia said. "We hurt them with our shape. It was a good day for us." Wolfsburg also needed a bit of luck to defeat Schalke, with Daniel Ginczek getting the winner in injury time. The signing of Weghorst has added some much-needed bite to the team's attack. The 25-year-old Dutchman scored 27 goals across all competitions for AZ Alkmaar last season. Wolfsburg also appointed Joerg Schmadtke as sporting director in the offseason. The 54-year-old Schmadtke, a former goalkeeper, enjoyed notable success as sporting director with Cologne, Hannover and Alemannia Aachen. Wolfsburg fans chanted "league leaders, league leaders" after the win propelled it to the top for the afternoon, but Schmadtke said he wasn't interested in the standings "but the fact we stayed stable after conceding a goal is comforting." Wolfsburg was without injured captain Josuha Guilavogui, and goalkeeper Koen Casteels was missing to attend the birth of his daughter. Casteels is the sixth Wolfsburg player to become a father in a little over a month after Marvin Stefaniak, Yunus Malli, Paul-Georges Ntep, Weghorst and Steffen. "That can give you a push," Steffen said. "But I can't get a child every week now." BAYERN'S ADVICE Compared to previous years, Bayern Munich kept transfer activity to a minimum in the offseason, with just Serge Gnabry and Renato Sanches returning from loan spells, while Leon Goretzka's free transfer from Schalke was already announced in January. Spanish defender Juan Bernat departed for Paris Saint-Germain but it looked at one stage as though there would be more business between the sides. PSG made a reported offer for Germany defender Jerome Boateng and was also interested in taking Sanches. Neither deal came to fruition, and Bayern has hit out at the French club for not following through. Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic had already criticized PSG's "strange tactics," and now president Uli Hoeness has said the side should fire its sporting director, Antero Henrique. "I would advise Paris Saint-Germain to change its sporting director," Hoeness told Monday's Kicker magazine. "This man is not a figurehead for the club. If PSG wants to be a world club, it can't put up with such a sports director." DORTMUND'S WUNDERKIND Borussia Dortmund has developed a reputation for bringing in young players thanks to success with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Jadon Sancho and Mario Goetze, while Aleksander Isak and Dan-Axel Zagadou are waiting to follow suit. The next prospect could be 13-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko, a Cameroon-born forward who has been scoring at leisure since he joined Dortmund's youth setup from St. Pauli in 2016. Strong and direct with a clear eye for goal, Moukoko was the leading scorer for Dortmund's under-15 team - while still 12 - to help the side win the Regionalliga West title and earn a call-up for Germany's under-16 team last year. He scored the decisive goal at Bayern Munich in the final, finishing the season with 40 goals in 28 games. This season, with the under-17s, has begun as the last continued. Moukoko already has six goals from four games. "We're going to give him all the time in the world for his development," Dortmund youth coordinator Lars Ricken told Kicker. "He can't play with the professionals until he's 17. So nobody needs to start gasping because of him.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 4th, 2018

No Ronaldo, no Zidane, no problem for Real Madrid

Real Madrid's Welsh forward Gareth Bale celebrates with Real Madrid's Spanish midfielder Marco Asensio (R) after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Real Madri.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philippinetimesRelated NewsAug 20th, 2018

Messi scores Barcelona s 6,000th league goal

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Barcelona scored its 6,000th goal in the Spanish league after another ingenious strike by Lionel Messi got its title defense off to a winning start. Messi cleverly sent his free kick underneath Alaves' wall to open the scoring in the 64th minute of Barcelona's 3-0 win at Camp Nou Stadium on Saturday. He also closed the scoring in injury time after substitute Philippe Coutinho had added to the lead in the 83rd. Messi's low free kick fooled Alaves' players, who jumped to intercept an expected high shot. Goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco couldn't get to the ball in time after it suddenly appeared underneath the barrier. "Messi never fails to surprise you," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. Messi, the league's top scorer last season, had struck the crossbar with a free kick — this time over the wall — in the first half. He also hit the post from inside the area a few minutes after his opening goal. Messi also scored Barcelona's 5,000th league goal back in 2009, and the Argentine provided 338 of the goals taking the total from 5,000 to 6,000. Barcelona's first-ever league goal was scored by Manuel Parera against Racing Santander on Feb. 12, 1929. Barcelona opened its league campaign with a win for the 10th straight season. Messi's second goal came in the second minute of injury time, an easy shot from close range after a breakaway. Barcelona had missed chance after chance in its league debut at Camp Nou, which was far from packed with around 52,000 fans for the 10:15 p.m. start local time. Ousmane Dembele, who started up front with Messi and Luis Suarez, squandered a series of chances, including a one-on-one with goalkeeper Pacheco in the first half. Valverde brought Coutinho off the bench in the second half and the Brazil playmaker added the team's second goal after a nice play that culminated with an easy strike from inside the area. Alaves had stunned Barcelona at Camp Nou in 2016, winning 2-1. FRUSTRATING START Villarreal entered the new season with high hopes after a solid fifth-place finish in 2017-18, but its disappointing home opener dampened fans' expectations. Villarreal couldn't hold on to an early lead at its Ceramica Stadium, losing 2-1 to Real Sociedad. Gerard Moreno, Villarreal's biggest offseason signing, put the hosts ahead in the 16th before Sociedad came back with goals by Willian Jose in the 40th and Juanmi in the 71st. Villarreal just missed a Champions League berth last season, finishing behind Valencia, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. DISAPPOINTING DEBUTS Celta Vigo and Espanyol gave their new coaches a frustrating start in the Spanish league with a 1-1 draw. Celta began its campaign in Vigo with Argentine coach Antonio Mohamed, and Espanyol kicked off its season with newcomer Joan Francesc Ferrer "Rubi." The clubs hired new managers after disappointing campaigns last season, when Espanyol finished 11th and Celta was only 13th, far from qualification for the European competitions. Mario Hermoso put Espanyol ahead at Balaidos Stadium with a shot from inside the area after a corner just before halftime. Celta equalized early in the second half with an own-goal by David Lopez, who tried to intercept a cross and ended up redirecting the ball into his own net. SUNDAY'S GAMES Real Madrid hosts Getafe in a Madrid derby on Sunday, when it's also Eibar vs. Huesca and Rayo Vallecano against Sevilla. Atletico Madrid — last season's runner-up — visits Valencia on Monday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 19th, 2018

Serie A deadline day: Milan signs Laxalt, Marchisio exits Juve

MILAN (AP) — AC Milan signed midfielder Diego Laxalt from Genoa on the last day of the Italian transfer window Friday, while forward Gervinho returned to Europe with Parma and Juventus released veteran midfielder Claudio Marchisio. Laxalt won plaudits for his play on the left side of midfield as he helped Uruguay to reach the World Cup quarterfinals and scored four goals in 34 games for Genoa last season in all competitions. Spanish winger Samu Castillejo is also headed to Milan. Castillejo arrives from Villarreal, where he scored six goals in the Spanish league last season. Two Milan players moved in the opposite direction. Colombia forward Carlos Bacca went to Villarreal and Italian forward Gianluca Lapadula to Genoa. Both Bacca and Lapadula spent last season at those clubs on loan. Following a takeover last month by American hedge fund Elliott Management, Milan previously signed forward Gonzalo Higuain on loan from Juventus and also brought in midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko on loan from Chelsea. The former Roma and Arsenal forward Gervinho ended a two-year spell playing in China by signing for Parma on Friday. Parma said the 31-year-old Ivory Coast international signed a three-year contract. Juventus pulled off the biggest transfer of the summer in Europe by signing Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid. But a popular Juventus player left on deadline-day. Marchisio, who joined 25 years ago as a seven-year-old, departed after what the club called "the agreed termination of his contract." The industrious Marchisio played nearly 400 games for the club, scoring 37 goals and winning seven Serie A titles, but has been less prominent since a cruciate ligament injury in 2016. He played 15 times in Serie A last season. Napoli brought goalkeeper David Ospina from Arsenal on a season-long loan. The Colombia international — who played at the World Cup — fell down the pecking order at behind Peter Cech and Bernd Leno at Arsenal. Another player left the London club for Italy, with Joel Campbell joining newly-promoted Frosinone. The Costa Rica forward had been an Arsenal player since 2011 but spent most of his time on various loan deals, including with Real Betis last season, and hadn't played a competitive game for the Premier League club since the 2015-16 season. Atalanta added to its midfield options by signing Argentine player Emiliano Rigoni from Zenit St. Petersburg on loan. The Russian team said the loan deal includes an option to buy Rigoni......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 18th, 2018

Atletico beats Real Madrid 4-2 after extra time in Super Cup

By Frank Griffiths, Associated Press TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Atletico Madrid finally got the better of Real Madrid on the European stage, scoring twice in extra time to win 4-2 in the UEFA Super Cup final on Wednesday in its rival's first game without Cristiano Ronaldo. Atletico got off to a flying start with Diego Costa scoring the competition's fastest goal just 50 seconds in, but Madrid came back to take a 2-1 lead as Los Blancos tried to prove they can still win trophies without Ronaldo and with a new coach. But Costa equalized late in the match with his second goal before Saul Niguez and Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion sealed the victory in extra time on a cool night in Estonia's capital. Atletico's victory over its crosstown rival had added significance after it lost two Champions League finals to Madrid in 2014 and 2016. Diego Simeone's team was also eliminated by Madrid in the 2017 semifinals. "I'm elated," Costa said. "Real Madrid has always beaten us in these finals. It was our turn to win a final." The loss leaves new Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui still having to prove that there is life after Ronaldo, who scored 450 goals in 438 matches before joining Juventus this summer and helped lead the club to three straight Champions League titles. "I'm sad. I'm frustrated. It's a final that we lost," Lopetegui said. "But I also know that we will have to wake up and prepare ourselves for our first league match and start the season on the right foot." Gareth Bale showed glimpses of his pace and skill, but couldn't mimic Ronaldo's ability to decide a game on his own. Instead, Costa was the one who dominated at the Lillekula Stadium in Tallinn. He overpowered Madrid's center backs in the first minute after a long ball from Stefan Savic, first winning a header against Sergio Ramos and then muscling past Raphael Varane to cut into the area where he beat goalkeeper Keylor Navas at the near post. Karim Benzema equalized in the 27th minute, heading in a pinpoint cross from Bale, who was able to break away from Lucas Hernandez on the right and curl the ball into his fellow forward's path. Bale, who was given a freer role than he's used to, caused trouble for Atletico's defense in the first half as he switched between wings. He was Madrid's main creative spark at that point, with his teammates constantly trying to feed him the ball. He faded in the second half, but Lopetegui was pleased with Bale's performance. "Gareth has played very good. In this moment of the season, all the players are not in the best physical way," the coach said. "We are happy with his performance and we hope he's going to put in deserved performances in the next matches." Sergio Ramos scored a penalty in the 63rd minute after Juanfran Torres handled in the area as the ball flew over him from a corner. Juanfran made up for it in the 79th by taking the ball off Marcelo near the touchline and then passing to Angel Correa. The substitute then skipped past a couple of Madrid defenders and cut the ball back from the byline to Costa, who poked the ball into the roof of the net. In extra time, substitute Thomas Partey set up the decisive goal when he stripped the ball off Varane and played a one-two with Costa before dribbling toward the byline. Partey then cut the ball back to Saul Niguez, who volleyed the ball first-time to send the ball past Navas to make it 3-2 in the 98th. Koke finished Madrid off with a cool finish in the 104th. Lopetegui, who joined Madrid in controversial fashion and was fired as Spain coach just before the World Cup, will need to show that he can build on the success of predecessor Zidedane Zidane and can win with new tactics. At times, Madrid looked uncomfortable playing under the new possession-based system and seemed to miss Ronaldo's flair and proficiency. "We need to improve on the all the phases of the team," Lopetegui said. "We don't like to make mistakes." Madrid had to play without new goalkeeper Thibault Courtois, as the former Atletico player didn't even dress for the match. Spanish media reports said the team didn't register him in time with UEFA following his transfer from Chelsea. For Atletico, the victory gives the team a boost before the season starts, Simeone said. "The club is growing. We have a new stadium," he said. "We have players who want to join us, players who don't want to leave us. I think this speaks volumes.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 15th, 2018

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

Rodriguez misses Colombia training, scan shows calf swelling

KAZAN, Russia (AP) — James Rodriguez missed training on Saturday and a scan showed that he had minor swelling of his right calf, three days before a last-16 match against England at the World Cup. Rodriguez, who was the top scorer at the 2014 World Cup, has been bothered by the injury since the start of the tournament in Russia. Colombia's soccer federation said in a statement that the 26-year-old attacking midfielder didn't have a tear in his calf. No further details about the injury were immediately given. Rodriguez left the field in the 31st minute of Colombia's 1-0 victory over Senegal on Thursday night, but his injury has never been officially disclosed as the reason for the substitution. The South American team faces England on Tuesday at Spartak Stadium in Moscow. Before training on Saturday, midfielder Carlos Sanchez and backup goalkeeper also didn't shed any light on Rodriguez's recuperation. "James is a leader, but I'm also sure that if James isn't there, there are others who can step in and make the difference," Sanchez said. "Each member of the team's squad is here to play and they have the experience." Rodriguez missed two training sessions before Colombia's first group match against Japan and didn't start in the 2-1 loss. He was fit enough to play a full 90 minutes in the second match against Poland in the 3-0 win. With Colombia facing England on Tuesday, the possibility that Rodriguez wouldn't be fit enough to play would be a major headache for coach Jose Pekerman. "It's not a secret to anybody what James means for us, not only in football terms, but for the group. But I stand by what Carlos says," Vargas said. "At the level of the national team, everyone has the hope of giving their best. "Whatever happens, all 23 players have that dream.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 1st, 2018

Argentina has big weaknesses to address before facing France

By Jerome Pugmire, Associated Press ST. PETERSBURG, France (AP) — After the euphoria of scraping through to the last 16 of the World Cup, Argentina now must address its glaring weaknesses. Argentina has little time to prepare for Saturday's match against France, which is considered among the tournament favorites, yet has much to work on. Particularly on defense. Argentina's feeble defense was exposed in 3-0 defeat to Croatia last week and once again in Tuesday's 2-1 must-win game against Nigeria. Argentina won with an 86th-minute goal from defender Marcos Rojo, but during the second half the team looked on the verge of another capitulation at the back. Here is a look at some of the key issues facing Jorge Sampaoli's team before taking on France in Kazan: MASCHERANO MISERY If Javier Mascherano is supposed to be protecting the defense, he's not doing a very good job. With 146 international appearances, the 34-year-old Mascherano should be a rock for Sampaoli's team. But instead of offering the protective screen in front of the back four, Mascherano is often proving to be a weak link. As his bloodied face on Tuesday showed, there is no doubting his commitment. But his judgment, especially for someone with so much experience, is lacking. Two horribly misplaced passes gave Nigeria dangerous positions to attack from, while it was Mascherano's clumsy challenge that led to Nigeria's equalizing goal from the penalty spot. In his defense, there may be mitigating circumstances. Although a holding midfielder by trade, Mascherano dropped deeper when deployed as a center half for Barcelona over the past few years. Now back in his traditional position, he often appears caught in two minds as to whether to push up as a midfielder does, or stay back more sensibly like a defender. While it does not excuse his poor passing, it may explain some of his confused judgment. FALLEN STARS Angel Di Maria's failure to control a simple pass during a promising counterattack against Nigeria was a sad sight for such a fine talent. As the ball flew off his foot and went out of play, a helpless look formed on Di Maria's face. Long considered one of the world's best wingers, the 30-year-old Paris Saint-Germain player is not living up to his reputation in Russia. He looked despondent when he was taken off against Nigeria with 20 minutes left, his self-confidence glaringly absent. But it is feasible he is still affected by what happened during the season with PSG. Di Maria was PSG's most in-form player heading into the first leg of its Champions League last-16 game against Real Madrid on Feb. 14, but was surprisingly left out entirely by PSG coach Unai Emery. "I was boiling (inside) because I felt I should have played, or at least have come on," Di Maria said. Perhaps his fragile confidence has not been repaired. But Mascherano and Di Maria are not the only big-name players performing well below their best. So is Gonzalo Higuain. The burly striker looked nervous and heavy-legged against Nigeria, blazing a great chance high and wide with the score 1-1 with 10 minutes left. In the end, he was reprieved by Rojo's late winner, but it was not the finish expected of a forward with a combined 267 goals for Real Madrid, Napoli and Juventus. He has 31 for Argentina, too, but tellingly he has not scored in his past eight games for his country. WHERE IS DYBALA? Fans hoping to see Paulo Dybala, one of the brightest attacking talents in soccer, playing in Russia may not get their wish. The 24-year-old forward regularly impresses Juventus fans with his trickery and spectacular goals — scoring 26 times in 46 appearances last season — but for whatever reason, Sampaoli does not seem to need him. With time running out against Nigeria, the coach still did not bring him on, even though Dybala has the skill and imagination to unlock defenses. He has only played once for Argentina all year, and with Sampaoli in charge this does not look like it will change. FRENCH THREAT Although France has yet to find its top form , Argentina's creaking defense will be under threat from its highly rated forwards. Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele are two of the fastest players in the world, while Antoine Griezmann was top scorer at the European Championship two years ago. Imposing striker Olivier Giroud is one of the best headers of the ball around, which gives Sampaoli's back four even more to worry about from crosses, corners and free kicks......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 28th, 2018