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LOOK: Six must-see matches at 2018 World Cup

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

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnDec 2nd, 2017

US OPEN 18: On the clock! 25-second countdown s Slam debut

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press Any discussion of the serve clocks that will make their Grand Slam debut during the U.S. Open's main draw starting Monday, and could become a regular part of tennis as soon as next year, inevitably turns to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. They are two of the greatest players in history — and two of the slowest between points. For one thing, Djokovic's incessant bouncing of the ball before a service toss delays things. So do Nadal's habitual mannerisms: the touching of the nose, the tucking of the hair, the grabbing at the shorts, and on it goes. And while neither was a big fan of introducing digital readouts on court to show the 25-second countdown before each first serve, the two men with a combined 30 Grand Slam singles titles seem ready to accept that they must abide by a change intended to add uniformity to their sport. "I just need to go faster," Nadal said, matter-of-factly. Djokovic's take: "I'm pretty comfortable with it." Both got a chance to see what this new, stricter world will look like during a test run at a handful of hard-court tuneup tournaments over the past month. "Some of the guys might think this is targeted to them," said Gayle Bradshaw, the executive vice president for rules and competition on the men's tour. Referring to Nadal and Djokovic, specifically, Bradshaw added: "They'll adjust. And I think for Rafa, it's going to be a benefit: Him wearing down the other guy." The U.S. Tennis Association, ATP and WTA are tracking what competitors, spectators and TV broadcasters make of the new system. Reviews from players so far have mostly been positive or indifferent, although Serena Williams said she's "not a fan of it at all." "You're aware of it. You certainly look at it and notice it. I do think it's a good thing," said Andy Murray, a three-time major champion. "It's one of those things in tennis that is so stupid: The players were sort of expected to sort of be counting to 25 in their head. ... How are you supposed to know how much time you're actually taking?" Wimbledon semifinalist John Isner and others noted they would step to the line to serve and still have plenty of time — sometimes 10 seconds or more — left, enabling them to catch their breath or think about how to approach the next point. "I didn't feel rushed at all, by any means," Isner said. "Maybe it can slow you down." That might have contributed to one unintended consequence during the three men's tournaments where clocks were used for qualifying and main draws: longer matches. It's a small sample size, and, of course, it's dependent on the particulars of individual contests — nearly 30 percent more matches went to 7-5 or a tiebreaker in the third set in 2018 than 2017 at those events. But third sets lasted an average of 5 minutes longer this year than last year. First sets were nearly 1 1/2 minutes longer this year while second sets were a minute shorter. Servers were warned 74 times and returners received nine warnings at the ATP and WTA tournaments with the clocks. It's possible this setup will become more widespread as soon as 2019; the ATP Board could consider that for the men's tour during its U.S. Open meeting. The amount of time taken between points has been a subject of discussion in tennis for quite a while now, just as other sports are concerned about whether events that take too long are losing viewers in this age of short attention spans and competition for eyeballs (take Major League Baseball's limits on mound visits, time between innings and movement toward a pitch clock). "This just makes it a little more transparent, a little more visible," U.S. Open tournament director David Brewer said. "North American fans are used to shot clocks. They actually expect this sort of thing." There already was a time limit in tennis, but it was entirely up to a chair umpire's discretion, because no one — most importantly players, but also folks in the stands and TV viewers — knew exactly how many seconds had elapsed. Now it will be apparent to everyone, much like a shot clock in the NBA and college basketball or a play clock in the NFL and college football. The serve clocks — along with a strict 7-minute period from when players enter a court until a match begins, also shown on digital readouts — were tested during 2017 U.S. Open qualifying. The basics of the serve clock: After announcing the score, chair umpires start the countdown (they have leeway to wait if a particularly long point merits an extra pause). If the 25 seconds expire before the service motion begins on a first serve, the server will receive a warning, then be assessed a fault for each subsequent violation (second serves are supposed to happen without delay, so clocks won't be used). If the returner isn't ready at the end of 25 seconds, first comes a warning, then the loss of a point with every other violation. The basics of the pre-match period: Clocks will count a minute from when players step on court until the coin toss, 5 minutes for the warmup, then another minute until the opening point. Delays can result in fines of up to $20,000, according to USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier. He said players already have been docked as much as $1,500 during recent tournaments. "The intent is not to fine players. The intent is to get players used to this new procedure and also to truly build consistency," Widmaier said, "so the matches start when they're supposed to start for television and for fans.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 26th, 2018

Ligue 1 2018-19: 5 new signings to watch out for

By Samuel Petrequin, Associated Press PARIS (AP) — Although the transfer window in the French league doesn't close until the end of August, here is the pick of the signings so far ahead of the season starting this weekend: ALEKSANDR GOLOVIN (Monaco) One of the best players at the World Cup was signed by Monaco from CSKA Moscow despite strong interest from Chelsea. With his excellent technique and dribbling skills, 22-year-old Aleksandr Golovin set the tone for a strong showing at the World Cup by setting up two goals and curling in a free kick in Russia's 5-0 opening victory over Saudi Arabia. The midfielder also held his nerve to convert a penalty in the shootout against Spain that sent Russia to the quarterfinals. LUCAS EVANGELISTA (Nantes) Nantes reportedly paid 4 million euros ($4.6 million) to sign Brazilian midfielder Lucas Evangelista from Udinese. It represents good value for the unsung player who was scouted by Manchester United a few years ago when he played for Desportivo Brasil in his home country. Evangelista has struggled to establish himself in Europe but finally came to prominence in Portugal with Estoril, with four goals and four assists last season. After starting his career further up on the field as a forward, the 23-year-old Evangelista is a versatile player who can also play on the wings and has shown some excellent attacking qualities on set pieces. JOSE FONTE (Lille) Portugal defender Jose Fonte will continue his much-traveled career in northern France after signing a two-year deal with Lille. The 34-year-old Fonte started all four games at the World Cup in Russia as Portugal was eliminated by Uruguay in the round of 16. Two years ago, he was a member of the squad which won the European Championship in France. The former Crystal Palace, Southampton and West Ham center back played only a few matches with Chinese club Dalian Yifang this year before terminating his contract. DUJE CALETA-CAR (Marseille) Nine-time champion Marseille bolstered its defense by signing Duje Caleta-Car from Red Bull Salzburg. The 21-year-old Caleta-Car, who played a group game at the World Cup with Croatia, won four Austrian league titles and three national cups with Salzburg. "He is a clever player, who understands football," Marseille sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said. "His very physical skills make him very good in the air, and he has good passing abilities." THEOSON-JORDAN SIEBATCHEU (Rennes) American-born striker Theoson-Jordan Siebatcheu is back among the elite with Rennes after joining from Reims. The 22-year-old center forward was born in Washington but grew up in France, honing his skills at the Reims academy. He moved to the Brittany club on the back of an excellent season, helping his former team back to the top division with 17 goals......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 7th, 2018

EPL 2018-19: 5 new signings to watch out for

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press The transfer window has been shortened in the Premier League and will close on Thursday, before the season starts. Here is the pick of the signings so far: RIYAD MAHREZ (Manchester City) Whether City needed another attacking midfield to complement Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane, David Silva and rising star Phil Foden is open to question. Not that Riyad Mahrez is concerned about that. The Algeria winger might have thought he had missed out on a dream move to the champions when City and Leicester failed to conclude a deal in January for English soccer's Player of the Year in 2015-16. But City maintained its interest, and Mahrez sealed a club-record $80 million move that gives manager Pep Guardiola another attacking option and a player who can operate anywhere behind the striker. Mahrez mostly played on the right wing, cutting in on his favored left foot, but Sterling and Bernardo Silva already feature there. City may opt to use Mahrez centrally as Guardiola looks to manage the 32-year-old David Silva's game time. FRED (Manchester United) Brazil international Fred not only offers United more energy and solidity in central midfield, he also potentially gives a platform for fellow midfielder Paul Pogba to be more expansive and attacking this season. Joining from Shakhtar Donetsk for $66 million, Fred likely will take up a position in midfield alongside anchorman Nemanja Matic and also Pogba, who should play in his preferred place on the left of a central three and have fewer defensive responsibilities. Perhaps that's what United manager Jose Mourinho meant when he talked about Fred giving the team "another dimension." ALISSON (Liverpool) The arrival of Brazil goalkeeper Alisson, who played in all of his team's matches at the World Cup, provides a solution to Liverpool's one obvious weakness, and should mean Juergen Klopp's team is a genuine contender for the Premier League title this season. Loris Karius never felt like he was the long-term answer in goal and his two huge mistakes in the Champions League final against Real Madrid in May proved his undoing. Alisson — at around $85 million — is a definite upgrade, a strong all-around keeper who rarely makes an error leading to a goal. He also is good with his feet, something Klopp demands. Liverpool now has the most expensive goalkeeper in history, along with the game's most expensive defender in Virgil van Dijk and the explosive front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. JORGINHO (Chelsea) Seemingly destined for Manchester City, Jorginho instead ended up at Chelsea for $75 million and is set to be the fulcrum around which new manager Maurizio Sarri bases his high-pressing, high-energy style of play. Jorginho, a Brazilian-born Italy international, is a deep-lying midfield playmaker who had more touches per minute for Napoli than any player in Europe's top five leagues last season. The 26-year-old Jorginho will instigate attacks with his snappy passing from the base of the midfield, allowing the marauding N'Golo Kante to play further forward alongside a more creative central midfielder like Cesc Fabregas or Ross Barkley. RICHARLISON (Everton) A shrewd signing or another example of the madness of the Premier League? Richarlison, a 21-year-old Brazilian, had played only one year in England's top division — he faded badly after Christmas at Watford following a strong first half of the season — when he was signed by Everton last month for a fee that could rise to about $65 million. Clearly, recently hired Everton manager Marco Silva, who coached Richarlison at Watford before getting fired in January, thinks highly of the tall midfielder whose pace and strength got him into promising positions but whose finishing often left him down. Richarlison will compete with Theo Walcott, Yannick Bolasie and Kevin Mirallas but is set to be first choice......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 7th, 2018

Ibrahimovic joins Ronaldo in skipping MLS All-Star Game

By Paul Newberry, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — The MLS All-Star Game will feature one of the world's most storied clubs. Unfortunately for the more than 70,000 fans expected at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Cristiano Ronaldo is not along for the ride. After Portugal's elimination from the World Cup and his transfer from Real Madrid, the five-time FIFA Player of the Year took time off rather than accompany Juventus on its American preseason tour, which includes Wednesday night's game against top players from Major League Soccer. The decision will surely be a disappointment to the big crowd that had hoped Ronaldo would make his unofficial debut while touring the United States with the Italian club that has won seven straight Serie A championships. Juventus acquired the 33-year-old from Real Madrid on July 10 in a deal his new club said was worth 112 million euros ($131.5 million) — the largest for a player older than 30 . Also sitting out the U.S. tour, which includes three other exhibitions, is Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain. He is coming off a scoreless World Cup in which he didn't start in the round of 16 loss to eventual champion France. "Obviously these guys are world-class players," said Atlanta United's Brad Guzan, a goalkeeper for the MLS team. "With or without them, it will be a difficult game. But their names alone bring a lot of attention. It's a shame for everybody on the outside. For me, personally, hopefully it makes for an easier night." Most players take three weeks off after the World Cup. Juventus opens its Serie A schedule at Chievo Verona the weekend of Aug. 18-20 . "We are sorry not to have the Ronaldo, and Higuain as well," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said through a translator. "Unfortunately, they played in the World Cup. They needed some days to rest." Ronaldo and Higuain won't be the only big names missing from the game. One of MLS' top new stars, LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, announced Monday that he's skipping the All-Star match rather than make a cross-country trip to Atlanta. The 36-year-old Swede cited the grind of playing three matches in an eight-day span, including Sunday night's 4-3 victory over Orlando City in which he scored his first MLS hat trick. Ibrahimovic ranks second in MLS with 15 goals. He played with Juventus from 2004-06. "I am disappointed to miss the 2018 All-Star game against Juventus, one of my former clubs," Ibrahimovic said in a statement. "I want to thank the fans for voting me to the team. My main focus is to score goals and help the LA Galaxy to the playoffs." The Galaxy (10-7-5) are unbeaten in nine games and have climbed to third place in the Western Conference. Per MLS rules, Ibrahimovic will also have to sit out LA's next match Saturday against Colorado, one of the league's worst teams. New York City forward David Villa also will skip the All-Star Game after missing six matches with a knee injury. Ibrahimovic and Villa were replaced on the MLS roster by Minnesota forward Darwin Quintero and New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams. Atlanta United coach Gerardo Martino, who will be guiding the MLS team, said the timing of the game does pose problems. "In reality, I recognize it's a little bit of a challenge for coaches who have players participating," Martino said through an interpreter. "Some players are coming from teams where they've played three games (in the last week). Some had a long trip to get here, like from Vancouver. I understand it's a very beautiful spectacle for the league and the United States. But I think what we have to look at in the future is to have it at a different time, either before or after the season. "We have to make sure the players arriving here in good condition are also returning to their teams in good condition." But MLS is eager to show off its most compelling success story. Atlanta shattered the MLS attendance record in its debut season, averaging 48,200 per game, and is on pace to break that mark this year at nearly 52,000 per game. The club already has the five biggest stand-alone crowds in MLS history — each more than 70,000 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The league expects another record crowd for its All-Star Game, breaking the mark of 70,728 in Houston for the 2010 match in which Manchester United defeated the MLS squad 5-2. An extra 1,500 tickets have been put on sale to meet the demand. "It's been fantastic to see the support that the city has given the club," Guzan said. "There's not many cities around the world that have what we have here in Atlanta. I'm happy to have the opportunity to showcase this to everyone.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 31st, 2018

PFF President Nonong Araneta reveals exciting times ahead for Philippine football

Mariano “Nonong” Araneta is pumped up for Philippine football, and it's easy to see why. The Philippine Football Federation president has divulged exciting details of the federation's plans to develop the national training center in the San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite. Plus the Azkals are also getting ready for a busy few months ahead. Araneta is keen on ramping up the federation's partnership with the Manila Jockey Club in SLLP, where the FIFA Artificial Turf Pitch is situated. Already a training ground for youth national teams and club sides, Araneta says that lighting towers will soon be installed that will permit nighttime play. “We are just waiting for AFC because the lights will be bidded out,” Explains Araneta. “Hopefully they will be installed by the end of the year.” The lights will feature an intensity of 900 lux, more than the accepted 800 lux minimum for televised matches. The lights will complement the hundreds of new seats that have already been put in place around the pitch. But that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the PFF has planned for Carmona. “We have spoken to Manila Jockey Club about transferring our headquarters there,” says Araneta. “We are ready to start the bidding and construction.” The PFF is planning to purchase a 3000 sqm parcel of land within the San Lazaro Leisure Park and build a complex with dormitories, classrooms for coaching and referee courses, and a gym. “The funds are ready, initially we will be getting US$1.5 Million from FIFA,” says Araneta, who says the federation will be selling their current building in Pasig to help fund the move. But Araneta says that another option is available, to buy a different 2000 sqm plot of land beside the artificial pitch that is separate from the 3000 sqm parcel. There a grandstand could be constructed, transforming the pitch into a stadium. The headquarters could then be situated under the seating while the other site houses the dorms, classrooms, and gym. More fields are also in the pipeline in the training center. Araneta says that two artificial turf mini-pitches measuring 40 by 20 meters will be made right beside the main pitch. These will also be lighted and can accommodate recreational play and festival competitions. Incredibly, there will be yet another pitch in the training center, a natural grass regulation field within the Manila Jockey Club's racetrack. “That is for our national teams so that if they are set to play on grass, they can train there,” explains Araneta. The middle of the racetrack already has a grass area where football is played. Manila Jockey Club and PFF have yet to decide if the new grass pitch will be a brand new one or if the current surface will be improved. “We want our activities to be there,” declares Araneta. “We have already had coaching seminars there. Schools can also use our facilities. The pitch is there to be used not to be seen,” he adds with a chuckle. Araneta is a former national team player himself and is also optimistic about the near future with the Azkals. The squad is facing two big tournaments in the coming months: the AFF Suzuki Cup in November and December and their maiden appearance in the AFC Asian Cup in January 2019. Araneta says the Azkals will travel to Bahrain during the September FIFA window to play a Bahraini club side, likely on Sept 7, before tangling with the Bahrain national team on September 11. There will also be a FIFA window in October, and Araneta says the Filipinos can enjoy at least one friendly at home. Araneta hopes that Rizal Memorial will still be available before it gets spruced up in preparation for the country's hosting of the 2019 SEA Games. “Our fans will get to watch our new team,” said the president with evident pride. Crunch time begins in November, with the Azkals in a five-team round-robin group with a new home-and-away format. The Philippines will host Singapore in Bacolod's Panaad Stadium on November 13 before playing either Brunei or Timor Leste away four days later. The two ASEAN minnows will square off in a two-legged qualifying series in September to to determine who makes the group stage. On November 21 the Azkals entertain Thailand in Panaad in what promises to be a mouthwatering contest, before closing their group stage against Indonesia, probably in Jakarta, on November 25. The semis will run from December 1 to 6, with the two-legged finals being held on the 11th and 15th. After a quick Christmas break the team jets off to the Middle East on December 26, where final preparations for the Asian Cup will commence in earnest. There are plans to play in Qatar against either a club team or their national side, and then perhaps a game in Kuwait before the team goes to the United Arab Emirates. The group schedule is as follows: January 7 against Korea Republic in Dubai, January 11 versus China in Abu Dhabi, then January 16 against Kyrgyzstan in Dubai. The top two will advance to the knockout round, but the Philippines can also sneak through as one of the better third-placers. But the senior national team isn't the only competition Pinoy football fans can focus on this year. The boys U15 national team were in action while the U16 girls play in an AFC competition. The U19 men also played in the AFF U19 Championship, where they beat Singapore 2-1. The senior ladies team also notched a win against the Lion City in their AFF tournament. Araneta says the very successful PFF Women's League from last year will be run again, and that the PFF also plans a youth league. Both will be partly funded by FIFA. Of course the Philippines Football League will continue, with a League and Cup phase. The realization of these plans will be one of the achievements of Araneta's presidency. Another will be his membership in the 33-person FIFA Council, which acts as a board of directors of the organization. Araneta was recently in Russia to watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup along with other council members. Araneta is one of six Asians in the FIFA Council, alongside members from China, Malaysia, Korea Republic, Bahrain, and Bangladesh. He is the first Filipino to serve in this level of leadership in FIFA. The Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo native freely explains the benefit the country can enjoy from this connection. According to Araneta “we have firsthand information on funding, and the Philippines is part of the body that will decide on what's best for football.” He says that in the next cycle of FIFA funding he might be able to acquire an additional US$ 2 million for the development of the training center. The PFF President also enjoys the inside track when it comes to acquiring development funds from the Asian Football Confederation, since he also serves as the Chairman of the AFC Finance Committee. “All budgets pass through us. We know the funding, the revenues. We know when to ask for projects. Like the lights in Carmona, that was approved by the AFC development committee,” continues Araneta. But being part of the FIFA Council is not all glitz and glamor, confesses Araneta. He mentioned a recent Council meeting in Bogota, Colombia, that necessitated an arduous 33-hour trip through Europe for a stay that lasted just two days. Sometimes deliberations in FIFA meetings can stretch for as long as six hours. Immediately after the Bogota confab he jetted off to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for another meeting. “It's no joke,” says Araneta, who is 64 years old. But the former striker and defender has no complaints and reveals his motivation to keep on going at the job. “I went to the Youth Football League. I visited the Allianz National Youth Futsal Invitational. You see the kids playing there, you see kids play everywhere. The enthusiasm of the players is what keeps me going.” - RELEASE.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 18th, 2018

Money matches: Five who could be next for Pacquiao

Philippines' Manny Pacquiao attends the weigh-in in Kuala Lumpur on July 14, 2018, ahead of his world welterweight boxing championship bout against Argentina's Lucas Matthysse on July 15......»»

Category: newsSource:  philippinetimesRelated NewsJul 16th, 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

World Cup™ Final: France v Croatia to air live on S+A, Liga on Sunday

Filipinos will watch with the entire world as France and Croatia battle for football supremacy in the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ with the live broadcast of the competition’s final match this Sunday (July 15) at 11 pm on ABS-CBN S+A on free TV and LIGA on cable, with livestreaming on sports.abs-cbn.com. The Battle for Third between England and Belgium will also be aired and streamed live this Saturday (July 14) at 10 pm. Both matches will be shown on high definition on S+A HD and LIGA HD. France took the first spot in the final after beating Belgium last Wednesday (July 11) with the score of 1-0 courtesy of Samuel Umtiti’s second-half header. Croatia followed suit on Thursday (July 12) with Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic leading them to a comeback victory in extra time over England, which scored early in the match off Kieran Trippier’s free kick. Local football fans and Philippine-based football aficionados have been able to watch and follow the action in the biggest single-event sporting event in the world through official broadcasters S+A and LIGA, sports channels of ABS-CBN, the country’s leading media and entertainment company. ABS-CBN Sports head Dino Laurena said offering this world-class tournament to the Filipino audience is part of the organization’s advocacy to promote sports development in the country. “Football is the most popular sport in the world where some of the greatest athletes in history have played and are currently playing. We believe that Filipinos have the talent to make a mark in this sport and we hope that through exposing our viewers to topnotch football action, we also encourage them to learn to love what is known all over the globe as the beautiful game,” he said. Don’t miss the Battle for Third between Belgium and England at this Saturday (July 14) at 10 pm and the World Cup Final between France and Croatia followed by the Awarding Ceremony on Sunday (July 15) at 11 pm LIVE on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and via livestreaming on sports.abs-cbn.com/livestream/2018FIFAWorldCup. For more information and stories, visit ABS-CBN’s sports hub sports.abs-cbn.com and follow ABS-CBN Sports on Facebook and Twitter. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 13th, 2018

Salah, Neymar, Messi, messy, messy: World Cup stars stifled

By Mauricio Saverese, Associated Press SARANSK, Russia (AP) — With nagging injuries, heavy marking from opponents and some simply uninspired play, the top stars of the 2018 World Cup have struggled to deliver on the impossible expectations they carried into the tournament, with one prominent Portuguese exception. Aside from Cristiano Ronaldo, who has all four of Portugal's goals in its two games, many of the biggest names are off to a shaky start. No one has had rougher treatment from the opposition than the world's priciest player, Neymar. During Brazil's opening 1-1 draw with Switzerland, the 26-year-old was fouled 10 times, the highest number on a single player in a single match since the 1998 World Cup, when England's Alan Shearer took 11 challenges against Tunisia. Overall, Switzerland fouled Brazil 19 times , with little intervention from the referee, and it worked — especially on Neymar. Brazilians suggested their opponents were too violent; Swiss midfielder Gelson Fernandes thinks Neymar has another problem. "He just falls too much," Fernandes said after the game in Rostov-on-Don. "Out of these 10, only seven or eight were fouls. We have to stop their star, and he is the star." Neymar felt the effects of the Swiss strategy long after Sunday's match ended, limping out of training Tuesday as he continues to recover from a foot injury he picked up before the tournament. He trained Wednesday and was confirmed as a starter for the match against Costa Rica on Friday. Superstar Lionel Messi did face heavy marking too, but he also had two uninspired performances for Argentina, which is now on the verge of early elimination after a 3-0 defeat against Croatia. Throughout the matches against Iceland and Croatia, disciplined defenders and midfielders stopped Messi from making his famous runs and getting one-on-one chances. Against Iceland, Messi saw his penalty spot kick saved by goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson, and the game ended 1-1. Against Croatia, he crumbled with the rest of the team, which now desperately needs to beat Nigeria in the last round of group stage to have a chance of advancing to the next phase. "Messi is human," Aguero said after the Iceland match. "Sometimes things happen for a reason. We need to be with him. This was a bad day, but he can decide a match at any given moment. Hope he is better against Croatia." Croatia was taking note. "You can't stop him with one player, you have to defend like a team. You saw that with Iceland," defender Dejan Lovren said ahead of the Argentina clash late Thursday. Egypt striker Mohamed Salah set a Premier League scoring record for Liverpool and held all the hopes for a deep run by the Pharaohs in their return to the World Cup, until he injured his shoulder playing for Liverpool in the Champions League final in a clash with Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos, of Spain. Salah sat out the opening 1-0 loss to Uruguay in Yekaterinburg, with coach Hector Cuper hoping to have him fit for Egypt's second match, against Russia. He made his World Cup debut in St. Petersburg and scored from the penalty spot, but only after the hosts led by three goals, and his mobility was clearly affected. He barely touched the ball in the first half and avoided physical contact with Russian defenders during the entire game, and Egypt was eliminated with one match left to play. Ronaldo isn't entirely alone in starting strong. Diego Costa has three of Spain's four goals, Harry Kane has both of England's, and Luka Modric scored one goal and set up the other in Croatia's 2-0 win over Nigeria. And there's plenty of time for others to turn things around. Kylian Mbappe, the 19-year-old striker at the center of the second-most expensive transfer in history, managed just one chance in France's 2-1 win over Australia in Kazan, but scored Thursday against Peru in front of an empty net. His famous runs and dribbles, however, were blocked by Australia's physical game. It's early, and the tournament has seen plenty of stellar play from lesser-known players, but many of the star scorers have work to do......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 21st, 2018

PBA: Stanley Pringle awarded first POW for Comm s Cup

Fil-American guard Stanley Pringle chalked up his first Cignal-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week award following his scintillating performance in GlobalPort’s king-sized upset of defending champion San Miguel Beer. The shifty guard out of Penn State churned out all-around numbers of 22 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals, leading the Batang Pier to a 98-94 win over the Beermen last Wednesday. Pringle, fresh from representing the Philippines in the recent 2018 FIBA 3x3 World Cup, saved his best in the final period when he scored eight points, grabbed two rebounds and made a crucial steal that led to a Mo Tautuaa basket in the dying seconds to seal GlobalPort’s fourth win in eight matches. GlobalPort is currently tied for fifth to sixth spots with SMB with the PBA Commissioner’s Cup elimination round heading to its last three weeks. Pringle's sterling effort enabled him to seal his first weekly citation this conference, beating Meralco’s Jared Dillinger and KG Canaleta, Rain or Shine’s James Yap and Beau Belga and Ginebra playmaker LA Tenorio. GlobalPort will have two big games coming up this week, starting with Phoenix on Wednesday, before facing Columbian Dyip two days later—the results of which could determine their playoff fate in the mid-season conference. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 18th, 2018

ABS-CBN S+A, Liga to broadcast the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

Filipino football fans are in for the biggest treat of their lives as they can watch the much-anticipated 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ LIVE on TV and online through ABS-CBN Integrated Sports’ channels and website starting June 14 at 11 pm, when Russia takes on Saudi Arabia in the opener. All 64 matches of the tournament will be aired, with 56 matches shown LIVE and 8 matches shown on Delay on cable TV via LIGA and LIGA HD, while ABS-CBN S+A and S+A HD will carry over 30 matches including the Semifinal and Final matches. All matches will also be available via livestreaming on sports.abs-cbn.com/2018FIFAWorldCup. Check out the full telecast schedule:  Those who will miss the games can watch updates and highlights in the special edition of “The Score” that will air daily for the duration of the competition. Respected football analysts, former and current pro and collegiate football players, and celebrity football enthusiasts will join anchors Mico Halili and Anton Roxas in the show. Everyone is looking forward to see if the German national squad, which demolished Brazil in the semifinal of the 2014 World Cup 7-1, and claimed the title with a 1-nil victory over Argentina in the Final, can dominate the competition once more given how loaded the squad is for the 2018 edition. However, fans can also expect stiff competition from teams such as Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, Leo Messi’s Argentina, Harry Kane’s England, Eden Hazard’s Belgium and Antoine Griezmann’s France. As the official broadcasters of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, S+A and LIGA continue the mission of ABS-CBN Integrated Sports in giving Filipinos the best in sports entertainment. Ahead of the June 14 kick-off, fans have been enjoying World Cup qualifiers on LIGA and S+A and a special “Road to Russia” coverage airing every Friday on “The Score.” Viewers have also seen some of the world’s top players in S+A’s live airings of English Premier League, La Liga, and UEFA Champions League matches. With the telecast of the grandest tournament of the “beautiful game,” ABS-CBN’s sports arm hopes to further strengthen Filipinos’ passion for the number one sport in the world. Don’t miss top-notch world football action as the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia final fires off on June 14, LIVE from Russia on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and via livestreaming on sports.abs-cbn.com at 11 pm. For more information and stories, visit ABS-CBN’s sports hub sports.abs-cbn.com and follow ABS-CBN Sports on Facebook and Twitter......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 5th, 2018

Business of Football - Philippines highlights football s growth in the country

MANILA -  The recent success of The Azkals, with their Asian Cup qualification, and their FIFA ranking at its highest at 111, has given football a renewed confidence, and a positive outlook in terms of the growth of the sport in the Philippines.   Football is now tipped to become the fastest growing sport in the country, with the largest potential for success commercially, and in terms of on-pitch success.  The sport which is currently number 3 in the Philippines in terms of popularity and participation, after basketball and boxing, is said to be still further behind compared to other sports, such as volleyball, billiards, etc., in terms of TV coverage. These were among the insights and trends gathered from top-notch executives of organizations such as AFC, PFF, PFL, LaLiga, Dentsu X, SMG Insight, Globe Telecom, RSportz, Toby Sports and Manila Times, at the ‘Business of Football - Philippines’, organized by MMC Sportz.  The sold-out event was attended by more than 185 local and foreign delegates on 18 May 2018 at the New World Makati Hotel.   MMC Sports CEO Eric Gottschalk says, “Research in this market, shows that TV is still the number one platform here in the Philippines, and is the number one medium that advertisers are looking for, to spend their budgets on.  We also learned that live TV coverage actually stimulates stadium attendance, and not vice versa.  If there’s more football on TV, we will see more fans in the stadium.  Currently football is not ranked among the top 100 TV programmers in the Philippines and is only number 3 sport in terms of participation and popularity after basketball and boxing.  Football needs media in order to drive commercial revenues for the clubs.”   “Now is also the perfect time to get involved in football since sponsorship and advertising opportunities are currently very affordable compared for example to basketball, but this is predicted to change within the next 6-12 months, as values are expected to increase sharply.  Football also needs to create more idols and heroes to attract more media coverage overall, other than just covering game scores. Each team has a unique story which just needs to be told,” says Gottschalk. Following the presentation about the Philippines Football League (PFL) it was agreed that the PFL now fills the lack of regular created football content as the leagues matches (87 in 2018/19 season) contribute year-round stories to keep football in the news. In the past, the main talking points were around the Azkals which only play very few home matches each year.      Public education about the game of football is also needed on all levels as many people in the Philippines are still not aware about the rules or aware of programs available like coaching academies, amateur competitions, or how and where to follow the professional league.  Ten thousand (10,000) qualified grassroots coaches are also needed to satisfy the local demand and to trigger strong football development and growths. Investors on the other hand are looking for consistency and credibility of the football product but with the PFL in the second season and foreign sponsors expected to invest in the Philippines, local brands should consider to follow suit.  On the sports retail side, only 1.5% of current retail sales are attributed to football, while basketball enjoys a healthy 46% market share. As a result, only limited line items and stocks are available in stores and entry level boots and replica jerseys are too high priced to be affordable for the average consumer. The national player registration program, MY PFF, has been launched with the objective to collect vital statistics and data about the football community which is urgently needed to support the youth football development strategy of the PFF and to develop a players pathway.  As FIFA has mandated to register the estimated 1.5 million players in the Philippines, the PFF has urged organizers and players to already register online as by next month only registered players will be allowed to participate in sanctioned events. The “Business of Football – Philippines” conference also announced 36 career opportunities related to sports and football, including positions in marketing, legal, competition management and coaching, with all these listing being available online with MMC Sportz or for direct inquiries with the PFF. In his closing remarks, MMC Sportz CEO Eric M. Gottschalk stated that “More importantly, Don’t Break the 12th Man! It is important that all stakeholders don’t forget to engage with the fans. The fans are the most important aspect of the development of football in the Philippines – if there are no fans of football then there is no media, no spectators, no players, no games, no business. Everyone is required to ensure we keep the fans (football consumers) engaged year-long and the first step would be to get the media behind the game. There is a strong football - community out there already and hopefully, we the TV broadcasters will take another look at football and give them at least some consideration on the program schedule.  I believe today’s conference was a great success.  We brought the football community together, stimulated thinking, exchanged ideas and transferred a lot of knowledge. Now it is up to the football stakeholders to continue the progress.  From our end (and with the approval of the PFF) we will stage the 2nd edition of BOF early 2019 and hopefully we will be able to report on some of the changes initiated today.”    Speakers who shared their insights include LaLiga Managing Director for South East Asia, Japan, Korean and Australia Ivan Codina, AFC Head of MA Services Domeka Garamendi, SMG Insight Managing Director Frank Saez, Azkals Team Manager Dan Palami, Globe Director for OIC, Citizenship and Advocacy Marketing Miguel Bermundo, PFL CEO Lazarus Xavier, PFF General Secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes, Ignite Sports Group Managing Director Michael Reyes,  Asian Replica Designs Founder & Owner Jonathan Mallinson, Quorum Group President & COO Jose Claudio, Jr., Mediapro Asia Director of Sales and Sponsorship Salauddin Sinnakandu, and MMC Sportz Marketing CEO Eric Gottschalk.  Organized by MMC Sportz Asia, the event was sanctioned by the Asia Football Confederation (AFC) and the Philippines Football Federation (PFF), and sponsored by La Liga, Dentsu X, SMG Insight, RSportz, Globe Telecom, Toby’s Sports, Manila Times and Platinumlist. - RELEASE  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 22nd, 2018

ONE Championship: Pinoy MMA legend Andrew Benibe to be in Rome Trinidad s corner in Jakarta

Filipina warrior Rome “Rebel” Trinidad will walk to the ONE Championship cage on Saturday, May 12 with a mixed martial arts legend by her side. Andrew Benibe, a household name in the established local mixed martial arts scene in the Philippines, will be part of the entourage of Trinidad as she is scheduled to square off with hometown hero Priscilla Hertati Lumban Gaol on the undercard of ONE: GRIT AND GLORY in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was a bitter pill to swallow for a young and dedicated cage competitor like Trinidad when she yielded to Thai standout Rika Ishige in her promotional debut this past December. Trinidad suffered a second-round submission loss to Ishige at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD in the Thai dynamo’s homebase of Bangkok, failing to ace her maiden assignment under the ONE Championship banner. Although the thrilling atomweight bout against Ishige put fans at the state-of-the-art Impact Arena on the edge of their seats, Trinidad was left disappointed with the outcome of the match. “I believe that I could have done better in that match, but I came up short. I just realized that there was something missing,” she admitted. “It was my first time to fight internationally, and I lost. It gave me motivation to keep going, get better, and be more aggressive. Most of all, it taught me to be humble in all aspects of my life,” Trinidad added. The submission defeat to Ishige forced Trinidad to reassess on how she handles her training camp when she prepares for an upcoming bout. During her time of contemplation, Trinidad found a much-needed help in Benibe, a former Philippine bantamweight champion who currently works a mixed martial arts trainer at Maic’s Gym in Marikina City. “Right now, I have a tremendous support system in my training, especially with the help of my coach Andrew Benibe. He knows how to bring out the best in me,” Trinidad said of Benibe. Having 17 professional bouts under his belt, Benibe has been a staple of the Philippine mixed martial arts circuit since 2006 and has shared the stage with the industry’s notable figures such as Mark Eddiva, Jessie Rafols, Will Chope, Reysaldo Transmonte and Mark Striegl. Moreover, Benibe made a one-off appearance inside the ONE Championship cage when he took on Team Lakay’s Honorio Banario at the organization’s first event on Philippine soil in August 2012. Now sitting on the coach’s stool to oversee Trinidad’s training, Benibe claimed that his pupil is ready for anything as they have been working on all elements of the game in preparation of her cage encounter with Gaol. “We have trained her for both stand-up and grappling in anticipation of anything,” he shared. “But whatever the condition, Rome Trinidad’s best bet is a stand-up game and finishing the match with striking.” The partnership between Trinidad and Benibe will be tested for the very first time as the Filipina combatant returns to action on Saturday to face the hot-streaking Gaol at ONE: GRIT AND GLORY. Gaol has won two-straight matches to kick off her 2018, defeating Malaysia’s Audreylaura Boniface via first-round stoppage last January before submitting Filipina newcomer Krisna Limbaga a month later. The 21-year-old Marikina City resident seeks to make an astonishing statement in her second ONE Championship outing as she battles Gaol at ONE: GRIT AND GLORY. “I want to win so bad. I have dreams and aspirations as a competitor. In order to turn those into a reality, I have to win first. This is the first step,” she stated. With the desire to reinsert her name into the winner’s column, Trinidad is confident that her support system has geared her up splendidly for her three-round clash with Gaol on Saturday “I have the best coach in my corner. I trained with the most talented athletes in the sport for this bout. With that said, I’m oozing with confidence coming into this match because I have my team behind me,” she concluded......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 7th, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Yekaterinburg, on the border of Europe and Asia

By James Ellingworth, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — On the boundary between Europe and Asia, the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg is the furthest east World Cup fans will venture. It may not be out in Siberia, but Yekaterinburg is a long way to travel. It is 880 miles (1,416 kilometers) east of Moscow, roughly the distance from London to Rome, or from New York to Missouri. If you're using the free World Cup train service, be ready to make friends with fellow passengers — Yekaterinburg is about 26 hours from Moscow. Here's what you need to know about the city: THE STADIUM The first thing you will notice about the Yekaterinburg Arena are two vast temporary stands built high out of the main bowl of the stadium on towers of scaffolding. Accounts from the test games played at the stadium say being in the top row is a vertigo-inducing experience. The stands are there because officials wanted to preserve the stadium's 1950s facade and save on maintenance costs. After the tournament, the stands will go, dropping capacity from 35,000 to 25,000. There's a prison across the road, too, but it's been redecorated to make it less obvious to visitors. WHAT TO KNOW Yekaterinburg is less than 300 years old and was a springboard for the Russian Empire's colonization of Central Asia. After the Russian Revolution ousted the monarchy, Czar Nicholas II and his family were exiled to Yekaterinburg by their Soviet captors and later shot dead in a basement. July 17 will see commemorations of the 100-year anniversary of their deaths. WHAT TO DO Adventurous fans can use Yekaterinburg as a jumping-off point to explore the Urals or head further east into the Asian part of Russia. In the city, take in some elegant Czarist-era architecture or sample Russian craft beer. Yekaterinburg was one of the first cities to embrace the craft craze with tasty IPAs. World Cup matches will be shown on a big screen in Mayakovsky Park in the center of the city. GAMES TO WATCH Yekaterinburg will host four matches at the World Cup, all in the group stage. Egypt and Uruguay will meet on June 15 in Group A, before France comes to town on June 21 to face Peru in Group C. Next up will be Japan and Senegal in Group H on June 24, and then Mexico against Sweden in Group F on June 27......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Since 2014 highs, a struggle for Colombia, James

By Jairo Anchique, Associated Press BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia has a lot to live up to in Russia after providing one of the standout moments of the last World Cup. James Rodriguez was catapulted to football stardom when he took the ball on his chest and swiveled before smashing a volley in off the underside of the bar in the Maracana against Uruguay. It helped to secure Colombia's spot in the quarterfinals in 2014 — and ultimately a move to Real Madrid. But James has struggled to live up to the highs of Brazil, where he scored a tournament-leading six goals. He struggled to make an impact in Spain and has been trying to regain form ahead of this World Cup at Bayern Munich. It was a struggle, too, for Colombia to even qualify for a second straight World Cup with a spot only sealed in the last match. It enables Radamel Falcao to finally appear at football's biggest event after missing the trip to Brazil with a left knee injury. Here's a closer look at the Colombia team: COACH Jose Pekerman has spent six years in charge of Colombia, following successes with his native Argentina. He guided Argentina to under-20 world titles in 1995, 1997 and 2001 and then guided the senior squad to the 2006 World Cup quarterfinals, where it lost to host Germany in a penalty shootout. Pekerman has long had close ties to Colombia: He played with Independiente Medellin in the 1970s and Vanessa, his eldest daughter, was born in the capital in 1975. GOALKEEPERS David Ospina is the undisputed choice to top the team sheet, despite being restricted to playing in cup competitions for Arsenal while Petr Cech starts English Premier League matches. Camilo Vargas, who plays for Deportivo Cali in Colombia, is Ospina's understudy, just like at the 2014 World Cup. Jose Fernando Cuadrado, who also plays at home for Once Caldas, is also set to make the cut. DEFENDERS Pekerman has been forced to reshape the defense due to the retirement of Mario Alberto Yepes and the trio of Pablo Armero, Camilo Zuniga and Carlos Valdes losing form and fitness. But quality center backs have broken through: Yerry Mina of Barcelona, Oscar Murillo of Mexican side Pachuca and Davinson Sanchez of Tottenham. Cristian Zapata is set for a second World Cup, along with right back Santiago Arias. Frank Fabra has taken the place of Armero on the left. MIDFIELD James, Juan Cuadrado of Juventus and Carlos Sanchez of Fiorentina are set for a second World Cup. Edwin Cardona, Mateus Uribe, Wilmar Barrios, Giovanni Moreno and Juan Fernando Quintero are other options. The goals of the flyers were vital when the attackers spent about a year without converting. FOWARDS Falcao is the only striker who looks certain of a starting spot while Duvan Zapata, Luis Fernando Muriel, Carlos Bacca, Miguel Angel Borja, Duvan Zapata and Yimmi Chara are competing for the remaining places. Pekerman tends to go for a lone strike either in 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 formations. GROUP GAMES Colombia opens Group H on June 19 against Japan, plays the second game near its Kazan base against Poland on June 24, and concludes against Senegal on June 28......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 2nd, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Tunisia reorganizes after loss of Msakni

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 1st, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Germany gets reality check before defense

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Argentina s destiny tied to Messi

By Debora Rey, Associated Press BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Without Lionel Messi, would Argentina even be going to the World Cup? The team’s destiny is more closely tied to the Barcelona forward than ever before. There are plenty of doubts for coach Jorge Sampaoli ahead of the tournament in Russia. Defender Javier Mascherano is reaching the end of his career, while striker Sergio Aguero and midfielder Lucas Biglia both experienced injury problems recently. Paulo Dybala is yet to deliver for his country despite all the promise on display at Juventus. Much of the squad also carries the burden of mass disappointment, following three successive losses in finals: the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Copa America and 2016 Copa America Centenario. Argentina secured its spot in Russia in the last round of South American qualifiers thanks to Messi’s hat trick against Ecuador. The deficiencies in the team were underscored in a 6-1 loss to Spain in a friendly in March. Here’s a closer look at the Argentina team: COACH The 58-year-old Sampaoli took over in June 2017 to replace Edgardo Bauza when Argentina was on the verge of missing a World Cup spot. Sampaoli was never a footballer and didn’t manage a first division club at home, developing his career in Peru and then Chile. His success at Universidad de Chile pushed him to the Chilean national team in 2012. At the 2014 World Cup, Sampaoli’s Chile reached the round of 16 but lost to host Brazil on penalties. But a year later, Chile won its first-ever title while hosting the Copa America. Sampaoli’s first experience in European football came with Sevilla in 2016, but he quickly left to carry Argentina to the World Cup in its last four games of the South American qualifiers. Drawing inspiration from Marcelo Bielsa, Sampaoli likes his teams to attack as a block to impose their superiority. But Argentina is still to implement his style after 10 matches. GOALKEEPERS Sergio Romero was set to be Argentina’s No. 1 in his third World Cup. But River Plate’s Franco Armani has become a competitor. Although Romero has World Cup experience, being David de Gea’s understudy at Manchester United hasn’t given him much playing time. Armani has not played for Argentina, but is now a people’s favorite at home. The team’s other options are Nahuel Guzman (Tigres, Mexico) and Wilfredo Caballero (Chelsea). DEFENDERS Manchester City center back Nicolas Otamendi is the only player assured of a spot in the backline, with a likely partner in Roma’s Federico Fazio. Marcos Rojo (Manchester United) and Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton) are still improving after being sidelined with knee injuries. Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla) and Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisboa) are ahead in the preferences to be on the right and left flanks, respectively, with Fabricio Bustos (Independiente) and Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax) behind. MIDFIELDERS Until the dismal loss to Spain, Sampaoli’s preferred option in the center was Lucas Biglia, but the AC Milan player will be racing to be fit for the World Cup after injuring his back. Biglia’s injury raises the stakes for veteran Javier Mascherano, who will go to his fourth World Cup at the age of 33. The lack of better options should present opportunities to Ever Banega (Sevilla) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham). Giovani Lo Celso (Paris Saint-Germain), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica), Maximiliano Meza (Independiente) and Matias Kranevitter (Zenit) could also feature. FORWARDS Expect Messi and Angel Di Maria to make the team sheet. Aguero is expected to be center forward, but Sampaoli has to consider other options since the Manchester City forward injured his knee. Juventus’ Gonzalo Higuain is an option, but he was wasteful in the three finals Argentina lost. Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi could make it to the squad due to the doubts over Aguero. Juventus’ Dybala has never recovered from saying it was hard for him to play with the best player in the world. Sampaoli now considers him as a natural replacement for Messi or a potential No. 9. GROUP GAMES Based in the Moscow region, Argentina opens its Group D campaign in the capital against Iceland on June 16. Then there’s a trip to Nizhny Novgorod to play Croatia on June 21, followed by a meeting with Nigeria in St. Petersburg on June 26......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 28th, 2018

Bertens powers past Goerges to win Volvo Car Open

By Pete Iacobelli, Associated Press CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Kiki Bertens felt fortunate to escape a tough semifinal match with a victory Sunday morning. She wasn't going to let things get so tight later on in the biggest match of her career. Bertens of the Netherlands overpowered Germany's Julia Goerges to cap a long, chilly Sunday at the Volvo Car Open with a 6-2, 6-1 victory for her fourth career WTA title and third of the past 11 months. Bertens made it to the final by outlasting American Madison Keys as the WTA's first clay-court event of the season had to double up on play after rain Saturday washed out most of the semifinals. Bertens was nearly ousted by Keys, saving a match point in the third set before prevailing in tiebreaker, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5). Preparing for Goerges several hours later, Bertens thought, "OK, you could already have lost this morning, so just give everything and try to go for it," she said. "And yeah, now I'm here with the trophy." Perhaps the most important one of the 26-year-old's career. Bertens, ranked 27th in the world, had won titles last May in Nuremberg, Germany and the Swiss Open against fields not nearly as loaded with top players as here. Bertens had gone 0-15 against top-20 opponents in 2018 entering Sunday before defeating Keys (ranked 14th) and Goerges (ranked 13th) in the space of about eight hours. "I'm just so happy and proud, I think, of myself," Bertens said. "It's a great start of the clay court season, and yeah, hopefully still more to come." Goerges figured to be the fresher finalist, needing only about 25 minutes to finish off her semi with Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova, which was tied at 4-all in the opening set Saturday before the rain came. But it was Bertens, ranked 27th in the world, who showed fire and drive on center court in the finals. She broke Goerges' serve twice to take a 3-1 lead and never let up. When Goerges sailed her shot long on match point, Bertens threw her racquet in the air and held her arms up high in celebration of her latest title. Bertens had in Nuremberg, Germany, last May and the Swiss Open in Gstaad last July. But she had a slow start to 2018 with only four match wins before winning all six of her matches here. Bertens, 26, put things away early as she broke Goerges' serve three times to win the opening set 6-2. Bertens had a run of seven straight games before Goerges, urged on by the crowd that may not have wanted to see the tournament end, took a game to delay the celebration. Among Bertens' prizes was two-year use of one of Volvo's luxury cars. The manufacturer is constructing a new auto plant about 25 miles west of Charleston. She got to design her new vehicle on court during the trophy presentation. "It went so fast," Bertens said about the selection. "It was like, 'Oh, what do I want? Can I still change it?' No, but it was really fun." Goerges, who had played crisply most of the week, figured to be the fresher finalist after finishing her semifinal win over Sevastova. But Goerges was beset by uncharacteristic errors that seemed to give Bertens more energy. "I think that semifinal took a lot of mental effort out of me," Goerges said. In the fourth game, Goerges reached the net in plenty of time for a simple drop shot with Bertens back by the baseline but pushed the shot into to the cord on the way to losing her serve. Down 5-2 and serving, Goerges double faulted twice in a row to get broken a final time in the set. Goerges thought she had done well all week finding answers when pressed by opponents. She came up empty against Bertens, however. "But at the end what's counting is that you find a solution to get, yeah, to get going and to get playing well," Goerges said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 9th, 2018

Cocolife weathers Silva s 56-point explosion

Games Tuesday: (Filoil Flying V Centre) 4:15 p.m. – Petron vs Cocolife 7:00 p.m. – F2 Logistics vs Foton   BATANGAS CITY --- Cocolife survived Smart’s Cuban reinforcement Gigi Silva’s 56 points to secure a quarterfinals twice-to-beat advantage after a hard-fought, 25-23, 25-21, 27-29, 19-25, 16-14, win Saturday in the 2018 Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix Saturday at the Batangas City Sports Center here. The Asset Managers improved to 6-3 win-loss record while handing the Giga Hitters their ninth loss in as many outings.    Serbian import Sara Klisura finished with 35 points for Cocolife while American reinforcement Taylor Milton had 20 markers. Silva pounded 53 kills and had three aces in a lost cause but landed her name in the fourth spot in the women’s world scoring record behind Polina Rahimova of Azerbaijan’s 58 points in 2015 while playing in Japan, American Madison Kingdon’s 57 (2017 Korea Volleyball League) and Bulgarian Elitsa Vasileva’s 57 (2013 Korea Volleyball League).  Silva also surpassed the 55 points of Americans Nicole Fawcett (2013 KVL) and Alaina Bergsma, who led Petron to the 2014 PSL Grand Prix crown, (2016 KVL).           Meanwhile, Foton uncorked a strong finishing kick to complete a masterful 25-21, 25-17, 21-25, 25-20 victory over Generika-Ayala. American import Channon Thompson and Dindin Manabat delivered the crucial blows to spearhead the Tornadoes to this impressive win that gave them a twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals. Petron and F2 Logistics, who both fashion an 8-1 card, clinched the first two quarterfinal incentives. A mid-conference replacement to American Brooke Kranda, Thompson flaunted her scoring prowess as she tallied 20 kills, six aces and a block for 27 points while Manabat chipped in 10 kills, three blocks and an ace for 14 points to star for the Tornadoes, who notched their fifth win in nine matches. Also making her presence felt was Canadian import Elizabeth Wendel, who punched 12 hits, while Serbian Katarina Vukamanovic shone in the backline with 17 of the Tornadoes’ 47 excellent digs. Pulling off an impressive win, however, didn’t come easy. After cruising to easy victories in the first two sets, the Tornadoes found themselves in trouble as Darlene Ramdin of Trinidad and Tobago and American Symone Hayden discovered their groove before watching them fall into a maze of errors in the crucial stretch of the third set. Ramdin, who played with Thompson in the Trinidad and Tobago national team, continued her inspired performance as the Lifesavers forged a 7-7 knot before the first technical timeout of the fourth set. But after the 19-all count, Thompson and Manabat sparked a spiking spree to out the Tornadoes at match point, 24-19. Although Manabat committed a service error in the ensuing play, Foton couldn’t be denied as Hayden’s attack went long for the final count. Ramdin delivered 21 hits while Hayden had 13 points for the Lifesavers, who will enter into their final game of the classifications with a 2-7 mark......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 7th, 2018