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Portugal keeps winning in Nations League without Ronaldo

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — No Cristiano Ronaldo, no problem. European champion Portugal sparkled on Thursday despite the absence of its star forward, defeating Poland to move a step closer to the last four of the UEFA Nations League. In two friendly games, Kylian Mbappe scored late to salvage a 2-2 draw for the world champions at home to Iceland, while two-goal Paco Alcacer helped Spain rout Wales 4-1 in Cardiff as the team claimed a third win in a row under new coach Luis Enrique. With young Sevilla striker Andre Silva scoring again, Portugal won 3-2 in Chorzow to take control of Group 3 of the top-tier League A in Europe's newest competition. Portugal now has six points from two games, five points ahead of Poland and Italy. Only the group winner advances to June's last four. A draw between Poland and Italy in Chorzow on Sunday will guarantee Portugal as the group winner. Portugal plays a friendly in Scotland the same day. "Overall we dominated," Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. "Poland started well and scored, but we were able to take control and were deserved winners." It was Portugal's third straight game without Ronaldo, who hasn't played an international since his transfer from Real Madrid to Juventus in the summer. Ronaldo has also been the recent subject of rape allegations. The 33-year-old forward denies any wrongdoing. Genoa striker Krzysztof Piatek, Serie A's leading scorer, gave Poland an 18th-minute lead with his first international goal. The visitors equalized with a close-range effort from Silva after a pass from Pizzi Fernandes in the 32nd. It was his seventh goal in Portugal's last six competitive away games. Portugal made it 2-1 just before halftime with an own goal from defender Kamil Glik. "The two goals we conceded in the first half damaged our confidence and heavily influenced the game," Poland coach Jerzy Brzeczek said. Bernardo Silva added the third goal with a long-range shot in the 52nd minute before Jakub Blaszczykowski marked his record 103rd cap for Poland by pulling one back with a low volley in the 77th. Blaszczykowski has now eclipsed Michal Zewlakow on the all-time list of Poland appearances. Robert Lewandowski made his 100th appearance but was unable to add to his tally of 55 Poland goals. "It's not the result we were looking for," Poland defender Jan Bednarek said. "We wanted to make our fans proud. We had good moments in the game but bad ones too." RUSSIA STAYS TOP In the only game of the night in the second-tier League B, Russia drew 0-0 with Sweden in Kaliningrad. Russia, unbeaten against the Swedes since 1994, stayed ahead in Group 2 with four points, one more than Turkey and three ahead of Sweden. All the teams have played two matches. Russia hosts Turkey on Sunday in Sochi. ALL EVEN Israel's 2-1 home win against Scotland left all three teams in Group 1 of the third-tier League C tied on three points after two matches. Scotland is ahead on goal difference, followed by Israel and Albania. Israel hosts Albania on Sunday. In Group 4, Serbia stayed ahead with a 2-0 win in Montenegro, while Romania remained second with a 2-1 victory in Lithuania. LOWER LEAGUE In Group 3 of League D, Kosovo is top after a 3-1 home win against Malta, while Azerbaijan jumped to second with a 3-0 victory in the Faroe Islands......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnOct 11th, 2018

Soccer s big clash of nations not only at World Cup in 2018

By Rob Harris, Associated Press Footballing supremacy between nations will be determined in 2018, just maybe not in the way expected. The World Cup remains the ultimate prize in sport, and a Russia buffeted by doping scandals and geopolitical rifts will open up like never before to welcome thousands of fans. When the tournament reaches its climax in Moscow on July 14, the biggest global television audience of the year is likely to see the World Cup handed over. Will Germany be the first team to retain the title since Brazil in 1962? Can Neymar inspire Brazil to a record-extending sixth success? Will the players who have shared major individual honors for a decade — Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Lionel Messi (Argentina) — finally become world champions? But it became clearer in 2017 that appearing at the World Cup is no longer the only vehicle — or preferred means — for countries to validate their status and strength in the world's biggest sport. That isn't much of a reassurance, though, for Italy, the Netherlands and the United States who failed to qualify for Russia. The international soccer landscape is being reshaped by the Gulf state-funded clubs, and their clout reached new heights in the last year. Just as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates became ensnared in a diplomatic standoff, the jewels in their soccer crowns slugged it out in the transfer market pursuing the top talent. Around $300 million was spent in the summer transfer window alone by both Manchester City, which is owned by the UAE's Abu Dhabi, and Paris Saint-Germain, which is funded by 2022 World Cup host nation Qatar. The biggest statement came from PSG which more than doubled the previous transfer record by splurging 222 million euros on Neymar — an unexpected windfall for Barcelona but a deal that solidified the power shifts. Both PSG and City have already obliterated the field in their French and English leagues respectively and are racing toward regaining their domestic titles. The true test of power in this intriguing rivalry between energy-rich Gulf powers should be determined in the Champions League. The competition has been won in three of the last four years by Real Madrid, and the holders now stand in the way of PSG reaching the quarterfinals in March. Madrid and Barcelona remain in the control of their fans, a structure able to resist foreign ownership, although both teams have accepted injections of cash through UAE or Qatar sponsorships. The future spending capabilities of the nascent forces at PSG and City will be determined in the coming months. However wealthy their ownership, unfettered spending remains subject to curbs in an often forlorn attempt to maintain a competitive balance in competitions and prevent them stockpiling players. The ultimate threat hanging over PSG is exclusion from the Champions League unless it balances the books by cashing in on stars in the January transfer window. PSG's legal team is already preparing to take the fight to UEFA over its implementation of Financial Fair Play rules, having faced an earlier round of punishments — along with City — in 2014 that led to limits on the squad size and financial penalties. UEFA has also served notice on AC Milan that sanctions could be looming after around $250 million was spent in the summer by new private Chinese investors. Milan is an illustration of why authorities don't want clubs risking their financial health in the pursuit of success. Despite the investment, Milan is closer to the relegation zone than the top four Champions League qualification places halfway through the Serie A season. City is in a more advantageous position than either PSG or Milan due to its cut from domestic television rights. The Premier League is banking 8.3 billion pounds ($11 billion) from broadcasters under the current three-year deals, far eclipsing European counterparts. One of the early defining moments of 2018 in soccer won't happen on the field but in the Premier League's negotiations over the 2019-2022 rights. The winning outlets will provide an indicator of the vitality of traditional networks in an era of fragmented viewing habits where streaming platforms are luring viewers. The value of the deals will also influence the spending power of clubs in the coming years and the destination of the players. The flow of cash from Abu Dhabi since 2008 has already produced the dominant City team imagined by Sheikh Mansour. At the start of the second half of the season, Pep Guardiola's side enjoys a commanding lead over the previously pre-eminent Manchester United. How rapidly fortunes change in soccer. Guardiola, a serial title winner at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, was facing doubts over his managerial prowess as he opened his City reign with his first trophyless season. He remains on course for a quadruple at the second attempt. Across Manchester, it was Jose Mourinho buoyant in the first half of 2017 after collecting the Europa League and League Cup to offset a sixth-place domestic finish. But Mourinho enters 2018 in sullen mood, seething with envy about the lavish investment from Abu Dhabi that enabled Guardiola to remodel his squad. It's another indicator that with all the cash pumped into soccer by Gulf ruling families, the World Cup can no longer be relied on to determine the true kings of soccer in 2018......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2017

LOOK: Six must-see matches at 2018 World Cup

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 2nd, 2017

Lloris out of France squad with thigh injury

By SAMUEL PETREQUIN,  AP Sports Writer PARIS (AP) — France captain Hugo Lloris will miss upcoming matches against Germany and the Netherlands because of a muscle injury. The Tottenham goalkeeper, who did not play in his team's 2-1 loss at Watford over the weekend in the Premier League, has been ruled out of the two UEFA Nations League games this week. France coach Didier Deschamps called the uncapped Benjamin Lecomte as a replacement on Monday. The 27-year-old Lecomte, who plays for Montpellier, is regarded as one of the most promising goalkeepers in the French league. With Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda also out injured, Paris Saint-Germain keeper Alphonse Areola is expected to make his first appearance on Thursday in Munich. France then hosts the Netherlands at the Stade de France on Sunday for its first home game since winning the World Cup in July. Areola has been regularly called up by Deschamps over the past three years and was part of the World Cup squad in Russia. "He has been improving constantly with PSG," Deschamps said Monday. "He had a very, very good season and is now experiencing a new situation following the arrival of Buffon." Areola established himself as PSG's No. 1 keeper last season but the arrival of Gianluigi Buffon has revived competition for the top spot. With the exception of Mandanda and Lloris, Deschamps will be able to count on all the other players who won the tournament in Russia, including Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Raphael Varane. The trio failed to make the FIFA world player of the year shortlist on Monday. "A Frenchman would have deserved to be there, not only because of the world title, but also because of their whole season," Deschamps said. "I'm disappointed for them. They deserved to be among the three." Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Mohamed Salah made the final three while Lionel Messi was left off the list for the first time since 2006......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 4th, 2018

Ronaldo relies on teammates for winning league start at Juve

By Daniella Matar, Associated Press VERONA, Italy (AP) — A smile, a wink and a thumbs-up: Cristiano Ronaldo didn't seem too perturbed at not scoring on his Juventus debut. The 33-year-old forward appeared relaxed after Saturday's 3-2 victory against Chievo Verona and, although Ronaldo did not stop to speak to reporters, he responded with those gestures when asked how he felt his debut had gone. His coach wasn't too troubled either. "Cristiano Ronaldo had a good game. He had several shots on goal. Today he didn't score because clearly it was written somewhere that he wouldn't score," said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri with a smile. For the thousands of fans who descended on the medieval city of Verona, this was one of the rare occasions when the five-time world player of the year couldn't score. Ronaldo had scored in both pre-season friendlies he played for Juventus since his surprise 112 million euro (then $131.5 million) move from Real Madrid but could not find the back of the net on his competitive debut. And it was up to Federico Bernardeschi to rescue Juventus, with a stoppage-time winner as the Bianconeri fought back from a goal down to beat Chievo and get their pursuit of an eighth straight league title off to a winning start. Ronaldo should make his home debut next week against Lazio and there were encouraging signs for Juventus from this game. He linked up well with Douglas Costa, notably in the 18th minute when Ronaldo's effort went just the wrong side of the left post. Ronaldo also fired narrowly over from a tight angle on the half-hour, while he drew several smart saves from Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino, who is still going strong at the age of 39. The Portugal international almost scored the winner at 2-2, but Sorrentino got down quickly to beat away his angled free kick. "(Ronaldo) moved well at times but he wasn't picked out by his teammates," Allegri said. "He's a different footballer, you can see that. He's integrated into the team with ease." BALL TRICKS The excitement had been building in Verona since the fixtures were announced. The match at the Stadio Bentegodi was sold out and long queues to get in formed more than three hours before kickoff. The team bus carrying Ronaldo and his Juventus teammates was greeted by huge cheers, with fans crowding onto the balconies of the stadium. Ronaldo warmed up with crowd-pleasing ball tricks and Juventus fans cheered his every touch. BONUCCI BACK Juventus took the lead after just 162 seconds as Chievo failed to properly clear a free kick and Sami Khedira fired Juventus in front. The Bianconeri wasted chances to double their lead, with Ronaldo going close on several occasions. Mariusz Stepinski headed Chievo level shortly before halftime and Emanuele Giaccherini converted a penalty after being brought down by Juventus debutant Joao Cancelo. But Leonardo Bonucci marked his return to Juventus with a role in the equalizer after the Italy defender spent just one season at AC Milan. Bonucci headed in a corner in the 75th. The goal, which went down later as an own-goal from Chievo defender Mattia Bani, was met with a mix of cheers and jeers by the visiting fans. Mario Mandzukic's goal was ruled out by the video assistant referee shortly before full time following a foul on Sorrentino which led to an anxious few minutes as the goalkeeper received medical treatment on the pitch. ___ LOOK WHO'S BACK Carlo Ancelotti had a winning start to his return to Italian football as his Napoli team fought back to beat Lazio 2-1. Ciro Immobile scored a stunning opener for host Lazio but Arkadiusz Milik leveled in first-half stoppage time and Lorenzo Insigne netted the winner in the 59th. The 59-year-old Ancelotti took over from Maurizio Sarri at Napoli, who finished second last season, four points behind Juventus. Ancelotti has not worked in Italy since leaving AC Milan in 2009 after leading the Rossoneri to a number of trophies, including two Champions League titles......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 19th, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2018

Ronaldo and Portugal head to World Cup looking for more

em>By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press /em> Cristiano Ronaldo is headed to the World Cup with Portugal, and some of his teammates are already expecting another title. Ronaldo, as usual, was the country's key player as it won nine straight qualifiers to reach the tournament in Russia. And that came after the Real Madrid forward led the way to winning last year's European Championship, Portugal's first major trophy. 'Portugal always plays to win, and just like we did at Euro 2016, we are going to try to win the World Cup as well,' Portugal midfielder Bernardo Silva said after the 2-0 win over Switzerland at the Stadium of Light. Here's a look at some of the reasons why Portugal will be among the favorites at next year's World Cup: ___ strong>DECISIVE RONALDO /strong> Portugal again relied on the talent of Ronaldo, who thrived from the start of qualifying and finished with 15 goals in nine matches. He was one goal short of the qualifying record set by Poland striker Robert Lewandowski this year. Ronaldo scored in every qualifier he played but two — the win over the Swiss on Tuesday and the 1-0 win at Hungary in September, when he earned an assist with a perfect cross for Andre Silva's winning header. He didn't start in the 2-0 win at Andorra last week because he wasn't fully fit, but he came off the bench in the second half and scored the team's first goal and set up Andre Silva's second. Ronaldo didn't play in the team's opening loss at Switzerland because he was still recovering from a knee injury sustained in the Euro 2016 final. ___ strong>BALANCED SQUAD /strong> Portugal cruised after the opening setback at Switzerland, outscoring opponents 32-4 and finishing with the fourth-best qualifying campaign among all teams, behind Germany, Belgium and Spain. Only those three teams scored more goals than Portugal, and Spain and England were the only two nations which conceded fewer, three each. 'Portugal showed that it has a quality squad that can face any team out there,' Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. Among the team's victories were consecutive 6-0 routs of Andorra and the Faeroe Islands. It also defeated third-place Hungary 3-0 at home and 1-0 in Budapest. 'Even after the loss to Switzerland, we never doubted that we were going to finish first in the group,' Portugal midfielder Joao Mario said. 'We just had to do our job.' ___ strong>TIGHT GROUP /strong> Santos said he feels he has a unique group of players in his hands. 'I have a special relationship with the players,' he said. 'I have a lot of faith in my players and they know that. It's not easy to have 25 players with this mentality, generating such a fantastic atmosphere.' Bernardo Silva said they feed off the coach's confidence, and Mario said that all the players are behind him no matter what. ___ strong>KICK-STARTING PREPARATIONS /strong> Portugal is expected to begin its World Cup preparations with a friendly at neighboring Spain in November. The match is expected to be officially confirmed in the coming days. 'We are looking forward to having a good run in the World Cup,' Portugal midfielder William Carvalho said. 'But right now it's time to enjoy what we just did.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

Italy leaves it late to earn 1st competitive win in a year

By Andrew Dampf, Associated Press ROME (AP) — Italy is finally showing signs of emerging from its crisis, nearly a year after failing to qualify for the World Cup. Cristiano Biraghi's goal in stoppage time earned the Azzurri a much-needed 1-0 win in Poland on Sunday in the UEFA Nations League. Playing in Group 3 of League A, Poland became the first team to be relegated in the new European competition. Italy also hit the crossbar twice in the first half, first with Jorginho then with Lorenzo Insigne. Still, the match appeared headed for a scoreless draw until Biraghi slid in to redirect a corner inside the far post two minutes into injury time. "We dominated the game completely and should have scored earlier," Italy coach Roberto Mancini said. "A 0-0 would have been an unfair result. We played very well but we can still improve a lot. In football you only need time and hard work; magicians do not exist." It was the first national team goal for Biraghi, a full back at Fiorentina. Biraghi celebrated by making a No. 13 with his fingers, a dedication to former Fiorentina captain and Italy defender Davide Astori, who died from cardiac arrest in March. Astori wore the No. 13 shirt. "Astori is a part of me," Biraghi said. "I dedicate my goal to him because if I'm here it is only thanks to him and all the things he taught me when we played together." It was Italy's first competitive victory in more than a year, since beating Albania 1-0 in World Cup qualifying last October. It also ended a five-match winless streak in all competitions and gave Italy a slim chance to catch group leader Portugal. Portugal leads with six points, two ahead of Italy, while Poland is last with one. Italy hosts Portugal in its next and final match but then Portugal has another game at home against Poland. RUSSIA RISING World Cup quarterfinalist Russia needs only one more point to be promoted into League A following a 2-0 win over visiting Turkey in Sochi with goals in the Group 2 game from Roman Neustadter and substitute Denis Cheryshev. Turkey will be relegated from League B if it loses to Sweden on Nov. 17, while Russia can move up with a draw in Sweden three days later. GOALKEEPER ASSIST A long pass from goalkeeper Ariel Harush set up Israel's first goal by Tomer Hemed in a 2-0 win over visiting Albania in League C. Harush also made a series of saves before Israel got its second from Dia Seba. Israel is three points ahead of Scotland and Albania atop Group 1. Also in League C, Romania played the entire second half with 10 men and still drew 0-0 with Serbia. Serbia, which had captain Dusan Tadic miss a penalty, stayed atop Group 4, one point ahead of Montenegro, which won 4-1 in Lithuania. Romania is two points back. UNBEATEN KOSOVO Kosovo held on for a 1-1 draw in the Faeroe Islands to remain unbeaten atop Group 3 in League D. After Milot Rashica's early opener, Rene Joensen equalized after the break for the Faeroes. In the same group, Azerbaijan and Malta also played to a 1-1 draw, with Araz Abdullayev's second-half equalizer canceling out Rowen Muscat's opener for Malta......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 15th, 2018

Dutch humiliate Germany in Nations League, Gibraltar wins

By The Associated Press Germany's UEFA Nations League campaign took a humiliating blow after a 3-0 loss at old rival Netherlands on Saturday. Germany remains without a win in the top-tier League A and has yet to score a goal. In the second-tier League B, the Czech Republic got its first win in the new competition — beating host Slovakia 2-1 — and Ireland and Denmark drew 0-0. In League D, Gibraltar won its first competitive game on a memorable night for the tiny territory. Here's a look at Saturday's games. NO GOALS FOR GERMANY Following its disastrous World Cup defense in Russia, Germany has been under pressure to show some progress but it didn't come at the Johan Cruyff Arena on Saturday night. The Germans failed to score for the third straight competitive game, including a humiliating 2-0 loss to South Korea in Russia and a 0-0 draw with France at home in the Nations League. Captain Virgil van Dijk scored only his second international goal before Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum added two more as the Dutch ran riot late in the game. The comprehensive defeat left Germany at the bottom of Group 1 with a single point, days before it heads to Paris to take on group leader and World Cup champion France. France leads the Dutch by a point at the top of the standings. The result also heaped more pressure on Germany coach Joachim Loew, who opted to stay in the job after the 2014 world champion crashed out of the summer's World Cup in Russia at the group stage. "Why are we not scoring? That's difficult to answer, we have clear chances," Loew said. "Had we lost 1-0, it would have been acceptable but breaking apart like this in the last 10 minutes is not good." Germany's scoring woes were personified by Loew's decision to play Mark Uth as a lone striker despite the 27-year-old Schalke player failing to score a goal this season. Uth didn't impress and was substituted in the second half. A corner from the right by Depay exposed German defensive frailties in the 30th. Ryan Babel rose between Jonas Hector and Mats Hummels to head against the underside of the bar and the ball bounced up invitingly for the unmarked Van Dijk to head in. Depay doubled the lead in the 87th, calmly finishing after a quick break down the right by substitute Quincy Promes. The Olympique Lyon striker then hit the crossbar in extra time before Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum made it 3-0 with virtually the last kick of the match as Germany crumbled. CZECHS WIN Substitute striker Patrik Schick scored the winning goal for the visiting Czech Republic to beat Slovakia 2-1 in Trnava. All the goals were in the second half. Three minutes after coming off the bench, Schick rose in the area in the 76th minute to head in a cross from captain Borek Dockal for his second goal in two matches. It was the first win for the Czechs in the competition after losing to Ukraine. Ukraine leads Group 1 in second-tier League B, with three more points than the Czechs. Slovakia remains pointless. Playmaker Marek Hamsik marked his record 108th appearance for Slovakia with his 22nd goal, a rebound after a corner, after Czech striker Michael Krmencik scored the opener following a through ball from Dockal. Ireland drew with Denmark in Group 4 in the only other game in League B later Saturday. Denmark tops the group with four points, one more than Wales in second. Ireland has one point. BULGARIA LEADS Ole Selnaes scored the only goal for Norway to beat Slovenia 1-0 in Group 3 of League C for its second win and trail leader Bulgaria by three points. Bulgaria rallied from a goal down to beat Cyprus 2-1. Cyprus has three points while Slovenia is on zero. GIBRALTAR ENDS LOSING STREAK Gibraltar's national team has recorded its first victory in a competitive match, a 1-0 win at Armenia, after losing its previous 22 competitive games. Joseph Chipolina got the historic winner from the penalty spot in the Group 4 game in League D. Gibraltar players had to listen to the national anthem of Liechtenstein before the match, a mistake for which Armenia FA apologized. Gibraltar hosts Liechtenstein on Tuesday. Macedonia kept a perfect record in the same group with a 4-1 victory over Lichtenstein to lead with nine points. The other three teams are tied on three points. In Group 1 of League D, Georgia made it three wins in three by beating Andorra 3-0 to dominate the standings with nine points. Andorra, Latvia and Kazakhstan all have two points after Latvia and Kazakhstan drew 1-1......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 14th, 2018

Galanza, Nabor earn National team spots

A mix of returning players and new blood will carry the nations pride in the AVC Asian Cup in Thailand. Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. released Friday a tentative lineup for the tournament set to run from September 17 to 23 in Nakhon Ratchasima. Top hitter Alyssa Valdez and Jia Morado of Creamline will banner the Nationals, who will miss the services of six of core players that suited up for the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games last month. Back for another tour of duty are team captain Aby Marano, Mylene Paat, Cha Cruz-Behag, Maika Ortiz, Denden Lazaro and Mika Reyes. Making her return in the National squad are Grethcel Soltones, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Risa Sato and libero Mel Gohing while debuting for the tricolors are Jema Galanza and setter Jasmine Nabor. The six new members will replace injured playmaker Kim Fajardo, sisters Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat and the De La Salle University trio of Kim Kianna Dy, Majoy Baron and prized libero Dawn Macandili. The Santiago sisters are set to debut in their respective clubs in Japan’s top tier league while Dy, Baron and Macandili will fly to New York as part of the Lady Spikers’ incentive for winning the UAAP Season 80 title.  The squad will fly to Thailand on September 14.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles       .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 7th, 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

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

Deschamps joins Zagallo, Beckenbauer as champ player, coach

By Ronald Blum, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — Didier Deschamps walked into the interview room in the bowels of Luzhniki Stadium and prepared to answer questions for the first time as coach of a World Cup champion. A noise to his right caused him to turn, and his players rushed in. A bare-chested Benjamin Mendy jumped onto the table in front of Deschamps, and Florian Thauvin leaped up, too. Olivier Giroud and probably a dozen more giddy buddies sprayed their boss with bubbly, beer, cola and water. "This is third time I got changed, and I still smell just as bad," Deschamps said through a translator. He lifted the trophy as his nation's captain following the first title at Stade de France in 1998, and now he watched Hugo Lloris raise it in a Russian downpour following Sunday's 4-2 win over Croatia. The 49-year-old joined Brazil's Mario Zagallo (1958-62 as a player, 1970 as a manager) and West Germany's Franz Beckenbauer (1974, 1990) as the only men to play and coach a world champion. "Well, I don't really like to talk about myself, but I'm going to be forced to do so a little bit, of course," Deschamps said. "I had the immense pleasure and immense privilege to live through this as a player 20 years ago, and it was in France, so of course it will be marked in my memory forever. But what the players did today is just as beautiful, is just as strong." His players had to be brawny. They lifted Deschamps after the match and flung him into the air, over and over. "They've always been a little bit mad, my players," he said. Deschamps was a defensive midfielder for Nantes, Marseille, Bordeaux, Juventus, Chelsea and Valencia from 1985-2001, winning the Champions League with Juve in 1996 and the 2000 European Championship with France in addition to the World Cup. He coached Monaco, Juventus and Marseille before taking over France in 2012. His national team coaching career included a quarterfinal loss to eventual champion Germany at the 2014 World Cup and a 1-0 defeat to underdog Portugal in the Euro 2016 final. It seemed like film noir — he said there's an upcoming documentary coming out. "Two years ago, it was so, so painful to get past this opportunity of being European champions," Deschamps recalled. "But maybe if we had been European champions, then we would not have been world champions today. I did learn a lot myself through this final." Now the story arc includes happiness. He posed for photos on the field with wife Claude and Dylan, cradled one of the hardest trophies to win in sports. He hugged son Dylan as the 22-year-old waved a French tricolor. "When we were world champions, he was too young to understand," Deschamps said. "And today there are young people who are maybe 15, 16 years old, and they've lived through that. They had this happiness, to be able to live this event with us — of course maybe to be crazy and a little bit mad." Based on the losing experience of 2016, he revamped the team's routine ahead of the final. Player relaxation was at the forefront. And it worked. "They had to get that star, that shining star," Deschamps said, referring to the symbol that goes above a national team's crest to indicate a World Cup won. "I'm proud for them, and I'm also proud of myself — with all the humility, of course.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 16th, 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

Ronaldo, Portugal unable to continue great run at World Cup

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo couldn't carry the team by himself this time. The five-time player of the year, who scored four goals in his opening two matches at the World Cup, was eliminated from the tournament on Saturday after Portugal lost to Uruguay 2-1 in the round of 16. "We gave our best," Ronaldo said. "The team played well. As the team captain I am proud of this group." Portugal won the 2016 European Championship and came to Russia with high expectations following the surprise title in France two years ago, its first in a major tournament. Ronaldo started off this year's tournament with a hat trick against Spain and then added another goal against Morocco. But on Saturday, it was Edinson Cavani who scored twice to earn victory for the Uruguayans. "No team can win with one player alone," Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. "He tried. The team didn't win because Uruguay scored twice." Portugal hasn't reached the World Cup quarterfinals since 2006, when a young Ronaldo led the team to the semifinals. Back then, Portugal lost to France and eventually finished fourth after losing to Germany in the consolation game. Ronaldo, now 33 and still playing some of the best soccer of his life, failed to provide the spark Portugal needed against Uruguay. Ronaldo's great start in Russia allowed him to surpass the combined total of three goals he had scored in his previous three World Cups. He also joined Pele, Miroslav Klose and Uwe Seeler as the only players to score in four World Cups. The four early goals in this year's tournament had put him in position to contend for the "Golden Boot" trophy, but he was surpassed by England striker Harry Kane's five goals in the group stage. Despite his fast start in Russia, Ronaldo missed a penalty in the 1-1 draw against Iran in the third game. He also was nearly given a red card when his elbowing of an opponent was reviewed on video. Prior to the World Cup, Ronaldo led Real Madrid to its third straight Champions League title, but he arrived in Russia surrounded by distractions about his club future and a tax fraud accusation back in Madrid. He had said he would talk about his club future after joining the national team, but avoided the subject from the start. He only spoke briefly with the media in Russia. "Now it's not the time to talk about the future," Ronaldo said. "I'm sure that the national team will remain as one of the best in the world. We have great players, a fantastic group.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 1st, 2018

Belgium, team of tomorrow, hopes to finally win now

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 24th, 2018

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

As Saudis wilt on field, kingdom pursues soccer power grab

By Rob Harris, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — The Saudis have ambitions to seize control over parts of international soccer. Losing 5-0 by Russia in the World Cup opener shows they might have bigger problems at home. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had to endure the humiliation in the stadium on Thursday, with Saudi Arabia's mauling in Moscow coming at the hands of a side just below the Saudis in the FIFA rankings. Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi studiously sidestepped a question about whether his federation had been distracted lately. But it has. Just when the Saudis had a first World Cup appearance in 12 years to prepare for, the federation has been mounting a power grab of soccer far beyond the kingdom. What appears the creation of just another bureaucratic institution within the sport could actually have wider ramifications. On its face, the establishment of the South West Asian Football Federation by the Saudis, including the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, to help to develop the game appears a benevolent undertaking, especially when the existing regional governing body is so vast. "Football is about growth and if you don't grow economically, socially, technically, you will not be moving," Saudi federation president Adel Ezzat told The Associated Press. "It's not enough for us to be in the World Cup. "We have a vision that an Asian country will win the World Cup one day, but there must be a start for that. Football is underdeveloped in many areas in Asia." Is the Asian Football Confederation to blame? "Ambitions have to be higher than winning the Asian Cup," Ezzat said. Confederation president Sheikh Salman, a Bahraini, said he "had no objection to the creation of SWAFF as long as it remains as a football body outside of the AFC's zonal structure." Scratch deeper below the surface and the true objectives of the new body seem a little cloudy. It is unclear why SWAFF is required when there are already regional offshoots of the AFC, including the West Asian Football Federation, which is led by Jordan's Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein who resisted an attempt by the Saudis to seize power of his organization before the new regional force emerged. "It will help Asia and it will help FIFA," Ezzat told The Associated Press. "We don't see anything wrong creating that connection between the south and the west. Football needs to grow." Ezzat maintained that SWAFF had followed the right legal steps to avoid breaching the rules of world football's governing body. Ezzat said FIFA governance committee head Mukul Mudgal had been dispatched by FIFA President Gianni Infantino to the SWAFF meeting on May 31 in Jeddah. The Indian judge denied he was in attendance. SWAFF said the founding members also include Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Maldives, Yemen, Oman and Kuwait. Oman Football Association General Secretary Said Othman Al Bulushi told the AP his nation was waiting to assess the statutes and legality of the body within FIFA before confirming its membership. The entire Gulf is not in SWAFF. Take a look at the map and three countries in particular are missing: Iran, Qatar and Yemen. "It's not about the geographic map," Saudi federation president Adel Ezzat said. "It's about zones." Could it also be about politics? For three years, a Saudi-led coalition has been trying to drive out Iranian-aligned Shiite rebels known as Houthis from Yemen to break the civil war in the Arab world's poorest nation and restore the exiled government. Across the Gulf, the Saudis are part of a quartet, including the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, which has spent the last year putting the squeeze on Qatar. Diplomatic ties with the energy-rich country have been severed amid allegations that Qatar supports extremist groups in the region, which Doha denies. The Qataris, though, have plowed ahead with preparations to host an event that will put them at the center of the world's attention: the next World Cup in 2022. Ezzat won't discuss Qatar, or the 2022 World Cup. Turki Al-Sheikh, head of Saudi Arabia's General Sports Authority, has been less circumspect, demanding earlier this year that Qatar be stripped of the hosting rights if corruption around its bid was proven. For now, in Saudi sights is Qatar's flagship sports network, which owns exclusive Middle East and North African rights to the World Cup. The BeIN Sports coverage of the Russia World Cup opener was watched across Saudi Arabia — but on a pirate channel. The beoutQ signal is transmitted by a Riyadh-based satellite provider, whose largest shareholder is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Still, the BeIN coverage was seized on by Al-Sheikh to threaten legal action against the network for "wrongdoings against KSA, its sports and officials, and for exploiting sports to achieve political goals." In a tweet, Al-Sheikh added Friday that this "proves Saudi authorities' true stance when banning this network from airing on its soil." Soccer's world body, though, is finally intervening. FIFA said it is "exploring all options to stop the infringement of its rights, including in relation to action against legitimate organizations that are seen to support such illegal activities." What FIFA would not say is whether Infantino raised Qatar's concerns when he watched the opener in the Luzhniki Stadium alongside the Saudi crown prince. Infantino has been a keen visitor to Saudi Arabia over the last year, including meeting King Salman, as intrigue has swirled about the country's role in a consortium's plans to underwrite $25 billion to launch a vastly expanded Club World Cup and an international Nations League. "He knows for a fact the importance of Saudi Arabia in the region," Ezzat said. "That's why I believe he is paying a lot of attention to Saudi Arabia. ... That's a very important sign. (FIFA) know this country can play a very important role in the development of football." Infantino, though, said he believed the backing for the new competitions was "not part of a wider Saudi sports grab." The proposals have stalled because of opposition within the council to Infantino's secrecy over the financial backers. Growing football is part of a sweeping "Vision 2030" plan to wean Saudi Arabia off its near-total dependence on oil money. Prince Mohammed is trying to push Saudi Arabia to become a more cosmopolitan nation that appeals to international investors. Ezzat wants to create new soccer competitions under the auspices of SWAFF and invite countries to participate from beyond the region — particularly Europe. "The country is going through an important change," Ezzat said. "Football can be a catalyst for change. The FIFA president I'm sure knows this very well. ... My country can play an important role in football." Just not the Saudi national team at the moment......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 16th, 2018

Portugal beats Algeria 3-0 in final warmup before World Cup

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — With Cristiano Ronaldo back in action, Portugal cruised to a 3-0 win over Algeria in its final warmup match before traveling to Russia for the World Cup. Ronaldo, who hadn't played since leading Real Madrid to a third straight Champions League title last month, set up one of Portugal's goals at the Stadium of Light. He also had one disallowed for offside before being substituted in the 75th minute. Ronaldo joined Portugal's squad on Monday, later than the rest of the squad, because of the Champions League final. Portugal opened the scoring in the 18th minute with a shot from inside the area by Goncalo Guedes after a nice head-pass by Bernardo Silva. Bruno Fernandes added to the lead in the 37th with a close-range header after a well-placed left-footed cross by Ronaldo, and Guedes netted his second goal early in the second half with a header after a cross by Raphael Guerreiro from the left side. Portugal scored another goal near the end but it was called off by video review because of a hand-ball by Guedes. "We played well, but there's still a lot to improve," Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. "We are not where we want to be but we will be improving during the tournament." Portugal, which will travel to Russia on Saturday, had already played two other warm-up matches, drawing Tunisia 2-2 and Belgium 0-0. Santos will take 13 players to Russia who helped the team win its first major title at the European Championship two years ago in France. Portugal will begin its World Cup campaign against Iberian rival Spain on June 15 in Sochi. Its other Group B matches will be against Morocco and Iran. Algeria did not qualify for the World Cup......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 8th, 2018

ABS-CBN S+A, Liga to broadcast the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russiaâ„¢

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