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Spain in chaos 2 days before World Cup after coach fired

Spanish football president Luis Rubiales attends a press conference at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Krasnodar, Russia, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. The Spanish soccer federation has fired coach Julen.....»»

Category: newsSource: philippinetimes philippinetimesJun 14th, 2018

Paco Alcacer making most of 2nd chance with Spain

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 15th, 2018

Spain replaces fired Lopetegui with Hierro

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press With only two days to go before Spain's opening match at the World Cup, Julen Lopetegui was fired as national team coach because he accepted a job to lead Real Madrid next season. Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales, who made the announcement on Wednesday in Krasnodar, later said Fernando Hierro would replace Lopetegui as coach for Spain's match against Portugal in Sochi on Friday. The 50-year-old Hierro, a former national team player and Real Madrid captain, had been acting as the federation's sports director and was already in Russia with the national team. Rubiales said firing Lopetegui wasn't the best solution but it was needed after the federation was caught by surprise by Real Madrid's announcement. "The federation cannot be left out of a negotiation by one of its workers and be informed five minutes before the press release," Rubiales said. "We have been compelled to act." Rubiales, who took over as president last month, said Lopetegui betrayed the federation's values and it was the only decision he could make. "It's a difficult situation, but we are not the ones who determined the action that had to be taken. The federation has its values and it has to maintain them," Rubiales said. "It may look like a weakness now, but with time this will make us stronger." Lopetegui did not attend the news conference but was expected to talk to the media later. "We have to work on a series of decisions that come just two days before the opener," Rubiales said. "There's a lot to do." Hierro spent most of his career as a defender for Real Madrid and finished his playing days with English club Bolton in 2005. He played in four World Cups with Spain, from 1990 to 2002, and in two European Championships, 1996 and 2000. Hierro was Carlo Ancelotti's assistant at Real Madrid after Zinedine Zidane left the post in 2014. He coached second-division club Real Oviedo two seasons ago and was Malaga's general manager after leaving his sports director position with the Spanish federation in 2011. After Madrid's announcement that it hired Lopetegui, critics immediately began questioning some of the coach's decisions with the national team, including his choice to leave some Barcelona players such as Sergi Roberto out of the World Cup squad. There were also questions about how Lopetegui would be able to fully focus on the national team while also having to discuss off-season signings for his new club. There are six Madrid players in Spain's team for the World Cup. Lopetegui's name had not been mentioned by Spanish media among the probable candidates for the Madrid job, which opened up after Zidane unexpectedly quit. Last month, Lopetegui agreed to extend his contract with the national team through 2020. "I admire and respect Lopetegui a lot. He is a top coach, and that made it harder to make this decision," Rubiales said. "Winning is important, but above that, we need to know how things have to be handled." The 51-year-old Lopetegui took over from Vicente del Bosque after the 2016 European Championship. He was credited with reviving a team that was on the decline after winning Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. By successfully blending talented youngsters and veterans from its golden generation, Lopetegui kept Spain unbeaten through 20 matches in charge, comfortably leading the team to the World Cup from a qualifying group that included Italy. He won European championships with Spain's under-19 and under-21 teams in the early 2010s, but had a lackluster stint with Portuguese team Porto in his only job with a major club. He was fired after failing to win a title during almost two years in Portugal. Rubiales took over a federation which was in the hands of embattled official Angel Maria Villar for nearly three decades. He was elected president over Juan Luis Larrea, the federation's former treasurer and its interim leader since Villar was suspended following his arrest last year on suspicion of corruption. In one of his first actions, Rubiales canceled a previously arranged "vacation" trip by officials to the World Cup that would cost nearly 2 million euros ($2.3 million). He got the money reimbursed and spent only about 500,000 euros ($590,000) with new travel arrangements for sponsors and federation officials. "We are all affected," Rubiales said about Lopetegui's departure. "We have to think about what is best for the entity, for the federation and the team, and from this afternoon we will all be together to go forward.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 13th, 2018

Brighter days seem to be in store for Knicks, new coach Fizdale

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst There was only one job that made sense for David Fizdale. Despite all the openings for which he interviewed, his pedigree and background -- and, let’s be honest, ambition -- made one gig stand out above the others. And it’s the one he got, with the New York Knicks. New York agreed to a four-year deal with Fizdale last week, a correct pairing of young coach and franchise that is trying to build back up the right way, with an emphasis on defense and conditioning that is right up Fizdale’s alley. No matter the occasional oddity created by working for Jim Dolan, he is an owner who has been willing to spend money when asked, and his team is in the top media market on earth. When you win there, they have parades for you in the Canyon of Heroes, and you almost always wind up in your particular sport’s Hall of Fame. You can’t not take the shot. The Knicks believe they’re in a place where the things Fizdale did in Miami and what he took to Memphis -- his philosophy of culture-building, team-building, discipline and how he connects to players -- were a good fit for where they are as a franchise. Among the 11 candidates the Knicks interviewed for the job, several had more head coaching experience than Fizdale -- whose tenure in Memphis lasted exactly 101 regular season games and six playoff games. But Fizdale checked the most boxes, and at 43, the Knicks are betting he has a lot of growing and improving to do, just as the team does. The Knicks, of course, looked into just why the Grizzlies fired Fizdale so abruptly last season, after just 19 games. Team president Steve Mills and General Manager Scott Perry didn’t just get started in the league last week; they know a lot of people. The chatter around the league was that Memphis chose star center Marc Gasol over Fizdale after the two clashed during the coach’s season-plus there. As I wrote just after Fizdale was fired, the deterioration in their relationship reached the point of no return when Fizdale went after Gasol hard in a film session, basically dismissing the importance of Gasol’s accomplishments overseas, including as a member of the Spanish national team. That that rankled Gasol to no end should have been no surprise to anyone paying attention. The Spanish team’s international triumphs are a point of considerable and understandable pride for both Marc Gasol and his brother, Pau. They helped lead Spain to the greatest era of basketball accomplishment in that country’s history, including a 2006 gold medal at what was then called the FIBA World Championships. Fizdale tried to fix things with Gasol, even flying to Europe after the season to try and make it right. But Gasol was close with majority owner Robert Pera; Fizdale wasn’t. That closed off a potential area of outreach between the two. Gasol had no interest in rapprochement, a stance that Grizzlies players made clear to Fizdale throughout the season. (Caught most in the middle, per league sources, was Grizzlies veteran point guard Mike Conley, Jr., who did and does have strong relationships with both men.) But, importantly, in his discussions with the Knicks, Fizdale took responsibility for his failures with Gasol. He didn’t blame Gasol or anyone else. As one of his chief calling cards is connecting with players, and not finding common ground with Gasol was an L he has to take. “He knew where he messed up and what he’d try to let it never happen again,” said a source who’s spoken with Fizdale since his firing. But, equally importantly, just because Fizdale couldn’t make it work with Gasol doesn’t mean he’s doomed to a similar outcome with All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis. The 22-year-old’s relationship with the Knicks has been scrutinized within an inch of its life the last couple of years. The toxicity level reached under former president Phil Jackson has abated some, but Porzingis and the team still have some navigation to do -- a trip that is blurred as Porzingis continues rehabbing and recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in February. (Porzingis’s brother, Janis, who serves as his agent, politely declined comment on the Fizdale hire via text Saturday, though the Knicks were in contact with Janis Porzingis during the coaching search.) Porzingis’s injury keeps the Knicks in flux, a position it seems they’ve been in most years since the Nixon administration. He is a potential superstar -- “potential” is used quite deliberately here, as “The Unicorn’s” stans on social media have made a very talented offensive player into something that he is not, at least not yet -- a transcendent player. But, assuming Porzingis ultimately makes a full and healthy return, New York has a terrific building block around which to build. And, they have a chance to really get in the game in the summer of 2019. First, they’ll have to resolve Joakim Noah’s status -- he has two years and roughly $38 million left on his current deal. It’s likely the Knicks will stretch him and the only question is whether that happens before or after next season. If it’s the former, the Knicks can spread the remainder of his salary across five seasons; if the latter, three seasons. Nothing is certain, but it would be surprising to see Noah still in New York by the start of camp. Why saddle a new coach with an old problem? That would leave the Knicks with more flexibility going into ’19, which is when Perry has said he’d like New York to be ready to pounce in free agency -- and when the likes of Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard (player option) and Jimmy Butler (player option) can be free agents. But until that bridge year, Fizdale will have to max out the existing roster. Charitably, there’s not a lot there at present that’s proven and has led to much winning anywhere. The Knicks will need to be lucky in next week’s Lottery -- preferably, getting a high enough pick to land one of the elite big men that should be among the top four or five picks in the Draft. If that doesn’t happen, the hope in New York is that until the roster improves, Fizdale can develop the talents of the Knicks’ trio of guards -- Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay and Tim Hardaway, Jr. -- in which New York has invested Draft and literal treasure the last couple of seasons. (It will help that Fizdale’s relationship with Hardaway, Jr., goes back to when the latter was a kid and his father, the master of the killer crossover, worked in the Heat organization after Tim Hardaway Sr.’s playing days ended.) The additional hope is that Fizdale will get Ntilikina in elite shape while honing his competitive edge, and that a full season under Fizdale will let the Knicks know once and for all if Mudiay can be a significant contributor. Fizdale will also have to adjust his nomenclature. Last week’s story in the New York Daily News correctly identified Fizdale’s consistent referencing “the Miami Way” as shorthand for how he wanted to do things in Memphis alienated Grizzlies people who were -- again, justifiably -- proud of the “Grit-n’Grind” era that produced seven straight playoff appearances before this season’s 22-60 crater. And, he’ll have to be prepared to be, perhaps, the biggest face of the franchise, in a city whose media is dogged and nonplussed and will often go off cockeyed in a crazy, incorrect direction. But its influence should never be underestimated. Fizdale is from Los Angeles, and he has a great way with most. And it didn’t hurt him to work some for ESPN while he was between jobs. But he’ll have to learn the media landscape in New York quickly -- who to befriend, who to be wary of, who he can trust and who he cannot. (Also: I’m sure the Knicks pointed out to him that while he had several causes which were near and dear to him in Memphis, from advocating the removal of Confederate statues in the city to lending his name to other civic causes, he needs to win games in Gotham first.) At base, the Knicks will want to see players throughout the roster held accountable, and charged to compete on a nightly basis. There was not enough of either last season under coach Jeff Hornacek -- who, in fairness, didn’t have all that much time to put his stamp on what was a poor roster. Fizdale will get more time. The Knicks’ roster will look a lot different in two years than it does now. Fizdale will have to be a lot different coach than he was in Memphis, as well. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2018

Barcelona gets 6th win in 6 rounds, Atletico beats Sevilla

JOSEPH WILSON, Associated Press br /> BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Girona succeeded in stopping Barcelona star Lionel Messi from scoring. If only it could have avoided its own net as well. Barcelona made it six wins in as many games in the Spanish league on Saturday when it won 3-0 at Girona thanks to a pair of own goals by the hosts. Barcelona went head in the Catalan regional derby when Girona defender Aday Benitez deflected Jordi Alba's off-target shot back into his net in the 17th minute. Barcelona's Luis Suarez and Aleix Vidal helped provoke a second goal three minutes after halftime, when Suarez deftly let Vidal's dangerous short pass go through his legs, hit surprised goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz and turned into the net. Barcelona increased its lead of the league to four points after Atletico Madrid beat Sevilla 2-0 to leapfrog the Andalucian club into second place. Sevilla is five points behind, followed by Real Madrid at seven points adrift after it won at Alaves 2-1. The decision by Girona coach Pablo Machin to man-mark Lionel Messi with Pablo Maffeo helped stop him from adding to his best ever start to a Liga. Messi scored nine goals in the first five rounds. 'I don't think that Messi was the decisive player that he usually is,' Machin said. 'We tried, but we were playing against some of the best players in the world. When you score in our own net it makes it very tough.' SUAREZ STRIKES Suarez rounded off Barcelona's victory in the 69th when he was left all alone to take Sergi Roberto's lobbed pass and beat Iraizoz. It was Suarez's second goal in six appearances this season. The Uruguay striker had been struggling this season, hampered by a right knee injury and adapting to life after the departure of attack partner Neymar. DREAM START Real Madrid turned to new midfielder Dani Ceballos to help it get back on the winning path. The midfielder made the most of his first start for Zinedine Zidane's team by scoring twice in the victory at last-place Alaves. The win came three days after Madrid lost 1-0 at home to Ceballos' former team, Real Betis. That slip combined with a pair of home draws left the defending champions trailing leader Barcelona. Ceballos received a pass from Marco Asensio, fought through a tackle, and shot just inside the post for the 10th-minute opener. Manu Garcia responded with Alaves' first goal of the season. But Ceballos put Madrid back in charge before halftime when he fired in a ball that goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco spilled when he collided with a teammate while defending a cross. Alaves almost leveled late when substitute Alfonso Pedraza twice hit the woodwork. Cristiano Ronaldo also hit the goal-frame twice in the second half as the Madrid forward seeks his first goal in the league. COSTA SPECTATES Diego Costa watched from the stands of Atletico's new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium as his soon-to-be teammates Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco scored in the second half to down Sevilla. Atletico reached a deal with Chelsea this week for Costa to return to his former club. Atletico will host Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday. MALAGA RALLIES Diego Rolan scored a double to help Malaga rally from a two-goal deficit in the final minutes and draw with visitor Athletic Bilbao 3-3. Malaga secured its first point of the season after it lost its first five matches. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2017

Left alone: Alba proving perfect sidekick for Lionel Messi

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — With Lionel Messi wowing fans game after game, it's easy to overlook Jordi Alba, the player who often puts him in position to score so many impressive goals. Alba has become the indispensable sidekick for Barcelona's all-time leading scorer. "Leo and Jordi understand one another perfectly," coach Ernesto Valverde said after Saturday's 2-0 win over Celta Vigo when Alba helped set up both of Barcelona's goals. Alba first passed for Messi to shoot, with a rebound of a save falling to Ousmane Dembele to finish off. Alba then assisted Messi for his league-leading 15th goal of the season. "Their relationship clicks," Valverde said. "Sometimes rivals try to block their passing angles, but Jordi has a great sense of timing. And even though adversaries know it's coming, it continues to work." Alba has been running up and down Barcelona's left flank for seven seasons now, but his importance to his team's attack used to be secondary to the sparkling play of former stars Neymar, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez. Neymar's exit two summers ago marked a turning point for Alba. With the Brazil forward no longer soaking up all the weight of the attack on Barcelona's left side, Alba was free to fully exploit his speed and passing ability. As Alba told Spanish sports daily Sport in 2017, "now I have the entire left side to myself, and that is much better." Messi often starts his attacks from the right or center of the field to have his preferred left boot set to shoot. That leaves Alba in an ideal position to stretch the defense with carefully timed bursts of speed to break into the area behind the opposition's backline, often after exchanging passes with Messi. The 29-year-old Alba has developed the knack of knowing where Messi will dart to in the box, often behind a dummy run by Luis Suarez, where he can receive Alba's passes in a scoring position. "They are very quick moves against defenses that really close down the open spaces," Alba said after Saturday's strong performance. "But Messi always waits for the opportune moment to find space, and I connect with him." Alba has done his part in ensuring Barcelona went into the Spanish league's winter break with a three-point lead atop the standings. "Most of the passes that I give Messi end up in goal," Alba said. "Leo never misses." ADIOS ATLETICO? Second-placed Atletico Madrid heads toward the winter transfer window with big questions about two of its top young players: France defender Lucas Hernandez and midfielder Thomas Partey. Hernandez has been linked to interest by Bayern Munich in triggering the 80 million euro ($91 million) buyout clause that would free him from his contract. While Atletico has denied that Hernandez wants to leave, coach Diego Simeone appears to accept that he could lose the 22-year-old defender. "Lucas knows what I told him. I love him a lot, we have watched him grow up," Simeone said after Saturday's 1-0 victory over Espanyol. "Let him decide what he thinks is best and I will support him." Thomas, who can play either as a holding midfielder or further up in the formation, has also made it publicly known that he wants to play more. "I have a deep affection for Atletico and I am grateful for all that it has done, as well as for the fans, but sometimes I feel unhappy at Atletico," Thomas said Saturday. LLORENTE'S MOMENT Ignored by previous managers, 23-year-old Marcos Llorente is playing well enough to threaten Casemiro's spot in the starting 11 as Real Madrid's holding midfielder. Llorente has started nine matches since Santiago Solari took over from the fired Julen Lopetegui two months ago, benefiting from Casemiro twisting an ankle. Llorente scored his first goal for Madrid on Saturday when he struck a powerful shot from outside the area to help beat Al Ain 4-1 in Abu Dhabi. Madrid won its third straight Club World Cup. "Life, like football, can change just like that," Llorente said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 24th, 2018

Cora gets new deal from Red Sox through 2021 season

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — Alex Cora brought a new voice and culture to the Boston Red Sox that helped propel them to their latest World Series title. The Red Sox rewarded him for bringing home a championship in his first year with the team by giving him a new contract with an additional guaranteed year through the 2021 season. The deal containing the extension was announced Wednesday by Boston also includes a club option for 2022. In his rookie season as a major league manager, Cora guided the Red Sox to a franchise-record 108 victories and the team’s fourth championship in 15 seasons. He finished second in the AL Manager of the Year voting announced Tuesday. “We have consistently been impressed by Alex at every turn,” Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said in a statement. “His knowledge of the game, ability to connect with our players, and his incredible instincts and decisiveness led us to an historic championship season. We know we are in good hands and could not be more pleased to know he will be with us for the foreseeable future.” Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was in search of new direction for the club when he fired former manager John Farrell after back-to-back Al Division Series losses in 2016 and 2017. After the historic regular season, Cora then steered Boston past the 100-win Yankees and Astros in the AL playoffs before downing the Dodgers in the World Series. “For me, 2018 was not only historic, but it was special as well, both on and off the field,” Cora said in a statement. “We have a great appreciation for our accomplishments this past year, but now our focus moves forward to the season ahead and defending our World Series title.” During Boston’s run Cora got the best out his young talent, led by AL MVP favorite Mookie Betts. They shined in player-centric approach in which Cora encouraged an aggressive hitting mentality, lots of hit-and-runs and active running of the bases. Cora also the most out of his pitching staff, which included clutch performances in the postseason by Chris Sale and David Price. Neither pitcher had logged a playoff victory as a starter prior to this season. Price had a tough time acclimating to Boston’s rugged sports environment during his first two seasons of the seven-year, $217 million deal he signed in 2015. He’s found a groove late in the season, pitching the clinching Game 5 of the ALCS to help the Red Sox advance. “Just his demeanor. It doesn’t change,” Price said last month. “I know it’s easy to not change when your team wins 108 games in the regular season. But he hasn’t changed one bit.” A member of the Red Sox’s 2007 World Series title team as a player, Cora was the bench coach on Houston’s 2017 championship team. He learned from manager A.J. Hinch that being close to players would be beneficial. “Talking to players is not bad, having a relationship with players is not bad,” Cora said in describing his managerial philosophy. “Doing that, you’re going to get the best out of them. People may think that crossing that line is not helpful, but I see it the other way around, and I lived it.” Cora became the first manager from Puerto to guide a team to a championship. It came more than a year after Hurricane Maria devastated island, prompting Cora during initial contract negotiations last October to ask the Red Sox to help his people with relief efforts. Ownership responded by sending a chartered plane full of supplies. Days after winning the World Series, they again obliged Cora’s request to take the trophy to his hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 15th, 2018

Real Madrid fires coach Lopetegui after big loss to Barca

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 30th, 2018

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

Spain sacks coach on eve of World Cup

KRASNODAR, Russia (UPDATED) – Spain sacked coach Julen Lopetegui on the even of the 2018 World Cup – and just two days before the team's opening game against Portugal – Spanish football federation chief Luis Rubiales confirmed on Wednesday, June 13. In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJun 13th, 2018

Zidane s successor faces high bar, doubts about stars

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Zinedine Zidane had barely finished announcing that he was leaving Real Madrid when speculation began about who would succeed him. Twenty-four hours later, both Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and Germany coach Joachim Loew — two of the top names rumored to be on Madrid's list of candidates — have said they are staying put. Pochettino said Friday that his "commitment is total" to Tottenham. He signed a five-year contract extension last week. Loew, who is preparing Germany to defend its World Cup title in Russia, said "it's not an issue for me. I'm at the World Cup now. I can completely rule it out now." Other coaches that Madrid president Florentino Perez supposedly is considering include Chelsea's Antonio Conte, exiting Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and former Madrid player Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez. While the Madrid job is one of soccer's most coveted posts, its next coach will have some hurdles to tackle. STARS IN DOUBT The biggest worry for any coach coming to the Spanish capital will be the uncertain future of the team's top stars. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale appear to be mulling an exit, at least according to statements they made just moments after Madrid beat Liverpool in last weekend's Champions League final. Ronaldo put a huge damper on Madrid's celebrations by appearing to speak of his time at Madrid as having reached its end. "In the next few days I'll give the fans an answer because they are the ones who have always been by my side," Ronaldo said. "It was very beautiful to be with Madrid." Ronaldo said he would clear up his future once he joins the Portuguese national team next week as it prepares for the World Cup. Bale, who scored twice as a substitute to beat Liverpool 3-1, was more explicit in stating his desire to get more playing time after a season during which he lost his spot in the starting 11. Midfielder Francisco "Isco" Alarcon has also complained about not enjoying the same untoucbable status as Ronaldo, defender Sergio Ramos or midfielder Luka Modric. COMMITMENT Zidane could hardly have set the bar any higher with three straight European Cups. Still, the Frenchman leaves a Madrid team that woefully underperformed in both the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey this season. It is likely that only his status as fan favorite from his playing days at Madrid and his titles from the previous two seasons kept Zidane in his job through the first six months of last season, until the team finally found its form in the Champions League. Madrid finished in third place in the league, a whopping 17 points adrift champion Barcelona. In the Copa del Rey, the team was eliminated at home by a modest Leganes in the quarterfinals, a moment which Zidane said was the worst of his coaching stint with the club. Whoever inherits the team will have to improve its work ethic to face the weekly grind of games in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey if it hopes to dethrone Barcelona from both domestic competitions. BENZEMA Zidane has been the biggest public defender of Karim Benzema, fending off calls from fans and the local sports media to bench the struggling striker. Benzema scored only five times in 32 league appearances this season, his lowest mark since arriving at Madrid in 2009. If the club doesn't sign a replacement for Benzema this offseason, then its next coach will have to help him recover his best form. YOUNG PLAYERS Madrid tried to rejuvenate its squad last year by bringing in a group of young Spanish players, including defenders Theo Hernandez and Jesus Vallejo, midfielders Dani Ceballos and Marcos Llorente, and forward Borja Mayoral. But none earned a spot in Zidane's starting lineup or his group of preferred backups. Madrid's in-coming coach will have to bring those players into the fold so their careers don't stagnate any further......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 2nd, 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

NHL debuted 100 years ago with contract snags and many goals

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — It was a night of sticky ice, last-minute player signings and a small crowd. Such were the glitches when the NHL it made its debut 100 years ago. Now, the world's premier hockey league celebrates its centennial with an outdoor game Saturday night between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. The days of multimillion-dollar contracts, instant replays and Florida were a long way off when the four-team NHL's first games took place on Dec. 19, 1917, while a gruesome war raged in Europe. The Canadiens took on an early incarnation of the Senators in Ottawa while the Toronto Arenas played the Wanderers in Montreal. The daily newspapers of the time, and their anonymous scribes, dutifully recorded the color and chaos of the league's emergence from the ashes of the National Hockey Association, alongside advertisements for gramophones, dyspepsia tablets and handkerchiefs. Ottawa dominated the Canadiens in the final NHA season, winning six of seven matchups. But for their first NHL meeting, the Senators were missing top scorer Frank Nighbor, an enlisted airman whose military commitment kept him off the ice. The "Pembroke Peach" would go on to win several Stanley Cups with the Ottawa team. One of his descendants, Derek Nighbor, plans to be at Ottawa's TD Place Stadium for the NHL 100 Classic game with his brother and nephew, sporting their heritage Sens jerseys emblazoned with Frank's No. 6. "Our family's pretty proud of the connection," he said. "It's not only the Nighbor name, but it's Pembroke. Still today, with our Junior 'A' Lumber Kings, hockey is really central to life in the Ottawa Valley." The 1917 edition of the Senators had another headache on opening night: contract disputes meant several players signed at the 11th hour and two — Jack Darragh and Hamby Shore — even missed the first part of the game. Canadiens sharpshooter Joe Malone scored three times in the first period, and Montreal led 5-3 heading into the third. Ottawa forced the play, but "it was useless, what looked like sure goals being missed by overskating the puck, missing passes and poor shooting," the Ottawa Journal reported. Montreal won 7-4. Ottawa might have fared better if it had begun the game at full strength, said the Journal, adding that the ice became "very sticky" near the end of the game "may have had a lot to do with their poor work here." The Daily Star confidently predicted the hometown Torontos, as the team was known, "should win in a walk" over the Wanderers, though the paper later acknowledged the Montreal roster was "not as weak" as player-coach Art Ross — future namesake of the league scoring trophy — "would have it believed." The Wanderers president invited soldiers who had been injured overseas to attend the Montreal Arena as guests. Even so, the Montreal Gazette noted the turnout of 700 was "one of the smallest crowds" to see a season opener and "many of the well-known patrons of the game were missing." A Star story concluded that the game had the look of an opener, finding the hockey "pretty rough in spots." The Torontos were said to have shown "plenty of speed and dash on the attack, but were weak on the defence." Their goaltending also failed to impress, with starter Sammy Hebert chased from the net in favor of Art Brooks. "Sammy Hebert couldn't stop a flock of balloons," a fan told the Star. One reporter considered the Wanderers lucky to win, with Montreal hanging on for a 10-9 victory. No fewer than 20 minor penalties and two majors were handed out, the Ottawa Journal reported, saying the "game was not rough, but the players were irritable." Wanderers center Harry Hyland, who scored five goals, sustained the only injury. The puck bounced off his own goalie's stick and "struck him a terrific smash fair in the eye, knocking him out." The Montreal arena burned down just weeks later and the Wanderers disbanded. In the playoffs, Toronto defeated the Canadiens for the league championship. The season was notable for a major rule change in January 1918 — allowing goalies to drop to the ice to stop the puck. The league also tried to stay a stride ahead of devious fans by providing referees with special whistles, preventing people in the crowd from stopping play by blowing the same kind used by officials. "They are really wonders in their way," the Star noted, saying "their sound resembles something between the roaring of an infuriated bull and the summer night lullaby of the latter's amphibious namesake, the bullfrog.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 16th, 2017

Gilas confident of chances vs Japan, Taiwan

National team coach Chot Reyes is confident about Gilas Pilipinas' chances heading into its Fiba World Cup qualifying matches against Japan and Chinese Taipei later this month. The Philippines, which is aiming to book a return trip to the World Cup after its historic stint three years ago in Spain, faces Japan on Nov. 24 in Tokyo before hosting Taipei three days later at Smart Araneta Coliseum. "I think we have a very good chance against Japan, I think we have a very good chance against Taiwan," Reyes said during Gilas' sendoff at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pasig. But that's not taking Gilas' rivals lightly. In fact, Reyes cited several concerns that Gilas will have to deal with....Keep on reading: Gilas confident of chances vs Japan, Taiwan.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsNov 18th, 2017

US misses World Cup because of numerous defensive breakdowns

em>By Ronald Blum, Associated Press /em> COUVA, Trinidad (AP) — Standing in the stadium tunnel near the U.S. locker room after the Collapse in Couva, captain Michael Bradley was asked over and over what went wrong. How had the United States, a regional power that had made seven straight World Cup appearances, failed to qualify for next year's tournament? What led to the Americans' stunning, crushing, almost farcical 2-1 loss to already eliminated Trinidad and Tobago that caused them to tumble to fifth in the six-nation final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region. A year of defensive breakdowns under two coaching staffs did in the U.S., which finished with three wins, three losses and four ties. 'We like to hang our hat on the fact that we outwork teams and we press teams,' goalkeeper Tim Howard said. 'They won a lot of second balls tonight and put us under pressure.' A relentless work ethic the Americans relied on for years was absent too often. 'You can't go and score four, five goals every game. We have to be able to be hard to play against,' forward Jozy Altidore said. 'We weren't hard enough to play against too many times on these nights.' In this cycle, the Americans not only lost their first home qualifier since the 2002 World Cup qualifying rounds, they lost two home games in a qualifying cycle for the first time since 1957 — during their 40-year absence from soccer's top event. 'When you lose the first two games and you drop points on too many days, your margin for error goes away, and so you know you're at the mercy of a night like this, where everything possible goes against you, both here and in the two other games,' Bradley said. 'When we start the hex poorly, when we don't take the points that we should on some other days, then you leave open the chance on the last day this can happen.' Bradley is 30 and may not play in another World Cup. Howard (38) and Clint Dempsey (34) will never again appear on soccer's biggest stage. 'If I said disappointment, it would be an understatement,' Howard said. A look at what went wrong in qualifying for the United States: strong>NOV. 11, 2016 /strong> The U.S. had been 30-0-2 in qualifying at home since a 3-2 loss to Honduras at Washington's RFK Stadium in September 2001 and scheduled its opener of the hex against Mexico at Columbus, Ohio, where the Americans had won four straight qualifiers against El Tri by 2-0 scores. Miguel Layun put Mexico ahead in the 20th minute with a shot that deflected off defender Timmy Chandler and past Howard. Bobby Wood tied the score in the 49th, but in the 89th minute 37-year-old Rafa Marquez got away from defender John Brooks, who was blocked by Altidore, and Marquez nodded in Layun's corner kick for the go-ahead goal in Mexico's 2-1 win. strong>NOV. 15, 2016 /strong> Costa Rica routed the visiting United States 4-0, the Americans' first four-goal loss in qualifying since 1980. Brooks' giveaway led to an attack culminating in Johan Venegas beating Brooks to a cross for the opening goal. Christian Pulisic's turnover set up Cristian Bolanos' goal, Brooks misplayed a looping pass leading to the third goal and Chandler was late to a cross as Joel Campbell scored his second of the night. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was fired six days later and replaced by Bruce Arena, the U.S. coach from 1998-2006. 'There's going to need to be some urgency,' Bradley said before boarding the team bus. 'We're going to have to look collectively real hard in the mirror at ourselves.' strong>MARCH 28, 2017 /strong> Four days after a 6-0 rout of Honduras at San Jose, California, in the first competitive match of Arena's return, Clint Dempsey's 39th-minute goal gave the U.S. the lead at Panama City. Gabriel Gomez tied the score four minutes later when he beat Tim Ream and Jorge Villafana to a loose ball following a thrown-in for an open 4-yard shot past Howard. The score finished 1-1. strong>JUNE 11, 2017 /strong> Arena changed seven starters with only two off days following a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago at Commerce City, Colorado. Bradley's 40-yard chip in Mexico City's thin air put the U.S. ahead in the sixth minute at Estadio Azteca, but Carlos Vela equalized in the 23rd minute to finish a field-length move, cutting inside of 35-year-old left back DaMarcus Beasley for a 23-yard shot that beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan to the near post. The game ended 1-1. strong>SEPT. 1, 2017 /strong> Marco Urena spun around Ream, caught Howard leaning and beat the goalkeeper to the far post in the 30th minute. Urena doubled the lead in the 82nd with an 18-yard shot after David Guzman intercepted a poor pass by Geoff Cameron, giving Costa Rica a 2-0 win at Harrison, New Jersey. strong>SEPT. 5, 2017 /strong> Romell Quioto put Honduras ahead in the 27th minute at San Pedro Sula after defender Omar Gonzalez failed to clear the ball with a slide tackle and left an open shot. Wood's 85th-minute goal salvaged a draw that kept the Americans in fourth place, behind Panama but ahead of Honduras on goal difference. 'He just kind of like fell over the ball a little bit,' Arena said of Gonzalez. strong>OCT. 10, 2017 /strong> A 4-0 rout of Panama days earlier in Orlando, Florida, moved the Americans back into third place and put them in position to qualify with a win over Trinidad and Tobago, almost certainly with a tie (because of goal difference) or even a defeat if Panama failed to beat Costa Rica and Honduras did not defeat Mexico. A loss coupled by either a Costa Rica or Honduras defeat would mean a two-game playoff for the U.S. next month against Australia. But 28 years after the U.S. won at Trinidad and Tobago to return to the World Cup for the first time since 1950, the Soca Warriors went ahead in the 17th minute when Gonzalez tried to clear a cross but sent the ball off his left shin and looping over Howard. Alvin Jones scored on a 35-yard shot in the 37th and while Pulisic cut the gap in the 47th, Dempsey hit a post in the 77th, and both Panama and Costa Rica rallied from halftime deficits to win.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

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

Germany, England seal World Cup qualification; Poland close

em>By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press /em> Germany and England booked places at the World Cup in Russia next year, while Poland was made to wait for qualification in Europe despite thrashing Armenia 6-1 on Thursday. Defending champion Germany never looked like missing out as early goals helped it to beat Northern Ireland 3-1 in Belfast, maintaining its perfect record with nine wins from nine games in Group C. England qualified in contrasting fashion, scraping past Slovenia 1-0 thanks to Harry Kane's injury-time strike in a poor team performance at Wembley Stadium. Robert Lewandowski scored a hat trick in Yerevan, Armenia, to become Poland's all-time highest scorer and put his team on the verge of qualification. A draw later between Montenegro and Denmark would have meant Poland clinched Group E, but Christian Eriksen gave Denmark a 1-0 win in Podgorica to keep alive its slim hope of topping the group. Group winners qualify automatically for the finals in Russia. Here's a closer look at the action across the three groups: strong>GROUP C /strong> Northern Ireland hadn't lost a qualifier in Windsor Park for four years, but it got off to a bad start when Germany's Sebastian Rudy fired the ball inside the top corner from distance in the second minute. Sandro Wagner brought a good save from Michael McGovern and hit the post before he finally scored in the 21st to give Germany a comfortable lead. Joshua Kimmich wrapped it up late, and Josh Magennis got the enthusiastic home fans singing again with the home side's consolation after a corner in injury time. Northern Ireland was already assured of at least second place, but only the top eight runners-up from the nine groups advance to playoffs. Already out of contention, the Czech Republic defeated Azerbaijan 2-1 in Baku to move to third, and Mohamed 'Moi' Elyounoussi scored a hat trick as Norway routed San Marino 8-0. Germany coach Joachim Loew said before his side's game in Belfast that he wants to complete qualifying with 10 wins from 10 games, a feat accomplished previously by only Spain before it won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. strong>GROUP E /strong> With his third hat trick in the campaign, Poland striker Lewandowski became the most prolific scorer in a European qualifying campaign with 15, one ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo. Lewandowski curled in a free kick to tie Wlodzimierz Lubanski's record as Poland's all-time leading scorer on 48 goals and then added two more to own it outright with 50. Following Denmark's 1-0 win in Montenegro, Poland leads by three points over Denmark, and it needs a point from the last-round match on Sunday against Montenegro in Warsaw to automatically qualify as the group winner. Denmark, which handed Poland its only defeat in the group stage by 4-0, hosts Romania in the last round and must win to top the group. strong>GROUP F /strong> Kane secured England's place in the fourth minute of additional time when he latched onto Kyle Walker's cross and struck under goalkeeper Jan Oblak for the side's flattering win over Slovenia. It was a rare highlight on a dreary and subdued night that highlighted the limitations of Gareth Southgate's Russia-bound team. England, which hasn't missed a World Cup since 1994, could still be joined in Russia next year by neighbor Scotland. Martin Skrtel's own goal gave Scotland a 1-0 victory over 10-man Slovakia in Glasgow. The Scots, missing from the World Cup since 1998, will be guaranteed second place and a potential place in the playoffs if they beat Slovenia in the last round of games on Sunday. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 6th, 2017

Trump's comments about anthem, Curry inflame sports stars

CATHERINE LUCEY, Associated Press br /> TIM REYNOLDS, Associated Press br /> SOMERSET, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump sharply criticized protests by NFL players for a second straight day and rescinded NBA star Stephen Curry's White House invitation on Saturday in a series of tweets that outraged football and basketball stars and even prompted LeBron James to call the president a 'bum.' Trump started by announcing that Curry, the immensely popular two-time MVP for the Golden State Warriors, would not be welcome at the White House for the commemorative visit traditionally made by championship teams. Later, Trump reiterated what he said at a rally in Alabama the previous night that NFL players who kneel for the national anthem should be fired, prompting immediate condemnation from a handful of team executives, the league commissioner and its players' union. The Warriors said it was made clear to them that they were not welcome at the White House. They said that when they go to Washington this season they will instead 'celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion — the values that we embrace as an organization.' Curry had said he did not want to go to the White House anyway, but the Warriors had not made a collective decision before Saturday. 'U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going!' James tweeted in a clear message to the president — a post that Twitter officials said was quickly shared many more times than any other he's sent. 'So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!' James also released a video Saturday, saying Trump has tried to divide the country. 'He's now using sports as the platform to try to divide us,' James said. 'We all know how much sports brings us together. ... It's not something I can be quiet about.' Warriors general manager Bob Myers said he was surprised by the invitation being pulled. 'The White House visit should be something that is celebrated,' Myers said. 'So we want to go to Washington, D.C., and do something to commemorate kind of who we are as an organization, what we feel, what we represent and at the same time spend our energy on that. Instead of looking backward, we want to look forward.' Added Warriors coach Steve Kerr, after his team's first practice of the season: 'These are not normal times.' As a candidate and as president, Trump's approach has at times seemed to inflame racial tensions in a deeply divided country while emboldening groups long in the shadows. The latest sports comments come a little over a month after Trump came under fire for his response to a white supremacists' protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump later pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Arizona's Maricopa County, who had been found guilty of defying a judge's order to stop racially profiling Latinos. Trump's latest entry into the intersection of sports and politics started in Alabama on Friday night, when he said NFL players who refused to stand for 'The Star-Spangled Banner' are exhibiting a 'total disrespect of our heritage.' Several NFL players, starting last season with then-San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have either knelt, sat or raised fists during the anthem to protest police treatment of blacks and social injustice. Last week at NFL games, four players sat or knelt during the anthem, and two raised fists while others stood by the protesters in support. Other players have protested in different ways over the past season since Kaepernick began sitting during the 2016 preseason. 'That's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,' Trump said, encouraging owners to act. He added, 'Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired.' On Saturday, Trump echoed his stance. 'If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,' Trump wrote in an afternoon pair of tweets. 'If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!' Trump has enjoyed strong support from NFL owners, with at least seven of them donating $1 million each to Trump's inaugural committee. They include New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, who Trump considers a friend. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell strongly backed the players while New York Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch said the president's comments were inappropriate and offensive. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who has supported the players who have knelt, said the country 'needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness,' and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York ripped Trump's comments as 'callous.' 'Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,' Goodell said in a statement. Plenty of other current and former stars from across sports weighed in Saturday. Richard Sherman of Seattle Seahawks said the president's behavior is 'unacceptable and needs to be addressed.' In his Friday remarks, Trump also bemoaned what he called a decline in violence in football, noting that it's 'not the same game' because players are now either penalized or thrown out of games for aggressive tackles. 'No man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights,' DeMaurice Smith, the NFL Players Association executive director, said Saturday. 'No worker nor any athlete, professional or not, should be forced to become less than human when it comes to protecting their basic health and safety.' Trump has met with some championship teams already in his first year in office. Clemson visited the White House this year after winning the College Football Playoff, some members of the New England Patriots went after the Super Bowl victory and the Chicago Cubs went to the Oval Office in June to commemorate their World Series title. The Cubs also had the larger and more traditional visit with President Barack Obama in January, four days before the Trump inauguration. North Carolina, the reigning NCAA men's basketball champion, said Saturday it will not visit the White House this season. The Tar Heels cited scheduling conflicts. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, said Trump has 'taken indecency to a new low.' 'I think that the president has forgotten that he is the standard bearer for our country, that little boys and little girls look up to the president,' he said. 'Little boys and little girls want to be like the president. They want to talk like the president. I think that the president has insulted the American people with this low level of verbiage.' Warriors forward Draymond Green said the good news was that Golden State won't have to talk about going to the White House again — unless they win another title during the Trump presidency. 'Michelle Obama said it best,' Green said. 'She said it best. They go low. We go high. He beat us to the punch. Happy the game is over.' ___ Reynolds reported from Miami. AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Oakland, California, and AP writer Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this story. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2017

ONE Championship: All Hands On Deck For Team Lakay As They Brace For Hectic Week

As Mark Sangiao focuses on Joshua “The Passion” Pacio's ONE Strawweight World Title defense this weekend, two of his World Champions are holding down the fort for him back in the Philippines.   Sangiao has delegated the coaching duties to ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang and ONE Bantamweight World Champion Kevin Belingon after the Team Lakay head coach left for Jakarta, Indonesia for Pacio’s bout on early Tuesday morning.   Pacio is slated to defend his ONE Straweight World Title against Yosuke Saruta at ONE: ETERNAL GLORY at the Istora Senayan on 19 January, which kicks off the string of title defenses for Team Lakay.   Six days later,  Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio’s turn to defend his  ONE Flyweight World Title when he battles Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes in the main event of ONE: HERO’S ASCENT at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines on 25 January.   Given the hectic schedule of the stable, all hands should definitely be on deck for Team Lakay.   "Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon will oversee Eustaquio's training while I'm away for Joshua Pacio. I asked Folayang to stay behind for Geje while I work Pacio's corner in Jakarta," Sangiao revealed.   "We have a ready program. The boys will know what to do while I'm away. The thing about our team is we work and help each other all the time. Geje and Honorio are being trained by two world champions right now. Our team being a family is an advantage."   Sangiao assures that no one gets overlooked in the team despite his busy schedule.   He cited that athletes under his watchful eye are given equal priority, and it’s hard to argue against the results of their unified training camp which they have been accustomed to since the gym’s inception in 2003.   "Training camp has gone really well for Joshua Pacio, we're just doing light training in fight week. We were able to get what we wanted for him physically and mentally. We came up with a game plan and his conditioning for his first title defense is superb," said Sangiao.   "Geje started training camp for Moraes in November. Geje's confidence is already there, and his training has been really good so far. We expect a hungry Moraes in the third fight so we're putting in a lot of time to prepare for that."   With expectations getting bigger and bigger with every achievement, Sangiao is just thankful to have a family he can rely on during those days when his plates get too full for his own good. o   "We always teach unity and team work in Team Lakay," stressed Sangiao. "All of our achievements are a collective result of our hard work. Each man and woman in the team deserve equal credit for all the success we've had.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2019

LOOK: Jinri Park grapples with Team Lakay in Baguio

Filipina model/celebrity Jinri Park has been taking her Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu talents up to Baguio City to train with none other than the world champions over at the famed Team Lakay gym.  Park, who's a Blue Belt under Atos Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, recently made the trip up north to help reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Geje "Gravity" Eustaquio prepare for his world title defense against Brazilian grappling ace Adriano Moraes at ONE: Hero's Ascent on Friday, January 25th at the Mall of Asia Arena.          View this post on Instagram                   Came to Baguio to train with the champ! @lakay.gravity Excited to see his leg locks and kill his opponent this coming Jan 25! Let’s go Team Lakay!! Congrats to @therockbanario for the blue belt! Finally! Daming “fake” white belts here at Team Lakay 😂 Dapat lahat blue or purple and above!!! SWIPE ➡️ #jiujitsu #bjj #onechampionship #onefc #leglocks A post shared by Jinri Park (@jinri_88) on Jan 16, 2019 at 10:56pm PST           View this post on Instagram                   Rolling with a blue belt.. A great visitor #teamlakay2019 A post shared by Geje "Gravity" Eustaquio (@lakay.gravity) on Jan 17, 2019 at 12:43am PST  This isn't the first time that Park has helped out with the Baguio boys, as she's dropped by the La Trinidad, Benguet-based gym a couple of times back in 2018, training the likes of ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang and former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio Banario among others.            View this post on Instagram                   Celebrating my 3rd year anniversary of being a jiujiteira! A lot has happened this year, joined Tokyo Open, Masters Asia Open and even tried my luck at Worlds! I will never stop falling in love with this sport ❤️ Recently had the opportunity to train with the champs at Team Lakay! Congratulations @the.landslide and @therockbanario for winning the fight tonight! Your fights were LEGIT and super solid! Never gave up and kept fighting! Have so much respect for you guys! Oss! Pinoy pride! Don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel! Recently uploaded my sparring session with eduard and also a Q&A with the landslide coming soon!!!! Subscribe to YouTube.com/thejinriexperience #bjj #jiujitsu #eduardfolayang #onechampionship #mma SWIPE ➡️ A post shared by Jinri Park (@jinri_88) on Nov 23, 2018 at 9:15am PST           View this post on Instagram                   Had fun rolling with @the.landslide few days back in baguio! The struggle is real 😂 #bjj #jiujitsu A post shared by Jinri Park (@jinri_88) on Nov 1, 2018 at 8:40pm PDT For the past few years, grappling has been a major point of improvement for the Team Lakay members, and their hard work on the mats have paid dividends, as they've managed to snag four world championships, just this past year.  Park, who has done a lot of competing in her three years of practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, had nothing but praise for the boys in Baguio, calling them "fake white belts."  "Daming “fake” white belts here at Team Lakay. Dapat lahat blue or purple and above," her post read.  In fact, two members of Team Lakay in Banario and Edward Kelly earned their Blue Belts under Coach John Baylon in 2018. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2019

Stronger and Faster at 40: Manny Pacquiao works out in Las Vegas

It didn't take long for Manny Pacquiao to get work in as he arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The eight-division boxing world champion and reigning WBA (Regular) Welterweight World Champion immediately resumed training, less than a day after he and his entourage touched down at the boxing capital of the world, just days ahead of his world title defense against Adrien Broner.          View this post on Instagram                   Pacquiao starts 1st vegas workout #pacquiaobroner A post shared by Dyan Castillejo (@dyancastillejo) on Jan 15, 2019 at 12:53pm PST Manny footwork pic.twitter.com/c6KVCjC3pA — DYAN CASTILLEJO (@DYANCASTILLEJO) January 15, 2019           View this post on Instagram                   Coach Freddie , BUBOY , Justin after this : You’re there Manny 👍 #pacquiaobroner A post shared by Dyan Castillejo (@dyancastillejo) on Jan 15, 2019 at 1:39pm PST It was a light day in the gym for the 40-year old, doing some shadow boxing and hitting the mitts, as training usually tapers down as the fight nears.  In an interview with ABS-CBN's Dyan Castillejo after the workout, Pacquiao said that he was ready to go.   "It’s all set, I’m ready for the fight, nothing to worry about," said the Filipino boxing icon.  With regards to his opponent, Manny says that it's all about utilizing what was worked on in training.  "Kung ano yung style niya, napag-handaan na natin, yung focus and then kailangan wag kalimutan yung ginawa sa training." At 40 years old, Pacquiao is definitely on the older side, especially in boxing. But as can be seen in his training, it doesn't seem like he's lost too much oomph in his hands and pep in his step, which he says is nothing short of a blessing.  "Yes, I feel that [I punch harder], andiyan pa yung lakas natin and yung footwork nandiyan parin, bihira lang yung ganito. We’re so blessed by God kasi iilan lang yung boxer na umabot ng 40 and ganito pa din ka-liksi gumalaw," Pacquiao shared.  In Broner, Pacquiao will be facing a man who's eleven years his junior.  The two square off at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, January 19th (January 20th, Manila time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2019