France face Germany as Portugal begin title defense on Super Tuesday at Euro 2020

Germany’s coach Joachim Loew and France’s coach Didier Deschamps. France faces Germany in a UEFA EURO Group F football match on Tuesday evening. (AFP )
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Updated 15 June 2021

France face Germany as Portugal begin title defense on Super Tuesday at Euro 2020

  • Puskas Arena the only one of European Championship’s 11 venues with no Covid-19 limits on allowed number of fans
  • Les Bleus [France] come into the tournament as firm favourites thanks to their status as World Cup holders

PARIS: Reigning champions Portugal begin their defense of the trophy against Hungary at Euro 2020 in Budapest on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, World Cup holders France take on Germany in a hotly-anticipated clash between two of the continent’s heavyweights.
Action on the pitch on day five of the tournament was preceded by a heartwarming “I’m fine” social media post from Christian Eriksen, the Danish midfielder recovering from Saturday’s shocking cardiac arrest.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal are set to have the honor of a full house in the Hungarian capital, with the Puskas Arena the only one of the 11 venues at this European Championship where there are no Covid-19 limits on the number of fans allowed.
“It’s perfect. I wish every single venue could host a full house. It’s great for viewers and players, but sadly it’s not up to us to decide,” said Ronaldo of the prospect of a crowd of up to 68,000 watching the first of Tuesday’s two matches at the tournament in Group F.
Ronaldo is 36 now and aiming to score in a fifth different European Championship finals.
He needs just one more goal to become the outright top scorer in the tournament, and is just five goals away from equalling the all-time international scoring record of 109 held by Iran’s Ali Daei.
But, from Ruben Dias to Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix, there is also an outstanding team behind him and Portugal are hopeful of retaining the title they won at Euro 2016 in France.
“Right now we think we have what it takes to win the cup,” said coach Fernando Santos.
Hungary are the rank outsiders in the group but are hoping to make the most of their home advantage.
That game will be followed by the mouthwatering showdown in Munich as the world champions face a Germany side eager to make up for their desperate showing at the World Cup in Russia, when they were knocked out in the group stage.
Les Bleus come into the tournament as firm favorites thanks to their status as World Cup holders and after coach Didier Deschamps decided to recall Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema from a five-and-a-half-year international exile.
France lost 1-0 to Germany in the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals in Rio de Janeiro but are unbeaten in the five meetings between the sides since, including a 2-0 win in the Euro 2016 semifinals.
“This fixture brings back happy memories and not so happy memories,” said France goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris. “It is one of the all-time great major tournament fixtures.”
Germany are under pressure to perform in front of a home support at Munich’s Allianz Arena as they come into their final tournament under coach Joachim Loew, who will stand down after the finals following 15 years in charge.
“The spirit is very good and the team is hungry for success. That makes me confident and allows me to sleep peacefully,” Loew said.
In stark contrast to Budapest, authorities in Munich are only allowing around 14,500 fans into the Allianz Arena for games, equivalent to about 20 percent of capacity.
On Monday Spain got off to a stuttering start as Luis Enrique’s side — playing Group E games at home in Seville — were held to a 0-0 draw by Sweden.
European champions in 2008 and 2012, Spain were without captain Sergio Busquets, still isolating after testing positive for coronavirus, and paid for wasteful finishing by much-criticized Alvaro Morata.
In stark contrast Patrik Schick scored one of the championship’s greatest goals, a high, curling shot from just inside the halfway line in the Czech Republic’s 2-0 win over Scotland.
Schick had earlier headed in the opener as the Czechs ruined Scotland’s long-awaited first game at a major tournament in 23 years and went top of Group D.
“The ball bounced back, the goalkeeper was quite high, I took a look, I saw he was out there so I slammed it in,” said Bayer Leverkusen striker Schick of his stunner.
Also on day four, Slovakia edged out 10-man Poland 2-1 in Saint Petersburg in Group E.
In Copenhagen meanwhile Eriksen continues his recovery following his collapse in the game against Finland.
“I’m fine — under the circumstances, I still have to go through some examinations at the hospital, but I feel okay,” wrote the Denmark player on Instagram accompanied by a photo of him smiling and giving a thumbs-up while lying in bed.
Instagram was also the place where Austria’s Marko Arnautovic penned his apology after insulting North Macedonia players in Sunday’s victory, but despite his mea culpa UEFA have opened disciplinary proceedings into his behavior in Bucharest.


US rebounds from opening loss with 6-1 win over New Zealand

Updated 29 min 36 sec ago

US rebounds from opening loss with 6-1 win over New Zealand

  • Sweden blanked the US 3-0 in the opener
  • New Zealand lost to Australia 2-1 in its opening match

SAITAMA, Japan: After a stunning loss in the opener, the US women’s soccer team vowed to be ruthless against New Zealand.
And they rebounded in a big way.
The Americans cruised to a 6-1 rout of New Zealand in front of First Lady Jill Biden at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday.
With the United States leading 2-0 at the break, Biden arrived in time to watch the team put the game away in the second half at Saitama Stadium.
The United States was blanked by Sweden 3-0 in the opener. It was the team’s first loss since January 2019 and snapped a 44-game unbeaten streak. The Americans had not been held scoreless since 2017.
But the Americans vowed to regain control of the tournament. Defender Kelley O’Hara said the United States needed to be “ruthless” against New Zealand.
“Sweden was a very good team and we didn’t play our best, and when you do that up against a top opponent, they’re going to punish you. So that wasn’t our best performance,” Crystal Dunn said. “I think we came into Game 2 knowing that we don’t go from being a really great team two days ago to not being a great team anymore.”
Rose Lavelle scored off a well-placed pass from Tobin Heath in the ninth minute to give the United States an early lead — and the team’s first goal of the Olympics. Despite the lack of goals, the Americans dominated the half, unlike their out-of-sorts start against the Swedes.
Lindsey Horan scored with a header in the final moments of the half to put the United States up 2-0 at the break. It was Horan’s 23rd international goal and it came on her milestone 100th appearance for the national team.
Horan called it surreal: Her 100th cap while the First Lady looked on in an otherwise empty stadium.
“I think my approach going into this game — obviously it’s in the back of your head that you’re getting your 100th cap — but I didn’t want that to be a factor today, Horan said. “I think we wanted to get the job done and my focus was doing whatever I possibly could to help the team win. I’m happy to get a goal and yeah, it’s nice to have a fan in the stands, too.”
It could have been worse for New Zealand but the United States had four disallowed goals, all for offside, in the first half.
An own-goal by Abby Erceg extended the US lead to 3-0 in the 64th minute. New Zealand avoided the shutout with Betsy Hassett’s goal in the 72nd.
Christen Press, who came in as a second-half substitute, scored from the center of the box in the 80th off a feed from Julie Ertz, before Alex Morgan scored in the final minutes of regulation. Another New Zealand own-goal closed out the game in stoppage time.
“Look, from our perspective I thought we had a terrific 80 minutes and unfortunately the last 10 minutes kind of let us down a little bit on the scoreline,” New Zealand coach Tom Sermanni said. “From an effort perspective, you can’t fault the players, they gave blood sweat and tears on the field tonight to come up against a very good team.”
US coach Vlatko Andonovski made five changes to the starting lineup he used against Sweden, giving Carli Lloyd the start over Morgan, Megan Rapinoe for Press, Ertz for Sam Mewis, Emily Sonnett for O’Hara, and Tierna Davidson for captain Becky Sauerbrunn.
The United States, the reigning World Cup champion, has been to every Olympics since women’s soccer joined the event in 1996. The world’s top-ranked team has five gold medals, more than any other nation.
The US also lost the first match of the 2008 Beijing Games, falling to Norway 2-0, but went on to win the gold.
Their nemesis at the Olympics has been Sweden, which booted the Americans from the Rio de Janeiro Games in the quarterfinals five years ago.
“I think we were a little bit more composed, a little bit more patient on the ball this game, and we know it’s going to be challenging chasing that gold medal,” Dunn said. “So we’re not taking anything for granted.”
New Zealand lost to Australia 2-1 in its opening match and the Ferns’ chances of reaching the knockout round grew slim with Saturday’s loss.
New Zealand had not played any matches since March 2020 because of coronavirus restrictions.


Mind the gap: The basketball world is catching up to the US

Updated 24 July 2021

Mind the gap: The basketball world is catching up to the US

  • The gap between USA Basketball and the rest of the world has tightened
  • Americans are the only team in Tokyo with 12 NBA players

SAITAMA, Japan: When the Dream Team era started in 1992, most of the NBA players in the Olympics represented the United States.
David Stern knew what would happen from there.
“In time,” the former NBA commissioner predicted in 1995, “that will change.”
Stern was right. The number of international players in the NBA has steadily risen since — and the gap between USA Basketball and the rest of the world has tightened as well. There will be more players in this tournament with NBA experience than ever before, with nearly 70 players in the Tokyo Olympics either current or former players in the league. More than four dozen of them played in the league this past season.
And only 12 of that group are in Japan to compete with “USA” across their chests.
That’s why, when this men’s Olympic tournament opens Sunday, the medal possibilities may be as wide open as they have been since that first team of NBA stars took the court in Barcelona. That group — which featured 11 future Hall of Famers on a 12-man roster — showed the rest of the world how much they had to do to catch the red, white and blue.
“The gap is smaller and smaller every year as far as talent is concerned,” US coach Gregg Popovich said.
The US is seeking a fourth consecutive gold medal and is the big favorite to do just that according to FanDuel, The Americans are the only team in Tokyo with 12 NBA players. But like Popovich said and Stern anticipated years ago, the talent gap has drastically dwindled.
Nigeria, which beat the Americans in an exhibition, has eight NBA players. Australia, which also defeated the US in a warm-up game, has seven. So does France, the first US opponent in this tournament on Sunday and the nation that knocked the Americans out of contention at the Basketball World Cup two years ago. That setback sent the team spiraling to a seventh-place finish, the worst showing in any tournament ever for an American roster composed of NBA players.
“I think every team wants to beat us,” US forward Kevin Durant said. “Everybody wants to see us lose, so every game has a little bit more pressure to it.”
There’s only one current All-NBA first team player in these Olympics. He doesn’t play for the US.
Slovenia’s Luka Doncic garnered more first-team votes in the All-NBA voting this season, 55, than the entire US Olympic roster got combined. This is Slovenia’s first time in the Olympics, but with Doncic leading the way, medal talk doesn’t seem misguided.
“Slovenians, we know how to fight, man,” Doncic said. “We’re not going to go down easy.”
Doncic willed Slovenia to a win in the Olympic qualifying tournament that ended on July 4 and gave the tiny nation a spot in the Tokyo field. And what he’s done in his NBA tenure with Dallas has only shown the world that the buzz he arrived with was more than appropriate.
“He’s a spectacular player, as we all know,” Popovich said. “He’s one of the best players in the world. And I emphasize, in the world. He showed himself early on in Europe, and he was a fast study in the NBA for sure. He’s fun to watch. His skills, his competitiveness, his size, his innate basketball IQ is so impressive. You put four hardworking people around him and you’ve got a hell of a team.”
There are 12 teams in the field; four will have to wait until Monday for their Olympic openers. Sunday’s schedule has Iran vs. the Czech Republic, Germany vs. Italy, Australia vs. Nigeria and then the US vs. France. The Monday men’s openers are Argentina vs. Slovenia and host Japan vs. reigning World Cup champion Spain.
The Miami Heat have four players at the Olympics, but only one plays for the US. The Heat have three players on Nigeria’s roster (KZ Okpala, Precious Achiuwa and Gabe Vincent Nnamdi), with Bam Adebayo playing for the US.
The only men’s team in the Olympic field without a current NBA player is Iran. That roster does, however, have a former NBA player — Hamed Haddadi, who appeared in 151 games over parts of five NBA seasons for Memphis and Phoenix. He last appeared in the NBA in 2013.
The women’s game is going on the same trajectory as the men’s when it comes to having more international players with WNBA experience in these Olympics than in any previous games. The US has 12 WNBA players on its roster, while Australia has nine current or former WNBA players and Canada has eight.
Slovenia coach Aleksander Sekulić, on what Doncic does for a team: “Everything looks way easier and he’s making other players good. Also, me, myself.”


Five athletes overcome obstacles to represent Yemen at Tokyo 2020

Updated 24 July 2021

Five athletes overcome obstacles to represent Yemen at Tokyo 2020

  • Despite the turmoil in the country, the delegation will represent Yemen in its 10th Olympic Games

DUBAI: Five athletes will represent Yemen at Tokyo 2020 despite the country’s continuing war and political and economic turmoil.
The country’s 12-strong delegation at the opening ceremony in the Japanese capital included the athletes and their coaches, and was headed by the Yemeni ambassador to Germany, Yahya Al-Shuaibi, who is also a vice president of the Yemen National Olympic Committee (NOC).
The five athletes are Yasmine Al-Rimi in the Women’s Shooting, Ahmad Salem in the Men’s Judo, swimmers Mukhtar Ali Al-Yamani in the Men’s 100 and 200 meters freestyle and Noran Bamatraf in the Women’s 100 meters freestyle, and athlete Ahmed Al-Yari in the men’s 400 meters.
The is the 10th time that Yemen has participated at the Olympics since its NOC was established in 1974 and recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 1981.

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Court details Ryan Giggs’ alleged pattern of domestic abuse

Updated 23 July 2021

Court details Ryan Giggs’ alleged pattern of domestic abuse

  • Giggs appeared in Manchester Crown Court and pleaded innocent to charges of controlling and coercive behavior toward his ex-girlfriend
  • He allegedly kicked his former girlfriend in the back and threw her naked out of their room

MANCHESTER: Former Manchester United player Ryan Giggs allegedly kicked a former girlfriend and threw her naked out of their hotel room as part of a pattern of abusive behavior, it was claimed in court on Friday.
The 47-year-old Giggs appeared in Manchester Crown Court and pleaded not guilty to a charge of controlling and coercive behavior toward his former girlfriend from August 2017 to November 2020.
Giggs also pleaded not guilty to two assault charges related to an incident at his Manchester-area home on Nov. 1 last year, when he allegedly caused actual bodily harm to his former girlfriend and allegedly physically assaulted the woman’s sister.
Details of Giggs’ alleged controlling and coercive behavior were read out by the court clerk.
At the Stafford Hotel in London, Giggs allegedly kicked his former girlfriend in the back, threw her naked out of their room and threw her bag at her after she accused him of flirting with other women.
Giggs allegedly threatened to send emails to the woman’s friends and employers about their sexual relationship.
After she tried to end their relationship, Giggs allegedly would turn up unannounced and uninvited at her home, workplace and gym. He also allegedly sent unwanted messages and made unwanted calls to her and her friends.
Giggs had previously denied all allegations and said he would “look forward to clearing my name.”
His bail conditions were extended and he must not contact the two women or go to any address where they are.
A pre-trial hearing was scheduled for Oct. 8 and a trial date is set for Jan. 24.
Giggs is on leave as coach of Wales, for which he made 64 appearances as a player.
He played a record 963 times for Manchester United before retiring in 2014. He’s also a co-owner of fourth-division Salford.


Son extends contract at Tottenham, calls it ‘easy’ decision

Updated 23 July 2021

Son extends contract at Tottenham, calls it ‘easy’ decision

  • Son Heung-min signed a four-year contract extension to keep him at the Premier League club through June 2025
  • Son, 29, has compiled 107 goals and 64 assists in 280 appearances in all competitions

LONDON: At least one star forward wants to stay at Tottenham.
Son Heung-min signed a four-year contract extension Friday to keep him at the Premier League club through June 2025.
Harry Kane’s future is another question. He’s under contract with the north London team until 2024 but has indicated he wants a change of scenery.
Not so for South Korea captain Son.
“It was already a big honor to play here for six years,” he said in a team statement. “The club have showed me massive, massive respect and obviously I’m very happy to be here.”
The 29-year-old Son has compiled 107 goals and 64 assists in 280 appearances in all competitions since joining Tottenham from Bayer Leverkusen in August 2015.
“It’s like home, especially with the fans, the players, the staff,” Son said. “There was no decision. It was easy. I’m so happy to be here and will be so glad to see the fans again soon.”
No financial details were given.
Tottenham tweeted: “He’s here to stay.”
“Everyone can see the real positive impact he has on the club, both on and off the field, and we are delighted that he will play a part in what we are trying to achieve in the coming years,” football managing director Fabio Paratici said.
With Son’s future seemingly set, new manager Nuno Espirito Santo can now turn his attention to Kane. Last week, Nuno affirmed that he expects Kane to return.
After Tottenham’s seventh-place finish in the Premier League left it out of the Champions League, Kane indicated he wants out. The England and Tottenham captain was frustrated with the direction of the team and lack of trophies.
Son told club media that he’s ready to shoulder the responsibility of winning trophies.
“I want to win something with Tottenham,” he said. “This is my aim and this is also the fans’ aim. This is a massive club — big opportunity. I want to be part of this, I want to take a big responsibility of this. That’s what I signed for.”
Kane and Son in 2020-21 set the single-season Premier League record for combining on goals. The pair assisted one another on 14 goals, one better than Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton from the 1994-95 season with Blackburn.
Son has scored 27 goals in 93 appearances for South Korea, including a total of three goals at two World Cups.
Tottenham hosts Premier League champion Manchester City for its season opener on Aug. 15. The only European involvement for Tottenham this season will be in the less lucrative and new third-tier Europa Conference League.