Ancelotti ‘surprised’ by Kroos absence from Ballon d’Or nominees

Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos celebrates after winning their European Super Cup match against Eintracht Frankfurt at Helsinki Olympic Stadium, Helsinki on Wednesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 August 2022
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Ancelotti ‘surprised’ by Kroos absence from Ballon d’Or nominees

  • New signing Antonio Rudiger is also on the list but there was no room for the German midfielder Kroos
  • "It surprises me a bit, because Kroos had a fantastic season," quipped Ancelotti in a press conference

MADRID: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti on Saturday said he was surprised that German midfielder Toni Kroos did not feature on the list of 30 finalists for the Ballon d’Or.
Five members of the Champions League winning side were nominated on Friday in the shape of Thibault Cortois, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Vinicius Junior and favorite Karim Benzema.
New signing Antonio Rudiger is also on the list but there was no room for the German midfielder Kroos.
“It surprises me a bit, because Kroos had a fantastic season... But it’s true that it could be a problem if we named all the Real Madrid players, I can understand that,” quipped Ancelotti in a press conference ahead of Madrid’s Liga opener at Almeria on Sunday.
“But (Federico) Valverde, (Eder) Militao, (David) Alaba... all deserve to be there.
“All of them had a fantastic season. I’m not talking about winning the Ballon d’Or, but they deserve to be on the list.”
Ancelotti was particularly pleased with the inclusion of Brazilian forward Vinicius on the 30-strong list of nominees.
“He scored the winning goal in our 14th Champions League, he had an incredible season,” said the Italian.
“He doesn’t care if he finishes fourth or second. For the players, only victory matters. He will do better in the future. But unfortunately for Vini, this season, we already have the winner with us.”
Ancelotti was in little doubt, it seems, that French striker Benzema, who is hotly tipped to succeed would walk away with the award.
The Ballon d’Or will be awarded on October 17.
Real Madrid will kick off the defense of their La Liga title at newly-promoted Almería.
“We are feeling good, we have all the hope in the world as we start this season,” said Ancelotti, adding that “each game will be very difficult, starting tomorrow.”


’Eiffel Tower’ lights up quiet suburb in Chinese city of Asiad host Hangzhou

Updated 22 September 2023
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’Eiffel Tower’ lights up quiet suburb in Chinese city of Asiad host Hangzhou

  • Tianducheng is a quirky relic of the country’s turn-of-the-century craze for everything foreign
  • The tower is one of many replicas of Western architecture that dot the country where developers once looked to Europe and North America for inspiration

HANGZHOU: As decorative fountains frame a view of the Eiffel Tower and a fashionable young woman walks a poodle nearby, you might mistake China’s Tianducheng neighborhood for Paris — if not for the concrete towers in the distance and Chinese signs on every shopfront.

Built in the 2000s, the residential area lies on the outskirts of Hangzhou, the city hosting around 12,000 athletes for the Asian Games that open on Saturday — a key stop for many of the world’s top athletes before the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Tianducheng is a quirky relic of the country’s turn-of-the-century craze for everything foreign.

Apartment blocks decorated with the City of Light’s iron balconies and mansard roofs flank a “boulevard” where motorized delivery tricycles zip past a braised duck-head stall.

Pensioners clutching plastic bags of groceries pause to take in the sights under a grey sky, while weathered horse statues rear up from a fountain that could have come out of the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Once advertised as a luxury community and a venue for French cultural festivals, Tianducheng languished for years with unfilled shop units and uninhabited apartments before Hangzhou’s booming tech industry brought eager buyers to its leafy avenues.

The tower is one of many replicas of Western architecture that dot the country where developers once looked to Europe and North America for inspiration, including a British-inspired Thames Town in Shanghai and a subtropical Interlaken in tech hub Shenzhen.

And in Jujun, a 2001 development in outer Beijing that literally translates to “Orange County,” McMansions complete with parched lawns bring a slice of Southern California to the Chinese capital.

They are relics of a bygone era, with China’s communist leaders clamping down on “bizarre,” foreign-inspired structures in recent years.


Nagelsmann named coach of Euro 2024 hosts Germany

Updated 22 September 2023
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Nagelsmann named coach of Euro 2024 hosts Germany

  • Germany fired Flick with the national team struggling, the German football association (DFB) fearing another embarrassing performance in a major tournament
  • Former Bayern Munich boss Nagelsmann has signed a deal until the end of next July, allowing the 36-year-old to leave after Euro 2024

MUNICH, Germany: Julian Nagelsmann has been given nine months to revive flailing Germany ahead of hosting Euro 2024 after being named as the sacked Hansi Flick’s successor as national team coach on Friday.
Germany fired Flick with the national team struggling, the German football association (DFB) fearing another embarrassing performance in a major tournament, this time as hosts at next year’s European championships.
Former Bayern Munich boss Nagelsmann has signed a deal until the end of next July, allowing the 36-year-old to leave after Euro 2024.
“We have a European Championship in our own country — that’s something special,” Nagelsmann said in a statement.
“I have a great desire to take on this challenge.”
Nagelsmann said he signed the short-term deal “to keep the Euros in focus” but insisted he “would not rule out” an extension.
Flick, who became the first coach in Germany history to be sacked, had won just four of 17 matches leading up to his dismissal and took the team to a disappointing group-stage exit at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The four-time world champions were also knocked out in the group stage at the 2018 World Cup in Russia under previous boss Joachim Loew.
DFB president Bernd Neuendorf called Nagelsmann “an outstanding coach” and said: “We are convinced (he) will ensure that the national team inspires its fans and that the Euros are also a sporting success.”
Flick was sacked after a humiliating 4-1 friendly loss to Japan in Wolfsburg in early September.
Nagelsmann, who also succeeded Flick as Bayern coach, has been jobless since he was sacked by the German champions in March.
DFB sporting director Rudi Voeller called Nagelsmann “an absolute football expert” and said he had “proven himself at a very young age for a head coach.”
Voeller took the reins on a “one-off” basis for Germany’s 2-1 win over France in Dortmund, but said his main task was to find a permanent successor.
Nagelsmann said the victory over France was “the beginning” of the team’s journey to Euro 2024.
Benjamin Glueck and Sandro Wagner have been appointed as Nagelsmann’s assistants.
Nagelsmann was seen as a rising star after impressive spells at Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, before getting the top job at Bayern.
Nagelsmann was mentioned as a possible candidate for a number of top club vacancies over the summer, being linked with English sides Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, as well as Paris Saint-Germain.
Nagelsmann told a press conference he would focus on a playing style which was “easy to implement,” saying: “Especially in difficult moments, it’s important to give players something they can grasp.”
Nagelsmann spoke out for the first time about his “painful” Bayern exit.
“What hurts most in a separation like that is that it is painful to sit in front of the TV and watch your team in the Champions League, but know that you aren’t able to help them and work with them,” he said.
The Bavaria native, who became the youngest coach in Bundesliga history when he took over as head coach of Hoffenheim aged 28, added: “For me as a person, Julian Nagelsmann, I don’t define myself by the job.
“There can be phases where it doesn’t go perfectly. That’s part of the job. But I know when I lie down in bed in the evening, there’s other things that define me, not just the job as a football coach.”
Nagelsmann said he was “looking forward” to meeting his former Bayern players in the national team setup again.
“I really enjoyed working with those players.”
Nagelsmann also confirmed Barcelona midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who Flick named as captain to replace the injured Manuel Neuer, would keep the top job.
“I’m extremely convinced of Ilkay as a person and as a player.”
Germany’s next assignment is a tour to the United States in October, playing friendlies against the USA and Mexico.


Pakistan open to welcoming Mohammad Amir to World Cup squad — chief selector

Updated 22 September 2023
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Pakistan open to welcoming Mohammad Amir to World Cup squad — chief selector

  • Fast bowler retired from international cricket in 2020 citing discrimination, ‘mental torture’
  • Chief selector says if Amir to be considered for World Cup is willing to play domestic cricket

ISLAMABAD: Chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said on Friday Pakistan was ‘open’ to the possibility of welcoming former fast bowler Mohammad Amir back into the squad ahead of the World Cup if he consistently performed well in domestic competitions.
Amir announced his retirement from international cricket at the age of 28 in December 2020, claiming he could no longer play in an atmosphere where he did not feel welcome in the national team.
Amir, who was jailed in 2011 for his part in a spot-fixing scandal, served three months in prison and a five-year ban from all forms of cricket before returning to the Pakistan squad in January 2016.
The left-arm bowler excelled in limited-overs cricket after that, helping Pakistan to the Champions Trophy title in 2017, but was dropped from the squad to tour New Zealand in 2020.
Questioned about the chance of Amir returning to the squad for the upcoming cricket World Cup starting next month in India, the chief selector said “the doors are open for everyone, including Amir.”
“Aamir is a great cricketer and he had decided to retire,” the official said.
“If he wants to play for Pakistan, the doors are open for everyone. If he comes back and plays first-class cricket and performs well, he will definitely be considered … I have said this before, neither the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) nor the selection committee closes the door [of opportunity] for anyone.”


In an interview with a local news channel when he retired, Amir said he had been “mentally tortured by the team management, subjected to frequent taunts, and felt deliberately sidelined.” 
Asked if he was leaving the sport altogether he said: “No, I’m not going away from cricket. If you have seen the atmosphere here and the way I’ve been sidelined, I got a wake-up call when I was not selected in the 35-man squad,” Amir had told Samaa TV.
“I don’t think I can play cricket under this management. I think I should leave cricket this time. I am being tortured mentally. I don’t think I can tolerate any more torture now.
“I’ve experienced a lot of torture from 2010 to 2015. I was away from the game and sentenced for my mistake. I’m being tortured again and again...”
Amir, who has 259 wickets across all formats, had retired from test cricket in 2019 to focus on the white-ball game.
He was the pick of the Pakistan bowlers in the 2019 50-overs World Cup in England with 17 wickets as they missed out on a semifinal spot.
 


LIV Golf Jeddah to stage regular season finale next month

Updated 22 September 2023
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LIV Golf Jeddah to stage regular season finale next month

  • Individual and team titles, and 2024 league spots all on the line at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club from Oct. 13-15

JEDDAH: LIV Golf makes its highly anticipated return to Royal Greens Golf & Country Club here from Oct. 13 to 15, when the league’s 2023 regular season will reach its conclusion and set the stage for the Team Championship — and the future for many golfers.

The event marks the 13th tournament of the league’s first full season. There are 13 major winners who will compete in King Abdullah Economic City, including 2023 PGA Championship winner and 2023 US Ryder Cup Team selection Brooks Koepka, 2022 Open Champion Cameron Smith, World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson, 2020 US Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau, and two-time major winners Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer.

There will be much to play for amongst those atop the individual standings. Those further down the standings face a battle to secure their future, with players ranked 45 and below in the “Drop Zone” at season’s end facing relegation and losing their LIV Golf status for next year.

Smith currently leads the individual standings with 170 points after wins in London and Bedminster. In-form American Talor Gooch (149), a three-time individual champion this season, is in hot pursuit of the Australian. They are followed by seven contenders including 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed, 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah winner Koepka, 4Aces GC captain Johnson and Crushers GC captain DeChambeau, who shot a sensational 58 at LIV Golf Greenbrier earlier this year.

Those who finish in the top 24 in the overall standings will lock-in their position in the LIV Golf League for next season. Players finishing in the “Open Zone,” positions 25 to 44, however, may face trade or release by their respective teams. Meanwhile, those finishing in positions 45 and below sitting in the “Drop Zone” will be relegated and automatically qualify for the league’s promotional tournament, where they will have the opportunity to earn their spot back for the 2024 season.

Aside from the individual race, each player in the 48-man field has good reason to make their scores count, as the final team standings following LIV Golf Jeddah will determine seeds one to 12 for the LIV Golf Team Championship in Miami the following week, with the top four teams receiving first-round byes.

Through 11 events, 4Aces GC — featuring Johnson, Reed, Peter Uihlein and Pat Perez — sit atop the team standings with 172 points after wins in Adelaide and London. Torque GC, featuring Chilean stars Joaquin Niemann and Mito Pereira, Colombian Sebastian Munoz, and Spanish rookie David Puig, trail closely behind with 163 total points following wins in Orlando, D.C., Andalucia and Greenbrier.

The all-South African Stinger GC featuring major champions Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Dean Burmester, currently sit in third place with 156 points. DeChambeau’s Crushers GC (146 points), including Paul Casey, Charles Howell III and Anirban Lahiri, hold a three-point edge in fourth place over RangeGoats GC (143 points). They boast five top-three finishes this season thanks to standout performances by Gooch, Harold Varner III, Thomas Pieters, and captain Watson.


Stunning Kante winner sees champions Al-Ittihad beat Al-Fateh and return to Saudi Pro League summit

Updated 22 September 2023
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Stunning Kante winner sees champions Al-Ittihad beat Al-Fateh and return to Saudi Pro League summit

  • 2-1 home victory means the Jeddah club leapfrogs Al-Hilal, who drew 1-1 with Damac, at the top of the table

Champions Al-Ittihad returned to the top of the Roshn Saudi League after a 2-1 comeback win over Al-Fateh at Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium in Jeddah on Thursday night.

Marwane Saadane gave the visitors the lead after 30 minutes, before Al-Ittihad’s Brazilian star Romarinho equalized eight minutes later.

French World Cup winner N’Golo Kante gave the reigning champions the lead in stoppage time of the first half with a stunning strike, and there would be no addition to the scoreline in the second half.

The 2-1 win leaves Al-Ittihad top of the table with 18 points from seven matches, one more than Al-Hilal, who drew 1-1 with Damac. Al-Fateh remain on 11 points in seventh place.

Saudi Pro League history was made in stoppage time of the match when Ittihad coach Nuno Santo introduced 16-year-old Talal Haji for Romarinho, making him the youngest footballer to play in the competition since the adoption of its current system in the 2008-2009 season.