Stars shine bright: Giannis, Luka, Jokic lead the way at EuroBasket

Greece's Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, drives around Ukraine's Bogdan Bliznyuk during their EuroBasket Group C match in Milan Tuesday. (AP)
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Updated 07 September 2022
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Stars shine bright: Giannis, Luka, Jokic lead the way at EuroBasket

  • Antetokounmpo’s point total was the most in a EuroBasket game since Dirk Nowitzki had 43 for Germany in 2001

MILAN: The stars showed up at EuroBasket on Tuesday in a big way.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 41 points in 27 minutes for Greece, Luka Doncic had 36 points for Slovenia and two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic scored 29 points for Serbia — three of the world’s best players all leading their teams to big group-stage wins at the European championships.

There’s one more group-stage game left for each to play, and then a trip to Berlin awaits since Greece, Slovenia and Serbia have all clinched spots in the 16-team knockout round that begins Saturday.

Antetokounmpo’s point total was the most in a EuroBasket game since Dirk Nowitzki had 43 for Germany in 2001. And when he heard that stat, all Antetokounmpo did was nod.

“I try not to rate my performance,” Antetokounmpo said. “I just try to go out there and have fun as much as possible, try to focus as much as I can on what I can control, try to bring energy any way possible. ... But I’ll say this: I think this is one of the years where I feel very, very excited to go out there on the court and play with my teammates.”

As Antetokounmpo did, Doncic also deflected credit after the game. Told that Germany’s postgame reaction was “Luka Doncic happened,” Doncic replied by saying “Slovenia happened.” 




Slovenia's Luka Doncic in action with Germany's Daniel Theis. (Reuters)

“The whole team was ready,” Doncic said. “Everybody who stepped on the court was fighting, whether they played one minute or 30. I’m really proud of this team.”

Doncic was asked after the game if he or Antetokounmpo was in a better position to break the EuroBasket single-game scoring record.

Doncic didn’t hesitate with his answer: He picked Antetokounmpo.

“I would bet on Giannis,” Doncic said. “Why? Because he’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.”

GROUP C

GREECE 99 UKRAINE 79

At Milan, Antetokounmpo simply overpowered Ukraine and ensured that Greece would finish atop their group.

Antetokounmpo — who got Monday off to rest — had his 41 points and nine rebounds in just 27 minutes to lead Greece (4-0).

He was 13 for 18 from the floor, 15 for 18 from the foul line.

“It was very easy to prepare the team because it is absolutely clear what Greece does when Giannis is out there,” Ukraine coach Ainars Bagatskis said. “They play really aggressive basketball. And if you don’t put against them the same aggressiveness, even higher aggressiveness, then you have big problems.”

Nick Calathes and Tyler Dorsey had 13 apiece for Greece.

Issuf Sanon and Svi Mykhailiuk each scored 16 for Ukraine (3-1), while Alex Len and Illya Sydorov added 10 apiece. Ukraine led by seven at the half, before Greece won the third quarter 32-11.

ESTONIA 94 GREAT BRITAIN 62

Henri Drell scored 20 points, Siim-Sander Vene added 18 and Estonia had no trouble on the way to its first win of the tournament.

Maik-Kalev Kotsar scored 15, Kristjan Kitsing added 14 and Janari Joesaar finished with 11 for Estonia (1-3).

Myles Hesson scored 14 for Great Britain (0-4), with Carl Wheatie and Patrick Whelan each scoring 12.

ITALY 81 CROATIA 76

Simone Fontecchio and Nicolo Melli each scored 19 points to lead Italy (2-2).

Bojan Bogdanovic led Croatia (2-2) with 27 points, while Ivica Zubac scored 13 and Dario Saric added 10.

Both teams are headed to the knockout round.

GROUP B

SLOVENIA 88 GERMANY 80

At Cologne, Germany, Doncic’s 36 points came with him making 14 of 25 shots. He also had 10 rebounds for Slovenia (3-1).

Goran Dragic scored 18 points and Mike Tobey added 10 for Slovenia.

“We showed what we are made of,” Dragic said.

Dennis Schroder scored 19 points, Andreas Obst had 14 and Maodo Lo added 13 for Germany (3-1).

LITHUANIA 87 HUNGARY 64

Lithuanian basketball is known for a lot of things, including passionate fans.

They go everywhere to cheer for their national team. And Tuesday, they even cheered for France — for good reason.

Lithuania topped Hungary and that, combined with France’s win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, means the last qualifying spot out of Group B is still unclaimed. It’ll be decided Wednesday when Lithuania plays Bosnia and Herzegovina, the winner moving on to Berlin and a round-of-16 game, the loser heading home eliminated.

“Lithuanian fans are the best,” France guard Evan Fournier said.

If France had lost Tuesday, Lithuania would have been eliminated. Instead, those Lithuanian fans serenaded the French with cries of “Merci!” for keeping their national team’s hopes alive.

“It feels amazing,” Lithuania forward Domatas Sabonis said. “They travel to every championship to support us. It’s sad we couldn’t give them a win over the weekend, but we’re glad we could give them one today and the goal is to give them another one tomorrow.”

Jonas Valanciunas scored 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting and Sabonis added 19 for Lithuania (1-3).

Marius Grigonis had 15 points and Rokas Jokubaitis added 10 for Lithuania. Zoltan Perl scored 16 for Hungary (0-4), while David Vojvoda and Rosco Allen each finished with 10.

FRANCE 81 BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA 68

Thomas Heurtel’s 3-pointer with 5:49 left put France ahead to stay and started a game-ending 22-7 run for the winners, who were already assured of a spot in the round of 16.

Guerschon Yabusele scored 15 for France (3-1), while Heurtel and Fournier each had 14 and Rudy Gobert posted an 11-point, 12-rebound performance.

Jusuf Nurkic, Miralem Halilovic and Dzanan Musa all had 14 for Bosnia and Herzegovina (2-2), while John Roberson had 13 and Edin Atic finished with 10.

GROUP A

TURKEY 78 BELGIUM 63

At Tbilisi, Georgia, Alperen Sengun scored 24 points, Furkan Korkmaz had 16 and Turkey (3-1) remained tied atop Group A.

Ercan Osmani added 12 for Turkey.

Haris Bratanovic scored 15 for Belgium (2-2) and Hans Vanwijn scored 11.

SPAIN 82 MONTENEGRO 65

Spain (3-1) clinched its berth in the round of 16, with Dario Brizuela leading the way with 18 points.

Willy Hernangomez scored 14 for Spain, while Jaime Pradilla and Lorenzo Brown added 12 apiece.

Vladimir Mihailovic scored 18 for Montenegro (2-2), which got 11 from Marko Simonovic and 10 from Kendrick Perry.

BULGARIA 92 GEORGIA 80

Dee Bost had 33 points and 12 assists, Aleksandar Vezenkov finished with 28 points and 14 rebounds, and Bulgaria kept its hopes alive.

Pavlin Ivanov scored 17 for Bulgaria (1-3).

Goga Bitadze scored 21 for Georgia (1-3), while Thaddus McFadden had 19, Alexander Mamukelashvili scored 13, and Giorgi Shermadini and Duda Sanadze scored 10 apiece.

GROUP D

SERBIA 89 ISRAEL 78

At Prague, Jokic was 11 of 13 from the floor and also grabbed 11 rebounds for Serbia (4-0), while Vasilije Micic added 19. 




Serbia's Nikola Jokic grabs a rebound during the EuroBasket Group D match between Serbia and Israel in Prague Tuesday. (AP)

Nikola Kalinic and Ognjen Jaramaz each scored 10 for Serbia.

Yam Madar scored 20 for Israel (2-2), while Deni Avdija had 14 and Roman Sorkin added 11.

POLAND 75 NETHERLANDS 69

Poland was down by 13 in the third quarter before closing the game on a 39-20 run to tune up for its knockout-stage appearance.

Michal Sokolowski scored 24 for Poland (3-1), which got 16 from Aleksander Balcerowski and 10 from Jakub Garbacz.

Charlon Kloof led the Netherlands (0-4) with 26, and Yannick Franke scored 13.

FINLAND 98 CZECH REPUBLIC 88

Lauri Markkanen continued his strong tournament with 34 points and 10 rebounds, and Finland clinched its berth in the round of 16.

Sasu Salin scored 23 and Petteri Koponen added 14 for Finland, with Elias Valtonen finishing with 11.

Vojtech Hruban scored 22 for the Czech Republic, with Jan Vesely adding 15 and Patrik Auda and Jaromir Bohacik scoring 13 apiece. The Czechs play Israel on Thursday and, according to FIBA, could reach the knockout stage with a win.

WEDNESDAY’S SCHEDULE

First-round play in Groups A and B concludes, with Groups C and D getting the day off before they finish their round-robins on Thursday. Friday is an off day and the knockout round in Berlin starts Saturday.

Group A: Turkey (3-1) vs. Spain (3-1), Bulgaria (1-3) vs. Belgium (2-2), Georgia (1-3) vs. Montenegro (2-2). The Turkey-Spain winner will win the group. Bulgaria and Georgia are in must-win scenarios.

Group B: Lithuania (1-3) vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina (2-2), France (3-1) vs. Slovenia (3-1), Hungary (0-4) vs. Germany (3-1). France, Slovenia (which wins the group with a victory) and Germany have already qualified, Hungary is eliminated and the Lithuania-Bosnia game is the one that matters most.


Shaqiri scores stunning goal in Switzerland’s 1-1 draw with Scotland at Euro 2024

Updated 20 June 2024
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Shaqiri scores stunning goal in Switzerland’s 1-1 draw with Scotland at Euro 2024

  • It is the sixth-straight major international tournament in which Shaqiri has scored, dating back to the World Cup in 2014

COLOGNE, Germany: “Shaq” did it again.
At the age of 32 and having left top-flight European soccer behind to play in MLS, Xherdan Shaqiri is back on the international stage and back scoring again.
His stunning first-half strike secured a 1-1 draw for Switzerland against Scotland at Euro 2024 on Wednesday.
It is the sixth-straight major international tournament in which Shaqiri has scored, dating back to the World Cup in 2014.
That’s three World Cups in a row and now three European Championships for the Chicago Fire forward.
“He proved tonight that he lives and breathes for moments like these,” Switzerland coach Murat Yakin said.
Shaqiri rolled back the years with a first-time curling effort from about 20 meters out at Cologne Stadium.
Scotland had led from the 13th minute when Scott McTominay’s shot took a wicked deflection off Fabian Schar to beat Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer.
But Shaqiri pounced on Anthony Ralston’s loose pass in the 26th to even the match with a left-footed shot into the top corner and past Scotland keeper Angus Gunn.
“If that chance falls to any other player in the Swiss team, it’s not a goal,” Scotland manager Steve Clarke said. “You knew when it was rolling toward Shaqiri it was destined for the back of the net. He’s a top, top player, so you don’t give top, top players that kind of chance.”
Shaqiri’s career has seen him play for some of Europe’s most iconic teams, including Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Liverpool. He joined Chicago Fire two years ago, but in that time has continued to produce for his country on the biggest stage.
“Shaq always gives everything in training,” Switzerland defender Manuel Akanji said. “I don’t know how many other players are able to score that goal.”
The draw leaves Switzerland on four points, second in Group A behind Germany and likely to advance to the round of 16.
Germany became the first nation to advance to the round of 16 after 2-0 win over Hungary.
Scotland’s hopes of making the knockout round depend on its final game against Hungary on Sunday and results elsewhere. No team has failed to advance from the group stage with four points.
Both teams had chances to win the game.
The Swiss should have taken the lead just before the hour mark when Dan Ndoye turned Kieran Tierney on the edge of the box. With just goalkeeper Angus Gunn to beat, Ndoye fired wide of goal.
Grant Hanley then headed against the post from a Scotland free kick and Switzerland’s Zeki Amdouni headed wide at the far post late on.
Scotland has never advanced beyond the group stage of a World Cup or Euros on 11 previous attempts.
But repeated disappointment doesn’t seem to dampen optimism among its fans, who filled Cologne’s square before the game.
Swiss fans were out in numbers, too, creating a raucous atmosphere in the stadium.
It was certainly a more enjoyable evening for Scotland’s fans than the opening game of the Euros — a 5-1 loss to Germany.
“It was what we expected. It was a good reaction to a disappointing night. We’re still alive in the tournament,” Clarke said.
Goals from Jamal Musiala and İlkay Gündoğan made it two wins from two for host Germany after victory against Hungary and ensured there would be no repeat of its group stage exit from the 2022 World Cup.
Albania substitute Klaus Gjasula scored in the fifth minute of stoppage time to hold World Cup semifinalist Croatia to a 2-2 draw in Group B. Gjasula’s own goal, just four minutes after entering the game in the second half, had looked like handing Croatia the win until his late strike.


Lionel Messi could be playing in his final tournament with Argentina at Copa America

Updated 20 June 2024
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Lionel Messi could be playing in his final tournament with Argentina at Copa America

  • “The moment I feel that I am not going to help my team, I will retire,” Messi said in March in an interview with Saudi broadcaster Riyadh Season
  • He spends time with his three children, starts new businesses and lives as if soccer is slowly becoming a smaller part of his life

BUENOS AIRES: It’s sad but true, Copa America could mark Lionel Messi’s final chapter with Argentina’s national soccer team.

The World Cup winner will turn 37 during the tournament in the US, which kicks off Thursday. He’s clearly past his peak at Inter Miami after two decades of playing at the highest level in Europe.

Messi has not set a date for his retirement and has kept the door open to playing in a sixth World Cup in 2026 to defend his title from Qatar. But he already recognizes his shortcomings.

“I don’t think about that yet. The moment I feel that I am not going to help my team, I will retire,” Messi said in March in an interview with Saudi broadcaster Riyadh Season. “I always ate well, trained. But as I grew I became aware that the physical effort we make is getting harder. As you grow old, things become more difficult.”

Last year, the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner struggled with muscular injuries while playing in MLS and for Argentina. That didn’t change much in 2024.

Messi has shown he enjoys going out at night with his wife, Antonella, and his friends in Miami. He spends time with his three children, starts new businesses and lives as if soccer is slowly becoming a smaller part of his life.

Still, he has 12 goals and 13 assists for Inter Miami this season.

“I have a good time at the club. I am lucky to have teammates and friends (Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, all former Barcelona players) by my side,” Messi told ESPN. ”I have a good time in the national team, where I have teammates and friends, too. And I enjoy the little details that I know that when I don’t play anymore, I’m going to miss.”

Angel di Maria, a 36-year-old winger who has played alongside Messi for years with the national team, is sure to bid farewell to international soccer after the Copa America. That has also brought more questions about whether the team’s biggest star will remain on the squad.

“As long as I feel like I’m fine and I can continue contributing, I’m going to do it. Today, the only thing I think about is getting to the Copa America well and being able to compete in it,” Messi told the Star Plus platform in December. “Fighting for it again, as we always did, trying to be champions.”

Argentina’s all-time top scorer and the national team’s leader with 26 World Cup appearances is also seeking records in the continental competition.

Messi, who won the South American championship in 2021, wants to become the Copa America’s leading scorer. He has 13 goals in six editions, four behind Norberto Méndez of Argentina and Zizinho of Brazil with 17.

He also wants to be the player with most appearances in the Copa America, a record he currently shares with former Chile goalkeeper Sergio Livingston, both with 34 games.

Messi’s teammates don’t want to see him go.

“We’ll see how long, but while he’s here we’re going to enjoy it to the fullest,” Argentina defender Cristian Romero said. “We grew up watching him. We are part of those tournaments.”


PGA Tour grants Woods entry to top events with ‘lifetime achievement’ exemption — report

Updated 20 June 2024
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PGA Tour grants Woods entry to top events with ‘lifetime achievement’ exemption — report

  • ESPN, citing a memo to tour members, reported on Wednesday that the PGA Tour policy board approved the special sponsor exemption
  • Woods said he planned to compete in the Open Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland next month

LOS ANGELES: The PGA Tour has created a special exemption recognizing Tiger Woods’s “exceptional lifetime achievement” that will allow the 15-time major champion entry into the tour’s top events.

ESPN, citing a memo to tour members, reported on Wednesday that the PGA Tour policy board approved the special sponsor exemption during a joint meeting with the PGA Tour Enterprises board of directors on Tuesday.

Woods, whose playing schedule has been severely limited since he suffered serious leg injuries in a February 2021 car crash, plays too little now to otherwise qualify for the eight signature events.

But from 2025 he will be welcome in those tournaments, which feature smaller fields, larger purses and bumped up points toward the FedEx Cup playoffs.

“An additional sponsor exemption will be created to recognize Tiger Woods in his own category as a player who has reached an exceptional lifetime achievement threshold of 80+ career wins,” the memo said, according to ESPN.

With 82 PGA Tour wins, Woods shares the all-time record with Sam Snead.

Despite his physical limitations, the 48-year-old has said he still feels he has more titles in him, although he has played in just nine official PGA Tour events in the past three seasons.

The only non-major he has competed in was the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, which he hosts for the benefit of his charitable foundation.

Woods withdrew in the second round at Riviera this year because of illness. He finished 60th at the Masters and missed the cut at the PGA Championship and the US Open last week at Pinehurst.

Woods said he planned to compete in the Open Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland next month.

He indicated at Pinehurst he expected it to be his last start of the season.

“I’ve only got one more tournament this season,” he said. “I don’t think even if I win the British Open I’ll be in the playoffs.”


Playing Italy like ‘looking in a mirror’, says Spain’s De la Fuente

Updated 19 June 2024
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Playing Italy like ‘looking in a mirror’, says Spain’s De la Fuente

  • “They’re very similar to us, they have changed coach and they have young players,” De la Fuente told reporters
  • “I think it will be a very high quality match“

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany: Luis de la Fuente said on Wednesday he was struck by the similarities between his Spain team and Italy as the pair aim to secure qualification for the knockout stage of Euro 2024.
La Roja and champions Italy have undergone a change in playing personnel over the last year, and have young blood throughout their squads.
Spain are more direct than under previous coach Luis Enrique while Luciano Spalletti is attempting get Italy to play a high-intensity attacking style with which he won the Serie A title for Napoli.
“They’re very similar to us, they have changed coach and they have young players. They are very competitive,” De la Fuente told reporters.
“It’s almost like we’re looking in a mirror actually. We are a growing, developing team which is working on cohesion and consistency and so are they. I think it will be a very high quality match.”
Spain have faced Italy at each of the last four Euros and meet in Gelsenkirchen on Thursday where both teams can ensure top spot in Group B with a win.
They are locked on three points at the top of the group, two ahead of Albania and Croatia who played out an exciting 2-2 draw earlier on Wednesday.
And De la Fuente, who has a fully fit squad at his disposal, is in no doubt that his team will play to win rather than try to not lose and then attempt to secure top spot in their final group game with Albania.
“Without doubt we want to win. This game most important game for us so far,” he said.
“That is the only thing we’re thinking about... We play all matches to win. I don’t know how to play any other way.”
Fabian Ruiz, who will face his former coach at Napoli in Spalletti, shrugged off talk of Spain being favorites for the Euros despite their blistering debut win over Croatia.
“We don’t see ourselves as favorites but we have confidence in our potential,” said Fabian Ruiz.
“We know we have the quality to get to the final and we’ll do what we can to get there. Maybe if we get to the final I’ll be able to tell you whether we’re favorites or not. But it’s very difficult to win a tournament.”


UEFA fines Albania, Serbia $10,700 each for nationalist fan banners at Euro 2024 games

Updated 19 June 2024
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UEFA fines Albania, Serbia $10,700 each for nationalist fan banners at Euro 2024 games

  • Each federation was charged with “transmitting provocative messages not fit for a sports event”
  • UEFA also opened a separate investigation into alleged discrimination by Serbia fans

FRANKFURT: UEFA fined the Albanian and Serbian soccer federations 10,000 euros ($10,700) each on Wednesday for fans displaying banners with nationalist maps at European Championship games.
Each federation was charged with “transmitting provocative messages not fit for a sports event” because they are responsible for the conduct of their fans at stadiums.
Albania fans displayed a banner with a map of their country extending its borders into the territory of neighboring countries. It was shown during the 2-1 loss against Italy on Saturday in Dortmund.
Serbia fans’ banner included the independent territory of Kosovo and a slogan “No Surrender” at a 1-0 loss against England in Gelsenkirchen. A case was prosecuted by FIFA at the 2022 World Cup when players were photographed with a similar banner in their locker room ahead of a game against Brazil.
UEFA also opened a separate investigation into alleged discrimination by Serbia fans. The Kosovo soccer federation field a formal complaint with UEFA.
The Albanian federation was fined a further 27,375 euros ($29,400) for fans lighting flares and fireworks, throwing beer cups and a fan who went on the field.
Fans invading the playing area have been a regular feature in the first week of games at Euro 2024.
UEFA announced the sanctions of its disciplinary panel hours after Albania drew 2-2 with Croatia in their second Group B game.
Serbia’s federation must pay 4,500 euros ($4,800) more for fans throwing beer cups.