South American 2030 World Cup bid seeks final in Montevideo

Conmebol’s President, Alejandro Dominguez, Argentine Football Association’s President, Claudio “Chiqui” Tapia and Argentine’s Tourism and Sports Minister Matias Lammens announce the joint candidacy of Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay to organize 2030 World Cup on Feb. 7, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 08 February 2023

South American 2030 World Cup bid seeks final in Montevideo

  • Argentine President Alberto Fernández also said he wants to add Bolivia to the group
  • Alejandro Domínguez, the president of South American soccer body CONMEBOL, highlighted the historical links

BUENOS AIRES: Members of the South American candidacy for the centennial 2030 World Cup want to host the opening match in Buenos Aires and the final in Montevideo, where Uruguay won the first edition of the tournament.
Government and soccer officials representing the joint bid of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay held their first organizing committee meeting Tuesday. Argentine President Alberto Fernández also said he wants to add Bolivia to the group.
One other bid has already been formalized: Spain-Portugal-Ukraine. Morocco and another joint bid of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Greece are moving ahead.
Alejandro Domínguez, the president of South American soccer body CONMEBOL, highlighted the historical links. Uruguay hosted the first tournament in 1930 and won the first title by beating Argentina 4-2 in the final.
“FIFA has the obligation of honoring the memory of those who came before us and made the first World Cup,” he said. “At the end, the ones who want it more win it. And in that Argentina and all of our countries have a tradition.”
FIFA will make the decision in 2024, two years before the next edition of the tournament takes place in the United States, Mexico and Canada with 48 teams for the first time.
Chile sports minister Alexandra Benado Vergara said Argentina’s World Cup title in Qatar gives an extra push to the South American bid, which she sees as stronger since other nations joined Uruguay’s initially single-nation candidacy.
“Argentina’s victory is also the victory of our region,” Vergara said. “We can totally say we will have a bid that is sustainable, clear, austere during these times of our region and the world.”
Vergara’s Uruguayan counterpart Sebastián Bauzá said South America “feels we have the right to organize that World Cup.”
Argentina’s Fernández said on his social media channels he wanted to add Bolivia to the bid because “this is the candidacy of the entire continent. That is why I will propose that Bolivia become a part of this dream.”

Former Germany midfielder Mesut Özil retires at 34

Updated 22 March 2023

Former Germany midfielder Mesut Özil retires at 34

  • Özil said injuries played a role in his decision
  • His immediate retirement brings an early end to his season with Turkish club Istanbul Basaksehir

ISTANBUL: Former Germany midfielder Mesut Özil, who won the World Cup in 2014, retired from soccer Wednesday at the age of 34.
Özil said injuries played a role in his decision.
“I’ve had the privilege to be a professional football player for almost 17 years now and I feel incredibly thankful for the opportunity,” Özil wrote on social media. “But in recent weeks and months, having also suffered some injuries, it’s become more and more clear that it’s time to leave the big stage of football.”
His immediate retirement brings an early end to his season with Turkish club Istanbul Basaksehir, where he made only seven appearances for the team.
Özil won the Spanish league title with Real Madrid in 2012 and the FA Cup four times with Arsenal. His international career ended abruptly in 2018 when he quit the Germany squad citing “racism and disrespect.”
That followed anti-Turkish comments from German politicians and abuse from some fans toward Özil, who has Turkish heritage, amid criticism of his decision to pose for a picture with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup.
Özil started his career in Germany with hometown club Schalke before a good spell at Werder Bremen earned him a spot on the German national team. Standout performances for Germany at the 2010 World Cup were followed by a move to Madrid. He then had an eight-year stint with Arsenal.
Özil moved to Turkish club Fenerbahce in 2021 after his relationship with Arsenal broke down. He was left out of the Arsenal squad for months before his departure following a rift with manager Mikel Arteta. The club also distanced itself from Özil for posting his support for Muslims in the Xinjiang province of China, comments which led to an Arsenal game being pulled from Chinese television.

Mallorca bans fan who racially insulted Vinícius Júnior

Updated 21 March 2023

Mallorca bans fan who racially insulted Vinícius Júnior

  • The fan, reportedly a 20-year-old Mallorca season ticket holder, is accused of calling Real Madrid forward Vinícius and Villarreal midfielder Chukwueze a monkey
  • Spain’s anti-violence commission has already proposed a fine of $4,300 and a 12-month ban from stadiums for the fan

MADRID: Spanish club Mallorca handed the fan who racially insulted players Vinícius Júnior and Samu Chukwueze a three-year ban from club membership on Tuesday.
The fan, reportedly a 20-year-old Mallorca season ticket holder, is accused of calling Real Madrid forward Vinícius and Villarreal midfielder Chukwueze a monkey in separate Spanish league games this year. Both Vinicius and Chukwueze are Black.
Spain’s anti-violence commission has already proposed a fine of 4,000 euros ($4,300) and a 12-month ban from stadiums for the fan, who may also face criminal charges. He was identified by club security officials.
“RCD Mallorca are against all xenophobic manifestations and will continue to work actively to eradicate this scourge,” said the club, whose president is American Andy Kohlberg.
Vinícius was also insulted after the Mallorca match when he stopped to pose for photos and sign autographs for fans.
The Brazilian has been subjected to insults since arriving in Spain five years ago, though little has been done to punish fans.
Valladolid recently suspended 12 season ticket holders while investigating their alleged verbal abuse of Vinícius.
The first trial against a fan who racially insulted a player in Spain is expected to begin this year following remarks by an Espanyol supporter against Athletic Bilbao forward Iñaki Williams a few years ago.
The Spanish league has filed several complaints to authorities for racist insults or chants against Vinícius, with some of them being shelved by prosecutors.
The league has also increased the number of overseers at matches to try to identify perpetrators, especially when Vinícius plays.
Authorities have yet to find those responsible for hanging Vinícius’ effigy from a bridge in Madrid before the derby against Atletico Madrid earlier this year.
The attacks against Vinícius increased after he began celebrating his goals by dancing.

Arsenal to face Rooney-coached MLS All Star team in July

Updated 21 March 2023

Arsenal to face Rooney-coached MLS All Star team in July

  • The game will be played at Audi Field in Washington D.C., the home stadium of Rooney’s D.C. United club

WASHINGTON: Arsenal will take on an MLS select team coached by former England striker Wayne Rooney, in the annual All Star game on July 19, the league said on Tuesday.
The game will be played at Audi Field in Washington D.C, the home stadium of Rooney’s D.C. United club.
Arsenal had previously featured in the MLS All Star game in 2016 and the game will be part of their pre-season preparations.
“Our US tour last summer was very good preparation for the season, and we’re looking forward to once again visiting our amazing supporters in the US,” said Gunners manager Mikel Arteta.
“The match against the MLS All-Stars will be a good test ahead of the 2023-24 season.”
The All Star game has traditionally pitted an MLS select XI against top clubs from the European game but the past two editions have been matches against Mexican Liga-MX select sides.
The match will be broadcast globally via Apple TV as part of MLS’s new deal with the platform.

Man United into FA Cup semifinals after 3-1 win over Fulham in emotion-laden match

Updated 20 March 2023

Man United into FA Cup semifinals after 3-1 win over Fulham in emotion-laden match

  • Game turned upside down as the visitors were reduced to nine players and had their manager sent off 
  • Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic faces 3-game ban for barging into referee, a move that also earned him a red card

MANCHESTER, England: It was all set up for a famous FA Cup upset as Fulham led treble-chasing Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
But in the space of seven chaotic second-half minutes, the visitors were reduced to nine players, had their manager sent off and conceded twice.
It was a meltdown of epic proportions and United capitalized on it in ruthless fashion to advance to the semifinals with a 3-1 win that keeps its three-pronged trophy pursuit on track.
There is also the prospect of a mouthwatering FA Cup final against Manchester City after the rivals were kept apart in the draw for the last four.
Thoughts of an all-Manchester showdown at Wembley on June 3, however, looked in serious doubt after Aleksandar Mitrovic fired Fulham ahead in the 50th minute of the quarterfinal match.
That was before the game was turned upside down as Fulham’s players and manager Marco Silva lost control.
Emotions boiled over after Willian blocked Jadon Sancho’s goal-bound shot in the 70th and VAR instructed referee Chris Kavanagh to review the incident on the touchline monitor.
Before the official could even make a decision, he had shown a red card to Silva for remonstrating furiously in the dugout.
Replays showed Willian had clearly used his hand and was sent off as a result. That sparked outrage from Mitrovic, who barged into Kavanagh and was also shown red.
All three dismissals came over a period of 40 seconds.
“Even if I haven’t done something special, I have to control myself,” Silva said afterward. “I didn’t say anything special to the ref, he didn’t listen and showed me the red card. It is a moment to control my emotions. The game was decided in the moment.”
All that was left was for Bruno Fernandes to dispatch his penalty and even the score in the 75th.
Two minutes later Marcel Sabitzer put United in front and nine-man Fulham was on its way out.
Fernandes scored a second to make it 3-1 in the sixth minute of stoppage time and set up a Wembley semifinal game against Brighton.
Manager Erik ten Hag has already led United to victory in the League Cup this season and his team is also into the quarterfinals of the Europa League where it faces Sevilla.
“One thing is important — don’t think too far ahead,” Ten Hag said. “Go from game to game.
“We see the progress in the team, but this team has a strong character, strong belief, strong determination to win games. Today was an example of it. When you have difficult period in a game, stay in the game and turn the game.”
Mitrovic faces ban
Mitrovic will receive at least an automatic three-game ban for his sending off, which had echoes of an infamous incident involving Paulo di Canio from 1998.
The then Sheffield Wednesday striker was banned for 11 games after shoving referee Paul Alcock to the ground during a match.
“I saw the image and I spoke with Mitro, it is a moment for him to control the emotions,” Silva said. “He pushed the referee, but I did not see that in so bad, bad way like you are saying to me. But I hope the people who are going to decide (do so) with fairness.”
Arsenal extend EPL lead
Knocked out of Europe on Thursday, Arsenal’s sights are now solely fixed on winning the Premier League title for the first time in 19 years.
And that elusive prize edged closer as a 4-1 win against Crystal Palace moved Mikel Arteta’s team eight points clear at the top of the table.
There was no sign of a hangover after the penalty shootout loss to Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League as Arsenal underlined its title credentials.
Gabriel Martinelli, who missed the decisive spot kick in that match, quickly put that disappointment behind him by opening the scoring against Palace.
“There is always the question,” Arsenal manager Arteta said. “But I asked him yesterday how he was and he said: ‘I want to be in the team.’
“We were really determined and focused and left Thursday in the past.”
Arsenal still has to play second-place Manchester City and Liverpool before the end of the season. But the London club is in impressive form having won six in a row in the league.
Bukayo Saka provided the pass for Martinelli and became the first player in the league to reach double figures for goals and assists this season. He then went on to score two more himself.
Granit Xhaka got Arsenal’s other goal, while Jeffrey Schlupp scored for Palace, who fired manager Patrick Vieira this week.
Doyle ruled out
Manchester City prospect Tommy Doyle fired Sheffield United into the FA Cup semifinals and then learned he will have to miss out on the biggest game of his young career.
The 21-year-old midfielder is on loan at Sheffield and due to competition rules is ineligible to play against his parent club after the Blades were drawn against Man City in the next round.
It means Doyle will be a spectator for the match at Wembley, when Premier League champions City will be favorites to advance to the final.
Doyle struck in the first minute of second-half stoppage time as Sheffield beat Blackburn Rovers 3-2 in a thrilling quarterfinal clash between the two second-tier sides.
Blackburn had twice taken the lead through Ben Brereton and Sammie Szmodics.
Sam Gallagher’s own-goal and Oliver McBurnie evened the score on each occasion before Doyle’s late winner.
But he barely had time to enjoy his celebrations before learning Sheffield had been drawn against City.
Fairy tale ends
Grimsby’s FA Cup fairy tale is over after the fourth-tier team was routed 5-0 by Premier League Brighton.
Grimsby was the lowest-ranked team left in the competition and had reached the quarters for the first time since 1939, having knocked out top-flight Southampton in the last round.
But there was no danger of another upset against Brighton, which scored four goals in the second half at Amex Stadium.
Deniz Undav fired the home side in front after just six minutes. Evan Ferguson scored twice after the break, with Solly March and Kaoru Mitoma completing the rout.

PSG beaten at home in French league for first time this season

Updated 20 March 2023

PSG beaten at home in French league for first time this season

  • Marseille  won 2-1 to end Reims’ 19-match unbeaten run and cut PSG’s lead to seven points with 10 matches left

PARIS: Arnaud Kalimuendo scored against his boyhood club as leaders Paris Saint-Germain were beaten 2-0 by Rennes in their first home loss in the French league this season on Sunday.

The win ended PSG’s 35-match unbeaten run in the league at the Parc des Princes.

Marseille later won 2-1 to end Reims’ 19-match unbeaten run and cut PSG’s lead to seven points with 10 matches left.

The 21-year-old Kalimuendo joined PSG’s youth system when he was 9 years old and signed with Rennes last summer looking for more playing time away from the armada of PSG stars. Kalimuendo was under contract with PSG until 2024 but spent the last two seasons on loan at Lens.

Rennes, who had already prevailed in the corresponding fixture in Brittany two months ago, made the most of PSG’s passivity and relied on goalkeeper Steve Mandanda’s decisive saves to produce a clean sheet. Karl Toko Ekambi scored Rennes’ first goal.

PSG looked slow and lethargic, relying in vain on the skills of Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi.

Mbappe had two good chances to break the deadlock in the first half but the France star was denied twice.

Mandanda stopped Mbappe’s chipped effort in the 26th minute. The former France ‘keeper then blocked Mbappe’s shot from Messi’s deep pass with a superb reflex save in the 40th.

Rennes waited patiently and took their chance at the stroke of halftime when Benjamin Bourigeaud picked out Toko Ekambi behind the defense. The Cameroon forward controlled the ball with a delicate touch and beat Gianluigi Donnarumma with an angled shot.

PSG players were whistled off the field by some fans, and things got worse when they returned from the locker room.

Kalimuendo made it 2-0 in the 48th after PSG clumsily gave the ball away in midfield. He did not celebrate his goal.

PSG pressed harder as it tried to pull one back but made too many technical mistakes and was vulnerable to counterattacks, with Rennes having the best chances after the interval.

Mandanda was decisive again 10 minutes from time to firmly parry away Marco Verratti’s shot that looked bound for the goal.

PSG are out of the Champions League and the French Cup, meaning they have just the league title left to focus on. Chasing a European spot, Rennes moved up to fifth place in the standings.

Marseille in the hunt

Second-place Marseille’s hard-fought victory in the Champagne town marked their eighth straight away win.

Marseille forward Alexis Sanchez scored twice against Reims, including a superb curled free kick, after Folarin Balogun put the hosts in the driving seat.

Reims pushed hard for an equalizer in the second half and Marseille goalkeeper Pau Lopez made several decisive saves to keep his team ahead. Marseille was lucky not to concede again as the hosts hit the woodwork twice.

Ben Yedder hits 80 mark

Wissam Ben Yedder scored his 80th career league goal for Monaco in a 2-0 win at 10-man Ajaccio as the Principality side got back to winning ways in the top flight.

It was Ben Yedder’s 17th league goal this season. The France striker put the hosts ahead in the 26th minute before Krepin Diatta sealed Monaco’s win with seven minutes left.

Ajaccio was forced to play with 10 players for most of the second half after Cyrille Bayala was sent off for a reckless tackle on Caio Henrique in the 51st minute.

Fourth-place Monaco had picked up only one point from its previous three matches.

Ben Yedder became the third player in Monaco’s history to score 80 league goals for the club after Delio Onnis (157) and Lucien Cossou (97).

He scored from a rebound from close range following a free kick from Henrique. Monaco was then in control against a poor Ajaccio side that was punished by Diatta on the counter and remained in the relegation zone.

Wahi's double

Montpellier’s revival under coach Michel Der Zakarian continued as the Mediterranean club came from behind to beat Clermont 2-1 and moved to 11th place.

Montpellier are now unbeaten in six matches, including five wins, since Der Zakarian returned in February.

Montpellier had a chance to take the lead in the 13th minute but Stephy Mavididi hit the post. Saïf-Eddine Khaoui then gave Clermont the lead before the up-and-coming Wahi turned things round, first with a header then a precise shot. Wahi has 12 league goals, his best tally over a single season.

Nice stay unbeaten

Seventh-place Nice extended their 11-game unbeaten run but were held to a 1-1 draw by Lorient.

Bamo Meite scored the first goal of his professional career to give the visitors the lead before Gaetan Laborde put the teams level.

Strasbourg beat Auxerre 2-0 to end a three-game winless run and Brest drew 2-2 at Troyes.