De Bruyne to lead Belgium at Euro 2024 with unretired Witsel

Belgium’s head coach Domenico Tedesco speaks during a press conference of Belgian national soccer team Red Devils to announce the selection for the upcoming UEFA Euro 2024 European Football Championship, in Tubize on May 28, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2024

De Bruyne to lead Belgium at Euro 2024 with unretired Witsel

  • Defender Maxim De Cuyper, who won the Belgian league with Club Brugge last weekend, was the only newcomer
  • Tedesco said Witsel’s recent excellent showings with Atletico Madrid convinced him the 35-year-old midfielder was the right choice

BRUSSELS: Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne will lead a rejuvenated Belgium side including a once-retired Axel Witsel at the European Championship next month.
De Bruyne and Witsel were on the 25-man list unveiled by coach Domenico Tedesco on Tuesday. Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, preparing for the Champions League final, was not.
Defender Maxim De Cuyper, who won the Belgian league with Club Brugge last weekend, was the only newcomer.
De Bruyne and Witsel are remaining members of the so-called golden generation of Belgian players. While De Bruyne’s presence was expected, Witsel’s was a surprise after Tedesco dropped him from his first squad last year. Witsel soon after announced his retirement from international soccer and did not play in qualifying.
But Tedesco said Witsel’s recent excellent showings with Atletico Madrid convinced him the 35-year-old midfielder was the right choice. Tedesco also traveled to Spain to meet Witsel and discuss a comeback. There was no hard feelings, the coach said, and Witsel immediately agreed to return.
“First of all, it’s about the quality,” Tedesco said. “There is no doubt he is a high-quality player. We need him, he is an experienced player, he can help the young players. Either if he is playing or not, we have a good feeling with him.”
Witsel can play in midfield or defense, a versatility that increased his value.
“He has started to play as a central defender, it changed a lot,” Tedesco said. “As a (number) six, probably he would not be in the squad today. I have to be very transparent.”
Tedesco said Courtois was not ready for Euro 2024, which starts on June 14 in Germany, after recently returning from injury. The men have been at odds since a dispute last year, and Courtois announced in December he would miss the Euros.
“Of course, he knows his body the best,” Tedesco said about Courtois.
Tedesco succeeded Roberto Martinez as Belgium manager in February 2023. He has yet to lose a game in charge of the Red Devils.
Belgium will face Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine in Group E. Belgium’s best result at the continental tournament was runner-up in 1980.
Tedesco can still amend his squad before a June 7 deadline when teams must give UEFA a list with a minimum of 23 players and a maximum of 26. He said two extra “young” players will join the squad as training partners during the Euro preparations.
Tedesco said he had been following the left-footed De Cuyper closely since he took over as coach, but the defender had so far been overlooked because of strong competition.
“The situation changed a little bit, and we are open,” Tedesco said. “We have to choose the best players.”
Up front, strikers Romelu Lukaku and Lois Openda were chosen at the expense of Michy Batshuayi. Tedesco said it did not make sense to have Batshuayi in the squad knowing that Charles de Ketelaere, Dodi Lukebakio and Leandro Trossard can also cover his position.
“We did not see the necessity to take a third striker,” Tedesco said.

Goalkeepers: Matz Sels (Nottingham Forest), Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thomas Kaminski (Luton).
Defenders: Wout Faes (Leicester), Timothy Castagne (Fulham), Arthur Theate (Rennes), Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht), Axel Witsel (Atletico Madrid), Zeno Debast (Anderlecht), Thomas Meunier (Trabzonspor), Maxim De Cuyper (Club Brugge)
Midfielders: Aster Vranckx (Wolfsburg), Youri Tielemans (Aston Villa), Orel Mangala (Lyon), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Arthur Vermeeren (Atletico Madrid), Amadou Onana (Everton)
Forwards: Romelu Lukaku (Roma), Charles De Ketelaere (Atalanta), Jeremy Doku (Manchester City), Lois Openda (Leipzig), Leandro Trossard (Arsenal), Johan Bakayoko (PSV Eindhoven), Dodi Lukebakio (Sevilla), Yannick Carrasco (Al-Shabab)

Jordan stars against US as England qualify for World Cup semifinals 

Updated 24 June 2024

Jordan stars against US as England qualify for World Cup semifinals 

  • England bowler Chris Jordan takes four wickets in one over against United States 
  • England finish Super Eights with two massive wins, healthy run rate of 1.992 

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: Fast bowler Chris Jordan got a hat trick and the American cricket team lost five wickets in six balls as England secured its spot in the semifinals of the Twenty20 World Cup on Sunday.

Defending champion England crushed the United States by 10 wickets with 62 balls remaining in their last Super Eight game.

Jordan, who replaced pacer Mark Wood, grabbed four wickets off five balls in his last over to dismantle the US for 115 runs in 18.5 overs and become the first Englishman to claim a hat trick in T20 internationals. He finished with 4-10 in 2.5 overs on the Caribbean island of Barbados where he was born.

“Very nice to do this at a special place like this,” Jordan said.

Captain Jos Buttler then smashed 83 not out off 38 balls, including five sixes in one over against left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh, as England raced to 117-0 in 9.4 overs.

“I thought if we could bring our intensity, we’d be too good,” Buttler said. England started its innings knowing that it needed to surpass South Africa’s net run-rate by chasing the target in 18.4 overs but finished the chase in less than 10 overs.

“We’ve got great options. We wanted to bring Chris Jordan back, adds a bit of depth with his batting capabilities as well,” Buttler said.

England, which also beat West Indies, finished the Super Eights with two big wins and a healthy net run-rate of 1.992. Its massive win over the US means South Africa, which is unbeaten in six games but has a net run-rate of 0.625, must avoid defeat against tournament co-host West Indies in Sunday’s other game to qualify with England for the semifinals.

England squeezed the Americans in the middle overs through impeccable leg spin from man-of-the-match Adil Rashid (2-13 in four overs) as Liam Livingstone (1-24) also bowled well after Buttler won the toss and elected to field.

Rashid, who didn’t concede a boundary, bowled two perfect googlies that baffled captain Aaron Jones (10) and top-scorer Nitish Kumar (30).

The sensational collapse began at the end of the 18th over when Jordan caught Harmeet Singh at long-off — off Sam Curran’s full toss — and then bowled a pulsating 19th over.

Corey Anderson (29) holed out a pacey full toss from Jordan at the start of the over. Jordan’s third ball sent Ali Khan’s off stump cartwheeling. Jordan then had Nosthush Kenjige pinned leg before wicket off a sharp incoming delivery and got his hat trick by uprooting Saurabh Netravalkar’s middle stump to end the match.

Jordan is the second bowler at this World Cup after Pat Cummins to record a hat trick. The Australian fast bowler took back-to-back hat tricks against Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Buttler smashed seven sixes and six boundaries. Phil Salt (25 not out) happily gave the strike to his skipper.

The Americans’ fairy-tale World Cup debut, which included a historic victory against heavyweight Pakistan earlier in the tournament, ended with three straight Super Eight losses.
Jones said his team ran out of steam against South Africa, West Indies and England in the Super Eight stage after his sensational power-hitting earned the US two back-to-back wins over Canada and Pakistan in the first two games during the group stage.

“We’ve not had a good last two games,” Jones said, but added “we’ve really enjoyed this tournament.”

Jones said his team had defied expectations.

“This is our first World Cup and I don’t think people would have thought we’d be playing here against the big boys,” Jones said. “Hopefully this will open the eyes of the American public.”

Scottie Scheffler outlasts protest on 18th green, Tom Kim to win Travelers for 6th victory of year

Updated 24 June 2024

Scottie Scheffler outlasts protest on 18th green, Tom Kim to win Travelers for 6th victory of year

CROMWELL, Connecticut: Scottie Scheffler had to wait out a climate protest on the 18th green and Tom Kim’s tying birdie on the last hole of regulation.
Those events only delayed what seems to be inevitable on the PGA Tour this season: the best golfer in the world walking off with the trophy.
Shrugging off a protest that interrupted the tournament on the 72nd hole while the leaders were lining up their putts, Scheffler won the Travelers Championship on the first hole of sudden death on Sunday for his sixth win of the year, the most in one season on the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods had six in 2009.
“When something like that happens, you don’t really know what’s happening, So it can kind of rattle you a little bit,” Scheffler said.
“That can be a stressful situation, and you would hate for the tournament to end on something weird happening because of a situation like that,” he said. “Tom and I both tried to calm each other down so we could give it our best shot there on 18.”
Scheffler closed with a 5-under 65 and a 22-under 258 total at the TPC River Highlands, and Kim matched him with a final-round 66.

Scottie Scheffler, right, shakes hands with Tom Kim, of South Korea, after winning the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands on June 23, 2024. (AP)

Tom Hoge and Sungjae Im tied for third, two shots back, with Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Justin Thomas and Akshay Bhatia tied for fifth at 18 under. Bhatia was also in the final group that was disrupted by the protest.
“I was scared for my life,” he said. “I didn’t even really know what was happening. ... But thankfully the cops were there and kept us safe, because that’s, you know, that’s just weird stuff.”
It was Scheffler’s fourth victory of the year in the tour’s $20 million, limited-field signature events, earning him a payday of $3.6 million. He also won the Masters and The Players Championship.
And Scheffler still has two months to go.
“As much as I love him, I would have loved to take that away from him,” said Kim, who shares a birthday and a friendship with Scheffler. “But I’m happy for him, and after I tapped out, after he tapped out, he said some really nice words and it meant a lot to me.”
Scheffler had a one-stroke lead heading to the 18th green on Sunday when six people stormed the course, waving smoke bombs that left a red and white powdery residue on the putting surface. Some wore white T-shirts with the words “NO GOLF ON A DEAD PLANET” in black lettering.
They were tackled by police and taken off.
The activist group Extinction Rebellion, which has a history of disrupting events around the world, claimed responsibility for the protest. In a statement emailed to The Associated Press, the group blamed climate change for an electrical storm that injured two people at a home near the course on Saturday.
After a delay of about five minutes, when tournament officials used towels and blowers to remove the powder and any other marks that might affect play, Scheffler left a 26-foot putt from the fringe on the edge of the cup and tapped in for par.
Kim then made a 10-foot birdie putt for a 66 to match Scheffler.
“Obviously it is a disruption and you don’t want it to happen, but for me it just kind of slowed things down,” Kim said. “It took the meaning of the putt away for a second. Because for the past 17 and a half holes all you’re thinking about is golf, and suddenly when that happens your mind goes into a complete — like, you’re almost not even playing golf anymore. I thought it was a dream for a second.”
The hole location on the 18th was moved for the playoff to avoid the parts of the green affected by the protesters.
Scheffler hit his approach in the playoff to 11 feet while Kim found a greenside bunker. Kim’s blast from a plugged lie ran 36 feet past the hole, leaving Scheffler with an easy two-putt par for the victory. Afterward, his wife, Meredith, met him on the green, carrying their 6-week-old son, Bennett.
“It’s fun competing against your friends,” Scheffler said. “But at the same time, it’s difficult. Because part of me wants him to miss the putt and part of me wants him to make the putt. ... But he should remember that putt he made on 18, because it was pretty special. And he’s a great player and a great champion.”

Scottie Scheffler poses with his baby son Bennett and his wife Meredith, left, along with his parents Diane Scheffler, second from right, and Scott Scheffler, right, after winning the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands on June 23, 2024, in Cromwell, Connecticut. (AP)

Coming off a tie for 41st in the US Open – by far his worst finish of the year — Scheffler trailed Kim by three strokes after the first round, by two after the second round and by one heading to the tee on Sunday.
Scheffler took a one-shot lead over Kim with three straight birdies on Nos. 13-15 — he had putts for eagle on two of them. While Hoge signed for a 62 to finish at 20 under, and Im joined him there, Scheffler and Kim matched pars over the next two holes to set up the surprising finish.
Scheffler and Kim share a June 21 birthday — Scheffler is six years older — and they celebrated with New Haven pizza before the tournament about 30 miles north. The Dallas-area residents played together in the final group on Sunday, chatting and joking around.
But only one of them could hold the trophy at the end.
And just like it’s been so often, it was Scheffler.
Kim said being in a pack of leaders with his birthday buddy allowed him to focus on his own game.
“You don’t need to worry about him, because he’s going to play well,” Kim said. “Obviously he’s a phenomenal player, world No. 1, all those titles. But at the same time for me he’s just Scottie Scheffler, he’s just a good friend.
“To come down with someone that I play a lot of golf with, who beats me a lot at home — and, unfortunately, he beat me in the playoff too,” Kim said. “But it definitely made it a lot more enjoyable out there.”

Amy Yang wins the Women’s PGA Championship for her first major title

Updated 24 June 2024

Amy Yang wins the Women’s PGA Championship for her first major title

  • She was nearly flawless for the first 15 holes and reached 10 under for the tournament for a seven-shot lead before running into a little bit of trouble
  • This was Yang’s 75th major start, the most before a player’s first major title since Stanford, who was playing her 76th

SAMAMMISH, Washington: Amy Yang built a huge lead and survived a couple of late mistakes to win her long-awaited first major title on Sunday, a three-shot victory in the KMPG Women’s PGA Championship.

Yang closed with an even-par 72 at Sahalee to finish at 7-under 281. She was nearly flawless for the first 15 holes and reached 10 under for the tournament for a seven-shot lead before running into a little bit of trouble. But none of her pursuers was able to mount a significant charge.

At age 34, Yang is the oldest major winner on the LPGA Tour since Angela Stanford won the 2018 Evian Championship at age 40. Anna Nordqvist had recently turned 34 when she won the Women’s British Open in 2021.

This was Yang’s 75th major start, the most before a player’s first major title since Stanford, who was playing her 76th.

Yang’s sixth LPGA victory was her first since last year’s CME Group Tour Championship, which was also the most recent victory by a South Korean player. She earned a spot in the Paris Olympics, where she will represent South Korea for the third time.

Twice earlier in her career, Yang held the 54-hole lead in a major only to fall short. At the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst, Yang was tied with Michelle Wie going into the final round, but shot 74 as Wie won. A year later in the same tournament at Lancaster Country Club, Yang had a three-shot advantage, but In Gee Chun shot 66 to win by one.

This time, Lilia Vu and Jin Young Ko each shot 71 to tie for second at 4 under. Vu shot three rounds under par, but couldn’t overcome a 75 in the first round.

Yang was remarkably steady until her final few holes. She made five bogeys over her first 69 holes before she three-putted the 16th. Then she pushed her tee shot on the par-3 17th well right and it bounced into a lake, leading to double bogey.

Yang steadied herself with a perfect tee shot on the par-5 18th, leading to a two-putt par and a massive celebration on the green, where she was doused with Champagne by several players.

Yang held a two-shot advantage when she stepped to the first tee on a cooler Sunday after three straight days of above-average temperatures. The front nine saw breezes whistle through the towering trees to the point play had to be paused so pollen buds could be blown off the greens.

Yang was unfazed. By the time she made the turn, she led by five. Yang birdied the first hole, chipped in for birdie from 23 yards off the green on the fifth and dropped a 7-foot birdie putt on the eighth — the toughest hole on the course — to move to 9 under.

When she hit into the trees on No. 10 and made bogey, Yang responded with a birdie at the 11th and made her final birdie at the 13th.

Playing in the final group with Yang, Lauren Hartlage had a chance to tie the lead at 8 under, but her 5-foot birdie try on the par-5 sixth hole caught the left edge, spun around the cup and stayed out. Hartlage made double bogeys at Nos. 7 and 8 and made the turn six shots behind. She tied for fifth at 3 under, her best career finish.

Pulisic scores, assists on Balogun goal to lead US over Bolivia 2-0 in Copa America opener

Updated 24 June 2024

Pulisic scores, assists on Balogun goal to lead US over Bolivia 2-0 in Copa America opener

  • The 11th-ranked US plays Panama on Thursday at Atlanta and closes the group against Uruguay on July 1 at Kansas City, Missouri

ARLINGTON, Texas: Christian Pulisic scored in the third minute and assisted on Folarin Balogun’s goal in the 44th as the United States cruised past Bolivia 2-0 in their Copa America opener on Sunday night.
Pulisic joined Clint Dempsey as the only US players with a goal and an assist in a Copa America match and reached 30 goals in 69 international appearances, the fewest among Americans.
“We came out flying with a lot of intensity. Obviously, that early goal helped us a lot,” Pulisic said. “All around, a pretty dominant performance. I think we could have put it away and had more goals there.”
Among six invited guests to South America’s championship, the US is expected to advance from Group C to the quarterfinals along with Uruguay.
“It’s a start that’s massive for us. Build the confidence,” American defender Antonee Robinson said. “If we were being picky, we could have been a lot more clinical, We could have put another two, three goals away.”
Bolivia lost its 13th straight Copa America match dating to 2015 and has one win in its last 31.
The 11th-ranked US plays Panama on Thursday at Atlanta and closes the group against Uruguay on July 1 at Kansas City, Missouri. No. 84 Bolivia meets Uruguay on Thursday at East Rutherford, New Jersey, then plays Panama on July 1 at Orlando, Florida.
A crowd of 47,873 attended the match under the retractable roof at 80,000-seat AT&T Stadium, which will host a World Cup semifinal in two years. It was 97 degrees Fahrenheit outside (36 Celsius) the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys at kickoff but air-conditioned inside.
Playing a day before his 30th birthday, goalkeeper Matt Turner had three saves in his 25th international shutout. The US improved to 6-0 at AT&T as the Americans opened their fifth Copa America appearance, the first since reaching the semifinals as co-host in 2016.
The US had 18 touches inside the attacking penalty area in the first half and Bolivia had none.
Pulisic put the US ahead 2:23 in, the fastest American goal in 34 competitive matches against South American opponents. He played a short corner kick to Tim Weah and ran toward the penalty area. Weah returned the ball to Pulisic, who took a touch and from just inside the area curled a right-foot shot off the outstretched fingertips of goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra and into the far upper corner.
Balogun doubled the lead when he received a pass from Pulisic, took several touches and threaded a low, left-foot shot along the ground, past defender Jesús Sagredo and inside Viscarra’s far post for his fourth goal in 13 appearances.
Balogun put the ball in the net again in the 53rd off a pass from Weah, but Weah was whistled for offside when he received the ball from Weston McKennie in the buildup, a decision confirmed in a video review.
Midfielder Tyler Adams, regaining fitness after a back injury, played the first half in his first start for club or country since March 30. Adams and Bologun were inserted into the starting lineup in place of Yunus Musah and Ricardo Pepi in the two changes from the lineup for the 1-1 exhibition draw against Brazil on June 12. Musah replaced Adams at the start of the second half and Pepi entered in the 65th.
Viscarra pushed Pepi’s 79th-minute shot over the crossbar, then stopped Pepi in the 90th on a point-blank initial attempt and another off the rebound.

Hungary knock Scotland out of Euros with 100th-minute winner

Updated 24 June 2024

Hungary knock Scotland out of Euros with 100th-minute winner

  • Hungary arrived at the Euros with increased expectations after a 14-match unbeaten run between November 2022 and March of this year

STUTTGART, Germany: Kevin Csoboth scored in the 10th minute of added time as Hungary snatched a 1-0 win over Scotland to stay in the hunt for a place in the last 16 of Euro 2024.
A sickening collision led to Hungary striker Barnabas Varga being stretchered off in front of his visibly shocked team-mates in the second half, but Csoboth’s late winner kept them alive in the tournament.
It was a bitter end to Scotland’s bid to reach the knockout phase of a major tournament for the first time as they were caught out pressing for a goal of their own right at the death.
Germany finished top of Group A after a 1-1 draw with Switzerland, who will go through as runners-up. Hungary must rely on other results if they are to advance as one of the best third-placed sides.
Scotland came last with just a point as their wait for a first European Championship win since 1996 goes on.
Coach Steve Clarke made one enforced change for Scotland as Scott McKenna replaced Kieran Tierney, who was stretchered off with a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw with Switzerland.
English-born Callum Styles got the nod in Hungary’s midfield, coming in after shaking off an injury, with Endre Botka also making his first appearance of the tournament on the right side of a back three.
John McGinn revealed the team skipped their pre-match nap as thousands of Scotland supporters gathered outside the hotel, belting out songs in anticipation of what they hoped was a historic night.
Hungary arrived at the Euros with increased expectations after a 14-match unbeaten run between November 2022 and March of this year. They also beat England twice in the last UEFA Nations League, as well as Germany away.
But back-to-back defeats had punctured confidence and left Marco Rossi’s side needing to beat Scotland to keep alive their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds.
Scotland goalkeeper Angus Gunn shovelled away a dipping drive from Bendeguz Bolla that bounced awkwardly in front of him, with Styles and then Willi Orban booked for cleaning out McGinn in a first half full of endeavour but limited in genuine chances.
That was until Che Adams’ dangerous clearance led to a Hungary free-kick 25 yards out, which Dominik Szoboszlai clipped toward the far post with Orban’s header skimming the top of the crossbar.
Szoboszlai, who shrugged off injury concerns after missing Hungary’s final team training session, hammered over a strike from distance, and it wasn’t until the 53rd minute that Scotland registered a shot.
Scotland defended doggedly as Jack Hendry blocked Roland Sallai’s attempt shifting in from the left before Marton Dardai headed over from a cross.
A horrifying incident left Varga prone on his back in the Scotland area as he tried to head a free-kick goalwards while Gunn came flying out, with Anthony Ralston also crashing to the ground.
It resulted in a long stoppage as medics set Varga in the recovery position before a sheet was draped around him as he was carried off on a stretcher.
The fourth official indicated 10 minutes of stoppage time, which sparked a desperate quest from both teams to find the winning goal.
Gunn saved well from Andras Schafer and Szoboszlai, before Csoboth hit the post. Scotland defender Grant Hanley had a chance parried away by Peter Gulacsi, with Hungary racing up the other end and Csoboth steering home a cutback to break Scottish hearts.