Albania dent Croatia’s Euro 2024 hopes with dramatic draw

Albania players celebrate after Klaus Gjasula scored the equalizer against Croatia at Euro 2024 in Hamburg, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo)
Short Url
Updated 19 June 2024
Follow

Albania dent Croatia’s Euro 2024 hopes with dramatic draw

  • Klaus Gjasula put through his own net and then became the last-gasp hero by slotting into the bottom corner in the fifth minute of injury time to snatch the draw
  • Albania have won plenty of plaudits with their performances against both Italy, in a 2-1 defeat, and Croatia, but will probably have to beat Spain to keep their last-16 hopes alive

HAMBURG: Albania left Croatia in danger of a group-stage exit from Euro 2024 after a thrilling 2-2 draw on Wednesday as Albania’s Klaus Gjasula scored at both ends, including a dramatic injury-time equalizer.
After a disappointing 3-0 loss to Spain in their opener, Croatia were behind again when Qazim Laci gave Albania an early lead in Hamburg.
But Croatia improved after making two half-time substitutions and Andrej Kramaric levelled with 16 minutes remaining, before Gjasula put through his own net.
The Albania midfielder became the last-gasp hero, though, slotting into the bottom corner in the fifth minute of injury time to snatch his team a point.
Croatia, World Cup semifinalists in 2022, will now likely need to win their final Group B match against holders Italy on June 24 to reach the knockout phase for a fifth straight major tournament.
Albania have won plenty of plaudits with their performances against both Italy, in a 2-1 defeat, and Croatia, but could not hold a lead in either game and will probably have to beat Spain to keep their last-16 hopes alive.
Croatia’s ‘golden generation’ were ultimately made to pay for a poor first-half display and are in danger of bowing out from major tournament football in limp fashion.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic opted against a change in formation from the Spain defeat, sticking with his midfield trio of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic.
But he brought in Ivan Perisic at left-back, moving Manchester City’s Josko Gvardiol into central defense.
The smell of smoke from flares filled the air outside the stadium as the supporters of both teams created one of the best atmospheres of the tournament so far.
Albania scored the fastest goal in European Championship history after just 23 seconds against Italy and they made another quick start.
It took until only the 11th minute for Sylvinho’s men to break the deadlock this time, as Sparta Prague midfielder Laci ghosted into the area unmarked to nod home an inch-perfect, inswinging cross from Jasir Asani.
Croatia tried to impose their passing game, but Albania were constantly in their faces and continued to look the more dangerous side, with right-back Elseid Hysaj firing off target.
The underdogs could have doubled their advantage just after the half-hour mark, but Kristjan Asllani was denied by Dominik Livakovic when face-to-face with the Croatia goalkeeper.
Albania striker Rey Manaj passed up another excellent opportunity, failing to get enough purchase on his free header in first-half added time to seriously trouble Livakovic.
Dalic responded by making two changes at the interval, bringing on 21-year-old Luka Sucic and Mario Pasalic for the ineffective Lovro Majer and Brozovic.
Those substitutions brought about a quick improvement from Croatia, as Albania goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha made a good save to keep out Sucic’s left-footed shot, before Pasalic headed over seconds later.
Albania continued to threaten on the counter-attack, though, with Nedim Bajrami drilling wide of the near post in the 67th minute.
But Croatia finally found a way through in the 74th minute as substitute Ante Budimir picked out Kramaric inside the box and the forward cut inside before sending a composed finish inside Strakosha’s near post.
The turnaround appeared to be complete two minutes later as Sucic’s close-range effort was blocked, but only against the unfortunate Gjasula and into an empty net.
Albania did not give up, missing a series of chances as it appeared Croatia would cling on.
Gjasula had other ideas though, sweeping a loose ball home before a chaotic denouement that saw both sides throw bodies forward in search of a winner, to no avail.


Paris ramps up security in preparation for the Olympics

Updated 6 sec ago
Follow

Paris ramps up security in preparation for the Olympics

  • Squadrons of police are patrolling Paris streets and fighter jets and soldiers are ready to scramble. An imposing metal-fenced security cordon has been erected like an iron curtain on both sides of th
  • The city has repeatedly suffered bloody extremist attacks and international tensions are high because of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza
PARIS: A year ago, the head of the Paris Olympics boldly declared that France’s capital would be ” the safest place in the world ” when the Games open this Friday. Tony Estanguet’s confident forecast looks less far-fetched now with squadrons of police patrolling Paris’ streets, fighter jets and soldiers primed to scramble, and imposing metal-fence security barriers erected like an iron curtain on both sides of the River Seine that will star in the opening show.
France’s vast police and military operation is in large part because the July 26-Aug. 11 Games face unprecedented security challenges. The city has repeatedly suffered deadly extremist attacks and international tensions are high because of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.
Rather than build an Olympic park with venues grouped together outside of the city center, like Rio de Janeiro in 2016 or London in 2012, Paris has chosen to host many of the events in the heart of the bustling capital of 2 million inhabitants, with others dotted around suburbs that house millions more. Putting temporary sports arenas in public spaces and the unprecedented choice to stage a river-borne opening ceremony stretching for kilometers (miles) along the Seine, makes safeguarding them more complex.
Olympic organizers also have cyberattack concerns, while rights campaigners and Games critics are worried about Paris’ use of AI-equipped surveillance technology and the broad scope and scale of Olympic security.
Paris, in short, has a lot riding on keeping 10,500 athletes and millions of visitors safe. Here’s how it aims to do it.
The security operation, by the numbers

A Games-time force of up to 45,000 police and gendarmes is also backed up by a 10,000-strong contingent of soldiers that has set up the largest military camp in Paris since World War II, from which soldiers should be able to reach any of the city’s Olympic venues within 30 minutes.
Armed military patrols aboard vehicles and on foot have become common in crowded places in France since gunmen and suicide bombers acting in the names of Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group repeatedly struck Paris in 2015. They don’t have police powers of arrest but can tackle attackers and restrain them until police arrive. For visitors from countries where armed street patrols aren’t the norm, the sight of soldiers with assault rifles might be jarring, just as it was initially for people in France.
“At the beginning, it was very strange for them to see us and they were always avoiding our presence, making a detour,” said Gen. Éric Chasboeuf, deputy commander of the counter-terror military force, called Sentinelle.
“Now, it’s in the landscape,” he said.
Rafale fighter jets, airspace-monitoring AWACS surveillance flights, Reaper surveillance drones, helicopters that can carry sharpshooters, and equipment to disable drones will police Paris skies, which will be closed during the opening ceremony by a no-fly zone extending for 150 kilometers (93 miles) around the capital. Cameras twinned with artificial intelligence software — authorized by a law that expands the state’s surveillance powers for the Games — will flag potential security risks, such as abandoned packages or crowd surges,
France is also getting help from more than 40 countries that, together, have sent at least 1,900 police reinforcements.
Trump assassination attempt highlights Olympic risks
Attacks by lone individuals are major concern, a risk driven home most recently to French officials by the assassination attempt against Donald Trump.
Some involved in the Olympic security operation were stunned that the gunman armed with an AR-style rifle got within range of the former US president.
“No one can guarantee that there won’t be mistakes. There, however, it was quite glaring,” said Gen. Philippe Pourqué, who oversaw the construction of a temporary camp in southeast Paris housing 4,500 soldiers from the Sentinelle force.
In France, in the last 13 months alone, men acting alone have carried out knife attacks that targeted tourists in Paris, and children in a park in an Alpine town, among others. A man who stabbed a teacher to death at his former high school in northern France in October had been under surveillance by French security services for suspected Islamic radicalization.
With long and bitter experience of deadly extremist attacks, France has armed itself with a dense network of police units, intelligence services and investigators who specialize in fighting terrorism, and suspects in terrorism cases can be held longer for questioning.
Hundreds of thousands of background checks have scrutinized Olympic ticket-holders, workers and others involved in the Games and applicants for passes to enter Paris’ most tightly controlled security zone, along the Seine’s banks. The checks blocked more than 3,900 people from attending, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said. He said some were flagged for suspected Islamic radicalization, left- or right-wing political extremism, significant criminal records and other security concerns.
“We’re particularly attentive to Russian and Belorussian citizens,” Darmanin added, although he stopped short of linking exclusions to Russia’s war in Ukraine and Belarus’ role as an ally of Moscow.
Darmanin said 155 people considered to be “very dangerous” potential terror threats are also being kept away from the opening ceremony and the Games, with police searching their homes for weapons and computers in some cases.
He said intelligence services haven’t identified any proven terror plots against the Games “but we are being extremely attentive.”
Critics fear intrusive Olympic security will stay after the Games
Campaigners for digital rights worry that Olympic surveillance cameras and AI systems could erode privacy and other freedoms, and zero in on people without fixed homes who spend a lot of time in public spaces.
Saccage 2024, a group that has campaigned for months against the Paris Games, took aim at the scope of the Olympic security, describing it as a “repressive arsenal” in a statement to The Associated Press.
“And this is not a French exception, far from it, but a systematic occurrence in host countries,” it said. “Is it reasonable to offer one month of ‘festivities’ to the most well-off tourists at the cost of a long-term securitization legacy for all residents of the city and the country?“

Rianne Malixi of the Philippines wins US Girls’ Junior, routing Asterisk Talley 8 and 7

Updated 21 July 2024
Follow

Rianne Malixi of the Philippines wins US Girls’ Junior, routing Asterisk Talley 8 and 7

  • The 17-year-old Malixi won five straight holes to take a 7-up lead after 14, was 6 up after 18 and ended it with a par win on the 29th hole
  • Malixi has verbally committed to play at Duke, starting in 2025

TARZANA: Rianne Malixi of the Philippines won the 75th US Girls’ Junior a year after falling in the final, routing Asterisk Talley 8 and 7 in the 36-hole championship match at El Caballero Country Club.

The 17-year-old Malixi won five straight holes to take a 7-up lead after 14, was 6 up after 18 and ended it with a par win on the 29th hole.

Last year in the final, Kiara Romero beat Malixi 1 up at the US Air Force Academy’s Eisenhower Golf Course in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Malixi has verbally committed to play at Duke, starting in 2025.

The 15-year-old Talley, from Chowchilla, California, teamed with Sarah Lim to win the US Women’s Amateur Four-Ball in May in San Antonio.


Pogacar on brink of third Tour de France triumph ahead of Riviera finale

Updated 21 July 2024
Follow

Pogacar on brink of third Tour de France triumph ahead of Riviera finale

  • Having won five stages, Pogacar enjoys a healthy five-minute 14-second lead over Jonas Vingegaard, winner of the past two editions
  • Pogacar on brink of third Tour de France triumph ahead of Riviera finaleBarring a major incident it will be his third Tour win, completing a Tour-Giro d’Italia double not achieved since 1998

NICE: Tadej Pogacar will be firmly in the spotlight as he goes down the ramp last on Sunday’s final day individual time trial in his adopted home of Monaco, with a third Tour de France title all but secured.

The final stage of the 2024 Tour will be broadcast around the world as he speeds along the corniche from Monaco to Riviera town Nice.

“I can ride home from there and sleep,” Pogacar said earlier in the Tour.

Having won five stages, Pogacar enjoys a healthy five-minute 14-second lead over Jonas Vingegaard, winner of the past two editions.

Barring a major incident it will be his third Tour win, completing a Tour-Giro d’Italia double not achieved since 1998.

It will also provide him the platform for potential Olympic glory in two weeks and at the world championships which follow soon after.

The 25-year-old, runner-up to Vingegaard on the last two Tours, took the lead on day four, attacking his key rival downhill as the race entered France via the Alps.

Other stars emerged along the way, as Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay won three stages, the sprint points green jersey and national hero status in his homeland.

He narrowly beat the 2023 sprint king Jasper Philipsen, who won three stages but never had the lead in the points race.

Belgian newcomer Remco Evenepoel is set to win the best young rider’s white jersey, also winning the first individual time trial and looks good for a spot on the podium going into the final day in third.

The 24-year-old Evenepoel trails second-placed Vingegaard by 2min 50sec, but is expected to win the final day’s individual run.

“He’s the best time-triallist in the world,” Vingegaard said Saturday.

Olympic champion Richard Carapaz is being hailed as the most combative rider on the 2024 Tour.

The Ecuadorian EF rider won a stage, took the yellow jersey for a day and came close to other victories. He raced on Saturday in the polka dot best climber’s jersey.

Another Belgian won hearts, as the tough Victor Campenaerts rung one up for dads everywhere.

After winning a three-way battle to close out stage 18 he grabbed a phone for a video call with his partner, who immediately showed him their newborn baby, Gustaaf, with dad in tears.

“You have no idea how much this means,” he said, though nobody asked if he was referring to the stage win.

The French did well too, grabbing the opening day win with Kevin Vauquelin and calming nerves from home fans.

Retiring Romain Bardet, twice a podium finisher, should be well received in Nice after a fine Tour. He took the yellow jersey, albeit for a day.

Mark Cavendish also grabbed the headlines, claiming a record 35th stage win.
 


India’s Paes, Amritraj make history joining Tennis Hall of Fame

Updated 21 July 2024
Follow

India’s Paes, Amritraj make history joining Tennis Hall of Fame

  • The first inductees from India were joined by British tennis journalist and author Richard Evans in enshrinement ceremonies
  • Vijay Amritraj : I am humbled and honored to join this incredible and exclusive group that have brought glory to our sport
  • Paes recounted his youth playing football and hockey before turning to tennis and eventually following his hockey-captain father as an Olympic medalist

NEW YORK: Former doubles world No. 1 Leander Paes and tennis broadcaster, actor and player Vijay Amritraj became the first Asian men inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday.

The first inductees from India were joined by British tennis journalist and author Richard Evans in enshrinement ceremonies at the Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.

Paes recounted his youth playing football and hockey before turning to tennis and eventually following his hockey-captain father as an Olympic medalist.

“It’s my greatest honor to be on this stage with not only these legends of the game, people who have inspired me every single day of my life — not because you’ve only won Grand Slams, not because you’ve shaped our sport but every single one of these people have shaped the world we live in,” Paes said.

“I would like to thank you so much for giving this Indian boy hope.”

Amritraj, 70, played from 1970 until retiring in 1993, winning 15 ATP singles titles and 399 matches and being ranked as high as 18th in the world and helped India to the Davis Cup finals in 1974 and 1987.

“I am humbled and honored to join this incredible and exclusive group that have brought glory to our sport,” Amritraj said.

After his playing days, Amritraj has helped humanitarian causes, backed ATP and WTA events in India and has acted in the James Bond and Star Trek movie series.

“A feeling came over me that I had never experienced,” Amritraj said of learning about his election to the Hall. “This was an honor not just for me, for my family, for my parents, but for all of my fellow Indians and my country who live around the world.”

Like Amritraj, Evans was inducted in the contributor category for his life impact on the sport.

Paes, 51, was an 18-time Grand Slam champion in doubles and mixed doubles who was selected in the player category after honing his trade in an Amritraj youth academy.

Paes and Amritraj made India the 28th nation represented in the Hall of Fame.

“Playing for 1.4 billion people could either be pressure or it could be wind within your wings,” Paes said.

“I’d like to thank every single one of my countrymen who supported me, who stood by through all the ups and downs, and we’ve been through a few, but you all were the inspiration, the support, you were even the strength to guide me through when even I didn’t believe.”

Paes won career Grand Slams in both men’s and mixed doubles, completing one in men’s by winning the 2012 Australian Open and another in mixed by capturing the 2016 French Open.

He won the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bronze medal by defeating Brazil’s Fernando Meligeni 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

His only ATP singles title came in 1998 on Newport grass in the same venue where he was inducted.

“As my father always said to me, if you believe in yourself, you work hard, you’ll be passionate not only to win prize money and trophies, but you do that to inspire the world,” Paes said.

“It has been my greatest honor to play for my countrymen in seven Olympics, to stand where the national anthem is playing in all those Davis Cups, and to prove that we Asians can win Grand Slams and also be No. 1 in our field, be it tennis or anything.”


South Sudan nearly beat the US in an Olympic tuneup. Here’s how it happened

Updated 21 July 2024
Follow

South Sudan nearly beat the US in an Olympic tuneup. Here’s how it happened

  • South Sudan made 14 3-pointers, while the US made seven. The US reserves were 1 for 11 from beyond the arc

Takeaways from the US Olympic team’s 101-100 win over South Sudan in an exhibition game Saturday in London:
At 39, 40 in a row
LeBron James’ layup with 8 seconds left was the game-winner, and the win marked the 40th consecutive time that the Americans have won an international game with the NBA’s all-time scoring leader — at 39, set to become the oldest US men’s basketball Olympian ever — in uniform.
Seems like being in London works for King James. Playing in the same building as he did during the 2012 London Olympics — O2 Arena, which was called North Greenwich Arena during those games a dozen years ago — James came up big down the stretch.
In that gold medal game against Spain in 2012, James hit a game-sealing 3-pointer with about 2 minutes left to cap a season where he won NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP, an NBA title with the Miami Heat and Olympic gold.
Respect for South Sudan
South Sudan got this Olympic berth based on its World Cup finish last year. Its national federation is led by former NBA player Luol Deng, and the team is coached by former NBA guard and now Houston assistant coach Royal Ivey.
James gave both men a ton of credit postgame Saturday.
“To have that representation, to have that type of leadership over there, teaching them the right way how to play the game, that’s good. That’s great, actually,” James said. “The game is worldwide. There’s not one place that you don’t see the game being played. I think that’s the beauty of it. The game of basketball brings together so many people.”
Waiting for KD
Kevin Durant was on the floor getting some warmup shots up, but the Americans were again without the three-time Olympic gold medalist.
Durant returned to practice Friday after about three weeks of dealing with a calf strain. It’s possible that he plays in the final US tune-up on Monday against Germany in London. Otherwise, he’ll go into the Olympics not having gotten any true game action since April 28 when his Phoenix Suns were eliminated from the first round of the NBA playoffs by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Key Number
South Sudan made 14 3-pointers, while the US made seven. The US reserves were 1 for 11 from beyond the arc.