USA crash out of Copa in group phase as Uruguay, Panama advance

Uruguay players celebrate after scoring a goal during their Copa America Group C match against the United States on July 1, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri. (AP)
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Updated 02 July 2024
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USA crash out of Copa in group phase as Uruguay, Panama advance

  • USA captain Christian Pulisic blames lack of attacking quality for loss
  • First-round exit raises fresh questions about the future of coach Gregg Berhalter

KANSAS CITY: The United States crashed out of the Copa America on Monday after a 1-0 defeat to Uruguay, as Panama sealed their place in the quarter-finals with a 3-1 win over Bolivia.
The tournament hosts suffered an upset 2-1 defeat to Panama last week and went into Monday’s final Group C game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City needing to match or better Panama’s result against Bolivia to advance.
But US coach Gregg Berhalter’s side never looked like doing enough to seriously threaten a well-drilled Uruguay who advance to the last eight as group winners.
“Just looking at the faces of the staff and the players, we’re bitterly disappointed with the results,” Berhalter said.
“We know that we’re capable of more and in this tournament we didn’t show it. It’s really as simple as that. We should have done better.
“We’ll do a review and figure out what went wrong, why it went wrong, but it’s an empty feeling right now for sure.”
USA captain Christian Pulisic blamed a lack of attacking quality.
“We had a good start and brought a lot of energy, but just didn’t have enough quality,” he said. “We just couldn’t find a solution.”
Hopes of a great escape for Berhalter’s men faded inside the first 30 minutes as news filtered through that Panama had taken a 1-0 lead against Bolivia in Orlando.
US hopes were revived early in the second half after Bolivia equalized, leaving the hosts on course for qualification, provided they continued to hold Uruguay.
Yet the US optimism was punctured just moments later when Uruguay took the lead in controversial circumstances through Mathias Olivera on 66 minutes.
Ronald Araujo’s powerful header from Nicolas de la Cruz’s free-kick was parried away by US goalkeeper Matt Turner, but only into the path of Olivera, who tucked away the rebound.
Replays appeared to show that Olivera was offside when Araujo first made contact with the ball, but despite a lengthy VAR review, Peruvian referee Kevin Ortega ruled that the goal should stand.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Berhalter said. “I don’t understand it, I feel like I know the offside rule pretty well.
“It’s disappointing. It really is. But you know that that happens in football, and we have to live with it.”
The mathematics of qualification looked even more bleak for the US after news that Panama had scored again through Eduardo Guerrero to regain the lead at 2-1, and the final nail in the coffin came when Cesar Yanis added a third for Panama in stoppage time.
The USA’s first-round exit raises fresh questions about the future of Berhalter, who remains deeply unpopular among swathes of American fans.
Berhalter was only reappointed to the US job in June last year following a hiatus after leading the team to the 2022 World Cup.
The nature of Monday’s early exit is certain to reignite debate about whether he is the best man to lead the United States into the 2026 World Cup on home soil.
Failure to defeat Uruguay, 14th in the latest FIFA rankings, extends Berhalter’s poor record against top 20 teams.
Berhalter has just five wins in 20 matches against top-20 teams during his reign, and four of those victories came against regional rivals Mexico — who were also eliminated from the Copa in the first round.
That dismal sequence continued after a toothless attacking performance against Uruguay, where the US registered only three shots on goal in a misfiring offensive display.
Defender Antonee Robinson described the officiating as “amateur hour” but stressed responsibility for the defeat lay with the players.
“Just not enough quality in the final third,” Robinson said.
“At the end of the day we weren’t good enough to get the result today. This is on us.”


Lowry leads as McIlroy, Woods suffer nightmare start at the British Open

Updated 14 sec ago
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Lowry leads as McIlroy, Woods suffer nightmare start at the British Open

  • Lowry made the most of the calm late afternoon conditions with three birdies in five holes around the turn and picked up another at the 18th to lead by two shots
  • World number one Scottie Scheffler cut a frustrated figure on the greens but is still in the mix after a one under round
TROON, United Kingdom: Shane Lowry shot to the top of the leaderboard at five under par as Rory McIlroy was among the big names to struggle on day one of the 152nd British Open at Royal Troon.
McIlroy posted a seven over par round of 78 with his hopes of ending a 10-year wait to win a major floundering as most of the field struggled in the wet and windy conditions on Scotland’s west coast.
Lowry, who won his sole major at the British Open five years ago, made the most of the calm late afternoon conditions with three birdies in five holes around the turn and picked up another at the 18th to lead by two shots.
Two-time major winner Justin Thomas is lurking at three under, while recently crowned USPGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele is among a group of five on two under that also includes Justin Rose.
World number one Scottie Scheffler cut a frustrated figure on the greens but is still in the mix after a one under round that featured four birdies and three bogeys.
McIlroy was aiming to get over his heartbreak at the US Open last month, where he missed two short putts to blow the lead as Bryson DeChambeau claimed his second major by one shot.
However, the Northern Irishman’s round, and probably championship, was blown off course at the postage stamp 120-yard eighth.
McIlroy was unfortunate as his near-perfect tee shot slipped off the green into a bunker, which he took two attempts to get out of, to post a double bogey five.
Another double bogey followed at the 11th, while he also dropped shots at the 10th, 15th and 18th.
“All I need to focus on is tomorrow and try to make the cut,” said McIlroy.
“I need to go out there and play better and try to shoot something under par and at least be here for the weekend, if not try to put myself up the leaderboard a bit more and feel like I have half a chance.”

DeChambeau had been the form player in the majors so far this year, despite his defection to the breakaway LIV Tour.
The American finished sixth at the Masters and runner-up in the USPGA Championship before claiming his second US Open.
However, his struggles with the windy conditions of links golf continued as he was six over par for his opening nine holes.
DeChambeau battled back on the back nine as an eagle on the 17th helped him to a 76.
“I’m just proud of the way I persevered today,” said DeChambeau.
“I could have thrown in the towel after nine and could have been like, ‘I’m going home’. But no, I’ve got a chance tomorrow. I’m excited for the challenge.”
Thomas recovered from his own double bogey at the 12th to post a 68, which was 14 shots better than his opening round at Royal Liverpool 12 months ago.
“I played really solid, got it around. I felt like I had great control of the ball,” said Thomas.
World number three Schauffele continued his fine form in recent months as he dropped just one shot to put himself among the chasing pack.
Five-time major champion Brooks Koepka defied the worst of the weather to post four consecutive bridies between the fourth and the seventh before dropping back to one under.
Tiger Woods had hit back at suggestions from former European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie that he should retire, but the 15-time major champion failed to prove he can still be competitive with a 79.
“I didn’t do a whole lot of things right today,” said Woods. “I had three 3-putts today. I didn’t hit my irons very close, and I didn’t give myself a whole lot of looks today.”
Cameron Smith, champion at St. Andrews two years ago, fared even worse with an 80.
World number four Ludvig Aberg was another of the big names to falter in his first ever round at a British Open with a four-over round of 75.
The Swede’s playing partner Jon Rahm is two over, while home favorite Bob McIntire is in the running after a one-over 72 to back up his victory at last week’s Scottish Open.

Al-Nassr Women discover opponents for prelim stage of first AFC Women’s Champions League

Updated 18 July 2024
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Al-Nassr Women discover opponents for prelim stage of first AFC Women’s Champions League

  • Saudi Arabia will host the preliminary stage of the tournament next month

RIYADH: Saudi champions Al-Nassr Women have been drawn against Myawady Women from Myanmar, the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Country Club and Young Elephants FC of Laos in the inaugural AFC Women’s Champions League.

Saudi Arabia will host the preliminary stage of the tournament next month, it was also confirmed on Thursday.

The first edition of the tournament will welcome the 21 domestic champions from AFC member associations, and the preliminary stage in the Kingdom — which will be played Aug. 25 to 31 — will feature 13 teams competing in four round-robin groups.

The winner of each will progress to the group stage, where eight top-seeded clubs await.

The Kingdom’s selection as hosts for the preliminary stage follows the successful hosting of the West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship and the growth of the Women’s Premier League ahead of its third season.


Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum

Updated 18 July 2024
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Cricket’s future path is clear after recent forum

  • World Cricket Connects brought together more than 100 influential voices in the game

A focus of this column over the last three years has been the rapidly changing landscape of professional cricket. Some things which may have seemed like straws in the wind in mid-June 2021 are now in full flow, unlikely to be stopped even by hurricane-strength storms.

Cricket’s governing body is the International Cricket Council, tasked with managing the game. In a previous era, this had been the responsibility of the Marylebone Cricket Club. The latter still has influence in the game. Early this year, its current president, Mark Nicholas, an urbane former professional cricketer, initiated the idea of a forum to discuss cricket’s future. This was held on July 5 at Lord’s prior to England’s Test match against the West Indies.

The gathering was called World Cricket Connects. It brought together more than 100 influential voices in the game, including chairs and CEOs from five ICC full members, plus associate nations, Scotland and Oman. Former and current players, both men and women, were present, along with several executives of T20 franchises.

There was one notable omission. Jay Shah, secretary of the Board for Control of Cricket in India, was not there. He had sent his apologies. The need to be pictured with the T20 World Cup Trophy in India prevailed. Why not, especially after an election victory, since his father is Prime Minister Modi’s interior minister. The BCCI’s priorities are clear. They were clear in September 2021 when it pulled its team from a deciding Test match against England, citing mental health issues, only for the players to return immediately to perform in the Indian Premier League.

Without Shah, described by Nicholas as the most powerful person in cricket, the event was an emperor without clothes. Reports of its content took time to emerge. The ICC chair was reported to have said that the ICC is not fit for purpose and that as a “members’ organization,” it falls short of being a global governing body. Whilst not a revelation to many, the fact that it was said in a semi-public forum is a surprise, perhaps reflecting frustration at India’s power. This is not going to decline.

Ravi Shastri, Inda’s representative and a recent former coach, put forward a view that the 12 teams playing Test cricket should have a promotion and relegation system, with two tiers of six, including promotion and relegation. It may well come to that position, hastened by the costs of hosting Test cricket.

In this context, enter the ICC’s long-term ambition for cricket to become the world’s favorite sport. This translates into leading, growing and promoting cricket. The ICC is not really a governing body. It is an organizer and facilitator of global events, a builder of long-term successful commercial partnerships and a catalyst for growth. Almost as an afterthought, it says that “it will continue to make considerable efforts to protect the integrity of the sport.”

On the latter, there remain doubts, Betting is rife in the game. I have been moved by ICC officials from boundary side positions because I may be passing on information obtained from players to gambling companies. This not something that I would do and I am hardly the problem. It is unlikely that betting’s influence on cricket got a mention at Lord’s, which it should have done.

As we all know, T20 is the growth engine of modern-day cricket, like it or not. This fits the ICC’s vision, it is completely in tune with that of the BCCI and it fits with the growth of cricket in countries where growth would not have been possible otherwise. In this context, I was amazed to be appraised of a tournament hosted by Poland, involving teams from Latvia, Lithuania and Montenegro. My amazement centered on the Montenegro Bokaneers team.

It had three players with the surname of Plastics, its base registered as Brighton (England) and had one player with whom I have shared a pitch on more than one occasion. T20 cricket has democratized the game, but at what cost? At the World Cricket Connects event it was reported that there was much talk of money, about levering the consumer and responding to commercial forces. Apparently, those forces are killing Test cricket for all but the major countries. It costs upward of £1 million ($1.3 million) for Ireland and Scotland, for example, to host a Test match, without commensurate return from gate receipts, broadcasting rights and sponsorship. In Pakistan, costs of providing security for a Test match series are estimated to be up to $5 million.

Meanwhile, viewership levels for One Day International cricket have fallen by a quarter since 2019. In that context, discussions about reducing the number of “meaningless” matches surfaced, whatever that means. Some people may regard the recent England vs. West Indies Test match at Lord’s, completed in just over two days, as meaningless. Those who played a Test at Lord’s for the first time, one of whom took 12 wickets, are likely to disagree. In Scotland, the men’s team is hosting Oman and Namibia as part of the ICC Cricket World Cup League Two, part of the qualifying process for the 2027 ODI World Cup. In general, Scotland is desperate to play more cricket, especially against top-quality opposition, in matches that would have real meaning, as it seeks to improve its position in world cricket. Even Latvia vs. Montenegro Bokaneers has meaning for those who achieved an ambition of playing in an “international” match.

The sad truth is that professional cricket has been captured by commercial forces and, in particular, by those in India. Those forces are advertisers, producers of goods and services, broadcasters, betting companies and sponsors. Their most comfortable outlet is T20 cricket, given its short format and adaptability to broadcasting schedules. The COVID-19 pandemic caused substantial financial losses for cricket worldwide that have accelerated the rush to the T20 format, which looks set to dominate the future in its thrall to money. It now seems clear that both Test and ODI cricket will need to shrink to accommodate this new reality of commercialism and measurement of success by income generation.


Professional Fighters League announces extra bouts for August playoffs

Updated 18 July 2024
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Professional Fighters League announces extra bouts for August playoffs

  • 2024 PFL Playoffs will see the return of Biaggio Ali Walsh to the SmartCage

NEW YORK: The Professional Fighters League has announced additional bouts for the 2024 PFL Global Season Playoffs in August.

On Friday, Aug. 2 in Nashville, the heavyweight and women’s flyweight divisions will take center stage.

In a marquee addition to the event, Tyrell Fortune (14-2) will face Sergei Bilostenniy (12-3) in a heavyweight alternate contest. In all, five early bouts have been added to an already stacked night of action.

Two weeks later on Aug.16, the light-heavyweight and lightweight playoffs will take place in Hollywood, Florida.

Biaggio Ali Walsh (1-0) makes his sophomore professional appearance against undefeated Korey Taylor (4-0) during the ESPN main card.

A light-heavyweight alternate bout pitting Antonio Carlos Jr. (16-6) against Karl Albrektsson (14-5) is confirmed, while a lightweight alternate fight between Elvin Espinoza (10-1) and Mads Burnell (19-6) is also official for the early card.

The playoffs will conclude on Aug. 23 in Washington D.C. with the welterweight and featherweight divisions.

A welterweight alternate bout pitting Neiman Gracie (13-5) against Luca Poclit (10-2) is confirmed, while a featherweight alternate fight between Tyler Diamond (14-3) and Enrique Barzola (20-9-2) is also official.

The PFL Regular Season has each winner of the six weight divisions receiving a $1 million purse.


Central Paris locks down for Olympics as athletes arrive

Updated 18 July 2024
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Central Paris locks down for Olympics as athletes arrive

  • The opening parade along six kilometers (four miles) of the river led to the closure of riverside central districts to most vehicles from 5:00 am (0300 GMT) on Thursday
  • Many central Metro stations will also be closed on Thursday until the day after the opening ceremony, which will see 6,000-7,000 athletes sail down the Seine on around a hundred barges and river boats

PARIS: French security forces began locking down large parts of central Paris on Thursday ahead of the hugely complex Olympics opening ceremony next week on the river Seine.

The opening parade along six kilometers (four miles) of the river led to the closure of riverside central districts to most vehicles from 5:00 am (0300 GMT) on Thursday.

Anyone wanting to enter the highest-security “grey zone” along both banks of the Seine, such as residents or tourists with hotel reservations in the area, will need a security pass in the form of a QR code.

The City of Light is transforming ahead of the July 26-Aug. 11 Olympics when around 10 million spectators are expected.

Temporary sports stadiums have sprung up at popular locations such as the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides or the Place de la Concorde, while new Olympic VIP lanes are the latest traffic-snarling addition.

“It’s true that our concept of having a large number of temporary sites in the heart of the city, obviously with that, there are constraints, but I feel like people are seeing what we’re doing,” Paris 2024 director general Etienne Thobois told AFP last month.

Many central Metro stations will also be closed on Thursday until the day after the opening ceremony, which will see 6,000-7,000 athletes sail down the Seine on around a hundred barges and river boats.

It will be the first time a Summer Olympics has opened outside the main athletics stadium, with up to 500,000 people set to watch in person from stands, on the river banks and from the overlooking apartments.

The vast security operation has been giving senior police officers cold sweats ever since it was announced in 2021 because of the difficulty of securing so many spectators in such a large, densely packed urban area.

Around 45,000 officers are set to be on duty for the July 26 parade, assisted by thousands of soldiers and private security agents.

On Wednesday, police in eastern France announced they had arrested a suspected far-right extremist who had made threats against the Games in a group on the Telegram phone application.

The installation of tens of thousands of metal security barriers all along the opening ceremony route in Paris has outraged some residents, who feel closed in.

“It’s a bit like being in Planet of the Apes,” Aissa Yago, who lives on the Ile Saint Louis in central Paris, told AFP this week from behind a barrier. “All they need to do is throw us some peanuts.”

Elsewhere on Thursday, the first athletes are set to arrive to take up residence in the newly built Olympic Village in a northern suburb of the capital.

Comprising around 40 different low-rise housing blocs, the complex has been built as a showcase of innovative construction techniques using low-carbon concrete, water recycling and reclaimed building materials.

It was intended to be free of air-conditioning, although Olympic delegations have ordered around 2,500 portable cooling units for their athletes out of fear of the impact of high temperatures on their performances.

“The major countries are going to arrive on the first day ... so Great Britain, the US, New Zealand, Brazil, Switzerland,” the deputy head of the French delegation, Andre-Pierre Goubert, told AFP.

At full capacity, the village will host 14,500 people including 9,000 athletes.

The Olympics will be followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 28-Sept. 8.