Deja vu for Spain, Mexico and Cameroon out to ride their luck

first_imgBy Neil Maidment, Nick Mulvenney and Rex GowarSpain will be lifted by a reminder of the glory of four years ago as the defence of their World Cup crown begins against 2010 finalists the Netherlands in Salvador on Friday in a standout Group B opener.Spain, also 2008 and 2012 European Championship winners, arrive in Brazil with 16 players retained from the squad that triumphed in South Africa, the most returned at the following World Cup by any world champion, with many still bearing the scars of a bruising encounter with the Dutch in 2010.Spain dominated possession in Johannesburg and took a barrage of heavy tackles by a fierce Dutch defensive guard, but fans streaming to the Fonte Nova arena will be hoping for a more attacking treat this time around as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Silva’s superb passing game comes up against a Dutch counter attack possessing Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.Vincent Del Bosque’s La Roja, bolstered this time by the prolific Brazilian-born Diego Costa, begin among the favourites for the tournament in Brazil, where success would see them become the first Europeans to win the World Cup in the Americas.The Dutch tactics under coach Louis van Gaal have been hotly debated in the Brazil build-up after he opted to ditch a traditional 4-3-3 approach in favour of a 5-3-2, after losing midfield king pin Kevin Strootman to long-term injury and favouring a more pressing approach.“I don’t think at the moment we are capable of playing tika taka,” Arjen Robben, told Dutch team website Ons Oranje. “The counter is a very dangerous weapon that we will be certainly using at this tournament.”Mexico and Cameroon meanwhile would be prime contenders for the title of most fortunate qualifiers for the World Cup but both will fancy their chances of progressing from Group A if they can win their opening encounter on Friday.Hosts Brazil and Croatia round out the group so traditional early tournament caution could be thrown to the wind at the Dunas arena with both teams knowing that a draw is unlikely to much help their cause.CONCACAF powerhouse Mexico just scraped through to a playoff only courtesy of a dramatic last gasp victory by the United States over Panama last year before overwhelming New Zealand to secure their place at a sixth successive World Cup.Cameroon’s Lions likewise looked anything but indomitable in their qualifying campaign and they needed the reversal of a 2-0 defeat to Togo after their West African rivals fielded a suspended player to get to a playoff.They thumped Tunisia 4-1 on aggregate to reach a seventh successive World Cup finals, however, and a 2-2 draw against Germany in a friendly last week offered some hope that Volker Finke’s team were starting to click.If Australia’s World Cup warm-up against Ecuador in London in March is anything to go by, their opening Group B clash with Chile at the Pantanal Arena in Friday’s final game could be a thriller.Australia, who took a shock three-goal lead against the Ecuadoreans before being over-run in the second half and losing 4-3, like to hit opponents with fast breaks and if they are to do anything of note in Brazil they must beat Chile.Chile like to play in their opponents’ half with a fast and furious pressing game based on as much possession as possible.The South Americans, third in their region’s qualifying group, are favourites against an Australian team in transition with the 2015 Asian Cup a far more realistic goal.Chile are playing on their own continent but the muggy conditions in Cuiaba deep in the Mato Grosso swampland are not necessarily an advantage for them because the country has a more European climate.last_img read more

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Apollon aiming for winning start in Europa League

first_imgBy Andreas VouApollon will be looking to start their Europa League campaign with three points when they host FC Zurich at the GSP Stadium on Thursday night.The Limassol side are no strangers to the competition having qualified for the group stages last year where they finished third in their group, and will be hoping to use that experience in their favour when they take on Zurich.The 2013/14 campaign saw them amass four points, including a win away to Legia Warsaw, but Christakis Christoforou’s men did not manage a victory at home, something which they aim to put right this time around.While it is by no means an easy game, it is the one which is most winnable for the Limassol side, in front of their own fans, with Borussia Monchengladbach and Villarreal being the two fancied teams to qualify for the next round.Apollon pulled off one of the biggest results of the play-off round to reach the groups when they defeated Lokomotiv Moscow 1-4 in the Russian capital to add to their 1-1 draw in Cyprus.And despite their disappointing start to the Cypriot league season where they lost 2-5 at home to AEK Larnaca on the opening day, they go into Thursday’s match in good spirits following their 1-0 win over Ayia Napa, their second league win in succession.The scorer of that solitary goal was talisman Gaston Sangoy who Apollon are delighted to have back in the team for a crucial home European match. The Argentine missed the first leg against Lokomotiv, which finished 1-1 in Nicosia, through suspension and the difference with him in the side in the second leg was evident.The Swiss club, on their part, have enjoyed an excellent start to the domestic season as they sit top of the league after eight games, one point ahead of Champions League participants FC Basel.Much of their success is down to Davide Chiumento and Amine Chermiti who have scored five and four times respectively in the league while Chermiti netted a hat-trick in the first leg of their play-off encounter against Spartak Trnava – Apollon’s biggest task will be to keep their deadly duo as quiet as possible.Zurich have also had their fair share of European adventures in recent years having reached the group stages of either the Europa League or Champions League in four of the last six campaigns.Though their opponents cannot be underestimated, Apollon will see this as their best opportunity to earn their first home win at home in the group stages and put down a solid marker for the more difficult challenges which lie ahead.APOLLONlast_img read more

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Arsenal strike late to break Anderlecht hearts

first_imgBy Martyn HermanArsenal struck twice in the last two minutes for a smash and grab 2-1 away victory at Anderlecht in Champions League Group D on Wednesday to earn three vital points.The Londoners produced a lethargic display and were trailing to Andy Najar’s 71st-minute header before Kieran Gibbs equalised after 89 minutes and then Lukas Podolski smashed in a close-range winner.It was tough luck on Anderlecht who had seemed on course for a first victory in the competition in 11 attempts.Arsenal remain in second place with six points, three behind Borussia Dortmund who have won all of their games.Neither side managed a shot on target in a forgettable first half in the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.Arsenal offered precious little going forward with Alexis Sanchez the only player showing any real desire.After the tepid first half the second began in more lively fashion with Ibrahima Conte raising the noise levels with a shot deflected wide.Arsenal responded minutes later when Sanchez found himself unmarked with his back to goal in the six-yard box but he failed to angle his header away from grateful keeper Silvio Proto.It was the hosts who made the breakthrough though with 19 minutes remaining and it was goal of real quality.Najar played the ball to Dennis Praet who twisted and turned Arsenal’s languid defence before clipping the perfect cross to the far post where Najar dispatched a firm header past Emiliano Martinez, Arsenal’s third-choice keeper who was making his Champions League debut.It almost got better for Anderlecht when Anthony Vanden Borre’s mis-hit shot looped against the post with Arsenal’s defence in disarray.Sanchez rustled the side-netting with a free kick but Anderlecht looked the more likely to score as the crowd began chanting ‘ole’s’ with every home pass.It all went sour for Anderlecht though as first left-back Gibbs produced a superb volley from a Calum Chambers cross.Suddenly revived, Arsenal went for the unlikeliest of victories and with the clock at 90 minutes, Sanchez caused havoc in the area and his low cross fell to Podolski who thrashed the ball high into the net.last_img read more

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Inter’s Mancini sees no need for major reshuffle

first_imgINTER Milan coach Roberto Mancini says a major reshuffle of his squad is not needed in the January transfer window as they firmly sit on top of the Serie A table.Last season Inter had to alter their tactics after the club signed wingers Xherdan Shaqiri and Lukas Podolski in the January transfer window.“I don’t think we need to do anything but we do need to consider if there are players who want to move on so they can play more,” the former Manchester City manager said in an interview with the Italian television channel RAI.There are some players in the Inter squad who play less, including Spanish defender Martin Montoya who is on loan from Champions League winners Barcelona.“I don’t know if Montoya will leave in January. He’s played and shown he’s up to the task… It’s up to him if he wants to accept this situation or look somewhere else where he might play more regularly,” Mancini added.Mancini played down Italian media rumours on the possible signing of Argentinian Boca Juniors striker Jonathan Calleri.Inter, four points ahead of second-placed Fiorentina, play Lazio on Sunday in their last match before the transfer window opens.last_img read more

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Ryan Pini aims for second gold

first_imgPini will be competing in the 100m butterfly on day 2 this morning at the BSP Arena.There are three heats in this event. Pini will race in heat three lane four.The top eight in the three heats will qualify for the finals this evening.Swimmers have just completed their warm ups as the crowd starts to build up.Other events today are the women 50m backstroke and 200m freestyle, men 400m medley and women 200m breaststroke.last_img

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Vanuatu beat PNG in hockey extra time

first_imgThe Vanuatu boys who only had months of preparation after cyclone Pam bounced back from the devastation having a majority of the possession of the ball; eventually winning the game 8-6.Vanuatu opened the score in the first half from Ben Sam, then captain Hiro Mamu easily dribbled the ball into PNG’s goal mouth to score and they  led 2-0.PNG’s Martin Kanamon responded with a goal catching up 2-1 however Vanuatu maintained their dominence of the ball possession, taking every open opportunity to strike at goal.The second period saw Vanuatu open the goal collection, extending their lead to 3-1 which PNG responded to, closing the lead 3-2PNG’s Hussein Lowah responded with PNG’s third goal, striking the ball from the half way line of the pitch and levelling the score board at 3 all.Lowah then attempted to get another goal however the hit was too hard. Martin Kanamon’s strong hit from the half way line found Vanuatu’s goalie box,  putting PNG in front 4-3.This did not stop Vanuatu from persevering to get more points with captain Hiro Namu equalizing the score 4 all from a penalty shoot out.Sapau Tapo with a long ball got PNG back in front 5-4 just seconds before the end of period 2.In period 3, Vanuatu’s Ben Sam scored his second goal for the match, bringing the score to 5 all.With just minutes to go, Kanamon flicked the ball into Vanuatu’s box to score, dnd PNG lead 6-5.Strong efforts by the Vanuatu captain Namu successfully levelled the score 6 all at full time.The match then went to challenge or what is normally called extra time with 3 players from each side allowed 8 seconds to dribble past the goalie one on one.Vanuatu’s Ben Sam and captain Namu managed to score in the one on one against PNG’s goalie Yahee Kusunan.PNG failed in its two attempts to get a goal, leaving the Vanuatu boys to walk away very happy, winning 8-6.last_img read more

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FIFA Ethics Committee recommends suspending Blatter for 90 days

first_imgMembers of the Committee have been meeting in Zurich this week to discuss several allegations against Blatter, including that he made a a “disloyal” payment – meaning one allegedly not in the interests of football’s governing body – of CHF 2 million (£1.3 million/US$2.1 million/€1.8 million) to UEFA President Michel Platini for consultancy work the Frenchman carried out between 1999 and 2002.An investigation was launched into Blatter and Platini, with both insisting they had done nothing wrong.It has been reported that no decision on the Frenchman has yet been made and the ruling against the 79-year-old Blatter still needs to be approved by the adjudicatory chamber of the Committee, led by FIFA’s judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, and a decision reportedly could come as early as tomorrow.If it is upheld, Blatter would be suspended until early next year ahead of an Extraordinary Elective Congress, where his successor is due to be appointed, on February 26.”What we know is that president Blatter was told he could be suspended for 90 days,” Stöhlker said.”There is no guilt impugned.”The Swiss’ lawyers have since claimed Blatter has “not been notified of any action taken by FIFA’s Ethics Committee.”We would expect that the Ethics Committee would want to hear from the president and his counsel, and conduct a thorough review of the evidence, before making any recommendation to take disciplinary action,” a statement from  from Swiss lawyer Lorenz Erni and US lawyer Richard Cullen said.The astonishing news comes after the Swiss Attorney General announced they had opened “criminal proceedings” against Blatter on “suspicion of criminal mismanagement as well as – alternatively – on suspicion of misappropriation” on September 25.Blatter, who was re-elected during FIFA’s Congress in Zurich in May before stepping down just five days later following the arrest of several officials, is alleged to have signed a contract with the Caribbean Football Union – headed at the time by another corruption tainted official in Trinidad and Tobago’s Jack Warner – and that this was “unfavourable” for FIFA.The investigation in September marked the first time Blatter had been personally accused of involvement in a string of corruption scandals within world football’s governing body, which have plagued the sport for over two decades.The development comes after Blatter earlier told German magazine Bunte that the investigation into his actions was “outrageous” and “not correct”.“The situation is not pleasant,” he said.“I am being condemned without there being any evidence for wrongdoing on my part.“That is really outrageous.“This is just an investigation, not an indictment.“I will fight until February 26.“For myself and for FIFA.“I am convinced that evil will come to light and good will prevail.”Blatter’s comments come after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) dropped the Swiss from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Foundation Board. His 16-year term as an IOC member came to an end in August after he opted not to extend his mandate.“The IOC is in the process of choosing a new member of the WADA Foundation Board,” an IOC statement said.“Blatter is no longer an IOC member and will not represent the IOC during this time.”Earlier  FIFA Presidential candidate Chung Mong-joon announced his intention to sue Blatter for US$100 million (£60 million/€89 million) for embezzlement and claimed FIFA’s Ethics Committee were impeding his bid for world football’s top job.last_img read more

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National triathlon titles set for May

first_imgA team will be selected from the event to go to the Solomon Islands for the 4th Pacific Islands Triathlon (PIT) Championships. The PIT Championships will only be super sprint and sprint events, so selections will only be in these two categories. Event organiser Stephen Damien said this is a great opportunity for the new clubs to send their junior athletes to the national championships for possible selection into the junior squad for the super sprint races.They’re also planning to organise a junior development workshop a few days before the national championships to give the young athletes some basic triathlon skills before the major event. “This is still in the pipeline but we hope that we can get this done before the race,” Damien said.The PNG Triathlon annual general meeting will also be held on the same day after the championships.The nomination form is being finalised and will be sent out by this weekend.last_img read more

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Momase Regional Besta Qualifiers kicks off

first_imgWith 32 teams vying for the first and second spot to qualify for the second leg of Besta Cup Madang has been in a real bustle.Madang Provincial Administrator Daniel Aloi representing the Madang Provincial Government and other sponsors officially kicked off the tournament.Aloi was accompanied by Madang Soccer Association President Ray Romo and officers from the office of Madang governor Jim Kas.Mr Aloi while welcoming the teams said soccer is the backbone of Momase and welcomed all the teams from West Sepik, East Sepik, and Morobe into Madang.“Momase Region is a strong soccer fanatic and the four provincial governors are also soccer fanatic supporters of soccer in each of their provinces,”“Momase must embrace the true spirit of soccer and play in the true spirit of the event,”He said the last Momase Governors Council in Morobe also talked about developing soccer in the Momase Region.Meanwhile, Madang Soccer Association President Ray Romo as the host Association welcomed the teams to the province and thanked PNG FA for choosing Madang to host the tournament.Romo said football is the best foundation of all developments and a tool for Public- Private Partnership.“Football is not just a game, or a pastime social activity but a wonderful tool for positive development contributing  immensely to address law and order Issues, gender inequality, children’s health and education, poverty and most importantly football unites the communities,” Romo said.“The government and companies, must contribute more to football, because football addresses social issues that we are facing today, the towns and communities become safe, women become more respected and move around freely, children grown up healthy and well-educated, and families may earn honest living through football program like NSL, from informal business/stalls in tournament, like this one,” Romo said.Romo aslo commended the sponsors who came on board to support the tournament and said the sponsorship to football is an investment for positive development which in return the companies and business increase their returns and grow.He said in all soccer in Momase is growing and has contributed immensely to gender balance, poverty and crime reduction and has bring communities together.The games kick off with host Madang Soccer Association (MSA) taking on Maprik in Pool B while Lae Football Association taking on Kairuru in Pool A.MSA defeated Maprik 3-1 and LFA defeated Kairuru 2-0.Women’s division games will kick off today with Madang Soccer Association (MSA) taking on Wewak.(LFA taking on Kairuru in Pool A first game LFA won 2-0)last_img read more

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VIDEO: Hunters attract crowd

first_imgSophie Yaruso with more Their final training camp attracted a large crowd of Kimbe residence and supporters, on hand to wish the Hunters well for this weekend’s major semi final of the Intrust Super Cup.last_img

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