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Category Archives: Sports News

US, Canada, Mexico 2026 bid inviting venue submissions

LOS ANGELES: The United States, Mexico and Canada’s bid for the 2026 World Cup on Tuesday invited 44 cities across the three nations to declare an interest in staging games at the football extravaganza, a statement said.

A total of 49 stadiums in the candidate cities have been considered for inclusion in the official World Cup bid which will be submitted to FIFA by March 16, 2018.

The joint North American bid is seen as the favourite for the 2026 World Cup, with only one other bid – Morocco – so far in the running for the tournament.

The USMexico-Canada World Cup bid will submit between 20-25 venues in its final bid to FIFA, with 12 locations likely to be chosen as host cities.

The 2026 World Cup will be the first tournament using FIFA’s expanded 48-team format.

“The Host Cities included in our bid will be critical to its success – not only because of their facilities and ability to stage major events, but because they are committed to further developing the sport of soccer by harnessing the impact of hosting a FIFA World Cup – and looking beyond the game itself to make a positive contribution to our communities and the world,” said United Bid Committee Executive Director John Kristick.

“We have had a great response so far and we’re looking forward to working closely with each city and determining the best venues for our official bid that we’ll submit next year.”

Bid officials have said 60 of the tournament’s matches would be staged in the United States, with Canada and Mexico hosting 10 games each.

The United States will host all knockout games from the quarter-finals onwards.

Stadiums under consideration in the United States include several venues used in the 1994 World Cup, including the Pasadena Rose Bowl. Other venues include the new Los Angeles Stadium, and the 105,000-capacity AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Seven cities in Canada are under consideration, including Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Toronto and Vancouver.

Mexico’s proposed venues are limited to three stadiums, most notably Mexico City’ Estadio Azteca, the stage for the 1970 and 1986 World Cup finals. — AFP

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Sharapova receives US Open wildcard for first post-ban Slam

NEW YORK: Five-time major champion Maria Sharapova of Russia will play her first Grand Slam event since serving a 15-month doping suspension after receiving a wildcard Tuesday into the US Open.

The move by the US Tennis Association (USTA) comes after Sharapova, ranked 148th this week, was rejected for a wildcard spot into the French Open and missed Wimbledon with a thigh injury.

Sharapova tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open and was suspended by the International Tennis Federation, a ban that ended in April.

Since then, Sharapova has needed wildcards to get into tournaments, drawing criticism from some fellow professionals.

“Her suspension under the terms of the tennis anti-doping program was completed and therefore was not one of the factors weighed in our wildcard selection process,” the USTA said in a statement.

“Consistent with past practice, a wildcard was provided to a past US champion who needed the wildcard for entry into the main draw. Previous US Open champions who have received US Open main draw wildcards include Martina Hingis, Lleyton Hewitt, Kim Clijsters and Juan Martin del Potro.”

Former world number one Sharapova won the 2006 US Open as well as Wimbledon in 2014, the 2008 Australian Open and the 2012 and 2014 French Opens.

Sharapova will also speak to youth about the benefits of the anti-doping program and the need for players to be vigilant about the banned substance list, something she admitted not doing when she did not catch meldonium being added to the ban list in 2016.

“Additionally, Sharapova has volunteered to speak to young tennis players at the USTA national campus about the importance of the tennis anti-doping program and the personal responsibility each player has to comply with the program’s requirements,” the USTA said.

Sharapova has shaken off criticism from rival players about wildcards and the French Open snub, tweeting after being denied a spot at Roland Garros, “If this is what it takes to rise up again, then I am in it all the way, everyday. No words, games or actions will ever stop me from reaching my own dreams. And I have many.”

Sharapova has withdrawn from US Open warm-up tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati the past two weeks after suffering a left forearm injury at Stanford.

In her first US match since March 2015, Shrapova defeated American Jennifer Brady 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 at Stanford.

But in the triumph, Sharapova suffered the forearm injury that has sidelined her since, even after arriving in Cincinnati hopeful of playing as a wildcard in the final major tuneup before the US Open.

“Following the doctor’s advice on-site, as a precaution for the US Open, I am unfortunately withdrawing from the tournament with the left forearm injury I sustained in Stanford,” Sharapova said. — AFP

Ronaldo ban sours Madrid’s march towards more silverware

MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo is banned, but it would take a huge upset for Real Madrid’s trophy-winning streak to be ended by Barcelona on Wednesday (kick off 2100GMT) as they carry a 3-1 lead into the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup.

Ronaldo’s five-match ban for pushing the referee after being controversially sent-off for diving in the first leg threatens to overshadow another glorious night for Real as they close in on a seventh trophy in less than two years under the tutelage of Zinedine Zidane.

Madrid fans are planning a protest in the seventh minute against the treatment of the World Player of the Year, whilst Zidane was uncharacteristically angered by the ban.

“When you look at everything that happened, to think Cristiano won’t play five games with us… it is infuriating.”

Ronaldo came off the bench to give Madrid a 2-1 lead at the Camp Nou on Sunday with a sensational strike into the top corner.

However, he was then booked for taking his shirt off in celebration and saw a second yellow card just two minutes later when he went down under pressure from Samuel Umtiti inside the area.

The Portuguese captain then pushed referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea before leaving the field – an offence that carries a minimum four-game suspension.

Madrid’s appeal against his second yellow will be heard on Wednesday morning, but even if it is successful the ban will likely only be reduced from five to four games.

Nothing impossible

Real, though, showed they can cope admirably without their all-time top scorer as even a man down for the final stages at the Camp Nou, they went onto extend their through Marco Asensio’s sumptuous strike.

Shorn of Ronaldo, Zidane is expected to make just one change from the side that started at the weekend with Luka Modric returning from suspension in place of Mateo Kovacic.

And Zidane warned against complacency as Barca have won on three of their last four visits to the Bernabeu.

“In football nothing is over. We have to play really well because at any moment Barcelona can cause you problems,” added the Frenchman.

Defeat in Ernesto Valverde’s first game in charge compounded a miserable start to the season for Barcelona after losing Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We have an adverse result going into the second leg, of that there is no doubt, but nothing is impossible,” said Valverde.

“We maintain our idea of going there to win the game and bring back the title. Yes it is difficult, but we aren’t going to give up beforehand.”

Barca need to score at least three times to have any chance of turning the tie around, but can take hope from the fact they have scored 12 goals in their last four visits to the Bernabeu.

“Scoring three goals there won’t be easy but we have done it many times,” said midfielder Sergio Busquets.

Still in search for a replacement for Neymar, Barca are further weakened by the absence of captain Andres Iniesta who is out due to a right thigh injury.

New signing Paulinho won’t be involved as he doesn’t arrive in Barcelona until Thursday. — AFP

Neymar becomes Handicap International ambassador

GENEVA: Neymar-mania, which has engulfed France, landed briefly in neighbouring Switzerland on Tuesday where the Brazilian star became Handicap International’s first-ever ambassador at a ceremony at the United Nations in Geneva.

Paris Saint-Germain’s new prize acquisition told reporters the opportunity to work with the organisation that advocates for the rights of disabled people marked “a unique moment” in his life.

The event saw the 25-year-old forward elevated to the top of the giant “Broken Chair” monument, which sits in the main square outside the UN’s European headquarters.

Perched at the top of the monument – erected two decades ago to honour those mutilated by landmines in conflict – Neymar dribbled and kicked balls into the small crowd assembled below, sending a few over the guarded gate of the UN compound.

Speaking later to reporters inside the UN, Neymar said his precise role with Handicap International had not yet been hammered out, but voiced hope it would “be a successful partnership”.

Handicap International said the footballer’s mandate would be advocate for the rights of “people with disabilities in poor countries, victims of natural disasters and conflicts.”

Neymar earned rave reviews for his goalscoring debut with PSG this week, which followed a record €222-million (RM1.1 billion) transfer from former club Barcelona. — AFP

Clough laughs off talk of Bolt trial

LONDON: Burton manager Nigel Clough has laughed off Albion chairman Ben Robinson’s claim that his Championship club wanted to offer a trial to sprint legend Usain Bolt.

Robinson had suggested Burton would be interested in giving an opportunity to the eight-time Olympic gold medallist following his retirement from the track after the World Championships.

But Clough was quick to rule out that idea following Albion’s 2-0 loss at Middlesbrough on Tuesday.

“That’s the first I’ve heard of it. There is nothing in it as far as I am concerned,” Clough said.

“Would I be interested? No. I’m interested in trying to get a win in Friday night, no distractions.

“It’s a good job he (the chairman) doesn’t pick the players then, isn’t it?” — AFP

Own goal seals Liverpool win at Hoffenheim

BERLIN: Jurgen Klopp insists Liverpool are far from certain of a Champions League group stage berth despite their 2-1 win at Hoffenheim on Tuesday in their play-off, first-leg.

The result in south-west Germany leaves Klopp’s Liverpool in pole position ahead of the return at Anfield on Wednesday, August 23.

After goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had saved a first-half penalty, 18-year-old defender Trent Alexander-Arnold curled in a free-kick to give Liverpool the lead.

Ex-England forward James Milner made sure of victory by curling in a cross-cum-shot, which dropped inside the far post on 75 minutes after deflecting off Havard Nordtveit for an own goal.

However, Hoffenheim pulled a goal back when replacement Mark Uth managed to beat the offside trap to score late on to give the Germans hope.

“I am happy with the performance, we’d have liked to have won 2-0 and the goal they scored just before the end isn’t so favourable for us,” said Klopp.

“We could have scored one or two more goals and we need Anfield in the return leg.

“This thing isn’t over yet.”

Liverpool’s want-away attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho sat out the play-off with a back injury.

The Brazilian is desperate to leave Anfield for Barcelona after handing in a transfer request, but Liverpool insist he is not for sale.

Belgium goalkeeper Mignolet saved an early first-half penalty to deny hosts Hoffenheim an early lead in Sinsheim.

When Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren brought down Germany winger Serge Gnabry, Hoffenheim’s ex-Leicester City striker Andrej Kramaric stepped up for the spot kick.

The Hoffenheim forward squandered the golden chance, weakly firing his 11th-minute spot-kick at Mignolet.

At the other end, Liverpool’s Egypt striker Mohamed Salah fired just wide of the post on 15 minutes after sprinting clear and beating Hoffenheim goalkeeper Oliver Baumann.

Alexander-Arnold gave Liverpool the lead when his floated free-kick beat Baumann on 35 minutes.

However, Hoffenheim could have gone into the break level when striker Sandro Wagner hit the post after Mignolet blocked a Gnabry shot.

Liverpool should have made it 2-0 straight after the break when Baumann saved Roberto Firmin’s shot from point-blank range after Sadio Mane’s clever cross.

‘Brave’

Substitute Milner put the matter beyond doubt when he snapped up Firmino’s pass to the wing from a quickly taken free-kick.

He fired home off his left boot on 75 minutes as the shot clipped Nordtveit and went into the net.

Uth netted Hoffenheim’s consolation goal to give his team a lifeline when he managed to hold off Alexander-Arnold to score on 87 minutes.

“We deserved to at least of had a draw,” said Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann.

“We were brave, but we were a bit too open in the second half and risked too much.

“The way the game went, with the missed penalty, was unfortunate for us.”

Elsewhere, Apoel Nicosia took a big step towards the group stages with a 2-0 win over Czech side Slavia Prague in Cyprus with Igor de Camargo and Efstathios Aloneftis scoring in the first ten minutes.

The Cypriot outfit were knocked out by FC Copenhagen at this stage last season, but the Danes are struggling this time, falling 1-0 in Azerbaijan by Qarabag FK.

Mahir Madatov scored the only goal of the night when he fired in a rebound after Dino Ndlovu’s shot hit the post after 25 minutes.

In Switzerland, Young Boys defender Kasim Adams Nuhu scored an own goal in added time to hand CSKA Moscow a 1-0 win.

Steaua Bucharest, reduced to ten men after Mihai Pintilii was sent off ten minutes from time, drew 0-0 at Sporting Lisbon. — AFP

Buffon joins Messi, Ronaldo on UEFA shortlist

PARIS: Veteran Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has been named as one of three nominees for the 2016/17 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, European football’s governing body announced on Tuesday.

The 39-year-old Buffon was a key member of the Juventus side that reached last season’s Champions League final, but he missed out on a first winner’s medal as the Italians were beaten 4-1 by Ronaldo’s Real Madrid in Cardiff.

The shortlist was decided by the 80 coaches of the clubs that played in the Champions League and Europa League group stages, as well as 55 journalists.

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has won the award twice, as has Portuguese forward Ronaldo.

Since its inception in 2011, unlike other similar individual awards, the UEFA accolade has not been totally dominated by Ronaldo and Messi.

Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta won the honour in 2012, followed by French winger Franck Ribery a year later.

Real Madrid, who have lifted the European Cup in three of the past four seasons, had four players in the top 10, with Luka Modric fourth, Toni Kroos fifth and Sergio Ramos seventh.

Argentinian forward Paulo Dybala (sixth) joined his Juve team-mate Buffon in being named, while Monaco’s rising teenage star Kylian Mbappe, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and former Manchester United forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic rounded out the top 10.

Luis Suarez, who scored 37 goals for Barcelona in all competitions last season, missed out, as did his former team-mate Neymar, who has since joined Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222 million (RM1.1 billion) move. — AFP

Barca lack firepower without Neymar: Busquets

BARCELONA: Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets (pix) reiterated his call for the club’s board to strengthen in the transfer market on Tuesday, but warned replacing the departed Neymar will be almost impossible.

The Brazilian’s absence was noticeable as Barca fell to a 3-1 Spanish Super Cup, first leg defeat at home to Real Madrid in the Catalans first game since Neymar moved to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record €222 million (RM1.1 billion).

“It is clear that with Neymar’s departure the team has lost out offensively,” said Busquets ahead of Wednesday’s second leg at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu (kick off 2100GMT) (5am Thursday\, Malaysia).

“It’s obvious that you realise what kind of player Ney is.”

Busquets said in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s defeat that Barca had to sign after initial bids to land Liverpool‘s Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele of Borussia Dortmund were rejected last week.

However, the Spanish international believes the only way to move on from Neymar’s decision to jump ship to the French giants is for the Barca squad to be improved overall rather than finding a like-for-like replacement.

“Those that come in will be welcomed. With Neymar’s departure there is a lack of attacking players, but as I said before getting better means improving in all positions and all aspects.

“Hopefully as many players of the highest quality can come in.

“There is only one Neymar and now that he is no longer with us we need to look forward and try to improve as a team.”

Barca made Brazilian international midfielder Paulinho their first signing since Neymar’s departure from Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande for €40 million on Monday.

And despite widespread scepticism over his ability to make an impact in Spain after a disappointing spell at Tottenham Hotspur before his move to China, Barca boss Ernesto Valverde insisted Paulinho will bring a different dimension to the Barca midfield.

“From a physical point of view he is a strong player that can offer us versatility,” said Valverde.

“There isn’t another player of his type in the team.” — AFP

Zidane angered by five-game Ronaldo ban

MADRID: Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane expressed his anger on Tuesday at a fivegame ban handed to Cristiano Ronaldo for pushing a referee after being sent-off against Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup.

Madrid hold a 3-1 first leg lead going into the second leg against their fierce rivals on Wednesday (2100 GMT), but will have to do without Ronaldo.

The World Player of the Year was controversially shown a second yellow card for diving on Sunday and handed an extra four-game ban for a light push on referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea after being shown the 10th red card of his career.

“We are very annoyed,” said Zidane.

“When you look at everything that happened, to think Cristiano won’t play five games with us … it is infuriating.”

Madrid’s appeal against the red card, which could reduce the ban from five games to four, will be held before the game on Wednesday.

“The (appeals) committee will meet and I hope they look well upon it,” added Zidane.

“Cristiano is annoyed because he wants to play and when he doesn’t play, he isn’t happy.”

Ronaldo was on the field for just 24 action-packed minutes on Sunday as he was only introduced as a second-half substitute after a curtailed pre-season due to his participation in the Confederations Cup with Portugal.

He made a huge impact with a stunning strike to put Madrid into a 2-1 lead 10 minutes from time, but unwisely picked up his first yellow card for removing his shirt in celebration.

And two minutes later he was dismissed as he fell inside the area under pressure from Samuel Umtiti.

“Cristiano’s ban is excessive,” added Madrid defender Dani Carvajal.

“It is a frustrating feeling for him. Hopefully the committee will reduce it by a few games.”

Should Ronaldo’s appeal not be upheld, he will miss Madrid’s first four La Liga games of the season against Deportivo la Coruna, Valencia, Levante and Real Sociedad.

However, Zidane insisted he is not desperate to add to his forward line before the transfer window closes on August 31, despite selling strikers Alvaro Morata and Mariano Diaz this summer.

Real have been linked for months with a move for Monaco’s 18-year-old sensation Kylian Mbappe, but look set to be beaten to the Frenchman’s signature by free-spending Paris Saint-Germain.

“Anything can happen between now and Aug 31, but what I can say is that I am very happy with the players I have,” said Zidane. — AFP

Lejeune adds to Benitez’s defensive concerns

LONDON: French defender Florian Lejeune will miss several weeks of the campaign after being injured in Newcastle’s opening Premier League defeat by Tottenham, the club said on Tuesday.

The news will do nothing to improve manager Rafael Benitez’s mood as he has already expressed his unhappiness at the lack of new faces brought in after Newcastle gained promotion from the second tier Championship last season.

The 26-year-old Lajeune, one of Benitez’s few summer acquisitions who cost the Magpies £8.7million (US$11.2m, 9.5m euros RM48.09) from Spanish outfit Eibar, injured ankle ligaments in a clash with England striker Harry Kane during the 2-0 defeat on Sunday.

His injury adds to Benitez’s concerns at fullback as Paul Dummett has a hamstring problem he suffered in the same match.

“Dummett limped off with a hamstring injury after just seven minutes, before Lejeune – making his Magpies debut – sustained ankle ligament damage during a tackle by Harry Kane,” read a statement issued by the club.

“Assessments by the club’s medical staff are continuing in order to establish the full extent of their injuries, but both players are expected to be out for weeks, rather than months.”

Newcastle next face a trip to fellow promoted side Huddersfield, who got off to a flying start in their debut season in the Premier League with a 3-0 victory at Crystal Palace, on Sunday. — AFP