US and Germany fancied at landmark Women’s World Cup

first_imgBy Philip O’ConnorCanada will host the largest Women’s World Cup in history over the next month where the neighbouring United States are hot favourites to snap a 16-year title drought at the showpiece event.With a legal fight over the use of artificial turf now in the rear-view mirror, Canada will kick off the June 6-July 5 tournament against China in the first international competition to be played entirely on plastic pitches.Eighth-ranked Canada qualified as hosts and are hoping the backing of a passionate fan base and the experience of winning a bronze medal at the London Olympics can carry them deep into the tournament.The United States will face stiff European opposition led by continental champions and top-ranked Germany, as well as an Asian challenge spearheaded by holders Japan, who beat the Americans on penalties in the 2011 World Cup final.Taking place for the seventh time, the Women’s World Cup will feature an expanded field of 24 teams, twice as many as when it started back in 1991 and eight more than in the last three tournaments.The 24 nations will be divided into six groups of four, with matches taking place in six cities across Canada.The top two teams in each group will make it through to the last 16, where they will be joined by the four best third-placed teams, and all eyes will be on Canada’s near neighbours, who are hotly-tipped to win a third world title.The Americans will cross the border having won the last two Olympic gold medals, but despite the growing popularity of the sport in the United States, they are without a World Cup win since securing their second title in 1999.The heartbreaking loss on penalties to Japan in 2011 will loom large in the minds of those who took part, but Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan are likely to team up again up front as they look to avenge that loss.Though the Americans are a popular pick to take the trophy, it is European champions Germany who are ranked number one in the world, with the United States just behind them in second.Anchored by Nadine Angerer in goal, the German side is full of pace and power, and with the potent duo of Anja Mittag and Celia Sasic up front, they will be a handful for any side.The Germans are part of a wave of European teams all in with a realistic shot of making the semi-finals.European runners-up Norway will provide a physical test for their opponents, and in teenage striker Ada Hegerbergthey have one of the rising stars of the game.Sweden are well-organised by former US coach Pia Sundhage but will have to be more clinical in front of goal if they are to survive a ‘Group of Death’ featuring the United States, 10th-ranked Australia and African champions Nigeria.Slick, tough and skillful, France will also be aiming to go deep in this tournament, and even if England, Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain lack the depth to go all the way, all are capable of causing an upset in the knockout stages.Asian champions Japan arrive to defend their World Cup crown with a strong squad that may be short on well-known names but is bristling with speed and passing ability.Australia are still smarting from a 1-0 defeat to Japan in the Asian Women’s Cup final a year ago, and the Matildas will be looking for another strong showing in Canada.There are however problems in terms of opening up the tournament to 24 teams. Despite the presence of a skillful Brazil side, the South American contingent is perhaps not as strong as they could be.At 33 in the world, Nigeria are Africa’s top-ranked contender, and there is a risk that smaller nations such as Thailand, Ecuador and Ivory Coast could all be on the end of some hidings in the group stage.Top players criticised the decision to play all games on artificial turf, with many alleging gender discrimination in a lawsuit, since dropped, against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association as every men’s World Cup has been on real grass.For all the controversy over the surface, every one of the 552 players taking part in the biggest women’s football tournament in history will have a level playing field when they arrive in Canada.It will then be up to them to decide who lifts the Women’s World Cup trophy in Vancouver on July 5.last_img read more

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Hamilton wins dramatic Russian Grand Prix

first_imgBy Alan BaldwinLewis Hamilton won a dramatic Russian Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday to take a huge step towards his third world championship after Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg retired early on with throttle failure.The win was Hamilton’s ninth of the season, and the 42nd of his career, and the Briton’s untroubled afternoon was a stark contrast to his German team mate’s woes.Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished runner-up at the Olympic Park circuit to overtake Rosberg as Hamilton’s closest rival, 66 points adrift of the Briton with four races and a maximum 100 points remaining.If results go Hamilton’s way, he can secure his second successive title in Austin, Texas, in two weeks’ time.Hamilton, who also won the inaugural Russian Grand Prix last year and has now surpassed the tally of victories racked up by the late triple champion Ayrton Senna, now has 302 points to Vettel’s 236 and Rosberg on 229.“It looked like we were going to have a race and I was thinking this is great and we were going to put on a good show,” said Hamilton, after collecting the winners’ trophy from Russian president Vladimir Putin.“Nico made a mistake at turn one and went wide. I overtook him and after that, or maybe even before, he started to have some problems. It is very unfortunate for the team.”“Those last five laps I was just taking it in. I don’t know how many times I’ll be in this position again,” added the champion.Mexican Sergio Perez finished third for Force India, in a race with two safety car interludes following crashes, after Finnish drivers Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen collided while battling for the final podium place.Raikkonen finished fifth for Ferrari, a result that kept Mercedes waiting for their second successive constructors’ championship.However, the Finn faced a stewards enquiry into the collision, with the possibility of a penalty for ramming the rear of Bottas’s Williams.OPENING LAPThe safety car was deployed after Perez’s team mate Nico Hulkenberg spun on the opening lap and was hit by the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson with Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso also caught up in the action.Rosberg had led from pole, holding off Hamilton through the opening corners, but was forced to retire in the pits on the seventh of 53 laps.“F1 is pretty incredible sometimes how tough it is,” the German told the BBC.“After a great start, leading the race and feeling confident. Straight after the safety car the pedal broke. It was quite dangerous. Definitely not a nice way to end the day.”Hamilton had already taken over the lead as Rosberg wrestled with the problem but his advantage was whittled away when Frenchman Romain Grosjean crashed heavily on lap 12 and brought out the safety car again.Perez had thought his podium hopes had gone when Bottas and Raikkonen, on fresher tyres, passed him in the closing laps but the collision put him right back for his first top three finish of the season.“One lap before the end it seemed like everything went away from us. I was very unhappy with myself but in the end I thought ”I gave it all”,” said the Mexican.“I did plenty of laps with my tyres and had massive degradation. On the last lap when it came it was just amazing.”Brazilian Felipe Massa finished fourth for Williams while Russian Daniil Kvyat was sixth for Red Bull, ahead of Sauber’s Brazilian Felipe Nasr and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado in a Lotus.In a boost for struggling McLaren, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso finished ninth and 10th respectively.Spanish rookie Carlos Sainz, who was in hospital only a day earlier after crashing his Toro Rosso in practice, had been heading for his best result after running as high as sixth but retired eight laps from the end.Formula One driver and constructor standings Drivers Points 1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 3022. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 2363. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 2294. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1235. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 1116. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams 1097. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Red Bull 768. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull 739. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India 5410. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 44 Constructors Points 1. Mercedes 5312. Ferrari 3593. Williams-Mercedes 2204. RedBull – Renault 1495. Force India – Mercedes 926. Lotus – Mercedes 667. Toro Rosso – Renault 458. Sauber – Ferrari 349. McLaren 1910. Marussia – Ferrari 0last_img read more

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Omonia coach Kaiafas resigns

first_imgOMONIA coach Costas Kaiafas resigned on Monday following a series of poor results that left the Nicosia side ten points off the top of the table in the Cyprus football championship.His resignation, 19 months after taking over the team, followed a 2-1 defeat to AEK in Larnaca on Sunday.Omonia are now trailing league leaders APOEL by 10 points. The two arch-rivals face each other next Monday.Kaiafas, who captained Omonia as a player, conceded that mistakes had been made but no one should discount all the work done during the past 19 months.The 41-year-old said he knew what it meant to support Omonia and he knew how supporters felt when their side lost.“My aim had always been the good of the team,” he said.last_img

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Pliskova is Czech hero in Fed Cup triumph over Russia

first_imgBy Michael KahnThe Czech Republic defended their Fed Cup title on Sunday as Karolina Pliskova became the home team’s hero with a starring performance in their thrilling 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Russia.Pliskova not only won her singles rubber to tie the match at 2-2 but then returned to the court after just a 30-minute break to help secure another comeback victory in the final set of the deciding doubles.It enabled the Czechs to celebrate their fourth Fed Cup triumph in five years in the event regarded as the World Cup of women’s tennis – and they succeeded despite Russian star Maria Sharapova winning both her singles matches over the weekend.Having started the day level at 1-1, the home side fell behind in the best-of-five series after Sharapova defeated their top player, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the opening match of the day.The 23-year-old Pliskova, playing in her first Fed Cup final, tied the score after cruising to a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova with a service game and punishing forehand that overpowered the Russian.Pliskova was then forced to return to the court and partner Barbora Strycova in the decisive doubles after world No.4 Lucie Safarova was unable to play due to an injury.Though the pair lost the first set and looked in deep trouble, they rebounded to earn a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Russian pair, Elena Vesnina andPavlkyuchenkova.Pliskova, who reckoned she was not worried about fatigue after being thrust into the key doubles, said: “Even though we lost the first set, we believed we could win.“I played two matches. It was the last match of the season and I gave everything I had.”The Russians had also made a last-minute change in the doubles by electing to match Vesnina with Pavlyuchenkova rather than her Grand Slam-winning partner Ekaterina Makarova, who had not played since the US Open.It looked to be paying dividends as the visitors got off to a quick start, grabbing the first set against opponents who were playing doubles together for the first time.Yet Pliskova and Strycova quickly recovered, storming back to take the next two sets in front of a boisterous home crowd at the O2 arena as the Russians committed 28 unforced errors.Earlier, Kvitova, who had won her opening match on Saturday in the two-day final, started out strong but seemed to tire after the first set as Sharapova grew stronger.“I played well in the first set and middle of the second,” Kvitova said. “The turning point came at the end of the second set when she broke me and held the serve.”last_img read more

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APOEL ready for Olympiacos showdown

first_imgAPOEL kicked-off their Europa League campaign in perfect fashion two weeks ago but face arguably the toughest fixture in Group B on Thursday, as they travel to Greece to face Olympiacos.The Cyprus champions defeated Kazakhstan’s Astana 2-1 at the GSP Stadium in their opening game, but facing the group favourites in their own back yard will be a different proposition.One man who will be eager to prove a point is APOEL winger Giannis Gianniotas who is on loan from Olympiacos. The Greek international has been a revelation since joining the Nicosia outfit in January, and will be looking to show his parent club what they are missing. Ivan de Camargo, who grabbed the late winner against Astana will not be at the disposal of Thomas Christiansen through injury, neither will Andrea Orlandi.For Olympiacos, Spanish full-back Alberto De La Bella is not at 100 per cent match fitness but could still make the starting line-up, while German winger Marko Marin is still touch-and-go, and it remains to be seen whether he will feature from the start or not.APOEL press officer Nektarios Petevinos told Greek radio station Sport FM that he sees a recent coming of age within the ranks.“We are a young side, but we have shown that we have matured in recent times,” said Petevinos. “We are at a level which could help us to achieve our goals and we hope to have the quality to cope with Olympiacos, who are favourites to win the group”. Around 1,800 APOEL supporters are expected to be present at the Karaiskakis Stadium, and Petevinos believes the club could have sold far more tickets if they had been allocated more seats.“The 1,800 tickets that we were given have run out, and there are still many of our fans in Athens who would like to go to the stadium. We would have needed another 1,800 tickets to serve our fans.”Olympiacos boss Paulo Bento was asked whether he believed APOEL have the benefit of having many players who are familiar with Greek football.“I do not believe that is the case,” the Portuguese boss refuted. “The most important thing is for us to be loyal to our ideas and strategy. Sometimes you know more, sometimes you know less about your opponent. We want to remain loyal to our way of playing and our game plan and we will respect APOEL like any other opponent”.Since APOEL’s win over Astana two weeks ago, Christiansen’s side have beaten Anagennisi Deryneias 2-0, drawn with Anorthosis 0-0 away and, most recently, won 3-0 at Aris. However, their away struggles in Europe are well documented: APOEL are yet to win an away match in European competition, excluding qualifiers. The Olympiacos camp is hardly in high spirits going into Thursday’s game following a 92nd-minute defeat to Larissa in Sunday’s league game. There is still an unsavoury atmosphere surrounding the club for the way they crashed out of the Champions League qualifiers in the third round at the hands of Israeli side Hapoel Be’er Sheva, and the recent league defeat will only add more tension to the match against APOEL.The game kicks-off at 10.05pm in Piraeus, where another positive result for APOEL would demonstrate that they are capable of finishing in the top two places of the group.last_img read more

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Two-goal Dybala upstages Messi as Juve thump Barcelona

first_imgPaulo Dybala upstaged his fellow Argentine Lionel Messi by scoring two exquisitely taken goals to set Juventus on the way to an emphatic 3-0 win over an underwhelming Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.The Spanish side, who overcame a 4-0 first-leg deficit in the previous round to beat Paris St Germain, will have to pull a similar trick out of the hat after being comprehensively outplayed in the quarter-final first leg.Dybala fired Juve ahead in the seventh minute and added the second goal before the half hour while defender Giorgio Chiellini headed in the third early in the second half in another rousing Juventus performance.It could have been worse for Barca as Gonzalo Higuain, usually Juve’s most dangerous marksman, missed two chances that he would usually have snapped up.last_img read more

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Three wins on the trot for Hunters

first_imgThe Hunters were first on the board in the 13th minute courtesy of some fancy footwork and speed from fullback Stargroth Amean who danced around the defence and dived over to score.His opposite number, Jamayne Isaako proved hard to stop near the line when he bulldozed his way over to score just after the 20 minute mark.An unsuccessful conversion put the score at 6-4 with the Hunters in front.Good ball movement to the wing of Paul Wawa produced a try for the Hunters with Willie Minoga drawing in the defence before flicking it out to Wawa to score on debut right in the corner.From the sideline, Ase Boas struck it clean between the posts to make it two from two, and put the score to 12-4 after 30 minutes.But the home side hurt the Hunters a minute out from half-time through a simple try from Matthew Minto.Scott Doyle brought the score closer converting the try to make it 12-10 at half-time.It was all the Hunters in the early part of the second half with a double to the ‘Freight Train’ Willie Minoga. This put the Hunters in control at 22-10.The Magpies found their rhythm late in the match and found the try line in the 70th minute.Doyle’s conversion from the sideline was a blinder sailing through to put them within a converted try of levelling up.Just when it seemed the Hunters had done enough, Minto kicked for the wing of Cameron Booth who caught the ball and scored right on the full time siren.It was now left to the boot of Doyle to force a draw with a kick from the sideline.But Doyle’s kick sailed wide handing the Hunters the win. (File picture)last_img read more

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United confirm Ibra exit

first_imgUnited have declined a mutual option to extend the Swedish striker’s stay at Old Trafford for a further 12 months, with Ibrahimovic expected to be out until 2018 after undergoing surgery to repair his damaged cruciate ligament last month.Ibrahimovic was an instant success after joining United as a free agent from Paris Saint-Germain, scoring 28 goals in 46 appearances.The 35-year-old’s agent, Mino Raiola, claimed last month Ibrahimovic was keen to extend his stay at United but the club have decided to move on and have identified Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata as the man they want to lead the line next season.United remain in talks to sign Morata and are increasingly confident a deal can be agreed.Contrary to reports, United cannot talk to Morata and discuss personal terms until a fee has been agreed between the clubs.Real value Morata at up to €90m (£78m) and have already rejected a £52.4m (€60m) from United. The Spanish club bought him back from Juventus last summer using a €30m option.Meanwhile, Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin have launched a cheeky bid on Twitter to sign Ibrahimovic but it sounds like he may have to take a pay cut from the reported £19m he earned at United last season.last_img read more

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Muguruza named WTA Player of Year

first_imgMuguruza becomes only the second Spanish woman after Arantxa Sanchez Vicario to become the top-ranked player in the world.The 24-year-old became the first player to beat both Serena and Venus Williams in major finals, having beaten Serena to claim the 2016 French Open.”Becoming the WTA number one in the world is a dream come true,” Muguruza told the WTA’s website.”Every birthday wish was always the same as I blew out the candles – to become the best.”There is a lot of work behind this achievement and a lot of love and passion for this sport. There’s also a lot of hard moments along with the great moments.”Muguruza is competing at the WTA Finals in Singapore next week.Meanwhile, Martina Hingis and Taiwan’s Chan Yung-Jan were voted the WTA’s doubles duo of the year after they secured nine titles, including the US Open.Latvian Jelena Ostapenko was named the tour’s most improved player after winning the French Open, the WTA announced, while US Open champion Sloane Stephens took comeback player of the year honours after her stunning success at Flushing Meadows.last_img read more

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PNG Games: Central leading with 42 gold

first_img50 Milne Bay Madang 70 25 5 6 2 12 7 AROB 24 18 7 10 78 Central 1 0 3 West New Britain 10 20 29 7 Simbu 20 1 20 15 Total 1 East Sepik NCD 5 Manus Bronze Eastern Highlands 26 1 15 10 36 Oro East New Britain 3 4 74 4 26 2 3 18 1 21 23 6 6 Southern Highlands 89 2 2 13 33 14 The current standings (as of 5:38pm, November 30):Provinces 17 11 4 7 64 18 13 Gulf 6 West Sepik 2 Gold 26 Morobe 42 21 29 Silver 2last_img

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