Netherlands, Japan to fight for WBC semis

Updated 09 March 2013
0

Netherlands, Japan to fight for WBC semis

TOKYO: Slugger Sho Nakata earned a game-winning run by hitting a sacrifice fly in an extra inning to give two-time defending champions Japan a 4-3 victory over Taiwan in the World Baseball Classic yesterday.
The result left Japan to face the Netherlands on Sunday, the winners over powerhouse Cuba 6-2 earlier in the day, vying for a place in the semi-finals to be played in San Francisco from March 17.
“My players were really tenacious at the very last moment,” Japan’s head coach Koji Yamamoto said of Hirokazu Ibata’s timely single, which equalized the score at 3-3 in the ninth inning at two downs.
“I must take my hat off to Ibata. He is really a mentally tough fighter who can hit in that situation. For the winning run, I believed that he (Nakata) would be able to hit at least a fly to the outfield,” he added.
Earlier, Japanese starter Atsushi Nomi gave up one run with a walk when Taiwan had occupied three bases in the bottom of the third inning, and Peng Cheng-min added another by hitting a timely single in the fifth, while Washington Nationals hurler Wang Chien-ming shut out the first six innings.
But Japan once evened it at 2-2 in the eighth inning with Shinnosuke Abe and Hayato Sakamoto hit a timely single consecutively before Chou Sze-chi hit a get-ahead single for 3-2 in the bottom.
However, Takashi Toritani chose a walk and then courageously stole the second base at two downs before Ibata fired a single to the center for 3-3.
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop was the hero of the Netherlands against the 2006 finalists Cuba, earning four runs, including a three-run homer in the sixth inning.
“It’s a great moment for our country. We have the momentum on our side right now. The guys are playing great. They’re scoring first to keep the pressure off the pitching, they play great defense,” said Dutch head coach Hensley Meulens.
Schoop said: “Maybe I just see the ball well, and try to put the ball in play. I feel comfortable everyday.” After missing a big chance at two downs and full bases in the first inning, the Netherlands took a 1-0 lead at the beginning of the second when Curt Smith fired a solo home run off Cuban starter Ismel Jimenez.
Andrelton Simmons then hit a single to get Kalian Sams back home, after the left outfielder had hit a double and advanced to the third base on a sacrifice bunt.
Cuba pulled one back with Alfredo Despaigne’s solo home run in the bottom of the second inning, but Schoop stretched the lead to 5-1 by unleashing a three-run homer in the sixth inning.
Yulieski Gourriel pulled another run back for Cuba by hitting a solo homer to trail 2-5 in the seventh inning, but Schoop regained the four-run lead with a double to the left.
Cuba and Taiwan will play each other in a repechage play-off for another chance to reach the final stage.


Iran announces World Cup squad without Belgium-based striker

Updated 28 min 31 sec ago
0

Iran announces World Cup squad without Belgium-based striker

TEHRAN: Iran announced its 24-man squad for the 2018 World Cup late Sunday, surprisingly omitting striker Kaveh Rezaei, but with plenty of expectation after an unbeaten run through qualifying.
The biggest shock was the decision not to take Rezaei, the 26-year-old coming off a blistering season for Belgium’s Charleroi, scoring 16 goals in 39 games.
But Iran has strong choices up front, including Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who became the first Iranian to top the scoring table of a major European league with 21 goals for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.
Also making the squad are Masoud Shojaei, 33, and Ehsan Hajji Safi, 28, who were supposed to have been banned for life last summer after playing an Israeli team for their Greek club Panionios.
Iran does not recognize the Jewish state and bars its athletes from appearing against Israelis.
But there was uproar from fans and confusion reigned over the issue, with Shojaei returning to the national squad in March and Hajji Safi never actually banned.
Iran is unable to openly discuss the ban on facing Israelis because it breaches international sporting regulations.
Iran’s national team has been coached for the past seven years by Portugal’s Carlos Queiroz, a former enforcer for Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and one-season boss at Real Madrid.
Queiroz has led Iran to its first back-to-back appearances at the World Cup, but will be hoping to improve on its winless appearance in Brazil.
Iran, nicknamed “Team Melli,” had an unbeaten run in qualifiers, becoming the first to book their place from the Asian Football Confederation.
But they face a tough group in the World Cup, with Spain, Portugal and Morocco.
The squad announced this weekend could still change, in case of injury, up to a final deadline on June 4.

Iran World Cup squad
Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo/POR)
Defenders: Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa), Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny/RUS), Mohammad Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Alsaad/QAT), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Ramin Rezaeian (Ostende/BEL), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)
Midfielders: Ehsan Hajji Safi (Olympiacos/GRE), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiacos/GRE), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens/GRE), Mahdi Torabi (Saipa), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm/RUS)
Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar/NED), Ashkan Dejageh (Nottingham Forest/ENG), Mahdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa/QAT), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen/NED), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds/SWE), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan/RUS), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis)