Carapaz climbs to Vuelta stage win as Evenepoel survives scare

Carapaz climbs to Vuelta stage win as Evenepoel survives scare
Team Ineos' Ecuadorian rider Richard Carapaz celebrates as he crosses the finish line in first place during the 12th stage of the 2022 La Vuelta cycling tour of Spain on Sept. 1, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 02 September 2022

Carapaz climbs to Vuelta stage win as Evenepoel survives scare

Carapaz climbs to Vuelta stage win as Evenepoel survives scare
  • His slip came a day after Evenepoel lost teammate Julian Alaphilippe to a fall, with team boss Patrick Lefevere saying the Frenchman may now miss the world championships
  • COVID-19 clampdown was imposed on the Vuelta, with just 147 riders finishing Thursday from the original 184

PENAS BLANCAS, Spain: Richard Carapaz of Ineos Grenadiers won stage 12 of the Vuelta a Espana on Thursday after attacking from a small group of riders on a long-range escape.

Race leader Remco Evenepoel was forced wide by a motorbike at a corner 45km from home, causing him to suffer a painful fall.

“I’m okay, it’s nothing serious, I’ve been through far worse before,” said Evenepoel, who missed a year after falling into a ravine during the Tour of Lombardy in August 2020.

His slip came a day after Evenepoel lost teammate Julian Alaphilippe to a fall, with team boss Patrick Lefevere saying the Frenchman may now miss the world championships.

“He’ll be back on a bike in two weeks, which might be a bit too fine a margin for the worlds,” said Lefevere, with the championships to start in Wollongong, Australia on Sept. 18.

But the 22-year-old Belgian Evenepoel picked himself up and eventually led a group containing the top five in the overall standings to the summit finish near the Costa del Sol.

That maintained his 2min 41sec advantage over defending champion Primoz Roglic.

Three Spaniards round out the top five, with Enric Mas of Movistar at 3min 03sec, local man Carlos Rodriguez at 4min 06sec and Juan Ayuso at 4min 53sec.

The stage covered 192.7km from the coast near Almunecar, where Rodriguez grew up.

Australian Jay Vine leads the mountain points standings and wore a polka dot shirt and socks on Thursday and even had a polka dot trim on his shorts and helmet.

Denmark’s Mads Pedersen leads the sprint points race and will have a chance to rack up points on Friday during a flat run from Ronda to Montilla.

A COVID-19 clampdown was imposed on the Vuelta, with just 147 riders finishing Thursday from the original 184.

Riders will now be afforded better protection from contact with fans and the media.

Only 135 riders finished this year’s Tour de France, with 17 Covid cases of the 41 riders who failed to complete the course.

Roglic’s team Jumbo introduced state-of-the-art COVID air filters in their bedrooms, while nearly all teams banned handshakes, high-fives and selfies.


Germany fighting for survival as Spain, Japan eye last 16

Germany fighting for survival as Spain, Japan eye last 16
Germany's coach Hans-Dieter Flick (L) and assistant coach Hermann Gerland attend a training session. AFP
Updated 9 sec ago

Germany fighting for survival as Spain, Japan eye last 16

Germany fighting for survival as Spain, Japan eye last 16
  • Germany will suffer a humiliating exit in the group phase if they lose their Group E clash with in-form Spain
  • The prospect of an early German exit was practically unthinkable before the tournament

DOHA: Germany face a fight for World Cup survival on Sunday in a must-win clash with Spain as Japan and Belgium look to seal their place in the last 16.
For the second World Cup running, Germany will suffer a humiliating exit in the group phase if they lose their Group E clash with in-form Spain at the Al Bayt Stadium.
The four-time champions were left staring down the barrel of elimination after crashing to a shock 2-1 loss to Japan in their opening fixture on Wednesday.
The prospect of an early German exit — four years after bowing out at the same stage at the 2018 finals in Russia — was practically unthinkable before the tournament.
German coach Hansi Flick insisted on Saturday his team had the quality to bounce back against a rampant Spain team who obliterated Costa Rica 7-0 in their opening game.
“We have a team that has quality, that can implement the things (we are working on), and we are very positive about it,” Flick said.
“We need to arrive with courage and with faith in our quality for this game against Spain.”
Spain coach Luis Enrique meanwhile says his team face a “beautiful challenge” as they chase a win that will see them into the last 16.
Luis Enrique cautioned however that Germany’s World Cup pedigree — they won their fourth title in 2014 — meant nothing could be taken for granted.
“They are world champions, when you look there are four stars on their shirt,” the Spain coach said. 
“I have a lot of respect for their players, they are world class, and their history is there to see.”
- Past their peak -
A Spanish victory would mean Japan would also secure their passage to their knockouts if they beat Costa Rica.
On paper, a place in the last 16 is beckoning for the skilful and energetic Blue Samurai against an aging Costa Rica team that looked to have been reeled in by Father Time during the dissection by Spain.
Japan captain Maya Yoshida warned on Saturday however that there was no danger his team would take the Costa Ricans for granted.
“They got hammered in their previous game so I think they’re really going to go for it,” Yoshida said.
“There are no easy teams at the World Cup. They will be fighting for the pride of their country and we have to be mentally prepared to deal with that.”
Elsewhere on Sunday, 2018 third place finishers Belgium could advance with a victory over Morocco in Group F.
Belgium captain Eden Hazard admitted on Saturday that the Red Devils’ vaunted “Golden Generation” is also past its peak — but insisted they remain World Cup contenders.
“To be fair I think we had a better chance to win four years go,” the 31-year-old said.
“The team was better four years ago but still we have the quality to win games and to win the competition. We have a few guys, they are a bit older now but we have experience and the best goalkeeper in the world (Thibaut Courtois).”
Sunday’s other Group F game sees 2018 runners up Croatia look to edge toward the last 16 against Canada, playing in their first World Cup since 1986.
On Saturday, France became the first team into the second round after two goals from Kylian Mbappe inspired a 2-1 win over Denmark in Group D.
Argentina also resurrected their campaign following a shock opening defeat to Saudi Arabia after goals from Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez secured a 2-0 win over Mexico in Group C.
“We knew that we had to win today, that another World Cup was starting for us and we knew how to do it,” Messi said.


Odds stacked against African teams at World Cup, says Ghana coach

Odds stacked against African teams at World Cup, says Ghana coach
Ghana's coach Otto Addo addresses a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) in Doha. AFP
Updated 6 min 14 sec ago

Odds stacked against African teams at World Cup, says Ghana coach

Odds stacked against African teams at World Cup, says Ghana coach
  • No African side has ever gone beyond the quarter-finals at a World Cup
  • “There was never a point where everybody had an equal chance at the start. Never in FIFA history,” Addo said

DOHA: Ghana coach Otto Addo said Sunday the chances of an African team reaching the latter stages of the World Cup will remain limited until the continent is awarded more places at the tournament.
No African side has ever gone beyond the quarter-finals at a World Cup, although Ghana were a missed penalty away from reaching the last four at South Africa in 2010.
Addo, speaking on the eve of his team’s Group H match against South Korea, said Africa, with 54 teams, deserved more slots.
“There was never a point where everybody had an equal chance at the start. Never in FIFA history,” Addo said in Doha.
“It’s very, very difficult if you have five slots to get far. If you have 12 or 14 slots — I don’t know how many Europe get — the probability that a team will get further is much, much higher.”
Thirteen of the 32 nations present in Qatar come from Europe. Asia has six representatives, with South America and the CONCACAF region sending four each.
Senegal are the only African side to have won a match at the Qatar World Cup. None of the five African teams who took part four years ago in Russia made it out the group stage.
“Everybody still has chances, some more, some less, but I’m hoping and praying at least one or two (African) teams can advance to the next stage,” said Addo, who played for Ghana when they made the last 16 on their World Cup debut in 2006.
The Black Stars play South Korea in their second match on Monday after losing their opening game 3-2 to Portugal.
Addo had criticized the performance of American referee Ismail Elfath, insisting the penalty Portugal were awarded for a challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo was a “gift.”
But he said he had had time to reflect on the defeat.
“I can use this stage to apologize if I was a little rude, I was very emotional after the match,” said Addo.
“It’s in the past. It’s over, you can’t change it. Everybody on the pitch is a human, everybody makes mistakes. I do mistakes too. 
“I was surprised the VAR didn’t come but there’s nothing we can do. The day after the match we cut it off and we concentrated on South Korea.”


Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ past best, admits Hazard

Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ past best, admits Hazard
Belgium's Spanish coach Roberto Martinez attends a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha. AFP
Updated 9 min 14 sec ago

Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ past best, admits Hazard

Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ past best, admits Hazard
  • “To be fair I think we had a better chance to win four years go,” admitted 31-year-old Hazard
  • Hazard has struggled to repeat the form he showed at Chelsea since he moved to Spain in 2019

DOHA: Eden Hazard admitted Saturday that Belgium’s best chance to win the World Cup had come and gone but said they still have the quality and experience to lift the trophy in Qatar.
Belgium, who finished third at the tournament in Russia in 2018, are still ranked second in the world but many of the much-vaunted “Golden Generation” are now in their 30s.
“To be fair I think we had a better chance to win four years go,” admitted 31-year-old Hazard, speaking on the eve of Sunday’s match against Morocco.
“The team was better four years ago but still we have the quality to win games and to win the competition. We have a few guys, they are a bit older now but we have experience and the best goalkeeper in the world (Thibaut Courtois).
“We have one of the best midfields in the world, right now. We have good strikers. We have the team and I think it’s just the desire to want to win, and the mentality.”
He added: “Belgium can win the World Cup if we are in form. If we are not it will be tough.”
The Real Madrid forward said he was not over-worried by Belgium’s struggles in their opening Group F match against Canada, which they won 1-0, but he urged the team to play without fear.
- No fear -
“The first match you always have a bit of fear, you don’t always want the ball,” he said. “Now we need to get over that. We need to not be afraid to dribble, to play the killer pass. That’s what was missing in the first match.”
Hazard has struggled to repeat the form he showed at Chelsea since he moved to Spain in 2019 but he said he was able to brush off criticism over his performances.
“There has always been criticism,” he said. “Even when you play well you get criticized. I just try to focus on playing the best I can for my country and I’ll give everything I can.”
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was relaxed about his side’s form, highlighting the lack of preparation time before the tournament in Qatar.
“Slowly you’re going to see teams getting ready after three games in the tournament,” he said.
“So rather than having that preparation for a World Cup, for a major tournament where you have three friendlies and you have four weeks to get everybody in the optimal condition, the teams need to get ready while they are in the tournament and that’s dangerous because it can cost you points.”
Martinez gave an update on the fitness of leading striker Romelu Lukaku, who is recovering from a thigh injury.
The Spaniard said the forward was not expected to be available until the third group game against Croatia, in line with previous expectations.
“He’s ahead of what he should be,” said Martinez. “I don’t expect him to be involved tomorrow unless something goes extremely well today.”


Japan make five changes for Costa Rica World Cup match

Japan make five changes for Costa Rica World Cup match
Updated 27 November 2022

Japan make five changes for Costa Rica World Cup match

Japan make five changes for Costa Rica World Cup match
  • Attackers Ritsu Doan, who came on and scored against Germany, Yuki Soma and Ayase Ueda come into the starting line-up

DOHA: Japan made five changes from their team that beat Germany in their World Cup opener as they face Costa Rica on Sunday.
Attackers Ritsu Doan, who came on and scored against Germany, Yuki Soma and Ayase Ueda come into the starting line-up as Japan look to take a big step toward the knockout round.
Right-back Miki Yamane replaces the injured Hiroki Sakai, while fit-again midfielder Hidemasa Morita comes in for Ao Tanaka.
Costa Rica make only two changes to the team that started the campaign with a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Spain in Group E.
Teenage winger Jewison Bennette and defender Carlos Martinez drop to the bench, with Gerson Torres and Kendall Waston replacing them.

Starting line-ups:
Japan (4-2-3-1)

Shuichi Gonda; Miki Yamane, Kou Itakura, Maya Yoshida (captain), Yuto Nagatomo; Wataru Endo, Hidemasa Morita; Ritsu Doan, Daichi Kamada, Yuki Soma; Ayase Ueda
Coach: Hajjime Moriyasu

Costa Rica (5-3-2)
Keylor Navas; Keysher Fuller, Oscar Duarte, Francisco Calvo, Bryan Oviedo, Kendall Waston; Celso Borges, Yeltsin Tejeda, Gerson Torres; Anthony Contreras, Joel Campbell
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez (COL)

Referee: Michael Oliver (ENG)


Messi magic guides relieved Argentina past feisty Mexico

Messi magic guides relieved Argentina past feisty Mexico
Updated 27 November 2022

Messi magic guides relieved Argentina past feisty Mexico

Messi magic guides relieved Argentina past feisty Mexico
  • Messi equalled Diego Maradona's Argentina record of 21 matches and eight goals at the World Cup
  • Substitute Fernandez made sure of the three points when he curled a superb shot into the top corner in the 87th minute

LUSAIL, Qatar: Lionel Messi thumped in a 64th minute goal and Enzo Fernandez added another late in the game to give Argentina a 2-0 victory over battling Mexico in their World Cup Group C match on Saturday and reignite their tournament hopes.
Messi, who equalled Diego Maradona’s Argentina record of 21 matches and eight goals at the World Cup, was nowhere to be seen for more than an hour before picking up an Angel Di Maria pass, finding just enough space and rifling in from 20 meters.
Substitute Fernandez made sure of the three points when he curled a superb shot into the top corner in the 87th minute.
The result restored order for the Argentines in Group C after their shock opening 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia.
Argentina, on three points, can guarantee progress with a win over Poland, top on four, in their final game on Wednesday.
“Today starts another World Cup for Argentina,” Messi said. “I tell people the same thing, that they continue to believe.
“The first half we didn’t play as we should and in the second, when we calmed down, we started to play the ball better and until the goal we went back to being what we are.”
Mexico, who have now lost all four World Cup clashes with Argentina, have one point and must beat Saudi Arabia, on three, to have any chance of continuing their run of making the last 16 in the last seven World Cups, but even that might not be enough.
HIGH TENSION
With the prospect of an Argentina elimination, tensions were high on and off the ball in a scrappy first half but with the two sets of fans creating an electric atmosphere in the stadium.
The opening period did not live up to the match’s billing with neither team wanting to commit too many players forward and apart from a free kick by Mexico’s Luis Chavez in the ninth minute that sailed past the goalmouth there were few chances.
Mexico’s high pressing game stifled most of their opponents’ attack and Argentine talisman Messi, struggled to find any space to maneuver in a congested midfield.
Apart from a Lautaro Martinez effort that was well off the mark and another from Messi, Argentina were toothless up front.
But in a major blow to Mexico, skipper Andres Guardado, a veteran of five World Cups who until then had been a commanding presence in midfield, had to be taken off injured in the 42nd.
The Mexicans still carved out two more chances before the break with Alexis Vega first curling a free kick over the wall for keeper Emiliano Martinez to save and minutes later thundering a shot over the bar.
The South Americans looked more determined after the break but had no real chance before their 35-year-old captain dragged them out of trouble with his second goal of the tournament.
The stadium erupted in cheers once more with Fernandez’s late strike which sealed Argentina’s first win in the tournament and rekindled Messi’s hopes of a first ever World Cup title.