Neymar close to World Cup return, England and France set up last-eight showdown

Neymar close to World Cup return, England and France set up last-eight showdown
Brazil's forward Neymar reacts at the end of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group G football match between Cameroon and Brazil. AFP
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Updated 05 December 2022

Neymar close to World Cup return, England and France set up last-eight showdown

Neymar close to World Cup return, England and France set up last-eight showdown
  • Superstar forward Neymar has been absent for Brazil since spraining his ankle in his team’s opening Group G win against Serbia last month and their supporters have been sweating on his fitness ever since

DOHA: Neymar could make his return to the World Cup stage on Monday as Brazil continue their bid to be crowned kings for a record-extending sixth time against South Korea.
Superstar forward Neymar has been absent for Brazil since spraining his ankle in his team’s opening Group G win against Serbia last month and their supporters have been sweating on his fitness ever since.
Coach Tite said Neymar would be assessed in Brazil’s final pre-game training session on Sunday, but gave a heavy hint that the Paris Saint-Germain attacker would start.
“He’s going to train this afternoon and if he’s OK, he will play tomorrow,” Tite told reporters.
His return would be a big boost as Brazil have scored just once since Neymar fell foul to his ankle injury and on Saturday lost Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus for the rest of the World Cup.
South Korea famously reached the semifinals 20 years ago when the tournament was shared between their country and Japan, who are also in action on Monday against Croatia.
The Koreans have not reached the knockout stages since 2010 and only got to the last 16 in Qatar thanks to an injury-time winner from Hwang Hee-chan in their final group game against Portugal.
They will need a different performance to the one in June’s friendly between the two teams, when Brazil romped to a 5-1 victory with Neymar scoring two penalties.
“We have good memories of 2002, of making it to the last four and we want to relive that,” said Korea midfielder Kim Jin-su, who was 10 years old at that time.
“We’ve waited so long to come to this knockout stage and we all truly wanted to come this far.”
Japan veteran Yuto Nagatomo said his side will again show the world their samurai spirit in their clash with unbeaten Croatia, after having already stunned Germany and Spain on their way to topping Group E.
“Before battle, the samurai would polish their weapons and refine their technique, but if they were scared in battle, all that would count for nothing,” the former Inter Milan left-back said Sunday.
“The most important thing is to have courage.”

- Mbappe shines, England cruise -

Kylian Mbappe was the star of the show again for France with a superb brace which sunk Poland 3-1 and gave the world champions a mouthwatering last-eight showdown with England, easy 3-0 winners over Senegal.
Paris Saint-Germain superstar Mbappe rifled home two blistering second-half strikes after his veteran striker partner Olivier Giroud became France’s all-time leading scorer with his 52nd goal for his country just before half-time.
Mbappe called the World Cup his “obsession” after his match-winning performance, which took his tally to a tournament-leading five and also included an assist for Giroud’s record-breaking opener.
“The only objective for me is to win the World Cup,” said the 23-year-old.
“That is what I am dreaming of. I didn’t come here to win the Golden Ball (for best player). That is not why I am here. I am here to win and help the French national team.”
France will face England on Saturday at the Al Bayt Stadium, where Gareth Southgate’s team strolled past Senegal in a performance full of positives, not least the form of teen sensation Jude Bellingham.
Bellingham, 19, set up Jordan Henderson’s opener and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was involved again when England captain Kane bagged his first goal in this World Cup and overtook Gary Lineker as England’s all-time top scorer in major tournaments.
Bukayo Saka dinked home England’s third in the 57th minute to secure a comfortable win and set up a huge tie with one of the pre-tournament favorites.
“We’ll enjoy this one but then our focus turns to that, it’s going to be a really tough game,” said captain Kane. “They are reigning champions but it’s a good battle.”


Max Homa rallies from 5 back to win Farmers Open by 2 strokes

Max Homa rallies from 5 back to win Farmers Open by 2 strokes
Updated 44 sec ago

Max Homa rallies from 5 back to win Farmers Open by 2 strokes

Max Homa rallies from 5 back to win Farmers Open by 2 strokes
  • Homa closed with a 6-under 66 to finish at 13-under 275

SAN DIEGO: Southern California native Max Homa came from five shots off the lead to win the Farmers Insurance Open by two strokes over Keegan Bradley on Saturday at Torrey Pines, where Jon Rahm imploded early and missed a shot at winning his third straight start and moving to No. 1 in the world.

Homa reeled in Sam Ryder, who was trying for a wire-to-wire win, and then held off Bradley and Collin Morikawa for his sixth PGA Tour win and fourth in his home state. He took the Genesis at Riviera in 2021 and has won the Fortinet Championship in Nampa in consecutive years.

Homa closed with a 6-under 66 to finish at 13-under 275. He made a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 18 and pumped his right fist before greeting wife Lacey and infant son Cam just off the green.

Bradley also shot a 66 on the South Course. Morikawa shot 69 and finished at 10 under. Ryder shot 75, his worst round of the week, and tied for fourth with Sahith Theegala (70) and Sungjae Im (70) at 9 under.

Rahm shot a 74, his worst round of the week, and tied for seventh at 8 under with Jason Day (68), a two-time Farmers winner. Rahm got his first PGA Tour win here in 2017 and then won the US Open in 2021 at the municipal course that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Rahm won The American Express at PGA West last weekend and at the Sentry Tournament of Champions three weekends ago at Kapalua.

Homa, playing in the group ahead of Ryder, Rahm and Tony Finau, took the lead at 12 under by curling in a 16-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th after a 226-yard tee shot. Ryder, who wore magenta joggers, had a double-bogey 6 on the 15th to drop to 10 under.

Ryder, who eagled his first hole of the tournament, was in a three-way tie for first after the opening round and had sole possession of the lead after the second and third rounds.

After making an impressive run up the leaderboard on Friday to move into sole possession of second place, two shots behind Ryder, Rahm bogeyed No. 1 and missed a birdie putt by inches on No. 4 before his round fell apart on the par-4 No. 5.

Rahm drove into a fairway bunker and then flew the green into the thick rough. It took him three shots to chop his way out of the rough and by the time he sank a nine-foot putt, he had tumbled into a tie for fifth.

DIVOTS: San Diegan Phil Mickelson, a defector to the LIV Tour, took a shot at Ryder’s pants when he tweeted: “The Tour doesn’t allow shorts but does allow this week’s leader to wear joggers with ankle socks? Showing 4 inches of ankle? I’m no fashion guy, never will be, but there are some things I won’t ever understand.”


Beterbiev stops Yarde to retain world light-heavyweight belts

Beterbiev stops Yarde to retain world light-heavyweight belts
Updated 14 min 15 sec ago

Beterbiev stops Yarde to retain world light-heavyweight belts

Beterbiev stops Yarde to retain world light-heavyweight belts
  • The Montreal-based Russian dropped Yarde with a right hand and the Londoner survived the 10-count in the second minute, but his corner threw in the towel

LONDON: Artur Beterbiev successfully held his WBC, IBF and WBO light-heavyweight belts when he stopped English challenger Anthony Yarde in the eighth round on Saturday.

Beterbiev improved his record to 19-0 with his 19th knockout after taking charge from the seventh round at Wembley Arena.

The Montreal-based Russian dropped Yarde with a right hand and the Londoner survived the 10-count in the second minute, but his corner threw in the towel.

Yarde impressed in the first three rounds while Berbetiev’s class was just beginning to emerge. Beterbiev pinned Yarde in the fourth but Yarde hung on with hooks and uppercuts while a cut developed under his left eye.

Yarde lost his second world title shot and dropped to 23-2.

Beterbiev has held the IBF title since 2017, the WBC title since 2019 and added the WBO version last June when he stopped Joe Smith at Madison Square Garden.


Casemiro scores twice, Man United beats Reading in FA Cup

Casemiro scores twice, Man United beats Reading in FA Cup
Updated 29 January 2023

Casemiro scores twice, Man United beats Reading in FA Cup

Casemiro scores twice, Man United beats Reading in FA Cup
  • The Brazil international struck twice in four second-half minutes as United won against second-division Reading 3-1

MANCHESTER, England: Casemiro was a serial winner with Real Madrid and on Saturday he kept Manchester United’s trophy hunt going strong in the FA Cup.

The Brazil international struck twice in four second-half minutes as United won against second-division Reading 3-1 and progressed to the fifth round.

On Wednesday, Erik ten Hag’s improving team put a foot in the League Cup final by beating Nottingham Forest 3-0 in the first leg of the semifinals.

There is growing belief among United fans that a six-year wait for a trophy will come to an end this season, with the club also still in the Europa League where a much-anticipated clash with Barcelona is coming next month.

If Ten Hag is to lift silverware in his first season as manager, Casemiro will be pivotal to that success.

The midfielder won five Champions Leagues and three Spanish titles with Madrid but left last summer for a new challenge in England.

Ten Hag wanted to add his winning mentality to a team that had seen Manchester City and Liverpool dominate the Premier League in recent years. His influence was evident against a Reading team that withstood United’s dominance until the 54th minute.

It was a performance that underlined how much Casemiro was missed when he was suspended for the 3-2 loss to Arsenal last week, which left United 11 points behind the league leader.

With Casemiro in the starting lineup, United have lost only two of 21 games in all competitions, compared to four of 11 without him.

While he is better known as a midfield enforcer, he has showcased his other attributes in his short time at Old Trafford, including his impressive range of passing.

Against Reading, it was his clinical finishing that broke the visitor’s resistance.

First came a delicate chip to lift the ball over goalkeeper Joe Lumley after racing onto Antony’s pass into the box. Then, in the 58th, he let fly from around 25 meters to double United’s lead.

His mastery was evident when Reading forward Andy Carroll’s frustration boiled over and he was sent off for a second yellow card after a wild challenge on Casemiro in the 65th.

Another Brazilian, Fred, came off the bench to add a third for United with a backheel a minute later.

Amadou Mbengue scored a consolation for Reading, but there was never any danger of a comeback.

While they are fighting for survival in the league, Leeds, Leicester and Southampton are advancing in the cup.

Securing top-flight status remains the priority for all three, but the cup is providing welcome relief from their battles against relegation.

Leeds won against third-tier Accrington Stanley 3-1, Leicester overcame fourth-tier Walsall 1-0, and bottom-of-the-league Southampton won against second-division Blackpool 2-1 on Saturday.

Goals from Leeds’ Jack Harrison, Junior Firpo and Luis Sinisterra ended any chance of a miracle for Accrington in front of its home fans at Wham Stadium. Leslie Adekoya, however, gave them something to cheer with a late consolation goal.

It was only Leeds’ second win since Nov. 5, both of them coming in the FA Cup.

Leicester — cup winner in 2021 — needed a late goal from Kelechi Iheanacho to end Walsall’s resistance in a match that also saw Youri Tielemans miss a penalty.

Leicester’s only other win since Dec. 20 was in the previous round of the cup.

Romain Perraud scored twice in Southampton’s win. Charlie Patino pulled one back for Blackpool.

Sunderland 15-year-old substitute Christopher Rigg thought he scored a famous winner against the Premier League’s Fulham, only to see his effort ruled out for offside.

Rigg struck in time added on at Craven Cottage, but the second division team’s celebrations were soon cut short.

Sunderland took an early lead through Jack Clarke, and Tom Cairney equalized for Fulham to set up a replay.

There will also be replays for Sheffield Wednesday and Fleetwood (1-1), Ipswich and Burnley (0-0), Luton and Grimsby (2-2) and Blackburn and Birmingham (2-2).

Second division Bristol City was through to fifth round after beating West Brom 3-0.

New Tottenham signing Arnaut Danjuma scored on his debut as Spurs beat Preston 3-0.

Danjuma, who has joined on loan from Villarreal, struck late on after going on as a substitute.

Heung-Min Son had already set Tottenham on course for the next round with two second-half goals.


Atletico hit out at Real Madrid ‘influence’ on referees

Atletico hit out at Real Madrid ‘influence’ on referees
Updated 29 January 2023

Atletico hit out at Real Madrid ‘influence’ on referees

Atletico hit out at Real Madrid ‘influence’ on referees
  • Atletico had Stefan Savic sent off in extra time in the 3-1 defeat but were angry that Ceballos was not shown a second yellow card in the second half of the regulation 90 minutes

MADRID: Atletico Madrid CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin complained that Real Madrid’s “huge influence” exerts pressure on Spanish referees after his side’s Copa del Rey defeat, a suggestion dismissed by the victors.

Los Blancos beat Atletico in the cup quarterfinal derby clash on Thursday night and Atletico were convinced that Dani Ceballos should have been sent off at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“I have full respect for all the officials and I am convinced they always have the best of intentions, but anyone looking in from the outside can see that for decades the same thing almost always happens,” said Gil Marin in a statement. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise anybody anymore, it isn’t news. It’s very clear and you just have to look back at history.

“Madrid are a club with a huge influence, with a lot of interests around them. They create so much pressure that it’s normal that it affects the people who have to take decisions.”

The officials are “aware of what awaits them if they harm them with a mistake, or even if they get something right. We often see a campaign against whoever they believe has hurt them,” Gil Marin added

The Atletico boss said his club cannot change the “system” alone and that the color of a team’s shirt should not have an impact on fair decision-making.

Atletico had Stefan Savic sent off in extra time in the 3-1 defeat but were angry that Ceballos was not shown a second yellow card in the second half of the regulation 90 minutes.

“The second yellow was obvious, undoubtable,” Marin insisted.

“But at 1-0 down in the 71st minute, playing for the semis of the cup in their own stadium, it would be a big thing to leave Madrid with 10 players.”

Atletico, out of the Champions League and the Spanish Cup are languishing in fourth, 13 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona, having played an extra game.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti dismissed Atletico’s concerns in a news conference on Saturday.

“It was a hard-fought, even game, I think for our part we deserved to win,” said the Italian.

“The rest is topics I won’t speak about. The only ‘system’ I know is the one that I will use tomorrow.”

Real Madrid, second in La Liga, face third place Real Sociedad on Sunday night.


Bayern held at home to Frankfurt after Kolo Muani goal

Bayern held at home to Frankfurt after Kolo Muani goal
Updated 28 January 2023

Bayern held at home to Frankfurt after Kolo Muani goal

Bayern held at home to Frankfurt after Kolo Muani goal
  • The result was Bayern's third consecutive 1-1 draw, with the reigning German champions still looking for their first win of 2023
  • Union Berlin's 2-0 derby win over city rivals Hertha earlier on Saturday meant Bayern's three-point cushion on top of the table had been erased by kick-off

BERLIN: Bayern Munich saw their lead in the Bundesliga cut to just one point on Saturday after Randal Kolo Muani’s equalizer held the German champions to a 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt.
The result was Bayern’s third consecutive 1-1 draw, with the reigning German champions still looking for their first win of 2023.
Union Berlin’s 2-0 derby win over city rivals Hertha earlier on Saturday meant Bayern’s three-point cushion on top of the table had been erased by kick-off.
Bayern lacked fluency early in a testy opening half, which saw both center-back Matthijs de Ligt and goalkeeper Yann Sommer pick up yellow cards.
With 34 minutes gone, former Man City forward Leroy Sane settled his team’s nerves by hammering a cross from veteran forward Thomas Mueller past the outstretched hand of Frankfurt ‘keeper Kevin Trapp.
After the goal, Bayern rekindled their early season form and produced their best spell of the match, with France defender Dayot Upamecano going close to doubling their lead just three minutes later.
Bayern continued to push for a second goal after the break but Frankfurt, who had only lost once in their previous 11 games in all competitions dating back to early October, looked dangerous on the break.
Eintracht coach Oliver Glasner brought on Japan international Daichi Kamada just past the hour and the change had an almost immediate impact, Kamada exchanging passes with Kolo Muani before the latter struck the ball past Sommer and into the net.
Earlier on Saturday, Union took the lead away to Hertha late in the first half through Dutch defender Danilho Doekhi, who headed in a free-kick from captain Christopher Trimmel.
Union doubled their lead halfway through the second half through midfielder Paul Seguin to run out victors over a spirited but toothless Hertha.
Visiting fans began singing “city champions” with 10 minutes remaining, celebrating their fifth consecutive derby win.
Union’s win deepened the woes of Hertha, who are second bottom having won just three games all season.
After the match, Union coach Urs Fischer sought to play down expectations, telling AFP’s sports subsidiary SID that his side “did not look like a top team.”
“It was a hard-fought derby. It was close over 90 minutes. In the end, we were lucky winners. We were efficient,” he said.
Elsewhere, Freiburg beat Augsburg 3-1 at home to move into fourth place.
First-half goals by towering Austrian striker Michael Gregoritsch and fellow forward Lucas Hoeler put Freiburg in the driving seat.
A 29th-minute penalty from Mergim Berisha gave the visitors hope, but Freiburg sealed their first win of 2023 through an 85th-minute strike from Philipp Lienhart.
In Bremen, Germany striker Niclas Fuellkrug scored both his side’s goals in a 2-1 win over Wolfsburg, overtaking RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku to top the Bundesliga scoring charts with 13 goals this season.
Promoted Bremen, who had lost six of their past eight matches came up against an in-form Wolfsburg who were unbeaten in 11 games under former Bayern coach Niko Kovac.
Borussia Moenchengladbach compounded Hoffenheim’s misery with a 4-1 away win.
Two first-half goals and a second-half assist for captain Lars Stindl from midfielder Jonas Hofmann, Gladbach’s only representative in Germany’s 2022 World Cup squad, gave the visitors a comfortable victory.
Hoffenheim suffered their sixth defeat in their last eight games, leaving them just three points clear of the relegation playoff spot.
Mainz overcame the disappointment of Wednesday’s last-gasp loss to Borussia Dortmund, thrashing Bochum 5-2 at home, their first win in seven league matches dating back to October.
A hat-trick from Austrian forward Karim Onisiwo, plus goals by Lee Jae-sung and Silvan Widmer lifted Mainz into 11th ahead of a midweek German Cup meeting at home with Bayern.