Huge crowds welcome Argentina team after World Cup victory

Huge crowds welcome Argentina team after World Cup victory
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Argentina's captain and forward Lionel Messi (C) holds the FIFA World Cup Trophy on board a bus as he celebrates alongside teammates and supporters after winning the Qatar 2022 World Cup tournament in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires province. (AFP)
Huge crowds welcome Argentina team after World Cup victory
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Argentina's players celebrate on board a bus with supporters after winning the Qatar 2022 World Cup tournament as they leave Ezeiza International Airport en route to the Argentine Football Association (AFA) training centre. (AFP)
Huge crowds welcome Argentina team after World Cup victory
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Soccer fans surround the bus taking Argentine soccer team that wan the World Cup bus to the Argentina Soccer Association grounds where they will spend the night after landing at Ezeiza airport. (AP)
Huge crowds welcome Argentina team after World Cup victory
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Argentina's players celebrate on board a bus with supporters after winning the Qatar 2022 World Cup tournament as they leave Ezeiza International Airport en route to the Argentine Football Association (AFA) training centre in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires province. (AFP)
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Updated 20 December 2022

Huge crowds welcome Argentina team after World Cup victory

Huge crowds welcome Argentina team after World Cup victory
  • Members of the team, led by captain Lionel Messi, were all smiles
  • The players were welcomed by rock band La Mosca singing “Muchachos”

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina: Thousands of fans lined up in the middle of the night to try to get a glimpse of the Argentina soccer team that won one of the greatest World Cup finals of all time ahead what is scheduled to be a day of celebrations in Buenos Aires.
Members of the team, led by captain Lionel Messi, were all smiles as they descended from the plane in Ezeiza, right outside Argentina’s capital, shortly before 3 a.m. Tuesday onto a red carpet that had been rolled out for the squad.
Messi was the first player from the plane carrying the World Cup, flanked by coach Lionel Scaloni, who put his arm around the captain as they walked past a sign that read, “Thank you, champions.”
The players were welcomed by rock band La Mosca singing “Muchachos,” a song that was written by a fan to the tune of an old song by the band and became a popular unofficial anthem for Argentine fans at the World Cup in Qatar.
The newly crowned champions of the world boarded an open top bus and several, including Messi, could be seen singing the words to “Muchachos” while they waited for everyone to get on to travel to the headquarters of the Argentine Football Association.
The bus moved at a snail’s pace as fans, many of whom were waving Argentine flags, swarmed the bus on a highway, eager for a glimpse of the players as law enforcement officers tried to keep them at bay.
Throughout the trip, Messi held on the World Cup as players waved to fans and often sang along with them.
It took the bus around one hour to travel approximately 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) from the airport to AFA headquarters, where the players were welcomed with fireworks.
They will sleep at AFA headquarters for a few hours before boarding the bus later Tuesday to the Obelisk, the iconic Buenos Aires landmark that was a sea of people Sunday afternoon after the team won the country’s third World Cup, and its first since 1986.
President Alberto Fernández declared a national holiday Tuesday so the country could celebrate the victory.
The day after the streets of Argentina turned into massive parties following the Sunday victory, many kept a close eye on the flight that brought the players home to celebrate. As the plane got closer to Argentine soil, almost 200,000 people were tracking its path online and news channels gave live coverage of the arrival.
In the afternoon, people started arriving at the airport and outside the AFA headquarters in hopes of getting a glimpse of the team.
Many were also already at the Obelisk, seemingly ready to spend the night there to ensure a prime spot for Tuesday’s festivities.
Several players posted photos of the plane ride on social media.
Messi held the World Cup on the plane. Nicolás Tagliafico, meanwhile, posted a photo of the World Cup buckled into an airplane seat as if it were just another passenger.
As of early Tuesday morning there were no official plans for Fernández, or any other political leaders, to take part in the celebrations despite earlier rumors that the players would go to Government House, which was offered up for the celebrations, according to Security Minister Aníbal Fernández.
The World Cup and the success of the Messi-led squad has brought much-needed good news for a country that has been stuck in economic doldrums for years, is suffering one of the world’s highest inflation rates and where almost four-in-10 people live in poverty.
Fernández retweeted several messages of congratulations for the World Cup victory from other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Thank you for this greeting President Putin,” Fernández wrote on Twitter after a telephone call with the Russian leader. “Let the happiness that today unites Argentina with so many countries in the world serve as an example: Our societies need unity and peace.”


Verstappen on pole in Australia as Mercedes bounce back

Verstappen on pole in Australia as Mercedes bounce back
Updated 01 April 2023

Verstappen on pole in Australia as Mercedes bounce back

Verstappen on pole in Australia as Mercedes bounce back
  • Lewis Hamilton in the other Mercedes was third ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso
  • Last year’s winner Charles Leclerc came seventh in the Ferrari

MELBOURNE: Double world champion Max Verstappen claimed pole on Saturday for the Australian Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell, but his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez had a torrid time and will start last.
In overcast and cool conditions, Lewis Hamilton in the other Mercedes was third ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in a tight session that went to the wire.
Last year’s winner Charles Leclerc came seventh in the Ferrari, with his teammate Carlos Sainz fifth.
It was a huge performance from Mercedes, whose W14 has struggled for speed but is clearly improving as they bettered Ferrari.
Lance Stroll in the other Aston Martin will start sixth ahead of Leclerc with Williams’ Alexander Albon a shock eighth.
Alpine’s Pierre Gasly was ninth with Nico Hulkenberg in a Haas rounding out the top 10.
It was a second pole of the year for Dutchman Verstappen, and the 22nd of his career, after the season-opening race in Bahrain, which he went on to win.
He started from 15th in Saudi Arabia a fortnight ago after mechanical problems, but sliced through the field to come second behind Perez.
The 25-year-old knocked out his rivals with a flying lap at the death of one minute 16.732, 0.236 secs ahead of Britain’s Russell.
“I think the last run was very good, the whole weekend has been tough to get the tires in the right window,” said Verstappen, who has never won in Australia and will start on pole for the first time at Albert Park.
“Very happy to be on pole, already looking forward to tomorrow. I think we have a good race car but it is tricky on the tires, so going to be an interesting race for sure.”
But Mexico’s Perez — one point behind Verstappen in the championship standings — had a horror of a day, struggling with grip and balance.
He left the track four times during the third practice and it didn’t get any better in qualifying when he locked up and careened into the gravel at Turn 3 on his first lap.
His car beached and had to be removed by a crane, with the session red flagged.
“It was the same issue again,” the dejected Perez said on the team radio.
Russell, who came fourth in Saudi Arabia, was stunned with Mercedes’ performance, saying “we weren’t expecting that, that’s for sure.”
“What a session for us. The car felt alive, and to be honest I’m disappointed I didn’t get pole as the car felt awesome,” he added.
“We are learning more and more about the car, it’s still not where we want it to be, but it’s evolved from Bahrain to Jeddah to here.”
Seven-time world champion Hamilton, who has been the pole-sitter eight times in Melbourne, was briefly at the top of the timesheets and was ecstatic to be starting on the second row.
“I’m so happy with this. This is totally unexpected — just really proud of the team,” said the Briton.
“It’s a dream for us, to be this close to the Red Bull is incredible. We hope to give them a run for their money.
“Everything came together today. We’ll give it our best shot tomorrow.”
Verstappen topped Q2 from Alonso and Sainz with Alpine’s Gasly a casualty.
AlphaTauri pair Nyck De Vries and Yuki Tsunoda also missed out, along with Kevin Magnussen in his Haas and McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Verstappen was also fastest in Q1 ahead of Russell and Hamilton.
Along with Perez, Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas, Williams’ Logan Sargeant and rookie McLaren driver Oscar Piastri all failed to get out of Q1.


Newcastle United is an ‘ambitious, long-term project,’ says club’s chief exec

Newcastle United is an ‘ambitious, long-term project,’ says club’s chief exec
Updated 01 April 2023

Newcastle United is an ‘ambitious, long-term project,’ says club’s chief exec

Newcastle United is an ‘ambitious, long-term project,’ says club’s chief exec
  • Latest round of financial results revealed $87.2m loss, along with a need to increase revenues and secure more-lucrative sponsorship deals
  • Newcastle face Man United on Sunday in a Premier League re-run of February’s Carabao Cup final, which ended in defeat for Magpies

NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United Chief Executive Darren Eales spoke on Friday about the “ambitious, long-term project” that is underway at St James’ Park.

It followed the release of the club’s latest financial results, the main takeaway from which was a need to significantly increase revenues and secure more-lucrative sponsorship deals.

The accounts for the year ending June 30, 2022, were the first filed under the majority ownership of the club by Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, whose tutelage covered about nine months of that period.

Newcastle reported a loss, after tax, of £70.7 million ($87.2 million), over the 12 months, a significant increase on the £12.2m loss reported in 2021. It was mostly attributed to transfer market costs, and a significant increase in the ratio of wages to turnover, which now sits at an unsustainable-looking 94.6 percent.

Turnover, however, was up, with the club reporting revenues of £180 million, an increase of almost £40m compared with the previous year.

“This is an ambitious, long-term project,” said Eales. “The financial success of the club goes hand-in-hand with our performances on the pitch.

“We have come a long way in the past few months. There’s still a long way to go but we are looking to the future with confidence.”

In the immediate future, Newcastle will take on Manchester United on Sunday in a Premier League re-run of February’s Carabao Cup final, in which the Magpies ended up on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline.

Newcastle have been plagued by injuries to some key players recently, including top scorer Miguel Almiron, and major January signing Anthony Gordon.

“Anthony did a very small part of training on Wednesday,” head coach Eddie Howe said on Friday. “We’ll see how he has responded to that.”

As for Almiron, Howe said: “I’d love him to beat the timescale given but I just don’t see it, currently. He’s making really good progress. I think he’s pain-free. I don’t think there’s any long-term issues. I think it’s just a case of that’s the time it will take for the muscle to fully heal.

“So I think we’re four weeks off (a return to action), maybe slightly less. But yeah, he’s making really good progress.”

Three other players were also under supervision during last week’s international break, which Newcastle spent in Dubai: Fabian Schar, Sven Botman and Nick Pope. Schar and Pope were both withdrawn from the Swiss and English national teams respectively, while Botman was sent home by the Netherlands.

“I think it’s been good for some players,” Howe said of the international break. “It gave us an opportunity to rest a couple that were carrying niggles and problems.

“Fabian would be a prime example of someone that has played through pain and different things. It came at a good time for him and Anthony Gordon to improve his injury and try to get him closer to returning.

“Nick felt a problem in his thigh after the Wolves game. He didn’t train in preparation for the Nottingham Forest game but completed the game with some discomfort. He didn’t train in Dubai but has trained this week, so the signs are good.”

Regarding Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman’s decision to withdraw Botman from international duty, Howe said: “Sven, I think, suffered food poisoning; quite a nasty bout of illness. I don’t think he was alone in the Holland camp, there were few players suffering the same thing.

“He left the camp early to try and get himself back up to speed. He has trained with us since he’s returned, so he should be fine.”

One player who will be back in action this weekend is Joelinton, who missed the 2-1 wins over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest through suspension.

“Joe’s a huge presence, not just physically but the other lads know how good of a player he is,” said Howe. “So to have him back among the squad is a huge boost for us.

“He’s been very consistent this season, a huge player for us, very versatile. To have him back is a big lift but, as you say, the other players in his absence have performed very well. It’s great to have competition for players.”


Newcastle win would place it above Manchester United in race for Champions League

Newcastle win would place it above Manchester United in race for Champions League
Updated 01 April 2023

Newcastle win would place it above Manchester United in race for Champions League

Newcastle win would place it above Manchester United in race for Champions League
  • Howe is preparing to lock horns again with Dutchman Erik ten Hag
  • Newcastle have announced the arrival of former manager of rivals Sunderland

NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United can continue their rise from underdogs to equals with victory over Manchester United — that’s the view of head coach Eddie Howe.

Howe is preparing to lock horns again with Dutchman Erik ten Hag, a constant critic of his Magpies’ side, the first time the two have met since it was the Red Devils who emerged victorious from the Carabao Cup final encounter in February.

A win at St. James’ Park this weekend would see Newcastle climb above their more decorated rivals in the race for the Champions League, it would also better their points tally for the whole of last season — and that despite still having 11 more games to play.
That statistic in particular represents just how far Newcastle have come, in such a short space of time.

“I think we have tried this season to approach every game as equals with whoever we are playing,” said Howe ahead of the potentially pivotal weekend clash.

“Certainly in our preparations, we’ve tried not to filter anything negative through to the players. What I mean by that, we have tried to be very positive in our approach in every aspect of our play, whether that is on or off the ball. A fearless approach, an approach which hopefully makes the players believe we can win that game, home or away, because ultimately that is where we want to be to be the team we want to be in the future.

“Last season was slightly different. We had to play a certain way to get results to elevate our way up the league so. If you look at a game from last season to this, I hope you see a big difference in terms of our style and how we want to play.

“We are certainly evolving, hopefully into a better team.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle have announced the arrival of former manager of rivals Sunderland, Jack Ross, who joins as the interim head of coach development on a short-term basis.

Ross, who took Sunderland to Wembley twice in his two years as boss, will provide support for the academy’s coaching structure and players in the under-9 to under-16 age groups.

Academy director, Steve Harper, said: “Jack is a very experienced manager, coach and coach educator. His knowledge and experience will be of huge benefit to us during his time here.”

Ross has overseen almost 300 senior games at clubs including Alloa Athletic, St. Mirren, Sunderland, Hibernian and Dundee United. And the club’s summer schedule is starting to take shape with the announcement that Newcastle will travel north of the border to take on Scottish giants Rangers in pre-season.

As well as a trip to America’s Eastern seaboard in July, the Magpies are now slated to take on Gers at Ibrox on Tues. July 18. The fixture will act as a testimonial match in honor of Light Blues goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who — if selected this weekend — could make his 500th appearance for the Scottish Premiership side.

Of the announcement, Howe said: “A trip to Rangers will present a strong challenge at what will be an important time in our summer preparations.

“Any time Rangers play at Ibrox, you expect competitive football, and we hope to contribute to a great occasion in honor of Allan McGregor’s achievements with the club.”


Sinner downs Alcaraz to set up Miami final with Medvedev

Sinner downs Alcaraz to set up Miami final with Medvedev
Updated 01 April 2023

Sinner downs Alcaraz to set up Miami final with Medvedev

Sinner downs Alcaraz to set up Miami final with Medvedev
  • Sinner will meet Russian Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final while Alcaraz will lose his number one ranking to Novak Djokovic
  • The 27-year-old Medvedev earlier eliminated his his boyhood friend and fellow Russian Karen Khachanov in the other semifinal match

MIAMI GARDENS, Florida: Italy’s Jannik Sinner ended Carlos Alcaraz’s hopes of the “Sunshine Double” and his reign as world number one, triumphing 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-2 in their Miami Open semifinal on Friday.
Sinner will meet Russian Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final while Alcaraz will lose his number one ranking to Novak Djokovic.
Medvedev reached his fifth straight ATP Tour final with a 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 6-3 win over fellow Russian Karen Khachanov.
The disappointment for the 19-year-old Alcaraz, the defending champion in Miami and coming off a title at Indian Wells, will be tinged with frustration after he struggled in the third set with leg cramps.
It had been an enthralling and entertaining power-hitting performance from both men in the first set, won by the Spaniard after a tie-break, but an inspired Sinner fought back in the second.
Sinner broke in the first game and although Alcaraz broke back to make it 2-2, the 21-year-old Italian sensed his moment was arriving and showed confidence in his powerful groundstrokes.
Sinner broke again to go 5-4 up and then held for the set to end Alcaraz’s streak of 21 winning sets.
The world number one was moving with difficulty and was broken on his first serve in the deciding set. Looking in discomfort, he crouched down on his baseline in between points and shot some worried and confused looks to his team in the stands.
Sinner lost his focus for a while, his blistering shots replaced by some conservative strokes but he soon regained focus as he ran out the winner in three hours.

The 27-year-old Medvedev, playing against his boyhood friend, survived a second-set comeback but his trademark precision stroke play saw him through against the big-serving Khachanov in a high quality encounter.
The contest saw a series of long rallies as Medvedev fended off Khachanov’s thumping shots from the baseline and then pinned his opponent back on his service game.
Medvedev hit 13 aces and saved four of six break points as the match turned decisively in his favor when he broke Khachanov in the fourth game of the third set.
Medvedev won 82 percent (14 of 17) of his first-serve points in the final set and was relieved to have beaten a player who knows his game so well.
“In my opinion, it was a top match,” Medvedev said. “In the first set when we lost our serves, it was just a good game from the returner.
“In the second set, I had one bad game and he won the set. I had one break point, I could have done better. He had a break point in the first game of the third set, I managed to play well. He had one bad game in the third set, I managed to take it and I am really happy to be through. It was a very tough match.”
While aware that a very tough test awaits in the final, the Russian said he was capable of beating any player on the tour.
“I have to believe in myself. I know I am capable of winning big titles. I know I can play well and beat anybody,” Medvedev said.
“Carlos is on fire right now but you can’t win 100 matches in a row. At one moment someone is going to put the water on the fire. It might be Sinner today, it might be me on Sunday, it might be someone else next tournament.”
Khachanov said he had played at his best and felt he was a little unfortunate to end up on the losing side.
“To be honest with you, I think it was really one of the greatest matches, I felt from the beginning ‘til the end in terms of level, in terms of speed, intensity, attitude, everything,” he said.
 


Wimbledon drops ban on Russians, lets them play as neutrals

Wimbledon drops ban on Russians, lets them play as neutrals
Updated 01 April 2023

Wimbledon drops ban on Russians, lets them play as neutrals

Wimbledon drops ban on Russians, lets them play as neutrals
  • Players required to sign declarations of neutrality and comply with “appropriate conditions,” including not expressing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
  • Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and Russian players Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev are among the players who can return

LONDON: Russian and Belarusian players will be able to compete at Wimbledon as neutral athletes after the All England Club on Friday reversed its ban from last year.
The players must sign declarations of neutrality and comply with “appropriate conditions,” including not expressing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“This was an incredibly difficult decision, not taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration for those who will be impacted,” All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said in a statement.
The players cannot receive funding from the Russian or Belarusian states, including sponsorship from companies operated or controlled by the states.
Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and Russian players Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev are among the players who can return.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned the reversal as “immoral.”
“Has Russia ceased its aggression or atrocities? No, it’s just that Wimbledon decided to accommodate two accomplices in crime. I call on the UK government to deny visas to their players,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
Other tennis tournaments have allowed Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutral athletes — their nationalities are not listed in the brackets, official results or graphics on TV broadcasts of matches. But, as in some other team sports, Russia and Belarus were not permitted to participate in the Billie Jean King Cup or Davis Cup by the International Tennis Federation.
“We also consider alignment between the Grand Slams to be increasingly important in the current tennis environment,” the All England Club said.
The same conditions will apply for Lawn Tennis Association tournaments used by players as grass-court warmups for the sport’s oldest Grand Slam tournament.
The women’s and men’s professional tennis tours last year imposed heavy fines on the LTA and threatened to pull its tournaments. The effect of being expelled from the tours, the LTA said, “would be very damaging and far reaching for the game in our country.”
The ATP and WTA had also responded to last year’s ban by not awarding ranking points for Wimbledon — an unprecedented move against the prestigious event.
“There was a strong and very disappointing reaction from some governing bodies in tennis to the position taken by the All England Club and the LTA last year with consequences which, if continued, would be damaging to the interests of players, fans, The Championships and British tennis,” the club said.
This year’s Wimbledon tournament will start on July 3. The women’s final is scheduled for July 15 and the men’s final on July 16.
“It’s a beautiful tournament, beautiful Grand Slam. I’m really happy that I’m going to be able to play there this year,” Medvedev said Friday after he won his semifinal match at the Miami Open over fellow Russian Karen Khachanov. “I don’t know what the crowd reaction is going to be, I cannot control it, but I will be happy to play there in front of all the people. Hopefully on big courts. Hopefully have some big, amazing matches.”
Also speaking in Miami Gardens, Florida, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova said Russia and Belarusian players should continue to be banned from both Wimbledon and the Olympics.
“For sure I’m just more worried about the Ukrainian people and players. I appreciate that Wimbledon had a tough time last year not giving the (ranking) points, that Belarusians and Russians didn’t play. And I think they shouldn’t be allowed, actually,” Kvitova said. “I’m just still a bit on the Ukrainian side of this.”
Martina Navratilova, who won a record nine Wimbledon singles titles, said she supported the change. She wrote on Twitter, “as I said last year, this was a bad decision and I am glad it was reversed.”
The All England Club said the conditions were developed through talks with the British government, the LTA and “international stakeholder bodies in tennis.”
The club’s statement described “personal player declarations” but didn’t provide details. The LTA said the players and support staff “will be required to sign neutrality declarations” similar to those used in other sports.
In a joint statement, the ATP and WTA said they were satisfied with the outcome.
“It has taken a collaborative effort across the sport to arrive at a workable solution, which protects the fairness of the game,” the tours said. “This remains an extremely difficult situation, and we would like to thank Wimbledon and the LTA for their efforts in reaching this outcome, while reiterating our unequivocal condemnation of Russia’s war on Ukraine.”