Haaland scores as Man City rout Luton 5-1 to go top of the Premier League

Haaland scores as Man City rout Luton 5-1 to go top of the Premier League
Manchester City’s Norwegian striker Erling Haaland celebrates with teammates after his shot is deflected into the net by Luton Town’s Japanese defender Daiki Hashioka for an own-goal during their English Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium on Apr. 13, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 13 April 2024
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Haaland scores as Man City rout Luton 5-1 to go top of the Premier League

Haaland scores as Man City rout Luton 5-1 to go top of the Premier League
  • Arsenal host Aston Villa on Sunday, when Liverpool take on Crystal Palace
  • With City still in contention for a second straight treble of major trophies, manager Pep Guardiola took the opportunity to rotate his squad

MANCHESTER, England: Manchester City kept up the pressure on Arsenal and Liverpool with an emphatic 5-1 victory over relegation-threatened Luton on Saturday that put the defending champion back atop the English Premier League.
An early own goal from Daiki Hashioka gave City the lead at Etihad Stadium before a fierce shot by Mateo Kovacic and a penalty by Erling Haaland put the game beyond doubt after the break.
Luton earned a consolation goal through Ross Barkley in the 81st but Jeremy Doku and Josko Gvardiol added late goals to wrap up the win, which lifted City two points above Arsenal and Liverpool.
Arsenal host Aston Villa on Sunday, when Liverpool take on Crystal Palace.
With City still in contention for a second straight treble of major trophies, manager Pep Guardiola took the opportunity to rotate his squad and left key midfielder Rodri on the bench after the Spaniard said publicly he needed a rest.
Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva and John Stones also were rested ahead of Real Madrid’s visit on Wednesday in the return leg of their Champions League quarterfinal. But goalkeeper Ederson returned to replace Stefan Ortega and Kevin De Bruyne was back after an illness.
It was a bit of luck, though, that gave City the opener inside two minutes.
Haaland attempted an acrobatic volley after his initial shot was saved, but the ball was heading well wide until it took a huge deflection off Hashioka’s head and ended up in the net.
But Luton defended with great determination and the second goal didn’t come until just after the hour when Kovavic unleashed an unstoppable effort from the edge of the area following a corner.
Doku then won a penalty after being brought down in the area and Haaland calmly sent Thomas Kaminski the wrong way to register his 31st goal of the season in all competitions, but only his second in six games.
Barkley robbed Nunes to pull one back but City finished with a flourish.
Doku claimed the fourth after weaving through the area in the 87th and Gvardiol followed up his fine strike against Madrid with another stunner in stoppage time.


Lionel Messi and Argentina will try for a 3rd straight major title in Copa America

Lionel Messi and Argentina will try for a 3rd straight major title in Copa America
Updated 18 June 2024
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Lionel Messi and Argentina will try for a 3rd straight major title in Copa America

Lionel Messi and Argentina will try for a 3rd straight major title in Copa America
  • Argentina and Uruguay are tied with 15 Copa titles each, followed by Brazil with nine
  • Spain is the only nation to win three consecutive major titles: The European Championship in 2008 and 2012 around the 2010 World Cup

NEW YORK: Lionel Messi and Argentina will try to match Spain’s feat of three consecutive major titles when the Copa America kicks off Thursday night.

Coming off championships in the 2021 Copa America and the 2022 World Cup, Messi will be four days shy of his 37th birthday when the Albiceleste take the field against Canada at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

“I want to enjoy a couple of more matches being a world champion,” Messi said after Argentina beat France on penalty kicks to win the 2022 World Cup final.

He has 10 goals in 10 international appearances since, raising his total to 108 in 182 games for Argentina’s national team. He is either tied for second with Ali Daei or one behind, depending on whether a disputed goal by the Iranian is counted, trailing only Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo at 128.

“It is not easy to compete again after winning it all,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said.

Argentina and Uruguay are tied with 15 Copa titles each, followed by Brazil with nine. No other nation has won more than two.

Brazil features an attack headed by Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo, just off a Champions League title with Real Madrid, and Raphinha. The emerging star is 17-year-old Endrick, who joins Real Madrid this summer.

“If you look at every position in their proposed starting 11, it’s probably one of the world’s best players,” US coach Gregg Berhalter said.

Spain is the only nation to win three consecutive major titles: The European Championship in 2008 and 2012 around the 2010 World Cup.

A look at the tournament:

Expanded field

There will be 16 teams, just as in 2016. The US, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, Panama and Jamaica join the 10 South American nations after qualifying from North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Back in the US

Ecuador was to host the tournament under the rotation of CONMEBOL, South American soccer’s governing body, but declined. The tournament was then moved to the US, which also hosted the special centennial Copa America in 2016 as Chile won on penalty kicks over Argentina at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Eleven NFL stadiums are being used, including eight of the 11 US venues for the 2026 World Cup, plus three smaller MLS homes. The final will be at Miami Gardens, Florida, on July 14, starting five hours after the European Championship final in Berlin.

CONMEBOL says more than 1 million tickets have been sold for the 32 matches. The 2016 tournament drew just under 1.5 million, and the 2019 tournament in Brazil about 850,000. The 2021 Copa was played mostly without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic.

US team

This will be the biggest test for the US team before the World Cup — the Americans get an automatic berth as co-host along with Mexico and Canada — and most Europe-based players are expected to skip next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie are the core of a team that returns 18 players from the 2022 World Cup roster.

“A World Cup on home soil is the biggest thing that you know we’ll probably do in our career,” Pulisic said. “It’s a special time for this sport in America.”

World Cup test?

In 2016, CONMEBOL partnered with the US Soccer Federation, which was in charge of most of the logistics. This time, CONMEBOL is co-organizing the tournament with CONCACAF, the governing body of North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Unlike during the World Cup, the organizers have only short-term access to venues. At Hard Rock, a concert is scheduled for July 6, between the last group stage game and the final, and a new grass surface will be installed.

At MetLife Stadium, where a semifinal will be played July 9, staff will look at it as a preview for the World Cup final on July 19, 2026. The stadium has a camera system designed by Arecont Vision and managed by Genetec Security Center that was installed before the 2014 Super Bowl and a new system by Axis Communications is being put in place this summer in the seating bowl with 80 8K, 41-megapixel cameras.

“We can see every seat all the time. I think it serves as a good deterrent,” said Daniel DeLorenzi, vice president of security and safety services. “We have three drone detection systems. ... Not only can we track the drone, but more importantly, we can track where the operator is.”


Mbappé’s facial injury places doubt on his continued involvement in Euro 2024

Mbappé’s facial injury places doubt on his continued involvement in Euro 2024
Updated 18 June 2024
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Mbappé’s facial injury places doubt on his continued involvement in Euro 2024

Mbappé’s facial injury places doubt on his continued involvement in Euro 2024
  • Deschamps: “The French team with Kylian would always be stronger”

DUSSELDORF, Germany: Kylian Mbappé’s facial injury in France’s 1-0 win against Austria on Monday has put in doubt whether he will continue at the European Championship.
An aerial head-on-shoulder collision with Austria’s Kevin Danso left Mbappé curled on the field with his nose bloodied and swollen late in the Group D game at Dusseldorf Arena.
“I don’t have the elements in my hands,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “He didn’t get off lightly. It is still to be seen. I cannot at this stage give the answer (if he will be ruled out).”
Mbappé’s obvious pain following the collision prompted Austria goalkeeper Patrick Pentz to signal for urgent medical assistance.
“He’s not doing well. He’s with the medical staff. His nose got badly hit that’s for sure,” Deschamps said. “We need to check, but it seems quite complicated, which is really unfortunate for us tonight.”
Mbappé’s injury likely struck fear in the hearts of France fans.
He is France’s talisman and widely considered the heir to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the world. Also, he will finally wear the famous white jersey of Real Madrid next season after joining as a free agent from Paris Saint-Germain.
Mbappé tried to play on against Austria, but quickly fell to the ground again, holding his face and prompting whistles and jeers from opposition fans, who seemed to believe he was time-wasting as France held on for the win.
He was then booked by referee Jesus Gil Manzano and replaced by Olivier Giroud.
“We’re worried to see Kylian leave the field like that,” France midfielder N’Golo Kante said. “We still don’t know what the situation is. ... We hope that it’s not too severe and that he’s back with us for the rest of the competition.”
Mbappé produced a mixed performance before the injury but still showed his importance to France’s hopes of winning a record-equalling third European Championship and its first since 2000.
It was his moment of inspiration that led to Maximilian Wober scoring an own goal in the 38th minute that handed Deschamps his 100th win as national team coach.
With a flash of close-ball control, Mbappé beat Phillipp Mwene in the box and crossed in search of a teammate. In Wober’s desperation to cut out the danger, he inadvertently diverted the ball into his own net.
Mbappé was then guilty of a remarkable miss 10 minutes into the second half when failing to hit the target from close range with only the keeper to beat.
Bursting through on goal, he was too fast for Wober and had time to steady himself in the box before picking his spot. With France fans behind the goal just waiting for the net to bulge, Mbappe’s shot instead curled past the post to the relief of the Austrians.
He has yet to score in the European Championship, having failed to at the last Euros three years ago.
Deschamps, however, does not want to consider worst case scenarios.
“I’m not going to go into hypothesis,” he said. “The French team with Kylian would always be stronger. If the news doesn’t go along these lines then we’ll have to fight without him, but Kylian is Kylian and any team with him in the squad is obviously a lot stronger.”


Blind footballer brings game to visually impaired Iraqis

Members of Iraq's first national football team for the visually impaired, train at a sports club in Baghdad on May 22, 2024.
Members of Iraq's first national football team for the visually impaired, train at a sports club in Baghdad on May 22, 2024.
Updated 18 June 2024
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Blind footballer brings game to visually impaired Iraqis

Members of Iraq's first national football team for the visually impaired, train at a sports club in Baghdad on May 22, 2024.
  • The new Iraqi team for the visually impaired — though unofficial — was born in 2018. Kinani, from Karbala in central Iraq, shelved all other sports practice to manage the team and secure formal recognition

BAGHDAD: When football fanatic Othman Al-Kinani became blind in 2008, the loss of his sight hit him hard, not least because he thought he’d have to hang up his boots for good.
Now aged 51, Kinani described his struggle to rebuild his life. “I even forgot how to walk,” he told AFP.
“I had to rely on my hearing for everything,” he explained, after losing his sight to glaucoma, itself according to him the result of using incorrect medicines to treat allergies.
What made the situation worse “was being separated from football,” the Arabic language teacher added.
But years later Kinani’s persistence has led him to set up the country’s first national football team for the visually impaired.
“It became my life,” Kinani said at a training session in Baghdad as he described how the five-a-side sport — the format most popular with visually impaired football players — had reignited his passion.
Kinani returned to ball sports playing goalball, a game designed for disabled athletes, through a local NGO he helped create for the visually impaired in 2016.
But goalball, in which players shoot a ball from a prone position across a court, served only to whet his appetite for a return to football.
The new Iraqi team for the visually impaired — though unofficial — was born in 2018. Kinani, from Karbala in central Iraq, shelved all other sports practice to manage the team and secure formal recognition.
He said the process brought him out of his isolation and the sport allowed his “reintegration among friends.”
With the help of his daughter, who would write his emails, Kinani gained important support from the International Blind Football Foundation (IBF). In 2022 the Tokyo-based body agreed to send crucial equipment to the Iraqi team.
The official recognition Kinani sought finally came this year and Iraq’s 20-member squad is now preparing for a tournament in Morocco later this month.
To attend training in Baghdad, half of the team, which hails from other provinces, travels to the capital three times a week.
Blind football matches consist of two 20-minute halves, played on a 40-meter by 20-meter field.
So partially sighted players don’t gain an unfair advantage, all the players wear eye shades so that none can see anything as they follow the sound of the ball, which contains bells.
Only the goalkeepers are allowed to see and guides on the sidelines shout instructions to help the players find the way to the goal.

During the training session in Baghdad, as one player came within reach of the goal, a guide urgently called on him to “take three steps and shoot.”
But the game came to a sudden halt when a vendor selling water bottles arrived with blaring loudspeakers to promote his wares, leaving players unable to hear the sound of the ball or their guides’ instructions.
Though the sport is still in its infancy, the Iraqi Blind Football Federation hopes to expand the sport nationwide through additional teams.
Tarek Al-Mulla, the head of the federation, praises the “extraordinary abilities” of the players, despite the “difficulties” they face.
“Dribbling with a ball, mind and muscle coordination, these players distinguish themselves (by doing this) only through hearing,” he said.
Ali Abbas, head coach for the national team, said he hoped the squad would keep improving, one game at a time.
“The players are full of determination, which encourages me,” he said.
Iraq’s Paralympic committee is still waiting for parliamentary approval of the team’s funding, which would allow every player to receive a monthly salary of $230.
In the meantime 10 players will pay for their own travel expenses and accommodation for the upcoming competition in Morocco.
As he took a breather from training in Baghdad, captain, Haidar Al-Basir, 36, spoke of his team’s commitment to do their best, despite the obstacles.
But he explained that, beyond fear of injury, his greatest concern and his request to authorities is for transport to training.
“I had to remember the route to go from home to the stadium. There is also the lack of adequate transport,” he said.
But “we are here to train and to learn, to challenge and overcome obstacles,” he added.
 

 


France need own goal to edge Austria in Euro 2024 opener

France need own goal to edge Austria in Euro 2024 opener
Updated 18 June 2024
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France need own goal to edge Austria in Euro 2024 opener

France need own goal to edge Austria in Euro 2024 opener
  • France and the Netherlands meet next in Leipzig on Friday, while Austria face Poland earlier the same day in Berlin

DÜSSELDORF, Germany: Maximilian Woeber’s own goal was enough to give France a winning start to their Euro 2024 campaign on Monday as they edged Austria 1-0 in their opening game but Kylian Mbappe came off late on with a bloodied nose.
Woeber diverted Mbappe’s cutback into his own net seven minutes before half-time in Duesseldorf to allow the French, one of the leading contenders to win the tournament, to come through a stiff test.
Austria have been much-improved under Ralf Rangnick and their pressing game often made life uncomfortable for the 2022 World Cup runners-up, who saw Mbappe leave the field near the end after being hurt in a collision.
He had earlier failed to convert a glorious chance that would have allowed France to win by a wider margin.
While Les Bleus were not at their best, they will be relieved to have emerged victorious from the game after a build-up overshadowed by talk of politics rather than football.
Mbappe and other French players had spent much of their time before the media in recent days answering questions about upcoming elections in the country which could see the far-right National Rally become the biggest party.
Any slip-up here would have led to suggestions their minds had not been fully focused on the competition, as France aim to become European champions for the third time, and first since 2000.
Instead, the result leaves Didier Deschamps’ team level on three points in Group D with the Netherlands, who defeated Poland 2-1 in Hamburg on Sunday.
France and the Netherlands meet next in Leipzig on Friday, while Austria face Poland earlier the same day in Berlin.
Austria had enjoyed some impressive results coming into the tournament on a seven-game unbeaten run and their team is on familiar ground during these Euros — their coach Rangnick is from Germany and eight of their starting line-up played in the German Bundesliga last season.

The French, however, are arguably the most talented team at the tournament, led by their captain Mbappe.
He endured a miserable time at his only previous Euros three years ago, failing to score and missing the decisive penalty in a shoot-out defeat by Switzerland in the last 16.
The new Real Madrid signing will wonder how he did not score in this game, with his first big opportunity arriving inside eight minutes.
Antoine Griezmann and Theo Hernandez combined to release Mbappe, who cut in from the left as he loves to do and shaped to curl a shot into the far corner before instead aiming for the near post.
However, Austria goalkeeper Patrick Pentz was able to make the save.
The Austrians settled into the contest and passed up a wonderful chance of their own to go ahead on 36 minutes.
Skipper Marcel Sabitzer touched down a Michael Gregoritsch cross from the left for Christoph Baumgartner, but he was foiled by goalkeeper Mike Maignan.
That proved crucial as France went ahead two minutes later.
Ousmane Dembele gave the ball to Mbappe on the right, and he produced a stepover to get to the byline before his cutback was nodded into the far corner of his own net by the unfortunate Woeber.
Mbappe was then thwarted by Pentz as he tried to go around the goalkeeper in first-half stoppage time, but that was nothing compared to the chance he squandered 10 minutes after the restart.
Adrien Rabiot sent Mbappe away, bounding in behind the Austrian defense, but he somehow put his shot wide with just the goalkeeper to beat.
That left the game in the balance, and Austria continued to push for a leveller, but without success.
Their fans were less than impressed by what they perceived as timewasting late on from Mbappe, who needed treatment after colliding with Kevin Danso in the box.
He left the pitch with his shirt stained by blood, only to then come back on and sit down, earning himself a yellow card before being replaced by Olivier Giroud.


Turkiye to ‘honor’ massive Euro 2024 support, says Montella

Turkiye to ‘honor’ massive Euro 2024 support, says Montella
Updated 17 June 2024
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Turkiye to ‘honor’ massive Euro 2024 support, says Montella

Turkiye to ‘honor’ massive Euro 2024 support, says Montella
  • Turkiye’s Group F fixtures will effectively be home matches due to the huge numbers of Turkish fans living in Germany

DORTMUND, Germany: Vincenzo Montella said Monday that his Turkiye players will try to “honor” the huge support set to roar them on during Euro 2024, ahead of their opener with debutants Georgia.
Turkiye’s Group F fixtures will effectively be home matches due to the huge numbers of Turkish fans living in Germany, and those supporters will create a feverish atmosphere during Tuesday’s clash in Dortmund.
Montella got a taste of the kind of support his team can expect during a 3-2 friendly win over Germany in Berlin in November, their first away success against the Germans since 1951.
“We’ve already experienced this support having played in Germany. It’s a big responsibility for us. We don’t want to disappoint the Turkish people here nor the ones back home so we’ll honor the flag right to the end,” Montella told reporters.
“We hadn’t won in Germany for 72 years, we hadn’t ever won away against Croatia (before beating them in qualifying) and we managed to do it, so it’s the year of firsts.”
It will be a doubly special occasion for Salih Ozcan, who plays his club football for Borussia Dortmund and will be playing on familiar turf at the Westfalenstadion.
“It will be like a home match for is, we need to use that support to our advantage,” said Ozcan.
“It will be a particular experience for me to play in this stadium. I hope that it will be red and white on Tuesday, it’ll be a great match that we want to win.”
Turkiye will also face Portugal and the Czech Republic in Group F.