Dortmund dream of shocking Real Madrid in Champions League final

Dortmund dream of shocking Real Madrid in Champions League final
Madrid have lost just twice in 54 games in all competitions this season, storming to the title in La Liga by 10 points and thrashing Barcelona 4-1 to lift the Spanish Super Cup along the way. (AFP)
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Updated 02 June 2024
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Dortmund dream of shocking Real Madrid in Champions League final

Dortmund dream of shocking Real Madrid in Champions League final

LONDON: Borussia Dortmund coach Edin Terzic believes “anything is possible” as his side aim to pull off one of the biggest ever shocks in a Champions League final against the mighty Real Madrid at London’s Wembley stadium on Saturday.
The star-studded Spanish giants are heavy favorites to be crowned European champions for the 15th time, and a sixth in the last 11 seasons, against a Dortmund team that have beaten the odds just to make it to the English capital.
Madrid have lost just twice in 54 games in all competitions this season, storming to the title in La Liga by 10 points and thrashing Barcelona 4-1 to lift the Spanish Super Cup along the way.
However, they have had to once again dig deep to reach what coach Carlo Ancelotti described as the “biggest game of any season” in the Champions League.
“We have to enjoy being here,” said the Italian at his pre-match press conference. “But knowing it can go wrong because we are close to the most important thing in football — winning a Champions League — but having the fear this can escape us.”
Ancelotti’s men withstood a barrage from defending champions Manchester City to win their quarter-final tie on penalties before another legendary late fightback at the Santiago Bernabeu to beat Bayern Munich in the last four.
“We never stop believing, no matter how the circumstances are,” said Luka Modric, who along with Nacho, Dani Carvajal and Toni Kroos, in the final match of his club career, can win the European Cup for a record-equalling sixth time as a player.
“We always believe, keep believing, keep pushing, fighting until the end. In the end, we manage to find a way to beat opponents.
“Many people say there is luck, but when it happens so many times, I think it’s not just luck.”
Dortmund must breach the financial gulf between the sides to win the Champions League for just the second time in their history.
Last season Madrid posted record revenues of 831 million euros ($901 million) compared to Dortmund’s 420 million euros, according to financial experts Deloitte.
The career path of Jude Bellingham exemplifies the scale of the task facing the Germans.
Plucked from English Championship side Birmingham as a teenager, he was molded and developed by Dortmund before being picked off by Madrid for a transfer fee in excess of 100 million euros 12 months ago.
Without him, Dortmund struggled domestically this season, finishing fifth in the Bundesliga, 27 points adrift of Bayer Leverkusen.
Yet, Terzic’s men have saved their best for the Champions League stage to reach the final for the third time in the club’s history and first since they lost at Wembley to Bayern Munich 11 years ago.
Dortmund topped the group of death featuring Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Newcastle.
PSV Eindhoven and Atletico Madrid were then seen off before a heroic defensive display kept out PSG over two legs in the semifinals.
“They are the favorites but we don’t care, we haven’t been the favorites against Atletico or against PSG,” said Terzic.
“But if we are brave and not here to watch Real Madrid lift the trophy, if we are here to give them a game, then we have a chance.”
Over 100,000 fans of the German giants are estimated to have made the trip to London despite the club being allocated just 30,000 tickets for the 90,000 capacity stadium.
UEFA will be hoping the focus is on the protagonists on the field come full-time to ensure their decision to return to Wembley for a major final is not questioned.
Three years ago, the final of Euro 2020 was marred by violence as ticketless fans stormed the stadium doors to gain entry.
The English Football Association have invested £5 million ($6 million) into improving safety and infrastructure at Wembley, which is also set to host the Euro 2028 final.


Israel clear to play in Olympic soccer tournament after FIFA postpones decision on possible ban

Israel clear to play in Olympic soccer tournament after FIFA postpones decision on possible ban
Updated 1 min 50 sec ago
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Israel clear to play in Olympic soccer tournament after FIFA postpones decision on possible ban

Israel clear to play in Olympic soccer tournament after FIFA postpones decision on possible ban

ZURICH: FIFA has postponed a decision on a Palestinian proposal to suspend Israel from international soccer because of the conflict with Hamas, clearing the way for the Israeli men’s national team to play at the Paris Olympics.
Soccer’s world governing body had been set to make a decision Saturday at an extraordinary council meeting after asking for an independent legal assessment of the Palestinian proposal two months ago. That decision would have come just four days before the start of the Olympic soccer tournament, where Israel has been drawn into a group with Japan, Mali and Paraguay.
However, FIFA said Thursday that it had pushed back the timeline because “more time is needed to conclude this process with due care and completeness” — meaning a decision is now set to come after the Olympics have finished.
FIFA said both parties had made requests for extensions “to submit their respective positions” and that the independent assessment will now be shared with FIFA by Aug. 31 at the latest.
The men’s Olympic final is set to take place on Aug. 9.


Beleaguered Olympic boxing has a new look in Paris: Gender parity, but the smallest field in decades

Beleaguered Olympic boxing has a new look in Paris: Gender parity, but the smallest field in decades
Updated 16 min 28 sec ago
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Beleaguered Olympic boxing has a new look in Paris: Gender parity, but the smallest field in decades

Beleaguered Olympic boxing has a new look in Paris: Gender parity, but the smallest field in decades
  • 12 years after women’s boxing made its Olympic debut with just 36 fighters in three weight classes in London, the sport likely has achieved gender parity, reaching the overall Olympic movement’s goal
  • The 248 fighters in Paris are a shadow of the Olympic-record 432 who participated in Seoul in 1988, and it’s even down sharply from the 289 boxers who participated in Tokyo

PARIS: Boxing is already on the Olympic ropes after an epic fight between its banished governing body and the IOC. Although the sport has been a staple of Olympic programs for over a century, it could be dropped before the Los Angeles Games if big changes in governance don’t happen in the next year.

The fights are still on in Paris this month, but this Olympic tournament will look like nothing fans have seen in decades — for better in some ways, and probably for worse in others.

Twelve years after women’s boxing made its Olympic debut with just 36 fighters in three weight classes in London, the sport likely has achieved gender parity, reaching the overall Olympic movement’s goal. Give or take a few last-minute additions or dropouts, half of the 248 boxers in Paris will be women fighting in six weight classes.

But this milestone was reached by sharply cutting the number of male boxers in an overall field that will be the smallest for Olympic boxing since 1956. While there will be 23 more women fighting in Paris than in Tokyo three years ago, there will also be a whopping 63 fewer men, and they’re fighting in only seven weight classes — the fewest since 1908.

In fact, Paris will have dozens fewer boxers than in every other Games in the 21st century. The 248 fighters in Paris are a shadow of the Olympic-record 432 who participated in Seoul in 1988, and it’s even down sharply from the 289 boxers who participated in Tokyo.

USA Boxing head coach Billy Walsh has been an ardent proponent of the women’s sport ever since he coached Katie Taylor of his native Ireland to a gold medal in London, and he says the addition of three women’s weight classes in Paris is “fantastic.”

Walsh still recognizes the drawbacks to the sport’s growth when it comes up against the IOC’s typically firm cap on total Olympic participants. It’s rare to add more athletes to a traditional Olympic sport, particularly while the IOC is adding trendy new sports to each Games.

“It is sad in a sense for the men,” said Walsh, who competed for Ireland in the Seoul Olympics in 1988. “Because when I boxed, they had 12 (men’s) weight divisions. They went down to 10, and then down to eight, and now we’re down to seven.”

In Rio de Janeiro eight years ago, 250 men had the career-defining honor of being Olympic boxers. That number has been halved just eight years later, with 124 men competing at three fewer weights than in Rio.

Men’s boxing in Paris will have its fewest weight classes since 1908 in London, where the second boxing tournament in the modern Olympics was contested at just five weights. Three years earlier in Tokyo, men’s boxing already dropped to eight weight classes for the first time since 1948.

That means there is no longer an Olympic weight class between 71 kilograms (156 pounds) and 80 kilograms (176 pounds). Professional middleweights fight at 160 pounds, and super middleweights weigh in at 168 pounds, but any fighter who couldn’t go down or up to the Olympic limits was out of luck.

That’s a concern to Walsh and many others around the sport. The elimination of weight classes encourages fighters to stretch the limits of their bodies to see if they can fit into a less-than-ideal weight class for qualification — and that can lead to mismatches up and down the scales.

“When we’ve narrowed down the numbers, it’s also put a big gap in the weight divisions,” Walsh said. “There’s so much gap now. There’s a reason why there are (weight classes). It’s because of the power of the punch. These guys are hurting you. There’s damage you can do. If some guy is barely making the welterweight division, he’s got 10 kilos he has to put on, and the other guy is coming down from four or five kilos above that, it’s a lot of power in the punch. It’s a combat sport, and people do get hurt, do get injured. I worry about that.”

Fewer overall fighters means smaller teams for many nations — and fewer chances to win gold, even for the traditional powers of the sport.

The US, which has won the most total medals and gold medals in Olympic history, qualified eight fighters for Paris under a challenging new qualification system administered by the IOC task force overseeing the tournament. The American team will have fewer fighters than Australia — which had an extraordinarily easy path to Paris under the new system — Brazil, Ireland or modern amateur boxing powers Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Cuba, which ranks right behind the US in Olympic achievements, improbably will have only five fighters in Paris after two men failed to clinch a spot during the final qualifying tournament. Cuba also has no women on its team for the fourth straight Olympics, even though the nation belatedly lifted its internal ban on the women’s sport in late 2022.

Yet the small Cuban delegation includes two-time gold medalists Arlen Lopez and Julio Cesar La Cruz. They’ll both try to join Hungary’s Laszlo Papp and fellow Cubans Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon as the only three-time Olympic boxing champions.

The smaller field will lead to a different kind of competition in Paris: Fewer bouts with higher stakes. That could be exciting, particularly when fresher fighters move into the medal rounds, which will be held at the famed Roland Garros tennis complex.

Many fighters only need to win two bouts to clinch an Olympic medal, including every man fighting at heavyweight and super heavyweight. Both of those divisions have only 16 competitors, and no weight class in Paris has more than 22 fighters.

The tournament won’t even run for the entire Olympiad: For the first time in decades, boxing competition will conclude one day before the closing ceremony.

“It’s going to be different, that’s for sure,” Walsh said. “But it will be exciting.”
 


Explosion in Tel Aviv building, bomb disposal experts on site: Israeli police

Explosion in Tel Aviv building, bomb disposal experts on site: Israeli police
Updated 11 min 21 sec ago
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Explosion in Tel Aviv building, bomb disposal experts on site: Israeli police

Explosion in Tel Aviv building, bomb disposal experts on site: Israeli police

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military is checking whether an explosion in central Tel Aviv in the early hours of Friday was caused by a drone attack, the army said.
Ambulance services said at least two people were wounded slightly in the blast and large police forces were present at the scene.
“Earlier tonight (Friday), an explosion sounded in the area of central Tel Aviv. We are looking into the reports that it was an aerial target. The incident is under review,” the military said in a brief statement.
No aerial sirens were reported prior to the blast, which occurred hours after the Israeli military confirmed it had killed a senior commander of the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon.


Biden is isolated at home as Obama, Pelosi and other Democrats push for him to reconsider 2024 race

Biden is isolated at home as Obama, Pelosi and other Democrats push for him to reconsider 2024 race
Updated 40 min 45 sec ago
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Biden is isolated at home as Obama, Pelosi and other Democrats push for him to reconsider 2024 race

Biden is isolated at home as Obama, Pelosi and other Democrats push for him to reconsider 2024 race
  • Obama has conveyed to allies that Biden needs to consider the viability of his campaign, while Pelosi presented polling to Biden that she argued shows he likely can’t defeat Trump
  • In Congress, Democratic lawmakers have begun having private conversations about lining up behind Vice President Kamala Harris as an alternative

WASHINGTON: Democrats at the highest levels are making a critical push for President Joe Biden to rethink his election bid, with former President Barack Obama expressing concerns to allies and Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi privately telling Biden the party could lose the ability to seize control of the House if he doesn’t step away from the 2024 race.
Biden’s orbit, already small before his debate fumbling, has grown even smaller in recent days. Isolated as he battles a COVID infection at home in Delaware, the president is relying on a few longtime aides as he weighs whether to bow to the mounting pressure to drop out.
The Biden For President campaign is calling an all-staff meeting for Friday. It’s heading into a critical weekend for the party as Republican Donald Trump wraps up a heady Republican National Convention in Milwaukee and Democrats, racing time, consider the extraordinary possibility of Biden stepping aside for a new presidential nominee before their own convention next month in Chicago.
As anxiety and information swirled, Biden’s closest friend in Congress and his campaign co-chair, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, told The Associated Press: “President Biden deserves the respect to have important family conversations with members of the caucus and colleagues in the House and Senate and Democratic leadership. and not be battling leaks and press statements.”
Campaign officials said Biden was even more committed to staying in the race even as the calls for him to go mounted. But there was also time to reconsider. He has been told the campaign is having trouble raising money, and some Democrats see an opportunity as he is away from the campaign for a few days to encourage his exit.
Biden tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling in Las Vegas and is experiencing “mild symptoms” including “general malaise” from the infection, the White House said.
The president himself, in a radio interview taped just before he tested positive, dismissed the idea it was too late for him to recover politically, telling Univision’s Luis Sandoval that many people don’t focus on the November election until September.
“All the talk about who’s leading and where and how, is kind of, you know — everything so far between Trump and me has been basically even,” he said in an excerpt of the interview released Thursday.
But in Congress, Democratic lawmakers have begun having private conversations about lining up behind Vice President Kamala Harris as an alternative. One lawmaker said Biden’s own advisers are unable to reach a unanimous recommendation about what he should do. More in Congress are considering joining the nearly two dozen who have called for Biden to drop out.
“It’s clear the issue won’t go away,” said Vermont Sen. Peter Welch, the sole Senate Democrat who has publicly said Biden should exit the race. Welch said the current state of party angst – with lawmakers panicking and donors revolting – was “not sustainable.”
Obama has conveyed to allies that Biden needs to consider the viability of his campaign but has also made clear that the decision is one Biden needs to make. The former president has taken calls in recent days from members of congressional leadership, Democratic governors and key donors to discuss their concerns about his former vice president.
Pelosi also presented polling to Biden that she argued shows he likely can’t defeat Republican Trump — though the former speaker countered Thursday in a sharp statement that the “feeding frenzy” from anonymous sources “misrepresents any conversations” she may have had with the president.
This story is based in part on reporting from more than half a dozen people who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive private deliberations. The Washington Post first reported on Obama’s involvement.
Biden said Monday he hadn’t spoken to Obama in a couple of weeks.
Pressed about reports that Biden might be softening to the idea of leaving the race, his deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks said Thursday: “He is not wavering on anything.”
However, influential Democrats atop the party apparatus, including congressional leadership headed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, are sending signals of strong concern.
Using mountains of data showing Biden’s standing could seriously damage the ranks of Democrats in Congress, frank conversations in public and private and now the president’s own few days of isolation, many Democrats see an opportunity to encourage a reassessment.
Over the past week, Schumer and Jeffries, both of New York, have spoken privately to the president, candidly laying out the concerns of Democrats on Capitol Hill. Control of the House and Senate is at stake, and leaders are keenly aware that a Republican sweep in November could launch Trump’s agenda for years to come.
Separately, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington, spoke with the president last week armed with fresh data. The campaign chief specifically aired the concerns of front-line Democrats seeking election to the House.
Major political donors, particularly in Pelosi’s California, have been putting heavy pressure on the president’s campaign and members of Congress, according to one Democratic strategist. Schumer has told donors and others to bring their concerns directly to the White House.
Prominent California Rep. Adam Schiff, a close ally of Pelosi, called for Biden to drop his reelection bid, saying Wednesday he believes it’s time to “pass the torch.” And Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland used a baseball metaphor to suggest in a recent letter to Biden, “There is no shame in taking a well-deserved bow to the overflowing appreciation of the crowd.”
To be sure, many want Biden to stay in the race. And the Democratic National Committee is pushing ahead with plans for a virtual vote to formally make Biden its nominee in the first week of August, ahead of the Democratic National Convention, which begins Aug. 19.
Rep. James Clyburn, a senior Democrat who has been a key Biden ally, wrapped up several days of campaigning for Biden in Nevada and said: “Joe Biden has the knowledge. He’s demonstrated that time and time again.” He warned against those who he said “have an agenda.”
But among Democrats nationwide, nearly two-thirds say Biden should step aside and let his party nominate a different candidate, according to an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll. That sharply undercuts Biden’s post-debate claim that “average Democrats” are still with him even if some “big names” are turning on him.
The Biden campaign pointed to what it called “extensive support” for his reelection from members of Congress in key swing states, as well as from the Congressional Black and Hispanic caucuses.
Other Democrats in Congress have shown less support, including when Biden’s top aides visited Democratic senators last week in a private lunch. When Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania asked for a show of hands on who was with the president, only his own and a few others including top Biden ally Coons of Delaware went up, according to one of the people granted anonymity to discuss the matter.


Verstappen counting on Red Bull upgrades for ‘important weekend’

Verstappen counting on Red Bull upgrades for ‘important weekend’
Updated 59 min 5 sec ago
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Verstappen counting on Red Bull upgrades for ‘important weekend’

Verstappen counting on Red Bull upgrades for ‘important weekend’
  • The 26-year-old explained that he felt the team needed to step up the pace to boost their defense of both the drivers' and constructors' titles
  • While Red Bull fitted upgrades to their cars, McLaren were forced to close their 'Team Hub' multi-storey motor home in the paddock following a storm on Wednesday

BUDAPEST: Max Verstappen hopes that a new Red Bull upgrade package will give him momentum as he seeks increased pace in a bid to stay ahead in this year's title race starting with this Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix.

"We brought some stuff before, but it was not particularly big, so this one is a bigger one and it is a very important weekend," said the series leader and three-time world champion who seeks to complete a Hungarian hat trick this weekend.

"I think for everyone, this is an important, important weekend."

The 26-year-old explained that he felt the team needed to step up the pace to boost their defense of both the drivers' and constructors' titles.

"You could say that," the Dutch driver said.

"I think so. If this is not giving us some good lap time, I don't know how the rest of the season is going to evolve, but at the same time, I also don't know what's coming from the other teams.

"So we just focus on ourselves. We are bringing some things to the car and of course, I hope that it will give us a bit of lap time."

For his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, this is another key weekend to prove he can recover his form and deliver podium finishes.

While Red Bull fitted upgrades to their cars, McLaren were forced to close their 'Team Hub' multi-storey motor home in the paddock following a storm on Wednesday.

The facility was left flooded in places only weeks after it was damaged at the Spanish Grand Prix by an electrical fire.

"The team are currently working to fix the damage and therefore unfortunately our Team Hub will not be open to any guests or media for the duration of the Hungarian GP," said a team statement.

In Spain and Austria, when the facility was out of action, team chief Zak Brown used the FIA's hospitality area as his base while drivers Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri used other McLaren facilities.

English driver Norris arrived in the paddock on Thursday to be greeted by light-hearted references to the European Championship soccer final which he attended in Berlin last Sunday.

A message on his car parking space board read '2-1 Viva Espana' in reference to Spain's Euro 2024 final win over England.

Two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin told reporters he was not responsible, pointing out "there is another Spaniard" before it was revealed that the joke was the work of Carlos Sainz's manager Carlos Onoro.