Dec 062017
 
Nigeria to play WC warm-up with England

ABUJA: Nigeria’s Super Eagles are set to play England in a World Cup warm-up game in June, the general secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Mohammed Sanusi has said. “We plan to play a friendly against England in June, before the World Cup,” he said, adding that the venue and other details of the match were still to be worked out. Both Nigeria and England will feature at next year’s World Cup in Russia. The Super Eagles are drawn in Group D along with Argentina, Croatia and Iceland, while England are in Group G with Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. Both countries have clashed once at this level, in November 1995, when England won 1-0 at Wembley courtesy of a David Platt headed goal. Click for detailed story

Dec 022017
 
Russia finds ?ideal? WC group

MOSCOW: Russia breathed a collective sigh of relief on Friday after avoiding Spain and looking like favourites to make it out of their group in their first home World Cup.“The ideal group,” the government-run R-Sport news agency shouted in a banner headline on its website after the State Kremlin Palace draw saw them paired with Saudi Arabia and Egypt for next year’s finals.Russia should face a sterner test in Luis Suarez’s Uruguay — the two-time World Cup winners who also have Paris Saint-Germain’s danger man Edinson Cavani.But both coaches and pundits alike were in good spirits after avoiding the potential disaster of being drawn in a “Group of Death” with sport-mad President Vladimir Putin watching on. Egypt will be spearheaded by Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah while Saudi Arabia will make their first return to the World Cup since 2006.“I think that this is a perfect — even ideal — group,” former Russia coach and three-time domestic Premier League champion Valery Gazzayev told R-Sport. The Russian Football Union’s honorary president Vyacheslav Koloskov agreed that “we got lucky with the draw”. “We should be able to handle all those teams,” he said.Russia launch their campaign to win Group A against Saudi Arabia in Moscow’s historic and completely refurbished Luzhniki Stadium in the tournament’s opening match on June 14. Click for detailed story

Nov 262017
 
Facing hurdles, Russia gears up to host WC

MOSCOW: Russia is gearing up to host the World Cup for the first time while facing the herculean task of eradicating racism and hooliganism and warding off the threat of a terror attack.Organisers also face the tricky task of appeasing beleaguered fans and President Vladimir Putin, who helped wrest the June 14-July 15 tournament from England in a controversial FIFA vote in 2010 and then gave many of the 11 host cities their first post-Soviet facelift.It is an $11.5-billion (9.6-billion-euro) gamble with the potential to backfire if it leaves behind “white elephant” stadiums and hotels that fall into disuse and fail to turn Russia into the tourism mecca it has always dreamed of being. The logistical challenge of the 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) separating the western-most stadium in Kaliningrad near Poland and the most easterly one in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg — the same distance as that between Paris and Moscow — will also test fans’ resolve.And friction between Russia and the West over Syria and Ukraine make this year’s addition of what is arguably the world’s biggest sports event one of the most diplomatically-charged World Cups in decades. The draw on Friday in the Kremlin will determine just how heated the group stage matches will be.Russian football has long been plagued by hooliganism in which “ultras” pre-arrange fights featuring everything from knives to bats, while racism has become especially pronounced with the infusion of foreign players once the Iron Curtain fell. Brazilian striker Hulk said he heard monkey [Read More…]

Nov 112017
 
Sweden stun Italy, Senegal book WC slot

STOCKHOLM, Sweden: Sweden claimed a precious 1-0 first-leg victory over Italy in their World Cup play-off here on Friday, leaving the four-time champions in danger of missing the tournament for the first time in 60 years, while Senegal defeated South Africa 2-0 in Polokwane to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Substitute Jakob Johansson grabbed the only goal of a scrappy game in the 61st minute with a low strike that found the corner with the aid of a big deflection. Gian Piero Ventura’s Italy will need to respond in Monday’s return leg at the San Siro in Milan to avoid becoming only the second Azzurri outfit to fail to reach the finals. Senegal striker Diafra Sakho opened the scoring off a pass from Sadio Mane and both were involved in the move that led to a Thamsanqa Mkhize own-goal before half-time. Victory gave Senegal an uncatchable five-point lead over Burkina Faso and Cape Verde in Group D with one round left. The only previous World Cup appearance by Senegal was in 2002 when current coach Aliou Cisse captained a team that reached the quarter-finals in South Korea and Japan. Meanwhile, Australia edged closer to a place in the 2018 World Cup finals after grinding out a hard-fought 0-0 draw with Honduras in their Asia-CONCACAF playoff. Socceroos striker Tomi Juric missed golden chances in each half as the Australians dominated a physical Honduras side without managing to find a precious away goal at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano. Nevertheless, Ange Postecoglou’s [Read More…]

Feb 192017
 
Pakistan downed by India but still secure WC berth

COLOMBO: India recorded a convincing seven-wicket triumph after bowling out Pakistan for a paltry total of 67 and qualified for the final of ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2017 here at P Sara Oval on Sunday. Pakistan were dismissed for 67 in 43.4 overs after being asked to bat by India in overcast conditions. India reached 70 for three in 22.3 overs to secure their place in the final, to be played against South Africa Women at the same venue on February 21. The win made India the only undefeated team in the tournament. Pakistan still managed to qualify for the ICC Women’s World Cup in England in June. Pakistan were bowled out for less than 100 for the first time since March 2014. Ekta Bisht’s career-best figures of 8-5 and Veda Krishnamurthy’s two excellent catches at first slip underlined the gap between the two sides in this format. Shikha Pandey was the first to strike in the seventh over when Nahida Khan cut her straight to Bisht at point. She struck in her next over again when Javeria Khan, the tournament’s highest run-getter, edged an incoming ball that swung away just enough. Veda anticipated well to take a couple of steps forward and complete a two-handed catch in front of her. India could have had their third wicket in the Power Play had either Devika Vaidya or Mansi Joshi held on to chances offered by Ayesha Zafar in the space of three balls. But Zafar wasted her luck to [Read More…]

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