Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Swiss players avoid World Cup ban for eagle celebrations

Moscow , Russia (AFP) — Switzerland players Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri and Stephan Lichtsteiner escaped bans Monday for celebrating goals with a pro-Kosovo double eagle gesture in their World Cup win over Serbia.


FIFA said Xhaka and Shaqiri would each be fined 10,000 Swiss francs (8,700 euros, US$10,000) and Lichtsteiner 5,000 Swiss francs.

Arsenal midfielder Xhaka and Stoke City's Shaqiri trace their roots to Kosovo, a former province of Serbia where thousands were killed and tens of thousands more chased from their homes during a 1998-1999 conflict between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian guerillas.

The double eagle symbol represents the Albanian flag and is viewed as a symbol of defiance in Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 in a move that Serbia still refuses to recognise.

The players' celebrations in the 2-1 win over Serbia in Kaliningrad on Friday caused outrage in Serbia.

FIFA rules prohibit political symbols in stadiums and the three players could have been banned.

But football's world governing body said it was imposing the fines “for unsporting behaviour contrary to the principles of fair play”.

Serbian Football Association president Slavisa Kokeza and Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic were each fined 5,000 Swiss francs for comments they made after the match.

Krstajic told Serbian journalists that German referee Felix Brych should be tried for war crimes in The Hague for failing to award his team a penalty.

The Serbian FA was also fined 54,000 Swiss francs for the behaviour of fans during the game — they displayed discriminatory banners and messages and threw objects.

Switzerland and Serbia can both still qualify for the last 16 of the World Cup. The Swiss face Costa Rica today, when Serbia play Brazil.

#WorldCup : Croatia 3 out of 3 and Iceland crash out - Luka Modric and Co. remain perfect to send underdogs home

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AFP) — Croatia secured first place in Group D on yesterday after a hard-fought 2-1 win over gallant Iceland in Rostov, setting up a last-16 tie with Denmark.

While most eyes were on Argentina and their do-or-die match with Nigeria in Saint Petersburg, Croatia wrapped up top spot in Group D in Rostov-on-Don thanks to a slick second-half volley by Milan Badelj and a late strike by Ivan Perisic, sandwiching a penalty equaliser by Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Croatia were already through to the last 16 and coach Zlatko Dalic rested most of the side that thumped Argentina 3-0, with only captain Luka Modric and the winger Perisic keeping their places.

Needing a point to make certain of top spot, Croatia dominated early on, with Real Madrid pair Modric and Mateo Kovacic dictating the tempo without creating clear chances.

Midway through the period it was the Nordic side, who had beaten Croatia in qualifying for Russia, who took control, threatening from set pieces and interceptions.

On 25 minutes a trademark long throw from Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson was headed dangerously across the goalmouth by the industrious Magnusson.

Everton's Sigurdsson tested Lovre Kalinic from a free kick, while Birkir Bjarnason, who suffered a nosebleed early on, had shots blocked in quick succession.

Just before the break, a drive by Alfred Finnbogasson whistled past the post. Then on the stroke of half-time Gunnarsson forced an acrobatic save from Kalinic.

Ten minutes into the second period the match turned when Fiorentina striker Milan Badelj first clipped the bar with a long-range drive, then made no mistake a minute later.

The 29-year-old got his right foot over a deflected cross and fired a superb volley wide of Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson to give Croatia the lead.

Iceland had to claim their first-ever World Cup victory to have a chance of advancing and, urged on by fans chanting their famous Viking thunderclap, almost equalised within minutes.

First, a flick-on from another Gunnarsson long throw found Sverrir Ingason, whose header was tipped over by Kalinic.

Moments later Ingason, who plays for Rostov, went even closer but his header hit the crossbar.

On 73 minutes Bjarnason fluffed a close-range opportunity but Iceland's lifeline arrived a minute later when Dejan Lovren handled a cross by Sigurdsson in the penalty area.

Sigurdsson had ballooned a penalty over the bar against Nigeria, but this time dispatched his shot into the roof of the net with Kalinic diving the wrong way.

But as Iceland strained for the winner and a berth in the last 16 it was Croatia who threatened, free kicks by Perisic and Rakitic worrying Halldorsson.

Then on 90 minutes Perisic delivered the final blow.


Sent into space on the left of the area, the Inter Milan winger blasted a shot that ended both the game and Iceland's World Cup and put Croatia through to a match against the Danes in Nizhny Novogrod on Sunday.

#WC2018: Argentina is in ! Messi, Rojo rescue Argentina from humiliating early exit


Argentina, a team that looked like it had no chance of moving on from the group stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, is back from the dead after securing a late 2-1 win over Nigeria, combined with a Croatia win over Iceland. Thanks to the two results, the South American giants finish second in Group D in what Lionel Messi and Argentina fans will remember as a small miracle. 
It wasn't a sharp showing from Argentina in a tournament where it has been very poor, but the team overcome a penalty kick equalizer from Nigeria to get a late winner from Marcos Rojo.

SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia (AFP) — Marcus Rojo's stunning finish four minutes from time kept Lionel Messi and Argentina's World Cup hopes alive to see off Nigeria 2-1 on Tuesday and set up a last 16 meeting with France.

Messi's first goal of the tournament got the two-time winners off to a perfect start in Saint Petersburg, but Victor Moses's 51st minute penalty had Jorge Sampaoli's men headed for a humiliating group stage exit until Rojo's late intervention.

The Manchester United defender, who had escaped conceding a second Nigerian penalty moments earlier after a controversial VAR review, thundered home Gabriel Mercado's cross to send the under-fire Sampaoli running down the sidelines amid wild scenes of celebration.

Messi missed a penalty in a 1-1 draw with Iceland and was largely bypassed in a 3-0 thrashing by Croatia that saw calls for Sampaoli to be sacked before their final group game.

However, Argentina avoided the abyss by the skin of their teeth to fight another day against the highly-fancied French in Kazan on Saturday.

Sampaoli made five changes from the Croatia game, with veterans of the Albiceleste's run to the final four years ago Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria returning, but it was the recall of Ever Banega in midfield that provided the launchpad for Messi.

The Sevilla playmaker was restored to bring some order to an Argentine midfield overrun by Croatia's Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric and proved his worth inside 15 minutes.


Banega's brilliant pass over the top of the Nigerian defence picked out Messi's run perfectly and, after cushioning the ball on his thigh, the five-time world player of the year erased the frustrations of his World Cup so far with an arrowed right-foot finish into the far corner.

Modric claimed Croatia "cut off Messi" in Nizhny Novgorod five nights ago, but he was back to close to his Barcelona best at the heart of all Argentina's best moves in a positive first 45 minutes.

Higuain just couldn't flick the ball beyond the onrushing Francis Uzoho from a defence splitting pass before Uzoho then tipped a Messi free-kick onto the post.

Argentina escaped just before the break when no penalty was given for Rojo's high challenge on Kelechi Iheanacho.

Nigeria felt that injustice was rectified just five minutes after the break, though, when this time Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir did point to the spot when Javier Mascherano tangled with Oghenekaro Etebo at a corner.

Moses confidently stepped up to send Franco Armani the wrong way on his international debut and Argentina back to square one.

Messi produced a magical performance in Argentina's final qualifier with a hat-trick in Ecuador just to get his country to Russia.

But he couldn't recreate those heroics as Nigerian defenders swarmed around him everytime he was hopefully shovelled the ball by Argentine team-mates.

There was further VAR controversy when Nigeria were denied a second penalty when Rojo headed onto his own arm before substitute Odion Ighalo fired wide.

Ighalo missed another glorious chance when he shot too close to Armani and Nigeria were made to pay for their profligacy from the most unlikely source.

Sergio Aguero had been thrown on from the bench to join Messi and Higuain in attack, but it was Rojo who produced a striker's finish on his weaker right foot to spark delirious scenes of celebration among the tens of thousands of Argentines in the stands.

Chief among them was legendary 1986 World Cup winning captain Diego Maradona who reacted by raising the middle finger of both hands in just his latest controversial moment as a spectator in Russia.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

#WorldCup : VAR drama as Portugal and Spain reach World Cup last 16

Moscow , Russia (AFP) — Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal and 2010 winners Spain progressed to the World Cup knockout rounds on a Monday night of high drama dominated by video assistant referee (VAR) decisions, as Uruguay pipped Russia to top spot in their group.



Spain ended up topping Group B by virtue of goals scored after an injury-time strike by Iago Aspas — confirmed by the VAR — rescued a 2-2 draw against Morocco in Kaliningrad and will take on the host nation in Moscow on Sunday.

Portugal, who finished level with Spain on five points, conceded a late penalty as Iran drew level at 1-1 and faced a heart-stopping moment as Mehdi Taremi put a shot inches wide — a goal that would have sent the European champions crashing out.

Ronaldo was at the heart of a series of VAR incidents in Saransk. First he had a penalty saved by Ali Beiranvand and was later saved by a review as Iran's players called for him to be sent off following an incident with Morteza Pouraliganji.

Furious Iran coach carlos Queiroz said Portugal Captain Ronaldo, who was booked, should have been sent off for using an elbow and lashed out against the VAR, saying it was “not going well”.

“I don't want to talk too much, it's about my country and a player. I know it'll be a war against me,” said Queiroz, who coached his native Portugal at the 2010 finals in South Africa.”

“But the reality is you stopped the game for VAR, there is an elbow,” he added. “An elbow is a red card in the rules. In the rules it doesn't say if it is (Lionel) Messi or Ronaldo.”



Relieved Spain boss Fernando Hierro, who took over as coach on the eve of the World Cup, said he knew the group was going to be tough, acknowledging his side had to tighten up.

“The first conclusion I draw is that, despite all these challenges, we ended on top. I'm looking at the silver lining,” he said.

“Obviously we can improve. Five goals in three matches is not the way forward. The players are professional, they understand the situation.”

There have now been 19 penalties taken at the 2018 World Cup — more than in any other edition of the competition.

Earlier, 10-man Russia were handed a World Cup reality check, losing 3-0 to Uruguay as the South Americans topped Group A with a perfect record.

The host nation rode a wave of national euphoria in their first two matches, sweeping aside Saudi Arabia and Egypt, despite being initially written off as no-hopers but could not keep the magic alive against the South Americans.

An early free kick from Barcelona's Luis Suarez, an own goal from Denis Cheryshev, and a late strike from Edinson Cavani sealed top spot for Uruguay, with Russia through to the knockout stages as runners-up.

“Obviously, the first few matches you're tense and don't want to make any mistakes or lose,” said man-of the-match Suarez.

“One mistake can be very expensive. Today we came to the pitch with a different attitude and perspective and that's made the pressure better. That's what we saw on the pitch.”

Disappointed Russian Coach Stanislav Cherchesov said it was better to lose heavily now than in future games, adding his players had shown nerves for the first time, but were psychologically prepared for the knockout stages.

“The outcome is very simple. We did what we had to do,” he said. “But you cannot start a game of this level with such a mistake — we gave up a goal.

“Uruguay then started playing their type of football. And then we got a red card.”

In the other match in Group A, Saudi Arabia beat Mohamed Salah's Egypt 2-1 in a match-up of two eliminated sides in Volgograd but the main talking point was Egypt goalkeeper Essam el-Hadary becoming the oldest player ever to appear in a World Cup.

El Hadary, 45 years and 161 days old, smashed the record set by Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who was aged 43 years and three days when he played against Japan in Brazil in 2014.

The veteran goalkeeper produced a stunning save from a Fahad al-Muwallad penalty after Salah had given Egypt the lead with his second World Cup goal, but could not keep out another spot kick by Salman al-Faraj in first-half injury time.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

#WorldCup : Crazy Ronaldo hat-trick as Portugal and Spain draw 3-3 - Unbelievable match

Crazy draw as Cristiano Ronaldo becomes oldest to score World Cup hat trick
This means, of course, that Iran is in first place in Group B

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a dramatic hat-trick against Spain on Friday, bringing Portugal level at 3-3 in the dying minutes of their Group B clash in Sochi.

The Real Madrid forward opened his account with an early penalty before scoring again just before half-time. He completed his hat-trick with a magnificent strike from a free-kick in the 88th minute.

It was one of the most talked about matchups of the group stage. And we got one of the most entertaining World Cup matches in recent memory. In Group B, Spain and Portugal played out a wild six-goal thriller, with the teams drawing 3-3. Spain overcame a 2-1 deficit to take the lead in the second half before Cristiano Ronaldo completed his hat trick with a crazy late free-kick goal.  

Here's how it went down. 

Just four minutes into the game, Ronaldo tricked the referee into awarding a penalty kick on a non-foul from Nacho, and he put it away:


He draws the penalty and buries it to give Portugal an early 1-0 lead against Spain. #PORESP


Then 20 minutes later, Spain drew level with an absolutely wonderful goal from Diego Costa, who made some moves and found some space for a low rifle:


Then again, 20 minutes later, it was Ronaldo again, who put a shot on frame that David De Gea could not handle, with the first major goalkeeper blunder of the World Cup:


But again Spain had an answer. Ten minutes into the second half, it was Costa again, finishing off a beautifully-executed set piece in front of goal:

Spain's training-ground free kick ends up in the back of the net thanks to Busquets and Costa. 👏👏

Then, another quick punch. As Spain was dominating, it got another goal from Nacho who produced a delicious hit into the corner off the post three minutes later:



The defender makes up for his early mistake with a beauty to put Spain ahead 3-2.

But the last laugh would go to Ronaldo. Becoming the oldest player to score a hat trick in World Cup history, the 33-year-old got the equalizer in the 87th minute with an out-of-this-world free kick that left De Gea frozen:


Iran is in first place in Group B with three points. What a world. And so far, what a World Cup.

Friday, June 15, 2018

#WorldCup : Hosts Russia thrash Saudi Arabia 5-0 in opening match in a goal spree

Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia: World Cup hosts start the party with convincing win led by a pair of subs
Russia made easy work of Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Moscow.

MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Host nation Russia thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match of the World Cup to start their tournament in style in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday.

Iury Gazinsky opened the scoring with a header after 12 minutes, Denis Cheryshev added a second before Artem Dzyuba got the third in the 71st minute.

Cheryshev added a fourth with a superb finish before Golovin curled in a superb free-kick in injury time as President Vladimir Putin watched on in delight.

Russia (4-2-3-1)

Igor Akinfeev (capt); Mario Fernandes, Ilya Kupetov, Sergey Ignashevich, Yury Zhirkov; Iury Gazinsky, Roman Zobnin; Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Golovin, Alexander Samedov; Fedor Smolov
Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov (RUS)

Saudi Arabia (4-5-1)

Abdullah Al-Muaiouf; Osama Hawsawi (capt), Omar Hawsawi, Mohammed Al-Burayk, Yasser Al-Shahrani; Salman Al-Faraj, Yahia Al-Shehri, Abdullah Otayf, Taiseer Al-Jassam, Salem Al-Dawsari; Mohammed Al-Sahlawi
Coach: Juan Antonio Pizzi (ESP)
Referee: Nestor Pitana (ARG)

Monday, April 23, 2018

RASHID, TAMIM AND SHAKIB CONFIRMED FOR ICC WORLD XI TEAM

Top-ranked bowler Rashid Khan of Afghanistan and Bangladesh stars Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal have confirmed their participation for the ICC World XI which will play a Twenty20 International against the Windies at Lord’s on 31 May.



Rashid, who is ranked number one on the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Player Rankings and is second in the list of One Day International bowlers, will be one of many big names to watch in the Lord’s match, which is being organised to raise funds for stadia in the Caribbean which were damaged due to hurricanes last year.



Shakib, the top-ranked all-rounder in ODIs and third in T20Is, and left-handed opener Tamim also come in with huge reputations and Bangladesh fans would be following their fortunes with interest. The trio joins three other Asians who have already confirmed for the match – Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik and Thisara Perera of Sri Lanka.



More big names are likely to be confirmed in the coming days for the ICC World XI side, which is being led by England’s limited overs captain Eoin Morgan.



Rashid Khan said: “It is a matter of great honour and pride for me and my country that I have been chosen to support one of cricket’s oldest and most loyal members. I don’t think it will be incorrect to say that a number of cricketers from this and previous generations were inspired and attracted to cricket due to the heroics of the West Indies sides of the 70s, 80s and 90s. And if the West Indies are now looking upon us for help, then there shouldn’t be a hesitation for even a second.



“Apart from my cricket obligations and responsibilities, the incentive of playing in this great match at the Home of Cricket at the age of 19, with and against some of the best cricketers of this generation, is just too tempting, irresistible and an icing on the cake.



“I urge all cricket fans and supporters to join hands with the match organisers and the players in making 31 May a hugely successful day so that the funds raised from this match can be reinvested into cricket that, in turn, will not only bring the smiles back on the faces of local cricket supporters but will also lead to the resumption of cricket activities in those regions.”



Tamim Iqbal said: “Cricket is a sport which unites people, bridges gaps, and in which players and teams support each other. This match is a testament to this statement and I am delighted to have been chosen to once again represent the ICC World XI for a cause which will only make cricket a bigger and better sport.



“The West Indies’ contribution to the global game is unmatched and unparalleled, and if the cricket fraternity can get together to play a small role in the rebuilding of their damaged venues following last year’s hurricanes, then this is a very small price with hugely positive results.



“Playing at Lord’s is itself a great honour for any cricketer. My only international appearance there was in 2010, so I look forward to reliving those memories. Playing with and against some of the best cricketers of this era will only make this occasion better and more memorable.”



The Windies, reigning ICC World Twenty20 champions, are being led by Carlos Brathwaite and the side includes other top names like Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Samuel Badree and Andre Russell.



The tickets for the match are available at https://tickets.lords.org/ with all proceeds going towards rebuilding and renovating five major venues as well as other community cricket facilities that were damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.



The venues that will benefit include the Ronald Webster Park in Anguilla, the Sir Viv Richards Stadium in Antigua, the Windsor Park Stadium in Dominica, the A.O. Shirley Recreation Ground in the British Virgin Islands and the Carib Lumber Ball Park in St. Maarten.
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