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Monday, August 21, 2017

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WE MUST NOT UNDERESTIMATE ANYBODY

WE MUST NOT UNDERESTIMATE ANYBODY

Spain begin as bookmakers’ favourites to win Euro 2012 on the back of their Euro 2008 triumph and recent World Cup win, but they will have to make history as no team has ever retained the European Championship.

However, the current Spain side have got used to making history, topping the world rankings for the first time in 2008 and then equalling Brazil’s 35-match unbeaten run, including 15 straight wins, over a period of 28 months.

Spain also became the first team to win the World Cup after losing their first match, having fallen to a shock 1-0 loss against Switzerland.

Coach Vicente del Bosque said after the World Cup final win over the Netherlands that Spain were still an emerging force and the current, youthful generation could certainly go on to create a dynasty.

“This group is very humble and modest and the World Cup success draws from what we did in 2008,” said del Bosque.

“Almost all the players in the current squad will remain available (for the Euro 2012 finals and 2014 World Cup) and there are also younger guys pushing for a place.”

Barcelona trio Sergi Busquets, 22, Pedro Rodriguez, 23, and Gerard Pique, 23 — along with Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas, 23 — are still at the beginning of their careers, while Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres, both 26, are reaching their peak.

Liverpool forward Torres, the scorer of the winning goal in the Euro 2008 final, was only half-fit for the 2010 World Cup so, in theory, Spain should be even stronger at Euro 2012.

The world champions still need to qualify but begin the qualifying campaign as strong favourites to win Group I, which also contains the Czech Republic, Scotland, Liechtenstein and Lithuania.

“We must not underestimate anybody,” warned del Bosque. “Everybody wants to win and we must be aware that we represent a country that is the world champion.

“We may start the group as favourites, given that we’re ranked number one in the world right now, but things can change once you’re on the pitch.”

Spain begin with a trip to face minnows Liechtenstein in Vaduz on Friday in their first competitive match since their World Cup triumph in Johannesburg on July 11.

Spain had a flawless qualifying record for the World Cup with a perfect 10 wins and incredibly have only lost twice — to the United States at the 2009 Confederations Cup and then against Switzerland at the World Cup — since November 2006.

The world champions have played some marvellous football, with their excellent passing game helping them to dominate opponents, and the only real criticism has been their inability to win games by a bigger margin.

At the World Cup finals Spain were 1-0 specialists, beating Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and the Netherlands by that scoreline in the knockout stages of the competition.

But with Torres back fit to link up with new Barcelona striker David Villa, who top-scored with five goals at the World Cup, Spain should have more firepower as they bid to secure early qualification for 2012 and then try to become the first European side to win three successive major titles.

MILAN VS LECCE

MILAN VS LECCE

AC Milan, third last term, had new recruit Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the San Siro stands and the former Inter Milan striker applauded when Alexandre Pato slammed in a 16th minute opener.

Swede Ibrahimovic was unavailable to new coach Massimiliano Allegri as he has not yet completed the formalities of his move from Barcelona but Milan did not need him as a promoted Lecce chased shadows.

Thiago Silva soon bundled in a corner and Pato netted again on 28 minutes by rounding the goalkeeper after a shrewd pass from Ronaldinho. Filippo Inzaghi made it four late on.

Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi, whose opinion on tactics led to coach Leonardo’s exit at the end of last term, put former Cagliari boss Allegri under immediate pressure before kickoff.

“It’s clear that with this squad Allegri has to win,” said the Italian Prime Minister, whose side’s last scudetto was in 2004.

Juve lost 1-0 at Bari as their problems from last term were again exposed despite a

spending spree.

First-half substitute Massimo Donati blasted in for Bari with his left foot from outside the area two minutes before the break.

Juve, Italy’s most successful domestic club who finished a poor seventh last term, have already been in competitive action this season in Europa League qualifiers but still struggled.

Injuries meant Juve gave a start to striker Fabio Quagliarella, who signed from Napoli on Friday, as well as league debuts to six other new recruits who failed to gel.

“Clearly we have a lot to do,” new coach Luigi Del Neri told Sky TV. “It will be a difficult season because everyone will battle especially hard against us.”

Soccer’s never ending de-bate over the use of technology was fuelled by debutant Edinson Cavani giving Napoli the lead at Fiorentina despite replays showing his early header bounced off the bar on to the line, not over it.

Gaetano D’Agostino’s rocket grabbed a 1-1 draw for the hosts before both sides finished with 10 men.

Sampdoria, knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers in midweek, beat Lazio 2-0 while Sicily’s Palermo drew 0-0 with Sardinia’s Cagliari.

On Saturday, last season’s runners-up AS Roma drew 0-0 with promoted Cesena.

Champions Inter Milan, hurt by Friday’s European Super Cup defeat by Atletico Madrid, visit managerless Bologna on Monday as Serie A completes its first round of matches as a breakaway division from the rest of the league.

RESULTS
Bari 1 (Donati 43) Juventus 0

AC Milan 4 (Pato 16, 28, Thiago Silva 23, Inzaghi 90) Lecce 0

Chievo 2 (Moscardelli 14, Pellissier 83-pen) Catania 1 (Ricchiuti 22)

Fiorentina 1 (D’Agostino 50) Napoli 1 (Casani 7)

Palermo 0 Cagliari 0

Parma 2 (Bojinov 11, Morrone 45) Brescia 0

Sampdoria 2 (Cassano 60-pen, Guberti 71) Lazio 0

LEWIS DID A GREAT JOB…….

LEWIS DID A GREAT JOB…….

The 2008 champion, in his McLaren, took the lead at the start and then controlled the 44-laps race through two safety car periods and some perilous weather conditions on his way to victory.It was his first win in Belgium, his third win this season and the 15th of his career in his 64th Grand Prix.

It not only boosted his title hopes but also made up for his disappointment in 2008 when, after finishing first, he was deprived of victory by a controversial stewards’ decision.

Hamilton rode his luck when he had to in the capricious conditions and came home a clear winner, 1.5 seconds ahead of Australian Mark Webber of Red Bull and 3.4 beyond third-placed Pole Robert Kubica.

The only scare for the Briton was when he slithered off into the gravel in the closing stages.

A thrilled Hamilton said: “It was a great weekend, a very tough race for me, the same for everyone.

“I was praying it would be a race that would go smoothly, but then the rain came late on and I locked my wheels at turn eight, but thankfully I got away with it.

“We didn’t know what to expect, but fortunately I got round and changed the tyres — it was probably the best one this year.

“Again fortunately it didn’t rain any more, and in the end it was about nursing the car home, making sure it stayed in one piece and bagging the points.

“I’m very proud of the job the team did, and I’m so glad to be here.”

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh reflected: “Lewis drove a fantastic race. There was just one excursion which was a little heart stopping but apart from that he was in command right from the start.”

Webber, who fought back after dropping to sixth after a poor start, paid tribute to his arch rival.

“Lewis did a great job,” said the Australian.

Explaining his slow getaway he reported: “I had a big bump on the formation lap, and although we altered the clutch, it was worse at the start.

“Once you have a micro-problem there it’s massively exaggerated by the performance of the other guys.

“After that it was a pretty mixed-up race, so I’m happy with second in the end.

Hamilton now has 182 points and leads the championship ahead of Webber, who began the day as the leader, now second on 179 points.

German Sebastian Vettel, Webber’s Red Bull teammate, remains third on 151 points after failing to score along with two other title hopefuls — defending champion Jenson Button, in the second McLaren, and two-times champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.

Vettel finished 15th after an impetuous drive filled with incident during which he crashed into the luckless Button and sent the Englishman into retirement in a controversial accident after 17 laps.

Alonso, who struggled in the conditions, also retired after spinning his car out at Malmedy in the third heavy rain shower of a contest riddled with chaotic moments.

MOHAMMAD AAMER TOOK SIX WICKETS FOR 47 RUNS

MOHAMMAD AAMER TOOK SIX WICKETS FOR 47 RUNS

England were 185 for seven at tea — having been 47 for five — after the 18-year-old Aamer, in his 14th match at this level, had become the youngest bowler to take 50 Test wickets.

Their total owed much to Trott’s well-made 77 not out during an innings where most of the England top-order failed to cope with the swinging ball.Trott found a useful ally in Stuart Broad (46 not out).

England’s eighth-wicket pair had so far added an unbroken 83, with Broad, who bats left-handed, driving stylishly through the offside and hooking Aamer for six.

Left-arm quick Aamer transformed England’s overnight 39 for one into 47 for five with a dramatic spell of four wickets for no runs in eight balls.

That haul saw him rip through England’s middle-order, with Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan — the Nos 4, 5 and 6 respectively — all dismissed by Aamer for nought.

England were 97 for five at lunch but soon afterwards they were 102 for seven as Aamer took two wickets for no runs in three balls.

Matt Prior, who helped Trott add 55 for the sixth wicket was caught behind by Kamran Akmal for 22 and Graeme Swann well held low in the gully by Azhar Ali for the fourth duck of the innings.

Nevertheless, Trott retained his composure to compile a 90-ball fifty with seven fours.

Pakistan, looking to square the series at 2-2 after victory at The Oval last week, did not have long to wait for a breakthrough on Friday after bad weather meant only 12.3 overs were possible on Thursday.

Aamer squared up Oval centurion Alastair Cook off Friday’s third ball and the left-handed opener was caught behind for 10.

ENGLAND : FIRST INNINGS 39 FOR 1

ENGLAND : FIRST INNINGS 39 FOR 1

England were 39 for one for at tea after rain had washed out the entire morning session before bad light then stopped the match in only the 13th over.

Cook, dropped on one, was 10 not out and Jonathan Trott eight not out with England 2-1 up in this series after Pakistan’s four-wicket win across London at The Oval last week.

It was no surprise when Pakistan captain Salman Butt opted to field first in after winning the toss in the kind of overcast conditions that have troubled batsmen on both sides all series.

Poor catching has hampered Pakistan throughout this series and their 18th dropped effort in four Tests — a remarkable and damning statistic by international standards — was one of their worst.

England were on seven in the third over, when Cook was drawn into a defensive edge outside off-stump by left-arm quick Mohammad Aamer only for third slip Umar Akmal to drop the seemingly straightforward two-handed chance, much to the teenage bowler’s evident and understandable disgust.

Next ball Cook added to Aamer’s frustrations by edging him unconvincingly through the slip cordon for four.

Pakistan thought they had Cook caught behind off Aamer for nine, with England on 25.

Billy Bowden eventually gave Cook only for the Essex batsman, fresh from a century at The Oval to refer the decision.

Bowden, after replays indicated Cook had missed the ball, reversed his original verdict.

But Pakistan had the wicket their new-ball pair deserved when Mohammad Asif produced a superb full-length delivery that swung in a touch to bowl left-hander Strauss for 13 and leave England 31 for one in the 12th over.

Strauss has now gone over a year without a Test century and he may only have one more chance to end that run, should England bat again at Lord’s, before England begin their defence of the Ashes in Australia starting in November.

Although the Lord’s floodlights were on, Bowden and fellow New Zealand umpire Tony Hill halted the match midway through the 13th over after it appeared players were having difficulty seeing the red ball out of the otherwise dark background.

INDIA WON BY 105 RUNS

INDIA WON BY 105 RUNS

India, with 10 points from four matches, will clash with Sri Lanka (11 from four) in the final on Saturday. New Zealand finished their league engagements with seven points.

Paceman Kumar finished with 3-34 as New Zealand, chasing a 224-run target, were shot out for 118 in 30.1 overs — their lowest total against India in one-day internationals.

India were indebted to Sehwag for posting a competitive total as the hard-hitting opener cracked one six and 16 fours in a 93-ball 110 for his 13th one-day hundred.

India virtually wrapped up the match when they sent New Zealand struggling at 22-4 in the ninth over, with Kumar taking three wickets.

Tail-ender Kyle Mills hammered an entertaining 52 for his second half-century in one-dayers, but his knock came too late to stop India from the winning the match.

Mills hit three sixes and seven fours in his 35-ball knock.

Kane Williamson (13), Grant Elliott (11) and Tim Southee (10) were the others to reach double-figures in New Zealand’s disappointing batting performance.

Fast bowlers Munaf Patel (3-21) and Ashish Nehra (2-10) were India’s other main wicket-takers.

New Zealand paceman Southee (4-49) and off-spinner Nathan McCullum (3-35) earlier shared seven wickets to bowl India out for a modest total despite Sehwag’s century.

India were tottering at 66-4 in 13 overs after electing to bat when Sehwag propped up the innings with a 107-run stand for the fifth wicket with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (38).

Southee, Mills (2-42) and Andy McKay (1-31) tested the Indian batsmen with pace and bounce in their lively opening spells to help New Zealand seize the early initiative.

Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina all failed to reach double-figures.

Southee took two wickets while Mills and McKay grabbed one apiece before Sehwag and Dhoni steadied the innings with their sensible knocks.

Although wickets fell at regular intervals from one end, Sehwag kept playing attacking strokes from the other and raced to his half-century off 41 balls when he hit seamer Scott Styris through the covers for his ninth four.

Sehwag then hit McCullum for a straight six and a four through the covers off successive deliveries. He took 46 more balls to complete his century, with a single off spinner Williamson.

The Indian opener fell playing shots, caught at deep mid-wicket by Bradley-John Watling off McCullum in the 33rd over.

McCullum struck again when he had Dhoni caught by wicket-keeper Gareth Hopkins, who took four catches.

I NEVER THINK ABOUT THAT……..WOZNIACKI

I NEVER THINK ABOUT THAT……..WOZNIACKI

Wozniacki is ranked second in the world and, with No. 1 Serena Williams out with an injury, likely will be the top seed when the US Open starts August 31. The 20-year-old is seeking her first Grand Slam title.

“I never think about that — I just try to win every match,” she said. “We’ll have to see what happens. Right now, I want to enjoy winning this tournament. It gives me a lot of confidence to win a tournament like this — it’s a huge tournament.”

The Rogers Cup final was held a day late after a weekend of relentless rain.

Zvonareva, a Wimbledon finalist, was clearly off her game. The eighth-seeded Russian at times let out shrieks after misfiring on routine shots. Wozniacki’s groundstrokes, meanwhile, were hitting the lines with their usual sharpness.

She picked up her third title of the year, after wins at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and at her home tournament in Copenhagen.

“I did what I had to do,” said Wozniacki, a first-time Rogers Cup champion.

Leading 5-3 in the first set, Wozniacki fell behind 0-40. But she responded with five straight points to close the set.

After breaking serve for a 5-2 lead in the second, Wozniacki wrapped it up with four straight points on her serve, gave a little fist pump and walked up to shake hands with her opponent.

Wozniacki took the 350,000-dollar winner’s prize while Zvonareva got 175,000 dollars.

The semifinals were played in the morning. Wozniacki beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-3, and Zvonareva advanced when her opponent, 10th-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, retired with a blister on her left foot. Zvonareva led 7-6, 1-0.

Trainers worked on Azarenka’s foot for several minutes. She got up and tried to walk, but immediately sat back down.

She said the injury was not severe enough to keep her out of the US Open.

“I don’t see how I got a blister after sitting on my [rear end] for two days,” said Azarenka, who was in tears as she spoke to reporters after the match. “I tried to deal with it, but I couldn’t continue.”

Wozniacki and the 11th-seeded Kuznetsova completed a semifinal that began Saturday and was stopped due to rain with Wozniacki leading 2-0, 0-15.

Zvonareva played her semifinal on the National Bank Court, a smaller venue adjacent to Centre Court, contributing to her problems in the final.

“It was a different court, different conditions,” she said. “It was difficult to keep my concentration. I was preparing to play Victoria for two days and they have absolutely different styles. In the final, I was still playing shots I would use in the semifinals. My head was not in the final.”

FEDERER WON HIS SECOND ATP CINCINNATI MASTERS CROWN IN A ROW ON SUNDAY

FEDERER WON HIS SECOND ATP CINCINNATI MASTERS CROWN IN A ROW ON SUNDAY

The Swiss superstar, who is bidding for a 17th Grand Slam crown when the US Open begins on August 30, matched Bjorn Borg for fifth on the all-time Open Era title list and captured his fourth Cincinnati crown after 2005, 2007 and 2009.

“I have been playing well the last couple of weeks and today was just another proof that I’m playing really well,” Federer said.

Federer captured his first title since the Australian Open and served notice he will be difficult to defeat at the US Open, where he lost last year’s final to Juan Martin del Potro, who will not defend his title because of an injury.

“It’s nice knowing the hard work in the off-season after Wimbledon pays off right away,” Federer said. “I’ve been committed to this sport for many years and when you do that and give yourself over and over again, you will break through by winning tournaments again.

“I was maybe playing a little bit too passive. Now I’m taking it to the opponents again. I’m hoping that that’s the right game plan right now.”

Federer used a steady serve and consistent back-line work to allow only one break chance for Fish.

“I was really consistent on my serve,” Federer said. “I had the upper hand from the baseline. He had to start taking chances.

“This is how tennis used to be played coming up — big serves, some volleys. It was played on a couple points here and there. I hung tough and made him work hard and was able to come across the finish line faster.”

Wildcard entrant Fish, who had won recent titles in Newport and Atlanta, fired 17 aces but failed in his bid to become the first unseeded champion in the event, the final major tuneup for the year’s last Grand Slam tournament.

“I played well. He played well. It was a pretty high level for the most part,” Fish said. “In two matches he has broken me only one time in five sets, so I have played really well against him the past couple of times.”

Federer’s victory kept Fish, 28, from reaching a career-high 16th in the rankings but the American will still rise considerably from 36th where he began the week.

“I feel great. I’ve done some things I’ve never done before,” Fish said. “It was a great tournament. It’s as well as I’ve played.”

Fish netted a backhand on the first break-point chance of the third set to hand Federer a 5-4 lead and the Swiss third seed held serve for the victory, which came after two hours and 40 minutes when Fish sent a backhand wide.

Fish denied Federer on four break points in the first set without ever managing to get one against the Swiss star, but came through in the tie-breaker when it mattered most to claim the opening set.

Federer smacked a forehand winner for a 5-4 lead, but Fish answered with an overhead smash, achieved a set point when Federer netted a backhand and took the set after 67 minutes with a service winner.

“I played well the whole match. The first set was the one I really should have won and ended up losing,” Federer said. “It was a close match, could have gone either way.”

Fish managed a break point in the fifth game of the second set but sent a forehand beyond the baseline on the way to another tie-breaker.

BALOTELLI’S STARTING………

BALOTELLI’S STARTING………

Mario Balotelli who joined City from Inter Milan last week for around 29 million euros, started on the bench before coming on as a 57th minute substitute for Gareth Barry in Thursday night’s match.

In the 72nd minute, moments after Yaya Toure had hit the post, Balotelli capitalised on some fine work by Emmanuel Adebayor to fire the ball into the top corner.

City boss Roberto Mancini was full of praise for Balotelli as the English side got an important away win.

“He had a great debut and I am happy that he scored. He is a good player,” said the Italian.

“He needs to improve of course and get to know everybody. It was the first time he had played with the team.”

Balotelli, however, picked up a yellow card after losing his cool and was warned by Mancini not to repeat his actions in England.

“We must work on this with him because it will be different in the Premier League than in Italy,” said Mancini.

Balotelli needed treatment at the end of the game but should be ready to face Liverpool at home on Monday.

Mancini said: “We do not think it is serious. It was probably just a kick, it is not a problem.”

But Mancini insisted that the tie was not over and there was still work to be done at Eastlands.

“Football is strange. When you think you can win easy, you must have maximum concentration.”

There was good news for the other English teams in action as well with Ryan Babel’s goal on the stroke of half-time giving Liverpool a 1-0 win over Turkey’s Trabzonspor.

Roy Hodgson’s side should have had more but Christian Poulsen had a goal disallowed and Joe Cole missed a penalty.

Aston Villa shrugged off the recent departures of coach Martin O’Neill and star midfielder James Milner to grab a useful 1-1 draw against Rapid Vienna in Austria.

Villa made an excellent start when winger Marc Albrighton crossed for Barry Bannan to tap home from close range in the 12th minute.

The home side hit back though to level just after the half hour when Atdhe Nuhiu glanced in Steffen Hofman’s cross.

Scottish sides had a mixed evening. Celtic took a valuable 2-0 lead from their first leg game against Utrecht in Glasgow.

The Bhoys opened the scoring in the 19th minute through Mexican midfielder Efrain Juarez before Greece striker Giorgos Samaras fired in the second in the 34th.

Neil Lennon’s team were unable to add any more after the break but will be happy to have a handy cushion heading back to the Netherlands.

The two other Scottish sides in action both lost, however. Dundee United were beaten 1-0 at home by Greek side AEK Athens – Algerian striker Raffik Djebbour netting the only goal of the game – while a late effort from Tom Hately threw Motherwell a lifeline as they went down 2-1 at Odense in Denmark.

Veteran German midfielder Michael Ballack made his first appearance for new club Bayer Leverkusen since his summer move from Chelsea.

Coming on in the second half, Ballack, who missed the World Cup because of an ankle injury, scored from the penalty spot in Leverkusen’s comfortable 3-0 win over the Ukrainians of Simferopol.

Juventus needed a last gasp winner from Amauri to sneak a 2-1 win at Sturm Graz in Austria.

French Cup winners Paris St Germain cruised to a 2-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv while Lille were held to a goalless draw at Romanian side Vaslui.

Russian side Sibir Novosibirsk collected a notable scalp as they beat PSV Eindhoven 1-0. Both sides were down to 10 men by half time with the winner coming two minutes into added time at the end of the game through Aleksandr Degtyarev.

Another Russian side CSKA Moscow all but booked their passage to the group stage with a 4-0 home win over Cypriot outfit Anorthosis Famagusta, as did Spanish club Villarreal with a 5-0 home win over Dnepr Mogilev of Belarus.

MESUT OZIL IS SIGNING IN THE REAL MADRID

MESUT OZIL IS SIGNING IN THE REAL MADRID

The 21-year-old quit the Bundesliga for Real on Tuesday when he signed a deal estimated to be worth 18 million euros (23.2 million US dollars).

Real’s squad boasts the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, but the Spanish media have already dubbed him the ‘German Zidane’ and Ozil is flattered by the comparison with his French idol.

“The comparison is very flattering, but it suits me, because Zidane has always been a role model for me,” said Ozil.

“As a little boy, I would admire his tricks on TV and try to reproduce them on the pitch.”

The Real star Zidane retired in 2006 after being sent off in the World Cup final, but Ozil wants to walk in his footsteps by lifting the Champions League title.

Ozil has come to the Spanish capital to win more silverware, having already toured the Bernabeu Stadium and seen the Spanish giants’ impressive trophy collection.

“Whether it’s the championship or Champions League, we want to win everything,” said Ozil.

“The team has enormous potential. I moved to Madrid to pick up titles.

“We have a strong team, I’m hungry for success.”

Ozil says a major reason behind his decision to move to Real was the impression left on him by Madrid’s new coach.

“(It is) because of the manager Jose Mourinho,” he said.

“For me, he’s the best in the world and I wanted to work under him.

“The conversation with him was crucial. Mourinho wanted me, he made that clear. And this is why I’m at Real now.”

Ozil says he has no concerns about joining star-studded Real, where reputations count for nothing.

Stars like Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder were both sold by Real last year, but went on to dazzle for Bayern Munich and Inter Milan respectively, but Ozil says he has no worries about failing to impress in Madrid.

“I have competitive pressure at Werder and in the German national team,” he said.

“Real stands for world-class players like Ronaldo and Kaka, but I’m not afraid of them.”

Ozil will link up with fellow rising Germany star Sami Khedira.

“Before my move, I called him, he raved about Real. I am pleased that he is here.”

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