Japan Embrace Rugby World Cup Pressure

People walk past a banner promoting the upcoming Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup in Kobe on September 17, 2019.

 

Japan are learning to live with the pressure of being World Cup hosts as they prepare for their tournament curtain raiser against Russia this week, flanker Pieter Labuschagne said Tuesday.

The Brave Blossoms have gone into very few World Cup matches as favourites down the years, but are expected to beat a Russian team smashed 85-15 by Italy in a recent warm-up.

With the eyes of the world on them, Labuschagne promised Japan would rise to the occasion in Tokyo on Friday.

“We’ve been working a really long time towards the World Cup and it’s going to be a special event,” said the Pretoria-born Labuschagne.

“Whether we’re favourites I don’t think it makes any difference,” he added. “We set our goals out before the World Cup and we know exactly what’s expected and what we need to do.

“Pressure makes you feel alive and brings out the best in you — hopefully we can show that on Friday night.”

Scrum coach Shin Hasegawa also shrugged off any fears of Japan cracking under the strain this week.

“Everyone will be feeling the pressure,” he shrugged, admitting he was more concerned with staying in the good books of match referee Nigel Owens.

“It’s a World Cup: England, New Zealand, South Africa — they will all be feeling it. Obviously it’s how we react that counts.”

Once tournament pushovers, Japan famously stunned two-time champions South Africa in their opening fixture four years ago on England’s south coast before producing further victories over Samoa and the United States under Eddie Jones.

 ‘Physical battle’ 

Current coach Jamie Joseph has targeted a first-ever place in the quarter-finals, but to achieve that Japan will likely have to topple Scotland in Pool A, which also involves Samoa and Ireland, the world’s top-ranked team.

“We have an important first step this weekend,” said Labuschagne, refusing to look past a hulking Russian side who gave Japan a scare in a narrow 32-27 win last November.

“It’s going to be a physical battle against Russia. They’re a good team and it’s about absorbing their pressure and trying to apply some of our own.”

If Joseph, who will be without winger Kenki Fukuoka with a calf strain, has looked a little fraught since a thumping 41-7 defeat by the Springboks earlier this month, his players were displaying no such signs of stress.

“I just want to play the game,” growled Tongan-born lock Isileli Nakajima, flashing a gold-toothed smile.

“I don’t take Russia lightly — they’re as big as South Africa, so we will have to show them the same respect.”

Nakajima at least will be one of the most recognisable players at the World Cup, having raised a few eyebrows by bleaching his hair and beard blond.

“I like it, my friends tell me it looks good,” grinned the 30-year-old, who has been delighting Japan fans by following them back on social media.

“If someone follows me on Instagram I’ll follow them back — all it takes is a push of a button. It proves I’m not fake!”

AFP

FIBA World Cup: US Suffer Shock Defeat To France

The USA Basketball Men’s National Team huddles up during shoot around at the Dongguan Basketball Center on September 11, 2019 in Dongguan, China. AFP

 

France blew the Basketball World Cup wide open Wednesday by handing the United States their first loss in the competition in 13 years in their quarterfinal clash, powered by a double-double from big man Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.

The historic 89-79 win for France eliminates the Americans early from the competition in China, dashing their hopes of a third straight title.

The prospect of an American exit had looked increasingly possible after the USA sent a squad of second-tier stars and the loss is likely to prompt soul-searching in USA basketball.

Gobert, the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, had three blocks, including a key rejection down the stretch to help France seal the victory in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan.

The 7ft, 1in centre called the win “unbelievable”.

“I’ve been dreaming about this for a while. I was thinking we might never get the opportunity (to beat the USA) again and I told that to the guys,” Gobert said.

“It doesn’t mean much if you don’t win the gold, but it will go down as one of the biggest wins of my career and one of the biggest wins for French basketball for sure.”

In a hint of the sniping that may result in the United States over the debacle, shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, who lead the Americans with 29 points, hit back at critics of the team.

“You guys are going to go on and say who we didn’t have but why don’t you all focus on who we do have?” he told reporters.

“We have 12 guys that want to compete for America, just like every other country. It sucks that some of our country people don’t feel that way about us, but we don’t care. We wanted to compete and we did.”

France will play Argentina on Friday, who made it to the final four by defeating Serbia.

 Consolation match 

The USA loss sets up an enticing consolation match with Serbia on Thursday. Packed with NBA players, the two were tournament favourites and will be trying to salvage pride.

Wednesday’s contest was marked by big lead changes, and Mitchell’s jumpers and slashing moves to the basket helped the Americans cut down a 10-point French advantage in the third quarter to seize back the lead.

But Mitchell cooled in the fourth and the French came back, led by Gobert and sharp-shooting small forward Evan Fournier of the Orlando Magic, who led France in scoring with 22 points.

Fournier slashed to the hoop for a driving lay-up to give France the lead again at 78-76 with about three minutes remaining in the game.

With under a minute left and down by four, Mitchell squirted into the lane for a layup but Gobert smothered the shot by his Jazz teammate and the Americans were never able to get any closer.

The win raises the prospect of France adding a Basketball World Cup title to the football World Cup hardware they won in Russia last year.

They will first have to get past Argentina. In the other bracket, Spain will face the winner of Australia-Czech Republic, who tipped off later Wednesday.

The writing was on the wall for the United States which, lacking big names like LeBron James and Steph Curry, lost to Australia two weeks ago in an exhibition.

The loss in Melbourne was the first for the United States in 78 consecutive games in major competitions and exhibition games.

They also struggled to defeat Turkey in overtime earlier in the World Cup.

AFP

Nwora Releases D’tigers Final Roster For FIBA World Cup

Source: D’Tigers Twitter

 

D’tigers Coach, Alex Nwora has released the final roster of 12 players that will represent Nigeria at the FIBA basketball world cup in China.

The team is headlined by Captain Ike Diogu, Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard, Josh Okogie, Orlando Magic Forward, Al-Farouq Aminu and China-based Ekpe Udoh.

Others are; Jordan Nwora, Vincent Nnamdi, Chimezie Metu of the San Antonio Spurs, Ike Iroegbu, Michael Eric, Ben Uzoh, Zanna Talib And Stanley Okoye.

D’tigers are in Group B along with Russia, Argentina and South Korea for basketball’s biggest event.

They will begin their campaign against the Russians on August 31.

World Cup Winner Rami Signs For Fenerbahce

FILES) In this file photo taken on July 19, 2017 Olympique de Marseille’s new French defender Adil Rami holds a press conference, in Marseille, southeastern France. ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / AFP

French defender Adil Rami, part of his country’s World Cup-winning squad last year, has signed for Fenerbahce following his sacking by Marseille, the Turkish club announced on Tuesday.

The 33-year-old has signed a one-year contract with the Istanbul outfit which includes the option of a second season, Fenerbahce said in a statement.

The move comes just two weeks after Rami was sacked by Marseille, reportedly for “gross misconduct” following a disciplinary procedure.

Sports daily L’Equipe, citing a letter sent by Marseille to Rami, said he had been sacked after he skipped training to take part in a TV reality show.

The former partner of Canadian actor Pamela Anderson, Rami joined Marseille from Spanish club Sevilla in 2017 and helped OM reach the Europa League final in his first season with the club.

Rami has won 36 caps for France although he had a non-playing part of the squad that won the World Cup in Russia

AFP

Court Backs Tax Evasion Case Against German FA Ex-bosses

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud

 

Four former top football officials face trial in Germany after a Frankfurt court ruled Monday they must answer tax evasion charges linked to the 2006 World Cup vote-buying scandal.

The court ruled that ex-German Football Association (DFB) presidents Wolfsgang Niersbach and Theo Zwanziger, as well as former general secretary Horst R. Schmidt, are accused of tax evasion, or aiding and abetting it, over a 6.7 million euros ($7.5 million) slush fund.

The Swiss Urs Linsi, former general-secretary of world football’s governing body FIFA, will also stand trial alongside the Germans with all four under “sufficient suspicion” of tax fraud, according to a court statement.

A shadow has been thrown over Germany’s successful hosting of the 2006 World Cup, often refered to as “Das Sommermaerchen” or Summer Fairytale, which became a nightmare for organisers after accusations emerged in 2015 of a vote-buying fund to secure the finals.

On Monday, the court validated an indictment against the quartet, who deny the charges. This paves the way for a trial, overturning a regional court’s decision last October to reject a tax evasion case.

Three weeks ago, Swiss prosecutors also brought tax fraud charges over the sum — a secret fund of 10 million Swiss francs, 6.7 million euros at the time — and the quartet face a separate trial in Switzerland.

German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, 73, who chaired the 2006 World Cup organising committee, could also face charges in Switzerland, but his case has been separated because of his poor health.

Monday’s twist is the latest in a scandal which came to light in October 2015, when news magazine Der Spiegel broke the scandal.

The money was allegedly provided by the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, head of German sportswear giant Adidas, at the request of football legend Beckenbauer, who headed the committee promoting Germany’s candidacy.

According to Der Spiegel, the DFB had borrowed the cash to buy some of the votes for the German bid.

The funds were originally reported to have been transferred for a World Cup opening gala, an event which never took place.

After the scandal erupted, Frankfurt’s tax office found that the DFB did not appropriately account for the 6.7 million euros, and fined it 19.2 million euros.

The DFB has disputed the finding.

German Football Officials Charged In World Cup Fraud Probe

The World Cup winner’s trophy is seen during the 68th FIFA Congress at the Expocentre in Moscow on June 13, 2018. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

 

Swiss prosecutors said Tuesday they had charged three former German Football Association (DFB) officials, including ex-president Theo Zwanziger, with fraud relating to the 2006 World Cup. 

In a statement, the attorney general’s office said the accused “are alleged to have fraudulently misled the members of a supervisory body of the DFB organising committee for the 2006 World Cup in Germany” in April 2005 about the true purpose of payment of around 6.7 million euros.

Hors Schmidt, former secretary of the German football federation, has also been charged with fraud — along with the Swiss Urs Linsi, secretary-general of FIFA from June 1999 to June 2007.

Wolfgang Niersbach, who was a member of the 2006 bid committee and vice-president of the organising committee, has been charged with complicity in fraud.

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Charges of money-laundering were dismissed in July.

All four have denied the claims.

“This whole Swiss campaign is wretched, malicious and will completely fail, because I have nothing to reproach myself for,” Zwanziger told AFP subsidiary SID.

“These incompetent investigators are banging their heads against a brick wall, and the wall will always win. The whole thing has long been a judiciary scandal and there has been no truly reproachable behaviour on the part of the accused.”

Niersbach said the accused only found out through the media that they had been charged and described the investigation as ‘unspeakable.’

“The accusations made will prove to be completely unfounded,” he added.

Proceedings against Franz Beckenbauer, a football legend in Germany, also implicated in the investigation, have been set apart because of the 1974 World Cup-winning captain’s ill health.

 Secret fund 

The attorney general’s statement said that Beckenbauer “is unable for health reasons to participate or to be questioned in the main hearing in the Federal Criminal Court (FCC).”

The German weekly Der Spiegel said recently that Beckenbauer’s health had significantly deteriorated since April and the stress of a court hearing could endanger his life

The announcement of charges comes at the end of an investigation which opened in November 2015 into a payment of 6.7 million euros made in 2005 by the DFB to Robert Louis-Dreyfus, former head of Adidas, a partner of the DFB.

Der Spiegel broke the story in late October 2015 when it claimed that Germany used a secret fund of 10 million Swiss francs (6.7 million euros at the time) to buy votes in the bid to stage the 2006 World Cup.

“This sum was used to fund various payments made via a Swiss law firm to a Qatari company belonging to Mohammed Bin Hammam,” the statement said.

At the time, Bin Hammam was a member of the FIFA Executive Committee and the FIFA Finance Committee.

In May 2018, Zwanziger was charged along with other former German football officials for “aggravated tax fraud” in the case.

But the procedure was abandoned five months later, for lack of evidence. However, the prosecution have since appealed the decision.

In a statement on Tuesday, the DFB said that the abandonment of proceedings in Germany last October had confirmed its conviction that the 6.7 million euro payment had been made in accordance with German tax law.

The association nonetheless said that it would appear as a plaintiff in the Swiss proceedings against Zwanziger, Schmidt, Linsi and Niersbach.

“If the DFB has suffered asset damage as a result of the actions of the accused then it is legally obliged to verify and exercise its right to compensation,” the statement said.

AFP

Edo Set For FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, Says Obaseki

Governor Godwin Obaseki addressing a gathering in Abuja on July 19, 2019.

 

 

Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, says the state is ready to host the world during the 2020 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

He stated the readiness of the state as the world’s football governing body commenced a tour of facilities in Nigeria, following the country’s bid to host the competition.

“We are delighted at the endorsements of our facilities by the visiting FIFA delegation led by FIFA Consultant, Mainasarawa Illo,” the governor said.

He added, “Edo State is the heartbeat of Nigeria, we made our mark in sports several decades ago and we are setting the stage to bring back those glorious years of leading in all sporting activities, with our huge investment in the sector.

“Edo is clearly the safest state in the south-south region; our people are very cosmopolitan with a rich and colourful culture.”

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According to the governor, the state has a functional airport and some of the best hotels in the country.

He also said they have reliable transport infrastructure and all other things that would give the prospective visitors a memorable experience.

The governor added that the remodelling work on the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium would soon be completed while work on other sporting facilities was progressing.

In his remarks, Illo noted that the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City was one of the venues proposed for use by FIFA.

He said, “There was a need to know before time, exactly what’s on ground; see the progress of work, so as to know if adequate preparations have been made to accommodate all the required facilities.”

After the inspection, the FIFA consultant declared that the facilities on ground were “absolutely breath-taking.”

“It is scenic, picturesque, functional, strong and very promising,” he added.

Illo was accompanied on the tour by President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Mr Amaju Pinnick, among others.

Infantino Hails France 2019 Women’s World Cup, Plans Tournament Expansion

FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks during the inauguration of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) new headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on October 30, 2018.
Mohd RASFAN / AFP

 

FIFA President Gianni Infantino hailed France 2019 as “the best women’s World Cup ever” on Friday as he set out radical plans for the future of the women’s game, including expanding the tournament to 32 teams in 2023.

Speaking at a press conference in Lyon, where the World Cup concludes on Sunday as holders the United States and the Netherlands meet in the final, Infantino said the tournament had been “phenomenal” and “incredible”.

“There was a before and there will be an after the World Cup but it is up to us to seize the opportunity and do something about it,” added Infantino, who last month was re-elected for a second four-year term.

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Rolling out a series of proposals for the development of the women’s game, Infantino said he would try to expand the competition in time for the next tournament in four years.

“I think we should increase the number of participants from 24 to 32,” he said.

“The tricky thing is that we have a World Cup for which we just started a bidding process based on 24 teams, so there we need to act more quickly and discuss it as a matter of urgency, in which case we should reopen the bidding process.”

AFP

South Africa Dent Sri Lanka World Cup Hopes

South Africa’s captain Faf du Plessis (C) and South Africa’s Hashim Amla (2L) leave the field with the Sri Lankan cricketers at close of play during the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between Sri Lanka and South Africa at the Riverside Ground, in Chester-le-Street, northeast England, on June 28, 2019. South Africa beat Sri Lanka by nine wickets.
Lindsey PARNABY / AFP

 

Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis powered South Africa to a nine-wicket victory over Sri Lanka on Friday, dealing a huge blow to the Asian side’s hopes of reaching the World Cup semi-finals.

Amla (80) and captain Du Plessis (96) put on an unbeaten 175 for the second wicket as South Africa cruised to victory in the 38th over, finishing on 206 for one.

Sri Lanka were struggling after defeats to New Zealand and Australia and two washouts before reviving their World Cup chances with a shock win against hosts England last week.

But, with six points from seven games, the 1996 champions have now slipped behind England, Bangladesh and Pakistan in the race to qualify from the round-robin phase.

“It feels like it’s a long time coming,” said Du Plessis, whose side were already out of contention for the semi-finals before the match.

“It feels bittersweet, it doesn’t feel like it means too much,” he added. “But the basics of batting were shown today. We’ve not had guys bat long and build big partnerships. One big partnership and everything looks much easier.”

Sri Lanka’s batting let them down against an inspired South African pace attack led by recalled seamer Dwaine Pretorius, who returned figures of 3-25 from his 10 overs.

Playing for pride, South Africa rarely put a foot wrong after electing to field first in Chester-le-Street, bowling out Sri Lanka for 203 in the 50th over.

Chris Morris also finished with three wickets while pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada took two.

Sri Lanka had a disastrous start to their innings when skipper Dimuth Karunaratne was caught at slip by Du Plessis off the first ball of the match, delivered by Rabada.

Kusal Perera and Avishka Fernando batted positively to take the score to 67 for one in the 10th over before Fernando (30) mistimed a shot, sending the ball steepling into the air before it was taken by Du Plessis.

Perera (30) was next to go, chopping a Pretorius delivery onto his stumps as Sri Lanka slipped to 72-3 in the 12th over.

Angelo Mathews was bowled by Morris for 11 and Kusal Mendis departed for 23.

A swarm of bees briefly interrupted play towards the end of the innings, forcing the players and umpires to lie flat on the ground.

Veteran paceman Lasith Malinga struck in the fifth over of South Africa’s innings, bowling Quinton de Kock for 15, but it only proved a minor hiccup.

Amla and Du Plessis took control as they mixed the right dose of caution and aggression to blunt the opposition attack.

“We needed to take wickets to stand a chance of winning and build pressure,” said Karunaratne. “We’ve got to think about that going forward — how we can build pressure and create mistakes.”

South Africa will sign off with a final league match against Australia.

Sri Lanka have two more games — against West Indies on July 1 and India on July 6.

Flying Eagles Arrive In Germany For U20 World Cup Training

Flying Eagles Arrive In Germany For U20 World Cup Training
Flying Eagles arrive at the Hotel Monarch in Ingolstadt, Germany on April 29, 2019, ahead of the FIFA U20 World Cup finals in Poland.

 

Nigeria’s Flying Eagles have arrived in Germany as part of preparations for the FIFA U20 World Cup finals in Poland.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) disclosed this on Sunday via its Twitter handle.

NFF also shared pictures of the players shortly after they arrived at the Hotel Monarch in Ingolstadt, Germany.

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The Flying Eagles, led by Coach Paul Aigbogun, are in Germany for a final training camp ahead of the global tournament which will hold between May 23 and June 15.

 

During their three-week stay in the country, they are expected to perfect tactical and technical strategies before flying into Poland for the championship.

According to the team administrator, Aliyu Lawal, 23 players flew out of Abuja while eight others based overseas will join the team in Germany.

Those who travelled from Nigeria are Detan Ogundare, Olawale Oremade, Matthew Yakubu, Mike Zaruma, Rabiu Mohammad, Quadri Liameed, Adewale Oladoye, Peter Eletu, Ernest Chidiebere, Solomon Onome, and Ikouwem Utin.

Others are Victor Arikpo, Effiom Maxwell, Abubakar Ibrahim, Adeshina Gata, Aniekeme Okon, Sor Collins, Ahmad Ghali, Aliu Salawudeen, Tijani Muhammad, Pascal Durugbor, Saeed Jibril, and Valentine Ozornwafor.

Those based overseas are Samuel Chukwueze, Kingsley Michael, Ash Kigbu, Tom Dele-Bashiru, Chinedu Ekene, Henry Offia, Abubakar Jibril, and Hamdi Akujobi.

Nigeria On The Verge Of Qualifying For U-19 Cricket World Cup

 

 

Nigeria’s U-19 cricket team, the Junior Yellow Greens are on the verge of qualifying for the World Cup, after upsetting tournament favorite Uganda with 30 runs to remain the only unbeaten team at the African Qualifiers in Windhoek, Namibia.

Though Nigeria struggled in the opening stages of the game, losing 4 wickets in the opening 15 overs with just 14 runs on the board, it seemed like a story with a bitter ending considering the quality of the Ugandan side, until, Nigerian Captain, Sylvester Okpe and Samuel Mba partnership secured a life-saving 54 runs that eventually raised the tally to 110 before running all out at 48 overs.

In all, Samuel Mba totaled a priceless 56 runs off 135 balls, supported by Sylvester Okpe with 26 runs as the best performer with the bat for Nigeria.

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At the resumption of the second innings, Uganda was off to a flying start with 42 runs for the loss of 1 wicket in 12 overs. Before the Junior Yellow Greens rose to the occasion with unmatched bowling attack. The team came to full swing when Taiwo Mohamed, Danladi Isaac, and Abolarin Rasheed tore into the hearts of the Ugandan batting lineup and shattered them into fragments too many to piece back together.

Uganda could only manage a total of 80 runs all out in 25.1 overs.

Mohamed Taiwo was named Man of the match with a heroic statistics of 4 wickets for 26 runs in 8.1 overs.

Nigeria won the match by 30 runs and goes straight to the top of the table with one hand firmly on the trophy.

The Junior Yellow Greens started their campaign to be at the World Cup with a stunning 52 runs victory over hosts Namibia. They kept the momentum going with a 58 runs win over Kenya in their second match in Windhoek.

Nigeria will play Tanzania on Thursday in what is regarded as formality match; as Tanzania is at the bottom of the log having lost all three matches in the series so far.

Should Nigeria win against Tanzania only Sierra Leone, who has also managed one win (against Tanzania) so far will be standing between the Nigerian team and the World Cup ticket on Saturday.

Deschamps Keen To Lead France Into 2022 World Cup

France’s head coach Didier Deschamps (R) speaks with France’s defender Samuel Umtiti during a training session in Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines, southwest of Paris, on March 18, 2019, as part of the team’s preparation for the upcoming UEFA Euro 2020 Group H qualifying football matches against Moldova and Iceland.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

France’s World Cup-winning coach Didier Deschamps has told AFP he would like to remain in his job until the 2022 finals in Qatar.

The 50-year-old Deschamps, who took charge of France in 2012, guided Les Bleus to a second World Cup title in Russia, two decades after lifting the trophy as captain on home soil.

“For me to be able to carry on until the next World Cup is obviously something, I would not be unhappy about, but we’ll see,” Deschamps said Tuesday.

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“I have a very good relationship with (FFF) president (Noel Le Graet). I’m under contract until the European Championships, which is the only certainty right now.”

Deschamps’s deal runs until June 2020, but the former France and Juventus midfielder admitted any extension would depend on the performance of his team.

“It’s linked to results. But before thinking about 2022, first come the qualifiers (for Euro 2020),” he said.

Deschamps said the thought of quitting amid the euphoria of July’s 4-2 victory over Croatia in the World Cup final in Moscow had never crossed his mind, insisting there was more to be achieved.

“Quite simply because I feel really good,” he said. “I still have the same passion, the same desire and because I’m convinced there are still great things to be done with this squad.”

Asked if he could see himself emulating the longevity of Germany coach Joachim Loew, who has held the post since 2006, Deschamps replied: “He’s a good example. It goes to show continuity at the top level is not all that bad.”

“He (Loew) took the team to steer it to the World Cup title in 2014. Lately, and on the back of the last World Cup, it’s been difficult for him,” continued Deschamps, referring to Germany’s shock elimination in the group stage in Russia.

“He was (considered) the best five years ago, and today he’s not become the worst, far from it. He’s someone who has proved a lot and I’m happy he’s remained in charge of the Germany team.”

AFP