Caelab Dressel books 50m free Olympic title defense

Caelab Dressel books 50m free Olympic title defense

22/06/2024, Pakistan, Multi Sports, Pakistan Publications, Article # 31829079

Caeleb Dressel shook off his doubts and booked a chance to defend his 50m freestyle Olympic title in Paris with a victory on Friday at the US Olympic swimming trials.

Dressel, whose five gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 included the 50m and 100m free and 100m fly, booked his first individual swim in Paris after missing out with a third-place finish in the 100m free.

The victory capped a long, often rocky road back to the top for the seven-time Olympic gold medallist, who stepped away from the sport abruptly in 2022. Dressel looked in vintage form at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, exploding off the blocks to win the 50 free in 21.41sec.

The time makes him the fourth-fastest in the world this year, a list led by Australian Cameron McEvoy.

“I knew it was one of my toughest nights,” said Dressel, who would return to top the times in the 100m butterfly semi-finals in 50.79sec.

“(I was) not feeling great or anything special, so I just had to gut it out tonight.” With his wife, Meghan, celebrating in the stands with their four-month-old son, August, in her arms, Dressel checked the 50m free scoreboard and gave a mighty fist pump before acknowledging the crowd.

Chris Guiliano, winner of the 100m free and runner-up in the 200m free this week, was second in 21.69 — with Matt King shut out of the Olympic berths by an agonizing one-hundredth of a second as he finished third in 21.70.

Dressel, 27, said his relaxed demeanor on deck in Indianapolis has belied some tense moments behind the scenes.

“There’s parts of this meet, I’ve had some very low lows,” he said.

“There’s parts in my hotel room that aren’t on camera, talking with my wife, talking with my therapist — it has not been smooth sailing this whole meet.”

But, he added, he’s trying to relish the good times after his extended break that refreshed his relationship to the sport.

That includes the warmth he’s felt from the crowd, which has topped 20,000 at the finals sessions.

“It’s just been fun,” Dressel said. “I’m not going best times, I haven’t done a single best time, but just when I’m walking out, not even performing, feeling the love from everyone, it’s really special.”

After coming a long way in the past year in terms of performance, Dressel said, he’s expecting more improvement in Paris in five weeks.

“We’re going to get faster, too,” he said. “Looking forward to that.” -

Smith treble

Regan Smith capped a stellar week that started with a world record in the 100m backstroke final with a wire-to wire win in the 200m back in 2min 05.16sec.

Phoebe Bacon powered past reigning world champion Claire Curzan in the closing meters to take second in 2:06.27 and punch her ticket to Paris.

Smith, who set 100m and 200m backstroke world records as a 17-year-old in 2019, has endured her share of ups and downs since then but she heads to Paris as a contender in both backstrokes and the 200m butterfly, which she won on Thursday.

“I’m incredibly proud of this performance,” Smith said. “I think it’s a night and day difference versus 2021 to now.”

Carson Foster, Paris-bound as winner of the 400m individual medley, powered home on the closing freestyle leg to win the 200m individual medley in 1:55.65.

Shaine Casas had dominated the opening butterfly and backstroke legs to build a lead and still held a slim advantage as they turned for home after the breaststroke.

He delivered a gritty final freestyle lap to finish second in 1:55.83 and make his first Olympic team in his final chance of the week.

“It means everything,” said Casas, who broke down in tears as he hugged Foster across the lane rope.
T20 World Cup: Shai Hope’s 82 fires West Indies to big World Cup win over US

T20 World Cup: Shai Hope’s 82 fires West Indies to big World Cup win over US

22/06/2024, Pakistan, Multi Sports, Pakistan Publications, Article # 31829039

Shai Hope hit a six-studded 82 not out from 39 deliveries as West Indies revived their Super Eight campaign with a thumping nine-wicket win over co-hosts the United States at the Twenty20 World Cup on Friday.

Needing a win and a big bump in their net run rate after a loss to England in their opening Super Eight clash, West Indies achieved both at Kensington Oval to move into second place in Group 2 behind unbeaten South Africa, their next opponents.

After a brief spell of rain delayed the toss but not the start at a packed stadium, Barbadian off-spinner Roston Chase took 3-19 and pace bowler Andre Russell grabbed 3-31 as the Americans were bowled out for 128.

West Indies overhauled the meagre total in 10.5 overs after Hope smashed eight sixes and four boundaries, ably assisted by Nicholas Pooran who stroked 27 from 12 balls.

“Credit has to be given to the boys, we set out to achieve a goal and we did,” said West Indies skipper Rovman Powell, who was already looking forward to the possibility of returning to Bridgetown for the final.

“Kensington brings special memory for us. It’s a mecca of cricket in the Caribbean … hopefully we can be here back on the 29th in a special place to play cricket.”

Andries Gous helped get the Americans off to a lively start with pace bowlers Obed McCoy and Alzarri Joseph conceding 12 and 15 respectively off their opening overs.

Gous survived a dropped chance off Joseph but was caught by Hope off the same bowler for 29, with three fours and a six.

Left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein exerted more control at the other end with the new ball, conceding only 13 from his first three overs.

Chase struck an important blow for his team by bowling the dangerous U.S. skipper Aaron Jones for 11, and at the halfway stage, the Americans were struggling at 69-4.

Hope went instantly on to the attack for West Indies, stroking the ball to all parts of the field to reach his half-century in 28 balls with four sixes and four boundaries as the US fielders chased the ball in vain across the ground.

The Barbadian crowd gave him a rapturous reception as the teams left the field and Hope was understandably delighted.

“To do it at home is a great feeling, with my parents and my friends watching,” he said.

“This is my favourite place to play cricket. It’s our destiny and our goal to win the World Cup.”

The Americans felt they were 50 runs short in their innings after being put into bat, but Jones was not prepared to concede that their fairytale run at the tournament was over.

“Tough night to be honest with the boys,” Jones said.

“We weren’t the best tonight, that’s how it goes sometimes. We’ll go back to the drawing board and come hard against England on Sunday.”

The United States stay in Barbados for their final Super Eight contest, while West Indies head to Antigua for their clash against the Proteas later on Sunday.
New-look Spain make Euro 2024 statement

New-look Spain make Euro 2024 statement

22/06/2024, Pakistan, Multi Sports, Pakistan Publications, Article # 31829041

GELSENKIRCHEN: Spain have produced footballing masterclasses to clear two big hurdles impressively at the start of their Euro 2024 campaign, sending a statement to their fellow title challengers.

After hammering Croatia 3-0, they subjected defending champions Italy to a 1-0 defeat on Thursday that would have been a thrashing were it not for goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma who made several stunning saves to save his team from humiliation.

The single-goal victory in Gelsenkirchen secured a last 16 berth for Spain, who won Group ‘B’ after enjoying themselves while toying with a team who had given the impression they were making progress under manager Luciano Spalletti after coming from behind to beat Albania 2-1 in their opening game of the tournament.

Superb performances against high-level opponents are reviving memories of the all-conquering Spain who dominated world football for several years, winning back to back European Championships in 2008 and 2012 and the 2010 World Cup.

But Luis de la Fuente’s Spain plays another game, far from the possession-based “tiki-taka” style which became a trademark of the Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta generation of over a decade ago.

De la Fuente was a hard-working full back for Athletic Bilbao in the 1980s and after beco­ming head coach of Spain’s academy system, he was given the chance to take charge of the senior squad with the unique advantage of knowing most of his players from a very young age.

A tough character with a strong work ethic balanced by a good understanding of his players, De la Fuente has shown tactical nous and excellent man-management skills in just over a year on the job.

The first step was seen when they won last year’s UEFA Nations League with a much-chan­ged squad from the one that disappointed under Luis Enrique at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Now, however, his team seem to have reached another level.

Their relentless high pressure combines with lightning-fast one-touch moves and precise passes that give the impression of a squad in which each player has an almost instinctive feel for the positioning of his teammates.

“I know footballers very well, that’s my best virtue. I know what they want, what they need to be happy and what I do is give it to them,” De la Fuente told a press conference.

Rampant Nico Williams led the charge for Spain who forced Donnarumma into eight saves and suffocated Italy.

Williams toyed with Italy right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo, flashing across the ball from which Riccardo Calafiori netted the decisive own goal and also smashing a late shot off the bar.

The performance of Williams and teen sensation Lamine Yamal highlighted a huge talent gap between the two sides as Italy’s midfielders failed to get any sort of control until the final minutes of the game.

But even then, with Williams and Yamal substituted, Spain still managed to waste two great late opportunities to give the match a scoreline which truly reflected a one-sided contest.

“The difference was too great. We were too stretched and they created loads of problems for us,” said Spalletti, who looked disconsolate when talking to media. “We couldn’t get behind them because we weren’t a team that managed to play with any sort of fluidity.”

However, although Italy look a long way off the tournament’s top performers Spain and Ge­r­many, Spalletti’s outfit only need a draw against Croatia on Monday to reach the knockout stages where traditionally they are experts at grinding out results even when not playing well.

“Our destiny is still in our own hands, we can’t look at this as a total disaster. We have a lot to do against Croatia, but I am convinced we can do it,” Donnarumma told RAI after the match.

Yaremchuk revives Ukraine’s hopes**

On Friday, Roman Yaremchuk emerged from the bench to score the winning goal as Ukraine produced a stirring fightback to beat Slovakia 2-1 and kickstart their campaign.

Slovakia knew victory in Duesseldorf would take them through to the knockout stage with a game to spare and they went ahead on 17 minutes thanks to Ivan Schranz, who netted the winner in the shock victory over Belgium in their opening game.

Ukraine came into this match reeling after losing 3-0 to Romania last time out but they dug deep here and Mykola Shaparenko equalised in the 54th minute with a close-range finish.

They then snatched a vital win as Yaremchuk controlled a lofted pass by Shaparenko to prod past Slovakia’s goalkeeper Martin Dubravka as Ukraine joined Slovakia and Romania on three points in a wide-open Group ‘E’.

Romania play Belgium, who are bottom without a point, on Saturday in Frankfurt before the final round of matches next Wednesday.

“The players showed the spirit of Ukraine on the pitch and deserved the win,” said coach Serhiy Rebrov, whose team are playing at their first major tournament since Russian forces invaded in 2022. “Today it was a very important win for Ukraine and for our country. I’m sure they were proud.”

Later, Austria renewed hopes of a top-two finish in Group ‘D’ with a 3-1 victory over Poland, who were left in last place with no points and only a slim chance of advancing.

In a furious start, the Austrians, now on three points from two matches applied early pressure and it paid off in the ninth minute with Gernot Trauner’s powerful header at the near post.

Poland, who have now lost both of their matches, levelled through Krzysztof Piatek’s second attempt in the box after his first effort was blocked on the half-hour mark.

Fit-again Poland striker Robert Lewandowski came on in the 60th minute but it was Austria who scored twice more, first with a flowing move and Christoph Baumgartner’s finish just inside the box in the 66th and a Marco Arnautovic penalty 12 minutes later.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2024
India need to manage Bumrah smartly: Rohit

India need to manage Bumrah smartly: Rohit

22/06/2024, Pakistan, Multi Sports, Pakistan Publications, Article # 31829040

BRIDGETOWN: Jasprit Bumrah demonstrated yet again how crucial he is to India’s fortunes in the T20 World Cup on Thursday, and captain Rohit Sharma said he will need to manage his pace spearhead smartly to get the best out of him.

Bumrah conceded only seven runs in his four overs and claimed three wickets to help India begin their Super Eight stage campaign with a resounding victory over Afghanistan.

Bumrah struck twice in the powerplay overs to effectively derail Afghanistan’s chase after India had posted 181-8 at the Kensington Oval.

The wickets included Afghan­istan’s leading scorer in the tournament Rahmanullah Gurbaz, deceiving the opener with a change of pace.

The seamer with a sli­n­gy action then retur­n­ed to remove Najibullah Zad­ran and effectively seal the match in India’s favour.

“We know Bumrah’s class and what he can do,” Rohit said as his team remained unbeaten in the tournament.

“It is important for us to use him smartly. He is the one who is ready to take the responsibility [of leading the attack].”

India dropped seamer Moh­ammed Siraj and picked Kuldeep Yadav in a three-pronged spin attack.

Rohit said the 2007 cha­m­pions, who face Bangl­adesh in their next Group I match on Saturday, would be flexible with their bowling combinations.

“We have to assess conditions, opposition and based on that we’re open to making changes if required,” he said.

“We felt three spinners were good here. If it’s seamer-friendly next time, we’ll go with [three] seamers.”

His counterpart Rashid Khan said Afghanistan should be prepared to chase such bigger scores in the Super Eight stage.

“That was a surface we thought we could chase 170-180,” the all-rounder said. “Against bigger teams, we should be thinking we will have to chase such scores.”

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2024
Lacklustre England held by Denmark after Hjulmand stunner

Lacklustre England held by Denmark after Hjulmand stunner

21/06/2024, Pakistan, Multi Sports, Pakistan Publications, Article # 31826726

 FRANKFURT: Denmark’s Morten Hjulmand (not pictured) scores past England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during their Euro 2024 Group ‘C’ match at the Frankfurt Arena on Thursday.—Reuters
FRANKFURT: Denmark’s Morten Hjulmand (not pictured) scores past England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during their Euro 2024 Group ‘C’ match at the Frankfurt Arena on Thursday.—Reuters

FRANKFURT: England missed the chance to book their place in the knockout stage of Euro 2024 after they were held to a 1-1 draw against Denmark in Group ‘C’ on Thursday.

England took the lead in the 18th minute after the rapidly advancing Kyle Walker caught Danish defender Victor Kristiansen ambling towards the ball and the full back’s low deflected cross into the box fell to captain Harry Kane who slotted it in.

However, Gareth Southgate’s side failed to press home their advantage, and a sloppy throw-in 16 minutes later came to Morten Hjulmand who had time and space to smash the ball low and in off the post from long range.

Euro 2020 runners-up England had been touted as tournament favourites yet struggled to fashion decent chances throughout the match. They remain on top of Group ‘C’ on four points, while Denmark are second on two after Slovenia’s 1-1 draw with Serbia earlier.

Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel claimed on the eve of the game they would not be fuelled by revenge for their Euro 2020 semi-final heartbreak to England three years ago.

However, the Danes were a different beast from the side that disappointed at the 2022 World Cup and in drawing against Slovenia to open their tournament in Germany.

Denmark had made the brighter start as both sides struggled to cope with a bobbly pitch in Frankfurt that cut up badly in just its second game of five at Euro 2024.

Yet, England capitalised on a howler to take the lead. But Denmark were not deterred by conceding and got it thanks to a spectacular strike by Hjumland.

Phil Foden hit the post for England and Denmark’s Andreas Christensen came close to a late winner in the second half.

But a share of the spoils leaves it all to play for in the final games of Group ‘C’ on Tuesday.

Jovic snatches late equaliser

Earlier, Serbia substitute Luka Jovic headed a last-gasp equaliser to cancel out Zan Karnicnik’s opener and salvage a draw with Slovenia in an absorbing clash in Munich.

Both sides hit the woodwork and had periods where they dominated possession and created chances at the Munich Football Arena in a game that swung from end to end at times.

Slovenia remain unbeaten and still firmly in contention to progress to the knockout stage of the tournament. For Serbia, the point also bolstered their hopes of progressing ahead of their final match in the section against Denmark.

Just like in their 1-0 opening defeat against England, Serbia started slowly and handed the initiative to Slovenia, who broke the deadlock in the 69th minute with a brilliantly worked goal from Karnicnik.

Right-back Karnicnik drove upfield from the edge of his own penalty area, released the ball to Timi Elsnik and then met the return cross to slot the ball past Predrag Rajkovic.

Serbia ratcheted up the pressure looking for an equalizer and they finally levelled when Jovic nodded home a corner five minutes into added time to leave their opponents distraught.

“We will not give up, the result came as a reward for believing. For many the match was over but for us it was not,” said Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic. “[With Denmark] it will be us or them. We will play an open game.”

Ahead of the match, the head of the Serbian football association had threatened to pull the team out of the European Championship over chants made during Wednesday’s draw between Albania and Croatia, including: “Kill, kill, kill the Serb”.

Jovan Surbatovic — the General Secretary of the Football Association of Serbia (FSS) — told Serbian broadcaster RTS late on Wednesday the FSS would seek sanctions from UEFA “even at the cost of not continuing the competition.”

Swiss on the verge of last 16**

In Wednesday’s late fixture, Switzerland moved within touching distance of a place in the last 16 as Xherdan Shaqiri’s stunning strike earned a 1-1 draw against Scotland.

Murat Yakin’s side trailed to an early Scott McTominay goal that took a hefty deflection off Swiss defender Fabian Schar.

But Shaqiri produced one of the goals of the tournament so far as the former Liverpool forward punished Anthony Ralston’s woeful backpass with a brilliant curler from 20 yards.

With honours even in Cologne, the Swiss sit in second place in Group ‘A’ with four points, two behind Germany after the hosts beat Hungary 2-0 earlier on Wednesday.

Switzerland, who defeated Hungary 3-1 in their opener, are not mathematically certain to advance to the knockout stages but they are in a strong position heading into their last game against Germany.

“Shaqiri proved tonight that he lives and breathes for moments like that,” Yakin said. “He really deserves that magical moment. He did the only thing he could do with that wonderful strike. It’s still very open. We will do everything we can to make it out of the group.”

With the best four third-placed teams qualifying for the last 16, Scotland remain in the hunt to reach the knockout rounds of a major tournament for the first time.

Steve Clarke’s team restored their pride with a battling display that erased the bitter taste of a wretched 5-1 loss to Germany in the tournament opener and a historic last 16 berth is still a possibility if they can improve their goal difference with a big win against Hungary.

“It was a good reaction to a disappointing night against Germany,” Clarke said. “I believe if we get three points against Hungary, we’ll go to the next stage. We’re a good team and we’re still alive.”

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024
India to host Bangladesh, New Zealand and England in 2024-25

India to host Bangladesh, New Zealand and England in 2024-25

21/06/2024, Pakistan, Multi Sports, Pakistan Publications, Article # 31826725

NEW DELHI: India will kick off their home cricket season against Bangladesh in Sept­e­mber before hosting New Zealand in October and England next year, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced on Thursday.

India will welcome Bang­ladesh for a two-match Test series, which will be played in Chennai and Kanpur from September 19-23 and September 27-October 1. It will be followed by three Twenty20s in Dha­ramsala, Delhi and Hyderabad.

They will then host the Black Caps for three Tests, with the first Test starting on October 16 in Bengaluru.

England will visit India in January next year to play five T20s and three One-day Internationals. Chen­nai, Kolkata, Rajkot, Pune and Mumbai will be the venues for the T20s while Nagpur, Cuttack and Ahm­e­dabad will host the ODIs.

England’s tour of India will begin on January 22 and conclude on February 12.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024
Sibling rivalry fuels Pakistan’s medal rush in Penang

Sibling rivalry fuels Pakistan’s medal rush in Penang

21/06/2024, Pakistan, Multi Sports, Pakistan Publications, Article # 31826724

KARACHI: There was an all-Pakistan squash final in Malaysia over the weekend; two sisters going head-to-head for gold. By the end of it all, Mahnoor Ali overcame the challenge of Sehrish Ali to be crowned the Under-13 champion at the PBA 20th Penang Malaysia Junior Open.

It was a thrilling yet bittersweet victory for Mahnoor, who stormed back from losing the first set 9-11 to win the next three games 11-7, 11-8, 11-8: the 11-year-old showing tenacity beyond her years to solidify her ranking among global prodigies.

Her win in Malaysia — a deja vu moment after winning the U-11 title last year — brought her fourth international title, coming just days after she was crowned U-13 champion in Singapore at the Henry Charpentier Lion City Junior Open.

The cool-headed superstar channeled nerves of steel to forge her way into the finals and then fight for the title, even if it was at the expense of thrashing her own sister.

“I put everything aside to focus on the game and give it my best; I had to remember that I was playing for myself and my country,” she told Dawn.

Mahnoor, Sehrish and their elder sister Mehwish will next be in action at the Asian Juniors in Islamabad, where another sibling showdown on the court could well be on the cards.

Mehwish brought the third medal for her family and her country in Penang — where more than 700 athletes from 16 countries participated — when she picked up the U-17 bronze, earning 12 points and moving up in the PSA world squash rankings.

The number one-ranked senior and U-19 player is headed to the World Junior Squash Championships next month after becoming the first Pakistani woman to qualify for the prestigious event.

Pakistan’s success in women’s squash is becoming synonymous with the Ali sisters as the trio won big at the Australian Junior Open with the U-17 and U-13 titles and a U-15 bronze.

The girls’ athletic brilliance has been harnessed by their coach and father Arif Ali, who seamlessly weaves together coaching oversight with parental love.

Mehwish and Sehrish, as per their father, missed the mark in their Singapore matches as the family ran into visa issues, not uncommon for Pakistani passport holders, barely making it in time for the championship after overnight traveling and just one sleepless day to warm up.

Mehwish’s participation at World Juniors in Houston also lies at the mercy of her visa being granted in time, leaving the 15-year-old uncertain of her dream debut.

Arif’s meticulous planning and execution of every aspect of his daughters’ training, nutrition and competition schedules is borne not just out of parental instinct but from a lack of support from the Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF).

“We’ve won two gold, one silver and one bronze medal in Singapore and Malaysia and haven’t received so much as a congratulatory call from PSF or the Pakistan Sports Board,” he told Dawn.

But he doesn’t let the authorities’ indifference rain on the family’s parade.

“I’m immensely proud, not only that they’re playing for Pakistan but also because they have a genuine passion for the sport,” Arif, himself a former squash player, told Dawn over the phone.

He acknowledged that the thrill of both his daughters making it to the finals was overshadowed by the fact that one would triumph while the other conceded defeat.

A sibling showdown is rare but not unheard of in the sport. Only recently, Mohamed and Marwan El-Shorbagy clashed at the CIB PSA World Championships in Egypt while Belgian sisters Nele and Tinne at the ESF European Team Cham­pionships in Zurich.

Sibling rivalry perhaps grants an extra layer of internal competition that most stand-alone athletes don’t have. It is perhaps the reason why the Ali sisters are so ahead of their competition.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024
Germany ease past Hungary to reach last 16 at Euros, Albania hold Croatia

Germany ease past Hungary to reach last 16 at Euros, Albania hold Croatia

20/06/2024, Pakistan, Multi Sports, Pakistan Publications, Article # 31824659

STUTTGART: Jamal Mus­iala and Ilkay Gundogan scored as hosts Germany became the first team to qualify for the last 16 of Euro 2024 on Wednesday after beating Hungary 2-0 in Stuttgart while Albania snatched a stoppage time equaliser for a stunning 2-2 draw against Croatia.

Musiala struck for the second game running midway through the first half, much to the anger of Hungary players who felt a foul should have been awarded in the build-up to the goal.

Gundogan grabbed his side’s second on 67 minutes as Germ­any eased to a second successive win in Group ‘A’, making sure they will progress to the knockout phase at least as one of the best third-placed sides.

Julian Nagelsmann’s men can wrap up the top spot when they play Switzerland in Frankfurt in their final group fixture on Sunday.

Hungary are staring at elimination after back-to-back defeats and must beat Scotland if they are to stand any chance of reaching the last 16.

In Wednesday’s other fixture, Klaus Gjasula proved both hero and villain for Albania, bagging the added time leveller after having earlier netted an own goal that saw Croatia go 2-1 up in the Group ‘B’ clash at the Volksp­arkstadion.

The two countries now have a single point after their opening two matches and are left effectively needing to win their last group games on Monday if they are to progress into the knockout stage.

Albania had taken an early lead but the Croats scored twice in the space of two minutes to revive their hopes in a match full of twists and turns and played to a backdrop of ear-splitting noise.

Andrej Kramaric grabbed a 74th minute equaliser and then followed an own goal from Gjasula 120 seconds later as an increasingly dominant Croatia, who lost 3-0 to Spain in their opening game, clawed their way back.

They had pounded away at the Albania goal in the second half after looking anxious and frustrated at halftime as their unfancied opponents went into the break ahead.

Qazim Laci’s 11th minute header had Albania in an early lead before Gjasula sidefooted into the net with five minutes of additional time already played for a dramatic conclusion to the contest.

Portugal win opener, Turkey beats Georgia

On Tuesday, Portugal beat the Czech Republic 2-1 to claim a Euro 2024 debut victory but they needed to come from behind with a 92nd-minute winner from youngster Fran­cisco Conceicao.

Earlier in the section’s other clash, Turkey bested Georgia 3-1 in a pulsating match in Dortmund.

Roberto Martinez’s Portugal qualified at a canter with a 100 per cent record, but only just scraped victory in Leipzig in their first match, under driving rain.

 HAMBURG: Albania’s Klaus Gjasula (R) scores the equaliser during the Group ‘B’ match against Croatia at Volksparkstadion on Wednesday.—AFP
HAMBURG: Albania’s Klaus Gjasula (R) scores the equaliser during the Group ‘B’ match against Croatia at Volksparkstadion on Wednesday.—AFP

The Czechs went ahead against the run of play through Lukas Provod’s fine strike from the edge of the box after the hour mark, but Robin Hranac’s own goal soon pulled Portugal level before Conceicao’s winner.

Ronaldo was thrice denied by goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek on a record Euros appearance and headed against the post, but was offside.

Diogo Jota put the rebound into the net but the goal was disallowed after VAR highlighted Al Nassr striker Ronaldo’s infringement.

It did not matter for Portugal in the end as 21-year-old Porto winger Conceicao, son of former Portugal international Sergio Conceicao, struck from close range.

Meanwhile, a well-supported Turkey started the Euros in entertaining fashion with an end-to-end win over debutants Georgia.

Real Madrid playmaker Arda Guler scored a brilliant goal, along with strikes by Mert Muldur and Kerem Akturkoglu, to delight the masses of Turkish supporters.

Mbappe breaks nose, Slovakia stun Belgium**

In the Group ‘D’ matches on Monday, Kylian Mbappe came off late with a broken nose as France edged Austria 1-0 in their opening game, after Slovakia inflicted a surprise 1-0 defeat on Belgium and Romania beat Ukraine.

France, the runners-up at the 2022 World Cup, did not entirely convince against a hard-running Austria side and needed a Maximilian Woeber own goal to claim the victory.

Defender Woeber diverted Mbappe’s cutback into his own net seven minutes before half-time in Duesseldorf to decide the Group ‘D’ game and leave France level on three points at the top of the section with the Netherlands.

Mbappe had to come off in the 90th minute after being left with a bloodied nose in an accidental collision with Austrian defender Kevin Danso. A source close to the France captain confirmed to AFP shortly after the game that his nose was broken.

The French team will hope that does not prevent him from playing in Friday’s second group match in Leipzig against the Netherlands.

In Monday’s other fixture, Belgium started their Euro 2024 campaign with a defeat against Slovakia in Frankfurt, where Ivan Schranz of Slavia Prague scored the only goal.

Schranz struck in the seventh minute, firing home the rebound after Belgian goalkeeper Koen Casteels had saved from Juraj Kucka.

It was an especially frustrating day for Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku, who missed a host of chances and had a late equaliser controversially disallowed by VAR.

Belgium’s first defeat since the 2022 World Cup puts Domenico Tedesco’s team under pressure going into their second Group ‘E’ match against Romania on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Romania won at a major international tournament for the first time in 24 years as they beat Ukraine 3-0 with the help of two errors from goalkeeper Andriy Lunin.

In Sunday’s Group ‘C’ matches, Bellingham header helped England edge Serbia 1-0 while Denmark were held 1-1 by Slovenia.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2024
Kane Williamson steps down as New Zealand captain after T20 World Cup debacle

Kane Williamson steps down as New Zealand captain after T20 World Cup debacle

19/06/2024, Pakistan, Multi Sports, Pakistan Publications, Article # 31822756

Kane Williamson has stepped down as captain of New Zealand’s white-ball teams and opted out of a national contract for the 2024/25 season following the Black Caps’ early exit from the T20 World Cup.

Williamson’s decision marks the end of an era for a New Zealand team which made the semi-finals of the previous three T20 World Cups and the 2021 final but ultimately missed out on a maiden white-ball title.

Fast bowler Lockie Ferguson has also indicated he will not take up a national contract, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) said on Wednesday, following the team’s failure to make the Super Eight phase at the ongoing tournament.

One of the world’s top batsmen and a campaigner of more than 350 internationals in tests, one-day and T20 cricket, Williamson will continue to play for New Zealand in all three formats.

However, he has opted to take up a contract outside of New Zealand in January, meaning he will be unavailable for part of the home summer.

“Pursuing an overseas opportunity during the New Zealand summer means I’m unable to accept a central contract offer,” the 33-year-old said in a statement.

“Playing for New Zealand is something I treasure, and my desire to give back to the team remains undiminished.

“My life outside cricket has changed however — spending more time with my family and enjoying experiences with them at home or abroad is something that’s even more important to me.”

Williamson’s likely destination in January is a T20 franchise league, with competitions running in several countries including Australia, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

He gave up the test captaincy to Tim Southee in 2022, and there will be another changing of the guard as New Zealand look to rejuvenate before the next T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka and India in 2026.

Fast bowler Trent Boult, who opted out of a national contract in 2022, confirmed last Friday he had played his last T20 World Cup following the team’s elimination from the tournament.

NZC said Williamson would be available for eight tests leading into Christmas and the ICC Champions Trophy in Pakistan in February-March.

The board said Williamson’s decision to opt out of a contract would not hurt his chances of selection, a departure from its usual policy which favours contracted players.

“We’re happy to make an exception for our greatest ever batter — especially as he remains so committed to the team,” said NZC CEO Scott Weenink.

“This is a good way to help keep Kane in the international game so that he continues to play a major role for the Black Caps — both now and in the years to come.”