Brazil halves elite police force for Games

Brazil halves elite police force for Games

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil will deploy only half the 9,000 elite police originally planned for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this August, a state official said Wednesday.

“I was expecting to get 9,000 men from the national force, but it seems (the government) will only send half. It will be a challenge, but we’re ready for it,” Rio state security secretary Mario Beltrame told newspaper O Globo.

“This is going to compromise the strategic security plan for the Olympics. The other states (of Brazil) aren’t willing to send their share. I can understand that,” he added, saying other states faced their own policing headaches.

He said the federal government had informed him several days ago that he would receive only 4,500 officers from the elite police force.

The Olympic security plan announced several months ago provided for a total of some 80,000 police and soldiers for the violence-plagued city, double the number deployed for the 2012 London Games.

Brazil also published a presidential decree Wednesday authorizing the military to shoot down any “hostile” aircraft threatening the Games.

The measure, similar to ones enacted for the 2014 World Cup and 2013 Confederations Cup, will apply nationwide.
“Suspect” planes will first be warned, then considered “hostile” if they do not comply, it said.

-AFP

Arsenal’s Welbeck out for nine months

Arsenal’s Welbeck out for nine months

UNITED KINGDOM: Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck will be out for around nine months after undergoing knee surgery, the club announced on Wednesday, ending his hopes of playing for England at Euro 2016.

The 25-year-old forward damaged cartilage in his right knee during a challenge with Bacary Sagna in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw at Manchester City on Sunday.

He had previously spent 10 months on the sidelines after injuring his left knee, making his return to action in February.

“Danny Welbeck has had surgery to his right knee,” Arsenal said in a statement on their website. “Specialists determined surgery was required after scans and tests revealed significant cartilage damage.

“Danny will miss the Euro 2016 Championship in the summer and his full recovery is expected to take approximately nine months.

“Everyone at Arsenal will be working hard with Danny throughout his recovery and look forward to seeing him back on the pitch as soon as possible.”

Following the announcement, Welbeck posted a picture of himself celebrating a recent goal on Twitter, accompanied by the caption: “I will be back stronger!”

An absence of nine months would see him return sometime in February 2017.

Welbeck had made an impressive return to action following his previous knee injury, scoring five goals in 15 appearances.

His injury is a major blow to England manager Roy Hodgson, who had been expected to name the former Manchester United player in his squad for Euro 2016.

Welbeck can play as a central striker or a wide forward versatility that Hodgson appreciates and started England’s qualifying campaign by scoring twice in a pivotal 2-0 win away to Switzerland.

British press reports suggest that his place in Hodgson’s squad, which will be announced on Monday, will be taken by either Arsenal forward Theo Walcott or in-form Newcastle United winger Andros Townsend.

Walcott wrote on Twitter: “So gutted for you on your injury – You will come back stronger and all of us are thinking of you.”

Welbeck’s Arsenal and England colleague Jack Wilshere, who recently returned from a long lay-off with a fractured shin, tweeted: “Devastated for my friend @DannyWelbeck but you’ve proved before you can come back a better player! Stay strong mate.”

-AFP

Finland beat Hungary to go top of their world ice hockey championship group

Finland beat Hungary to go top of their world ice hockey championship group

MOSCOW: Two-time former champions Finland consolidated their Group B lead at the world ice hockey championship with a confident 3-0 win over promoted Hungary at Saint Petersburg on Wednesday.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Leo Komarov collected two points for assists, while goalie Juuse Saros made just 13 saves for a shutout setting up Finland’s win, which lifted them top of their group, three points ahead of reigning champions Canada, who have a game in hand.

The Finns outshot Hungary 38-9 in the first two periods but Magyar goaltender Adam Vay was catching and deflecting almost all the pucks thrown at him.

But he was unable to deny a shot by Jokerit Helsinki forward Atte Ohtamaa 3:38 before the second interval.
Finland’s skipper Miko Koivu added his goal halfway into the third period, while Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov rounded off the scoring with a powerplay effort with 3:26 remaining.

In the early Group B encounter the 2002 champions Slovakia suffered their second consecutive defeat at the hands of Belarus, who battled back from two goals down to notch their first win at the championship 4-2.

After a goalless first period Edmonton Oilers rear guard Andrej Sekera and Detroit Red Wings winger Tomas Jurco scored within the space of six minutes of the second to give Slovakia a 2-0 lead.

But in the third Belarus picked up steam to reply through Kiril Gotovets, Artur Gavrus, Andrei Stepanov and Charles Linglet, who all scored to claim a well-deserved win.

“This match was the most important for us at the world championships so far,” Belarus head coach Dave Lewis said.
“We have a very hard schedule but that is no excuse and now we have no other choice but to keep on winning from one match to another.”

Meanwhile, in the early match in Group A, Switzerland recorded their second win at the event beating Latvia 5-4 in Moscow’s nine-goal thriller.

After the first break Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter scored twice on powerplay, while Gregory Hofmann added his goal to give Switzerland a comfortable 3-0 lead.

But Latvia levelled the score courtesy of a powerplay brace by Mikelis Redlihs and an unassisted goal by Ronalds Kenins in an exciting second period.

In the third the teams traded goals by Montreal Canadiens Sven Andrighetto and Aleksejs Sirokovs before Eric Blum netted the Swiss team’s winner with 1:29 to go.

“For us it was a huge game. We needed to get at least two points but won all three today,” Switzerland manager Patrick Fischer said.

“We took a good start into the second period but then we’ve lost that 3-0 lead. At the end we’ve won by a lucky shot but for us this win is very important anyway and I’m really proud of my men.”

Later in Moscow Sweden outscored promoted Kazakhstan 7-3 courtesy of a hat-trick by Detroit Red Wings winger Gustav Nyquist to join the Czech Republic on top of Group A. The Czechs have a game in hand.

-AFP

Federer wins on Rome return as leading men’s seeds advance

Federer wins on Rome return as leading men’s seeds advance

ROME: Roger Federer joined Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in reaching the third round of the Rome Masters on Wednesday with the Swiss admitting that he was fully expecting to lose against Alexander Zverev.

“I’m cautious but extremely happy – I was expecting to lose in straight sets today,” admitted the 17-time Grand Slam champion, who withdrew last week from Madrid with back pain.

“That was the mindset going in. To win in straights is actually a really big surprise to me.

“I only decided after the warm-up that I was actually going to play. For me it was a big match on many levels.”
The 89-minute match was the first for the 34-year-old Swiss since losing a Monte Carlo quarter-final to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga nearly a month ago.

Even in victory Federer said that he would decide at the last minute whether he can take to the court on Thursday against 13th seed Dominic Thiem, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Joao Sousa.

“I don’t know how I’m going to feel tomorrow. I hope (I can play). I’m literally going practice after practices. It’s baby steps right now.”

Rome marks only the fourth tournament of the season for Federer, who underwent knee surgery in early February, the first operation of his career.

Federer broke for 4-2 on his way to collecting the opening set in 28 minutes.

The Swiss then earned a break in the third game of the second set but then lost serve for 2-all.

The veteran broke back on his fourth opportunity in the 11th game for a 6-5 lead and finished off the welcome win a game later, a drop shot setting up two match points with Zverev driving wide on the first.

Top seed Djokovic and number two Murray produced no-drama victories, with the Serb beating Stephane Robert 7-5, 7-5 while Murray put out Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-3.

“Today was an extremely difficult match,” Djokovic said. “Conditions were very tough, he was very unpredictable with his shots.

“Obviously he didn’t have anything to lose, so he was going for some shots that were amazing.

“It wasn’t easy for me to find my way through the match. When it mattered the most, I managed to make him play an extra shot and pull this one through.”

Rafael Nadal continued his recent good form, beating Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-3.

Australian Nick Kyrgios picked up another big win in an excellent season so far, putting out tenth seed Milos Raonic 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.

French 11th seed Richard Gasquet beat Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-4.

Kerber dumped out

In women’s second-round play, Eugenie Bouchard handed second-seeded Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber a 6-1, 5-7, 7-5 defeat, her second straight in an opening match after losing last week in Madrid.

“In the first one-and-a-half sets I was completely not playing my game and I was completely not on the court,” the German said.

“I was just trying to fight back. I was not playing my best tennis. But of course I was fighting and the third set was really close. At the end she played good and won the last point.”

Spanish third seed Garbine Muguruza crushed Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-1, 6-0 while Madrid quarter-finalist Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania upset injured fourth seed Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-2.

The Belarusian withdrew with lower back pain last week from Madrid.

“I was trying but it didn’t work,” Azarenka said. “The back is not good right now. I’m very disappointed obviously with that.

“I thought I was okay and was ready to play and came back, so I’m just disappointed. We’ll see what happens.”
Australian Daria Gavrilova dispatched Madrid champion Simona Halep, seeded sixth, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

American Madison Keys knocked out fifth seed and two-time quarter-finalist Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-4, while Misaki Doi saw off French Open finalist Lucie Safarova 6-3, 7-5.

American 7-time major winner Venus Williams bowed out after a marathon defeat to Timea Babos that lasted nearly three hours.

-AFP

Kone brace helps Sunderland relegate Newcastle, Norwich

Kone brace helps Sunderland relegate Newcastle, Norwich

ENGLAND: Newcastle United and Norwich City were relegated from the Premier League on Wednesday as Sunderland secured their survival with a one-sided 3-0 victory over Everton.

Sunderland centre-back Lamine Kone’s first two goals for the club and a Patrick van Aanholt free-kick took Sam Allardyce’s side four points clear of danger with one game remaining.

Norwich returned to the Championship a year after promotion despite a 4-2 win over Watford, while Newcastle, Sunderland’s arch rivals, will play in the second tier for the first time since 2010.

“It’s the attitude of the players who absorb the pressure and deliver a performance like that,” Allardyce told Sky Sports in an on-pitch post-match interview.

“That’s what’s happened over the past 10 games only one defeat. It’s pretty miraculous. To the lads and all the staff, thank you very much.”

It is the fourth season in a row that Sunderland have pulled off a late escape to avoid relegation and it guarantees the northeast club top-flight football for a 10th consecutive season.

Allardyce was the architect of their surge to safety, succeeding the sacked Dick Advocaat in October and overseeing a late-season run that has seen them take 11 points from a possible 15.

Having seen his side come from 2-0 down to beat outgoing champions Chelsea 3-2 on their previous outing, Allardyce kept faith with the same starting XI for the seventh game running.

His side went ahead when Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles misjudged Van Aanholt’s 38th-minute free-kick, moving to his left and allowing the ball to bounce straight past him.

Kone made it 2-0 four minutes later, volleying in emphatically after Sunderland failed to clear a corner, and smashed in his second in the 55th minute when Robles spilled Wahbi Khazri’s corner.

The result at the Stadium of Light also served to increase the pressure on Everton manager Roberto Martinez, whose 12th-place side have won just one of their last 10 league matches.

Newcastle ‘devastated

Alex Neil’s Norwich got the better of Watford in a ding-dong contest at Carrow Road, but Sunderland’s win meant that they would have been relegated regardless.

After Troy Deeney had tapped in Odion Ighalo’s 11th-minute cross to put Watford head, Norwich hit back through Nathan Redmond, Dieumerci Mbokani and a Craig Cathcart own goal.

Deeney returned the favour for Ighalo as Watford reduced the arrears six minutes into the second half, but Redmond teed up Mbokani to restore Norwich’s two-goal cushion six minutes later.

“Obviously it’s a severe disappointment,” said Neil, the Norwich manager.

“We’ve known it was going to be a really difficult task. We had it in our hands three, four, five games ago, but unfortunately we came up short.”

Newcastle went down despite the best efforts of manager Rafael Benitez, who was recruited in March after Steve McClaren was sacked.

The former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager sparked an upturn in both results and performances, but hopes of a dramatic escape from the bottom three were fatally undermined by last Saturday’s 0-0 draw at already-relegated Aston Villa.

Benitez had a clause inserted in his contract guaranteeing that he would be released if Newcastle went down, so the St James’ Park club will begin life in the Championship with a new manager.

In a statement released by Newcastle, managing director Lee Charnley said: “Tonight we are devastated at our relegation from the Premier League, as I know every single person connected to this football club will be.

“The process of scrutinising what went wrong and planning for what is to come has already begun.

“Right now, of course, Rafa and the team must prepare for the final game of the season, but after that, please rest assured we will communicate more fully with supporters.”

In the day’s other game, Christian Benteke’s stoppage-time header earned Europa League finalists Liverpool a 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea, who had taken a 32nd-minute lead through a dazzling solo goal from belatedly in-form winger Eden Hazard.

-AFP

Hazard hits stunner, but Liverpool snatch point

Hazard hits stunner, but Liverpool snatch point

LIVERPOOL: An injury-time Christian Benteke goal earned Liverpool a point against unlucky Chelsea in a hard-working 1-1 draw at Anfield on Wednesday.

Eden Hazard’s first-half opener was a thrilling finish worthy of winning any contest and it looked like it would be enough until Benteke nodded in Sheyi Ojo’s cross late on as Liverpool’s unbeaten record at home was extended to 13 matches.

The result preserved the 10-point gap between the teams, with Europa League finalists Liverpool eighth and outgoing Premier League champions Chelsea ninth.

It has been a season of change at Anfield, with Jurgen Klopp replacing Brendan Rodgers as manager in October, and more transformations will take place during the close season.

This match was the last time Anfield’s Main Stand will be seen in its current guise as the famous ground is redesigned to increase the stadium’s capacity.

Chelsea will also undergo significant change over the coming months, but mainly on the pitch.

Long-time captain John Terry is set to leave the club, but he cannot enjoy a public farewell as his red card in Chelsea’s last encounter against Sunderland meant he was suspended for the club’s final two games.

It robs the Stamford Bridge faithful of the opportunity to show their thanks for Terry’s commitment over the past decade and beyond, and protests in the away end here showed how much a large section of Chelsea’s fans want the 35-year-old to be given a further one-year contract.

As well as their club captain, Chelsea were also without Diego Costa at Anfield, while Liverpool were at virtual full strength as Klopp looked to test his preferred starting XI ahead of their Europa League final against Sevilla next Wednesday.

This match in years gone by has been one of the most tense and tumultuous in the English game, but although the start was bright, it had little of the fire of old.

Home fans hail Hazard

Liverpool have clicked in recent weeks and that was shown by their early attacking ambitions as Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino all tested the Chelsea defence.

The visitors, meanwhile, looked to hit Liverpool on the break and Bertrand Traore had a decent chance from close range that Simon Mignolet comfortably stopped.

The best early opportunity fell to Firmino after 19 minutes when Daniel Sturridge’s clever pass put him clean through, but his touch let him down at the crucial moment and he could not steer his effort past Asmir Begovic.

After half an hour, and against the run of play, Hazard scored a simply sublime goal that many home fans applauded, such was its quality.

The Belgian’s fine strike against Tottenham Hotspur last week might have settled the Premier League title race in Leicester City’s favour, but this finish was even better, gliding through three attempted Liverpool tackles before slotting past Mignolet into the bottom-right corner.

The Liverpool goalkeeper then almost gifted Chelsea a second goal as he hesitated when coming of his line, but Traore could not quite curl his free shot into the top corner.

After the re-start, Chelsea saw more of the ball, but it was Liverpool who made the better chances.

On the hour mark, Sturridge nearly grabbed an equaliser from Lallana’s brilliant through ball, but Begovic did well to block, while Kolo Toure then missed a glorious headed chance.

After Mignolet denied Traore at the other end, Benteke equalised with virtually the last touch of the match, heading home after Begovic could only parry Ojo’s cross.

-AFP

West Ham vows life bans for bus attack fans

West Ham vows life bans for bus attack fansLONDON: West Ham United on Wednesday vowed to ban for life any fans found to have taken part in an attack on the Manchester United team bus before their key Premier League game.

The attacked marred West Ham’s 3-2 win over the English giants in the final match at the London club’s Boleyn Ground on Tuesday night. The match was delayed for 45 minutes because of the incidents.

“It was an extraordinary night full of extraordinary moments in front of extraordinary fans, 99 percent of whom behaved impeccably and were a credit to the club,” the club said in a statement.

“However, we are aware that there were some supporters outside the Boleyn Ground who didn’t act in an appropriate way when the Manchester United team bus was damaged.

“That was not acceptable and we will work with the police to identify those responsible and ban them for life.”

West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan had initially blamed United for the delay to kick-off, saying they should have arrived earlier at the ground.

– AFP

Leicester City set to offer Ranieri long-term contract

Leicester City set to offer Ranieri long-term contract

LONDON: Leicester City will discuss a possible contract extension with manager Claudio Ranieri at the end of the season as a reward for his role in the club’s maiden Premier League title victory, vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha has said.

Italian Ranieri took over from Nigel Pearson on a three-year contract in July and Leicester are keen to offer him improved terms and tie him down to a long-term deal in the wake of his spectacular achievement.

“At the end of the season we will talk about that (extending Ranieri’s contract) with him,” Srivaddhanaprabha told British media.

“We will sit down together and when we talk about something, it’s long term, not just until September. I like people to work for me when they are happy and enjoy working with the group of people.”

Srivaddhanaprabha, son of Leicester’s billionaire Thai owner Vichai, reiterated the club’s commitment to keeping their best players and strengthening the squad in the close season.

Speculation has mounted in the days following Leicester’s remarkable title triumph that the likes of midfielder Riyad Mahrez, midfield enforcer N’Golo Kante and top scorer Jamie Vardy may be lured away by bigger rivals in England or Europe.

“We will try everything that we can to build the team and to secure the same group of players and add some quality,” Aiyawatt added.

“I have to talk to all of the scouts when they give me the lists. I have to talk to Claudio about which player he wants. I always support, always.”

– Reuters

Brazil World Cup winner warns tourists on Rio Olympic dangers

Brazil World Cup winner warns tourists on Rio Olympic dangers

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian World Cup winner Rivaldo has warned tourists to keep away from Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics in three months, saying the city is too dangerous.

“Stay in your country. Here, your life is in danger,” the 44-year-old star of the 2002 World Cup team said on his Instagram account Monday.

He referred to the shooting death of a 17-year-old girl over the weekend in Rio, saying “things are increasingly ugly in Brazil.”

Rivaldo said that in addition to high crime the country suffered from poor public hospitals and “the political mess” of the impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff.

“Only God can change the situation in our Brazil,” he wrote.

The warning was likely to anger organizers of the first Olympics to be staged in South America.

Officials say that about 85,000 police and soldiers will be on the streets, double the number of personnel deployed for the 2012 London Olympics.

Rio de Janeiro suffers from rampant crime, with favela neighborhoods subjected to frequent shootouts between drug traffickers and heavily armed police.

-AFP

Scandal-hit FIFA resumes 2026 World Cup selection process

Scandal-hit FIFA resumes 2026 World Cup selection process

MEXICO CITY: FIFA revived on Tuesday the process to choose the 2026 World Cup host, frozen since last year amid corruption allegations hanging over the upcoming tournaments in Russia and Qatar.

The FIFA Council’s resumption of the process is one of the biggest decisions by football’s governing body since it elected a new president, Gianni Infantino, in February to clean up its tarred reputation.

The newly created council, which replaced the scandal-plagued executive committee, made the announcement after a two-day meeting in Mexico City ahead of a congress on Thursday and Friday that will discuss FIFA reforms.

FIFA said in a statement that the bidding process was resuming and that the host of the 2026 World Cup will be chosen in May 2020 — with the congress, not the council, electing the winner.

The process was postponed in June due to the corruption scandal centering around the attribution of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 finals to Qatar.

“Things are getting calmer at FIFA,” said Fernando Sarney, Brazilian member of the council.

“Gianni is talking about football, traveling around, trying to bring football back in our conservations, because football was really out of everything,” Sarney said.

US, China bids?

Human rights are among the areas that FIFA will examine before awarding the 2026 tournament, a new requirement that was among 25 recommendations made in a report last month by former UN special representative on human rights and business John Ruggie.

Qatar has also come under fire for its treatment of migrant workers, while FIFA has faced criticism for its stance on human rights in Russia, the 2018 hosts.

Sustainable event management and environmental protection will be among the other areas examined by FIFA during a consultation period between now and May 2017.

Candidates will then have to present their bids by December 2018.

Well before a host is chosen, the FIFA Council will decide at its October 13-14 meeting whether to expand the number of teams from 32 to 40 for the 2026 finals — one of Infantino’s election promises.

The proposal has the backing of the smaller football federations, but not the richer championships and the European Club Association.

FIFA could also decide its rotation system that awards the World Cup to a new continent every four years.

This would allow a country like China to bid for the 2026 World Cup, even though 2022 hosts Qatar are in the same Asian confederation.

Mexico’s football federation has voiced its intention to bid for the 2026 tournament, while north American rivals the United States are also interested.

FIFA could also lift its ban, imposed in 2011, on joint bids, which happened only once in the 2002 World Cup hosted by Japan and South Korea.

This would open the door to a rumored US-Canada bid for 2026 or a joint Argentina-Uruguay proposal for 2030.

In other decisions, the FIFA Council gave its backing to admitting Gibraltar and Kosovo, both already recognized by European football body UEFA. If the congress agrees during its Thursday-Friday meeting, Gibraltar and Kosovo could participate in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

-AFP