Photo Getty Images. Caption: Gian Piero Ventura in discussions with Marco Parolo Not since the 1958 tournament, coincidentally held in Sweden, have the Azzurri not been at football’s showpiece event, but defeat in Solna in the first leg proved their undoing and surely signals the end of Gian Piero Ventura’s disappointing reign as coach.It was a far more industrious effort from the four-time world champions at San Siro than the drab effort produced in the first leg, and visiting goalkeeper Robin Olsen was at his best to keep Italy at bay at the end of a busy first half.But there was no way past Sweden’s stoic defence, which held firm to help book the nation’s first World Cup appearance since 2006, and – for all of Italy’s dominance of possession – the aggregate result could have been more convincing with the visitors denied two decent penalty shouts.The inquest now begins for Ventura – with reports suggesting he was under pressure even if Italy had qualified – and his decision to once again omit Napoli star Lorenzo Insigne from the starting XI will be one of several tactical decisions to face severe scrutiny.Just 16 months ago, the Azzurri were only knocked out of Euro 2016 via a quarter-final penalty shootout defeat to Germany, but the upward trajectory started by Antonio Conte has not continued under Ventura, whose position appears untenable.1958 – This is the first time Italy fail to reach the World Cup since 1958. Fall.— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) November 13, 2017Ventura will have been encouraged early on as Italy dictated the tempo and Marco Parolo saw penalty claims waved away by referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz following a trip by Ludwig Augustinsson.At the other end, Sweden had a more legitimate shout dismissed when Matteo Darmian seemingly handled as Marcus Berg tried to squirm his way through the home defence.Jorginho, making his competitive debut for Italy, slipped in Ciro Immobile, but the angle escaped the striker who fired into the side-netting.Sweden then lost first-leg scorer Johansson to a serious-looking knee injury, and their misery would have worsened had Antonio Candreva not lashed over from Immobile’s pass that was allowed to travel across the face of goal.There was another moment of contention for Lahoz to deal with when Emil Forsberg appealed for handball against Andrea Barzagli – his fervent remonstration earning a yellow card.Italy cranked up the pressure as the half neared an end and Robin Olsen got a crucial touch as Immobile raced onto Jorginho’s throughball, before the visiting goalkeeper then made another smart stop to deny Alessandro Florenzi.The pressure continued after the restart and Lahoz questionably penalised Darmian for handball when the wing-back was kicked in the check by Mikael Lustig in the area.Darmian was involved in Italy’s next attack, providing the cross from which Florenzi’s acrobatic effort from just inside the box went agonisingly wide of the right post.After 1 goalless hour, @azzurri frustration is beginning to show on the pitch and in the bars.Italy last failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1958… pic.twitter.com/2UGbbVOJln— European Qualifiers (@EuroQualifiers) November 13, 2017Still Italy pressed and Immobile could only shoot wide with a side-foot volley from Candreva’s right-wing centre, before Olsen had to tip over when Florenzi’s deflected cross almost looped in.With three minutes remaining, Italy poured bodies forward and Stephan El Shaarawy’s expert volley drew a fine stop from Olsen, and Parolo nodded wide from an inviting position shortly after.But there was to be no late drama in Milan, as Ventura and his side were left to deal with the embarrassment of their World Cup failure.QUALIFIED!Congratulations, Sweden!They make it to a #WorldCup for the first time since 2006 #WCQ pic.twitter.com/zsrC3Os9Pw— #WCQ (@FIFAWorldCup) November 13, 2017
The draw:Men’s Bowl: Tarangau vs Kone StormsWomen’s Plate: Hohola Flies vs POM SouthsMen’s Plate: Wests (1) vs Royals (2)Women’s Cup: Paga Panthers vs RoyalsMen’s Cup: Hohola Flies (1) vs Tarangau (2).Tournament coordinator, Meke Maino, said everything is set to go ahead and there will be no disruptions.He said the finals plus the presentation will finish before 4pm for the SP Hunters training.The Mineral Resources Development Company-sponsored tournament has put up K23,500 in prize money.
Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images. Caption: Dillian Whyte and Joseph Parker embrace after their heavyweight fight. As a combination, the two heavyweights put on a show worthy of topping the pay-per-view bill at the O2 in London, their contrasting methods meshing together in a way that left the outcome always in doubt right through to the closing seconds.Now, though, they will head in different directions. It was billed as a must-win for both; triumph and a world-title shot was an apparent certainty – lose and risk falling out of the picture, at least for the foreseeable future.In reality, a defeat is rarely as disastrous for your career prospects as suggested in the build-up to a big bout. Opportunities are never too far away in boxing, it’s just your bargaining position that fluctuates.Whyte was the one who prevailed on points, all three judges at ringside scoring the bout in his favour, but not before he had taken a late trip to the canvas that threatened to turn the tables in stunning fashion.Still, the fighter nicknamed The Body Snatcher once again demonstrated he has the stomach for a fight. Chumbawamba’s 1997 hit “Tubthumping” is an appropriate theme for Whyte, who got knocked down, but got up again to triumph.”I’m a savage – I will always get up and fight on,” he said in the post-fight press conference. “There’s something inside of me that, you know… it takes a lot to put me away. A lot.”About last night..what we live for! pic.twitter.com/XMs0brwzGw— Eddie Hearn (@EddieHearn) July 29, 2018Parker and his team knew as much beforehand, though. They only needed to view Whyte’s display against Anthony Joshua in December 2015, when he heroically lost to his rival in a dramatic domestic dust-up – to know he would be a tough nut to crack.Knowing this in advance, his performance offered more questions than answers.The New Zealander started brightly – flashing an eye-catching one-two combination in the opening seconds – and finished strongly, flooring Whyte with a straight right, yet in between struggled to find a way to cope with his opponent’s aggression. He will return home to ponder if he left it too late to produce some of his best work.However, as Whyte’s trainer Mark Tibbs pointed out, the key takeaway was not Parker’s up-and-down performance but Whyte’s statement to the leading names in the division, most notably Joshua and Deontay Wilder.”It’s not what Parker did wrong, it’s about what he [Whyte] did right,” Tibbs said.”What he [Whyte] has done is marvellous, considering the limited experienced he’s had. What he’s done is a feat – a feat and a half.”There are areas for improvement. But, fight by fight, he’s slowly getting experience.”Say it loud and Say it Proud #BodySnatcherMaMan pic.twitter.com/MacxIf2YNz— Mark Tibbs (@MarkTibbsBoxing) July 29, 2018Parker faced questions about his future from the media in the aftermath, but was offered words of comfort from the man who handed him a second career defeat.”With two decent wins, he’s back in contention,” Whyte proclaimed.Parker can undoubtedly rise again – he is 26, has no issue with miles on the clock and has shown enough talent, albeit in occasional flashes, to suggest he belongs in the upper echelon of a division brimming with options.The key for Parker and his team is picking the right opponent next, as well as making sure he is motivated for the right reasons. Having headlined in two successive major events, against Joshua and now Whyte, money should no longer be a prime reason for lacing up the gloves.In contrast, Whyte’s stock has never been so high.”The better the fights, the better I fight. When the chips are down, I roll the dice,” he said.He gambled in choosing to take on the former WBO world champion, yet the risk was worth the reward. The 30-year-old claimed his most notable scalp to date in a professional career that goes from strength to strength, once again doing it the hard way with his willingness to get involved in a scrap.While Whyte can now wait to be seated at the heavyweight top table, the beaten Parker must work out a way to maximise his potential. He only needs to look at his last opponent to see how it is possible to recover from a setback.
The regional team failed to win a match in their first appearance in 18 years after being swept 3-0 by China, Indonesia and South Korea to finish bottom of Pool B, consigning them to automatic relegation back to Group Two in 2020.Team Captain Gilles De Gouy said the players failed to take their chances against more experienced opposition.”In Group One you play against better players than you – you have just a few opportunities – I should say four or five – during a match and you have two or three strikes in the first two games – so when you have these break points is where you have to take at least one or two, 50 percent of these opportunities,” he said.De Gouy says all four players need to make improvements if they want to be a part of the Pacific Oceania squad in future.Papua New Guinea’s Abigal Tere-Apisah and Samoa’s Steffi Carruthers took their doubles match against China to a deciding third set, while Tere-Apisah also went the distance in her singles rubbers against Indonesia and South Korea.De Gouy said Carruthers was affected by knee problems which restricted her to only playing doubles, while Tere-Apisah did not arrive in Kazakhstan in peak condition following visa issues.”She had to stay two months in PNG so there was no official matches for her – her last official matches was at the end of November, which is way too far…she felt finally well on court regarding the score in an official match on the final day, which is way too far and way too late, so she has definitely to organise herself so she could play more official matches the same month as the Fed Cup,” he said.Papua New Guinea’s Violet Apisah struggled on her Fed Cup debut, losing both singles rubbers in straight sets before twisting her ankle.De Gouy said the teenager, who was replaced by Carol Lee for the final pool match, needs to lift her professionalism if she wants to improve.”It’s quite surprising because she’s played a few times on the Grand Slam Junior (circuit) – she played US Open, Australian Open in the last few years and so different the Fed Cup is. I think she still has to learn a lot about professionalism and taking responsibility and so I think it’s a big learning curve for her in this event because it’s fully different from her previous experience as a player.”Thailand were also relegated and will join Pacific Oceania in Asia/Oceania Group Two next year.Photo: Facebook Caption: Pacific Oceania tennis players Violet Apisah, Abigail Tere-Apisah, Carol Lee, Steffi Carruthers.
Formula One champions Mercedes have no “magic bullets” to solve the problems that slowed Lewis Hamilton in Russia last month, but they are focusing on finding a solution, team boss Toto Wolff said.Hamilton started and finished fourth in Sochi on April 30, ending a run of eight successive appearances on the podium. The triple world champion was left puzzling over “a very odd weekend”.The Briton had complained of his Mercedes overheating from early on. He ended up finishing 36 seconds behind team mate Valtteri Bottas, who took the first win of his Formula One career.“Lewis had a difficult weekend in both qualifying and the race,” Wolff said in a preview for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix, the fifth round of the season, in Barcelona.“We have spent our time since then unpicking what happened to understand why we couldn’t get the car in the right window (of performance) so he could feel comfortable with it,” added the Austrian.“There are no magic bullets to understanding that, just a lot of hard work and attention to detail. We must give him the tools he needs to do the job in the next races and that will be a big focus for us.”Hamilton failed to finish in Spain last year after colliding with then-team mate Nico Rosberg at the start, a clash that allowed Red Bull’s Dutch teenager Max Verstappen to win.This season, Ferrari and Mercedes have each won two races so far.Wolff said Mercedes, who lead Ferrari in the constructors’ standings by a single point, needed to make plenty of improvements.“The prevailing feeling is that there is lots of homework to do to come back stronger with a car that can perform on a consistent level every weekend,” he said.“I have the feeling that we are moving in the right direction, but we need 24/7 shifts to achieve our ultimate targets.”
Sunderland manager David Moyes has resigned following their relegation from the Premier League this season, the north-east club said in a statement on Monday.Moyes, who joined Sunderland at the start of the campaign, said earlier this month he would stay in charge next term but the Scot decided to leave after a meeting with the board in London on Monday.“I would like to thank (chairman) Ellis Short and the board for giving me the opportunity to manage Sunderland and the fans for always being so passionately supportive of their club,” Moyes, 54, said in a statement.“I wish the players and my successor well in their efforts towards promotion back to the Premier League”.Short added: “I pursued the services of David Moyes for a considerable period prior to his appointment last summer, which makes the announcement of his departure difficult for everyone concerned.“Having worked tirelessly throughout the campaign to avoid relegation from the Premier League, David has chosen to leave the club without compensation, which is testament to his character.”Sunderland appointed Moyes on a four-year contract in July to replace Sam Allardyce who left to become England manager.However, the former Everton and Manchester United boss, who had been released by Real Sociedad, struggled at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland finished bottom of the table with 24 points after only six victories in 38 games, scoring 29 goals.The Scot, who was sacked by Real Sociedad after just a year in charge, had last managed in England during an ill-fated spell at United in 2013-14, following Alex Ferguson’s retirement.Moyes had started his managerial career at Preston North End, winning the third-tier crown, before leaving to take over at Everton where he spent more than 11 years.He was Sunderland’s fourth full-time managerial appointment since Italian Paolo Di Canio was sacked in September 2013.The club had flirted with relegation in each of the previous four seasons before finally going down this term.Former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips is the bookmakers’ favourite to take over with former Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka and Leeds United boss Garry Monk also backed.Chairman Short added: “In the days ahead we will take some time for reflection, and then focus on recruitment and pre-season as we prepare for our Championship campaign.”
Champions Manchester City will have to wait to break the Premier League points record after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Huddersfield Town at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.City, who lifted the Premier League trophy in front of their fans after the match, mustered only two shots on target all game, as relegation-threatened Huddersfield dug in for a vital point.The draw means City have 94 points, one short of the season record set by Chelsea back in 2004-05, but they still have two games left to play.Huddersfield gave their survival hopes a huge boost with a point that moves them three clear of the bottom three ahead of their midweek trip to Chelsea.“England is a special place and is so tough,” City manager Pep Guardiola said after the match. “Today we saw it. You never know if you are going to win, but I had no doubt what I had to do.”Guardiola handed John Stones his first Premier League start since January in defence, and the England international was immediately put under pressure by a determined Huddersfield side.City goalkeeper Ederson was forced into the first meaningful save of the game 11 minutes in, but Florent Hadergjonaj should really have done better from a good position.Hadergjonaj then found Alex Pritchard on the edge of the box, who again forced Ederson into a smart stop. City, however, failed to mount any sort of attack.City improved after the break, as Guardiola shuffled his pack, but a poor final pass and brave defending from the visitors kept the champions at bay.As the game went into stoppage time, Huddersfield backed off and that tactic almost proved costly as Nicolas Otamendi curled just wide.The visitors held on for a crucial point, meaning City must wait for that points record. On an afternoon of celebration at the Etihad, the champions will not be too downbeat about the result.“This gives us belief (that Huddersfield can stay up) but to be totally honest I’ve had belief in this group of players since pre-season,” Huddersfield manager David Wagner said. “Every player and member of the backroom staff believes.”
It could have been the greatest day of their lives but England’s World Cup squad returned home on Sunday with the euphoria that surrounded their run to the last four having dissipated and familiar, less exhilarating, challenges lying ahead.The Premier League begins in just four weeks and Gareth Southgate’s squad, players who were being hailed as national heroes just a few days ago, will return to the day job and the struggle for starting places at their clubs.In a league where a large majority of the players are imported from Europe and beyond, being a member of the England squad is no guarantee of first-team football.It makes life tough for the England manager, who, even at the height of their World Cup optimism, noted the unique issue facing him.“We only have 33 percent of the league to pick from. So that is still a huge problem for us,” he said.So for all the talk of England being stronger at the European Championship in two years time, Southgate knows it is not as simple as just adding experience to his side.The situation is particularly hard for those players at the biggest clubs – none of Marcus Rashford, Phil Jones or Jesse Lingard are guaranteed a regular starting spot under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.Fabian Delph, John Stones and Raheem Sterling will all have a battle on their hands to appear regularly on the Manchester City team sheet alongside their England team mate Kyle Walker, who is a fixed presence at right back.Sterling may have scored 18 goals in 33 appearances in last year’s title-winning campaign, but while he was in Russia, City manager Pep Guardiola completed the signing of Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City for a reported club record fee of 60 million pounds.Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson was an essential part of their run to the Champions League final last season but he too faces expensively-recruited competition in the shape of Brazilian Fabinho and Guinean Naby Keita.It is even harder for emerging talent.Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who ended the tournament with a promising display in the third-place playoff defeat to Belgium, does not even know where he will be playing next season.His club Chelsea loaned him out to Crystal Palace last term and a change of manager at Stamford Bridge adds to the uncertainty he faces.AIR OF OPTIMISMThose who can be confident of regular football are found at Tottenham Hotspur – where Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Kieran Trippier are established first-teamers.Outside the Champions League clubs, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is a clear number one at Everton and Harry Maguire is at the heart of Leicester’s defence.There is an undeniable air of optimism around the England team though and Football Association Technical Director Dan Ashworth summed up the view that gaining experience is now the key.“We’ve got some good players in our senior team and some good technical players in our development pathway as well,” said Ashworth.“We’re probably a little bit short on big-game experience, a bit short on number of national caps and we’re a bit young for what a winning national team looks like,” he said.Much of the optimism over England’s future stems from the success of the junior teams. Last year, England’s junior teams won the Under-20 World Cup, the Under-17 World Cup and the Under-19 European Championship.But there is long-standing concern over how much playing time those youngsters will get at their clubs.Phil Foden, the talented captain of that Under-17 team, has been highlighted by many as a possible answer to the lack of a creative midfielder in Southgate’s squad but the 18-year-old faces a daunting challenge even to get into Manchester City’s midfield.“He’s got a lot of ability and I can see him developing into a really talented player,” said his team mate Delph, who offered a reminder that Foden is still “learning his craft”.“In terms of his development within the England set-up. That’s up to him — he’s got to keep working hard and progressing and if he breaks into the City team and shows what he can do, I’m sure the (England) manager will select him.”The same consideration could apply to a dozen or so young players coming through the system.When the current England first team, however, are not even guaranteed regular club football, the idea that a conveyor belt of young talent will carry Southgate’s squad to future glory is far from certain.
Manchester City battled back to winning ways, coming from a goal down to overwhelm Hoffenheim 2-1 in the Champions League with a brilliant Leroy Sane double that ensured they progressed to the last-16 as winners of Group F on Wednesday.The already-qualified English champions, who had suffered their first league defeat in 22 matches at Chelsea on Saturday, needed a point to guarantee top spot but were quickly shocked again when going behind to an Andrej Kramaric penalty.Yet in a hugely entertaining and open encounter, German starlet Sane inspired the comeback against the Bundesliga side with a magnificent free kick moments before the break and another neatly-taken left foot finish just after the hour.The win, which should have been far more decisive such was City’s dominance with 25 goal attempts, saw them top the table on 13 points, ahead of second-placed Olympique Lyonnais, who qualified on eight after they had drawn 1-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk.The Ukrainian side earned the Europa League spot in third place with Hoffenheim last on four points.Hoffenheim made a bright, enterprising start, with Kramaric putting them ahead from the penalty spot in the 16th minute after Aymeric Laporte had bundled over Benjamin Hubner in the box.Yet after the Croat had continued his remarkable run of scoring for both club and country for a ninth match in a row, City poured on the pressure as both Gabriel Jesus and Nicolas Otamendi, with headers against the woodwork, cursed their luck.With John Stones also thwarted by Oliver Baumann’s fine save, City looked to be getting frustrated until, in first-half stoppage time, Sane produced a magnificent curling left-footed free kick to equalise.The one-way traffic continued after the break as Jesus and Otamendi both spurned chances and Sane somehow conspired to make a mess of the finish after Raheem Sterling had sprinted clear all the way down the field from just outside his own box.Yet the 22-year-old, in searing form, quickly made up for his blunder with a cool 61st minute finish after again being put in by Sterling.Wednesday’s champions League results:Man City 2Hoffenheim 1Shakhtar Donetsk 1Lyon 1Valencia 2Man United 1Young Boys 2Juventus 1Ajax 3Bayern Munich 3Benfica 1AEK Athens 0Real Madrid 0CSKA Moscow 3Viktoria Plzen 2Roma 1