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From Copa America to Olympics, Richarlison nets 3 for Brazil

From Copa America to Olympics, Richarlison nets 3 for Brazil

Richarlison has scored a hat trick for Brazil in a 4-2 victory over Germany at the start of the men’s Olympic soccer tournamentBy ROB HARRIS AP Global Soccer WriterJuly 22, 2021, 2:59 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleYOKOMAHA, Japan — The jig of joy seven minutes into his Olympic debut showed just why Richarlison was so determined to be allowed by Everton to come to Japan.Even if it meant doing double duty with Brazil and extending the season even further and delaying his entry into the new English club Premier League campaign.Wearing the famed golden No. 10 Brazil jersey, the 24-year-old forward isn’t wasting time with his Olympic opportunity.Just 11 days after losing the Copa America final to Argentina in Rio de Janeiro and now 10 time zones away with Brazil’s under-23s team, Richarlison scored a hat trick inside the opening half hour against Germany on Thursday.It helped Brazil open the men’s soccer tournament with a 4-2 victory.And it started in the 7th minute by netting the rebound after his initial shot was blocked by Germany goalkeeper Florian Müller before leading his teammates into a dance.It needed the players to create as much atmosphere as possible with only artificial crowd noise in Yokohama as the pandemic shut spectators out of this 70,000-plus capacity stadium.Richarlison didn’t wait long to celebrate again — heading past Müller in the 22nd and curling in a third in the 30th.It was a cushion that ensured Brazil withstood Germany’s attempt at a comeback in the second half when Nadiem Amiri and Ragnar Ache reduced the deficit to 3-2. There would be no equalizer with Paulinho’s goal deep inside stoppage time completing Brazil’s victory.It gave Brazil the early lead in Group D over Ivory Coast, which beat Saudi Arabia earlier in the same stadium with a 2-1 victory clinched by AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie.GROUP CTwo-time Olympic champion Argentina was stunned 2-0 by Australia. In its first Olympic game since 2008, Australia took the lead through Lachlan Wales’ tap-in the 14th minute at the Sapporo Dome.Argentina had Francisco Ortega sent off after being booked twice late in the first half. Marco Tilio then secured the victory in the 80th, just a minute after coming off the bench.Australia is top of Group C ahead Egypt and Spain, who drew 0-0 in the other game.GROUP AAn empty stadium is not how Japanese athletes imagined competing for the first time in Tokyo at their home Olympics.At least the men’s soccer team opened with a win — a day before the opening ceremony of the pandemic-impacted games.Takefusa Kubo scored the only goal with a curling strike off the post in the 71st minute that clinched a 1-0 victory over South Africa at the Tokyo Stadium.Kubo is a 20-year-old forward signed up to Real Madrid who has yet to play for the Spanish giants while gaining first-team experience elsewhere in La Liga.In the other Group A game, Mexico beat France 4-1 with four second-half goals. Alexis Vega headed in Mexico’s opener in the 46th minute and Sebastian Cordova doubled the lead with a volley in the 55th.France striker André-Pierre Gignac, who plays in Mexico’s top division with Tigres, pulled one back from the penalty spot in the 69th. Uriel Antuna and Eduardo Aguirre extended Mexico’s definitive lead in the final 10 minutes.GROUP BChris Wood’s goal gave New Zealand a 1-0 victory over South Korea at the Ibaraki Kashima Stadium where a few hundred fans were permitted because it is just outside Tokyo and not in the same state of emergency as the capital.The 29-year-old Wood is one of New Zealand’s three overage players permitted in a squad comprised largely of players under the age of 23.In the other Group B game, Romania also beat Honduras 1-0.———More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Soccer players kneel to start ew era of Olympic activism

Soccer players kneel to start ew era of Olympic activism

Soccer players at the Olympics have taken a knee before kickoff in their matches on the first day of action at the Tokyo GamesBy ROB HARRIS AP Global Soccer WriterJuly 21, 2021, 10:06 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleTOKYO — The referee’s whistle blew, the British players glanced at one another and they dropped to their knees. Their Chilean counterparts responded in kind, all taking a knee at the Sapporo Dome.An hour later, it was the American and Swedish players in Tokyo taking part Wednesday in united, unprecedented gestures against racism by teams at an Olympics.On the initial day of action at the Tokyo Games, the women’s soccer players were the first athletes to use the Olympic platform for a display of activism.Long restricted by the International Olympic Committee, such protests within limited parameters are now permitted at the Games inside the field of play.The British players decided at a team meeting before flying to Japan to perform the gesture that has been featured over the last year at club matches in the Women’s Super League in England.Unlike in sports like the NFL, where players take a knee during the national anthem, in soccer it happens just before kickoff.It was in 2016 that Colin Kaepernick first kneeled rather than stood during the anthem while playing for the San Francisco 49ers.Soccer previously shunned any form of activism at matches. But FIFA relaxed its policy last year after players in Europe decided to use matches to protest racial injustice sparked by the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a white police officer.FIFA also told referees to apply common sense and to allow players to display T-shirts with messages against racism that previously were banned in soccer.The IOC allows gestures of activism — if permitted by that sport’s governing body — only before or after the official start of events at the Olympics.Podium protests are still off-limits, prohibiting a repeat of the raised black-gloved fists of American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Amnesty critical of FIFA leader starring in Saudi PR video

Amnesty critical of FIFA leader starring in Saudi PR video

Human rights activists are denouncing FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s starring turn in a promotional video for the Saudi Arabian government in which he claims the kingdom has made important changes.The slick 3½-minute PR campaign was posted on Twitter by the Saudi ministry of sport on Thursday, featuring Infantino participating in a ceremonial sword dance and sweeping shots of the palaces of Diriyah.“It’s an amazing scenery, it’s an incredible history,” Infantino says in part. “This is something that the world should come and see.”The video, which also features Infantino praising how “a lot has changed” in Saudi Arabia, was filmed while on a trip that saw him meet with the crown prince, who has been credited with introducing social changes while cracking down on activists who pushed for reforms.“It should be abundantly clear to everyone at FIFA that Saudi Arabia is attempting to use the glamour and prestige of sport as a PR tool to distract from its abysmal human rights record,” Amnesty International said in a statement to The Associated Press.Infantino overlooked FIFA’s own significant issues with Saudi Arabia in the meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.FIFA and other major soccer competitions have spent more than three years trying to stop a Saudi-facilitated broadcasting operation from pirating broadcasts from Qatar’s beIN Sports. FIFA issued a statement in 2019 saying the “piracy continues unabated” and requesting the “Saudi Government take swift and decisive action against beoutQ.”That has not happened with beIN, which owns the rights to World Cup matches across the Middle East, outlawed in Saudi Arabia.Asked if Infantino used the meeting with the crown prince to raise issues over the illicit broadcasting operation, FIFA only pointed to a statement from last year after the World Trade Organization found the Saudi state blocked moves to shut down beoutQ.FIFA said the “main purpose” of the two-day trip to Saudi Arabia during the coronavirus pandemic was “to witness the signing of the historic declaration between the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council.”The declaration Tuesday eases a rift with Qatar, following Saudi Arabia’s decision to end a 3 1/2-year embargo of the tiny energy-rich country that has been impacting preparations for the 2022 World Cup around Doha.FIFA did not say if Infantino challenged Prince Mohammed on human rights issues in Saudi, given the governing body’s own code.“It’s worrying that Gianni Infantino has apparently endorsed a video where he hails the ‘greatness’ of Saudi Arabia but says nothing about its cruel crackdown on human rights defenders,” Amnesty said, “including people like Loujain al-Hathloul, who was given a jail sentence only days ago.”Al-Hathloul, who is one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activists, was sentenced to nearly six years in prison under a vague and broadly-worded counterterrorism law.She has spoken out against guardianship laws that barred women from traveling abroad without the consent of a male relative, such as a father, husband or brother. The kingdom eased guardianship laws last year, allowing women to apply for a passport and travel freely.“We would urge Mr. Infantino to clarify the circumstances of his appearance in this video and to make a statement expressing support for jailed women’s human rights defenders like Loujain al-Hathloul,” Amnesty said.Scrutiny over Infantino’s links to Saudi Arabia in 2018 led to FIFA offering assurances that no nation would be allowed to fund its plans for new competitions. That followed a global uproar that saw Western businesses turn away from the crown prince and the sovereign wealth fund following outcry over Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi’s slaying and dismemberment by government agents inside the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey.Prince Mohammed denies any involvement of the killing of one of his critics. U.S. intelligence agencies, however, said an operation like this could not have happened without his knowledge and the the UN’s special rapporteur said he was liable.Khashoggi’s fiancee called on the Premier League to block moves to buy Newcastle United last year by Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund, which is headed by the prince. The takeover collapsed amid concerns about piracy and human rights complaints.FIFA said Infantino used his meetings to discuss how football can be a “vector of core social values, such as inclusion, solidarity and tolerance.”Amnesty did welcome Infanatino’s support for women’s football in Saudi Arabia.“Surely he should recognize that he, football and sport in general risk being used as part of Saudi Arabia’s long-established sportwashing operation,” Amnesty said.Infantino has been on a tour of Middle East countries in recent weeks, including Dubai for an awards’ ceremony and Abu Dhabi where he met Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak.———More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

4 games per day in group stage of 2022 World Cup in Qatar

4 games per day in group stage of 2022 World Cup in Qatar

The 2022 World Cup will have four games every day in a 12-day group stage and matches later in the tournament that go into extra time will extend past midnight in QatarBy ROB HARRIS AP Global Soccer WriterJuly 15, 2021, 2:08 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — The 2022 World Cup will have four games every day in a 12-day group stage and matches later in the tournament that go into extra time will extend past midnight in Qatar.FIFA released the schedule for the first World Cup to be played in November and December on Wednesday, with kickoff times at 1 p.m. (1000 GMT), 4 p.m. (1300 GMT), 7 p.m. (1600 GMT) and 10 p.m. (1900 GMT).“Once the pairings are known, the possibility will be discussed of providing a more beneficial kickoff time for audiences at home, or indeed for fans in Qatar with regard to the stadium allocation,” FIFA said in a statement.Host Qatar will open the Middle East’s first World Cup in the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium at 1 p.m. on Nov. 21. The final starts at 6 p.m. on Dec. 18 at the 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium. Those are the same kickoff times from the last World Cup in Russia.Eight venues in close proximity to Doha will be used at the tournament, which will be played in 28 days rather than the 32 days used in Russia to minimize the disruption to the European season. Teams and fans will not need to fly around Qatar because stadiums are within a 30-mile radius.Both semifinals — like some games in the previous rounds — will kick off at 10 p.m. and will spill over into the next day if there is extra time, or even just long injury and VAR delays in regular time.There is no space for a gap without games between the group stage and round of 16.Most teams will get three days of rest between games, which FIFA said was “optimum for sporting performance.” But teams in two last-16 matches will only have two days of rest. For the third-place playoff, one losing semifinalist will have two recovery days while the other has three.FIFA is looking to stage the draw for the tournament in late March or early April 2022, when 30 of the 32 finalists will be known.The final starts at 10 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast (4 p.m. Central European time) and will be over before the start of NFL games in the U.S. It will be the second straight final more accommodating to Asian audiences.The 2018 men’s final in Moscow started at 11 a.m. EDT and 5 p.m. CET after nine of the 10 previous championship games from 1978 through 2014 started in the 2-3:30 p.m. EDT and 8-9:30 CET range. The exception was the 2002 final in Japan, which began at 7 a.m. EDT (1 p.m. CET).The trend is a sign that while the 1994 World Cup final started at noon at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California (9 p.m. CET), the 2026 final is more likely be staged on the East Coast or Central time zone,It is the last World Cup with 32 teams before the expansion to 48 nations at the 2026 tournament in the United States, Canada and Mexico.———More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Southgate's penalty plan backfires in England painful final

Southgate's penalty plan backfires in England painful final

England coach Gareth Southgate says he’s responsible for the choice of penalty takers after a shootout loss to Italy in the European Championship finalBy ROB HARRIS AP Global Soccer WriterJuly 12, 2021, 12:14 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — It all ended in a familiar consoling embrace for Gareth Southgate. Wrapping his arms around Bukayo Saka, the England coach felt the teenager’s anguish.Having a decisive penalty saved in a European Championship match at Wembley Stadium can be such a lonely experience.It still follows Southgate 25 years after his missed spot kick in the semifinals against Germany. Now he had to accept responsibility for Sunday’s final loss to Italy, having selected Saka to take what would be the last kick of Euro 2020 — a kick saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma.“He is not on his own,” Southgate said. “We’ve got to be there to support him. We’re got to be there to help him. But I’m sure he’ll get a lot of love from the outside.”The focus will turn instead to Southgate’s decision-making. Should he have asked a 19-year-old to step up for such a pressure-packed moment?Raheem Sterling, a Premier League winner playing at his fourth tournament, wasn’t even included among the five penalty takers before the shootout was over and Italy was going off to collect the trophy.Southgate’s strategy will be analyzed for years to come in a nation still waiting for a first major title since the 1966 World Cup.Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were brought in the 120th minute just in time to take penalties. Rashford had to play at right back with Kyle Walker sacrificed for the looming shootout. Liverpool’s Premier League and Champions League winner, Jordan Henderson, was deemed less suitable for a penalty than Sancho.It was a big ask of Rashford and Sancho after spending most of the night sitting on the bench. They both missed penalties before Sancho as England lost 3-2 in the shootout.“It’s down to me,” Southgate said. “I decided on the penalty takers based on what we’ve done in training. Nobody is on their own. That’s my call and it totally rests on me.”Alan Shearer, who scored England’s first penalty before Southgate’s miss at Euro ’96, doubted his former teammate’s strategy on Sunday night.“Mentally you have to get yourself right,” Shearer said on the BBC. “You’ve not kicked a ball for a few hours.”No one was faulting the players who missed but that didn’t stop the grimly familiar spate of racially abusive messages being sent to Sancho, Rashford and Saka on social media. All three are Black.“They were the best takers we had left on the pitch,” Southgate said. “We win and lose together.”It was a defeat that came after gaining the perfect platform to surge to glory when Luke Shaw scored in the second minute. It looked like Southgate’s tactics were paying off by reverting to a back three for the final, with Shaw deployed as a left wing back. He was set up for the goal by Kieran Trippier’s cross from the other flank.But England also took the lead early in the 2018 World Cup semifinals against Croatia when Trippier was the scorer in the fifth minute.Just like that 2-1 loss three years ago, England failed to build on a position of strength.“At times we didn’t keep the ball well enough,” Southgate said. “That invited more pressure. It’s something we have to be better at.”For a squad hyped up for its attacking threats, England became timid in the search for a second goal.“To get all those attacking players on you have to do it late,” Southgate said. “It was a gamble but if we gambled earlier we may have lost the game in extra time any way.”Striker Harry Kane didn’t even have a shot on target until he scored his penalty.“We should be extremely proud of what we have achieved,” the captain said. “It will probably hurt for the rest of our careers.”Especially perhaps hearing Italy fans adopting the England anthem, singing “football’s coming home” as they paraded the trophy at their opponent’s home.———More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

To home or Rome? England takes on Italy to end title drought

To home or Rome? England takes on Italy to end title drought

LONDON — To hear the England players giddily singing along with the Wembley Stadium crowd to “Sweet Caroline” — “so good, so good” — encapsulates the youthful exuberance and carefree spirit of a group unburdened by trying to end the team’s 55-year trophy drought on Sunday.To hear Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini talk about going all the way shows how pressure to win a trophy for your country can be an enduring motivation for yourself and the squad, especially in the twilight of a career.“Maybe at 36 you feel it more,” Chiellini said, “because you understand more how hard it is and the work that goes into it.”The European Championship final on Sunday pits England, which hasn’t even reached a final since winning the 1966 World Cup, against one of the continent’s most decorated teams.The last of Italy’s four World Cup victories came in 2006, when Chiellini had already made his international debut but didn’t play at the tournament. But the team is a comparative underachiever in the European Championship with its only title in 1968.Italy, however, has already reached the final twice in recent years — in 2000 and 2012 — whereas England hasn’t got close until now.With the pandemic restricting travel to London, the permitted crowd of 66,000 at Wembley Stadium will be largely packed with England fans for the national team’s greatest soccer moment since 1966, when coach Gareth Southgate wasn’t even born.Winning Euro 2020 would be a form or redemption for Southgate, whose penalty miss against Germany at Euro ’96 denied England a chance of making the final.“I know it won’t be enough for me and for the rest of the staff and for the players if we don’t win it now,” Southgate said. “You get lovely messages that say ‘whatever happens now,’ but that won’t be how it will be on Monday. We’ve got to get it right.“We can win it, but we’ve got to get it spot on to win it. I said to the players … people are respecting how they’ve been and that they’ve represented the country in the right way but now they have a choice of what color medal.”Italy didn’t even qualify for the 2018 World Cup but has excelled with a 33-match unbeaten run since then under coach Roberto Mancini.“At the beginning, when he told us to have in our minds the idea of winning the Euro, we thought he was crazy,” Chiellini said. “Instead, during these years he has created a team which is now on the brink of doing that. And as he has repeated to us after every match, ‘One centimeter at a time,’ and now there is only the last centimeter left.”They have to find a way past an opponent that has conceded only one goal in its six games at Euro 2020 and coped with Harry Kane not even scoring in the group stage.“England are clearly not just Kane because they have amazing players on both wings,” Chiellini said, “and their substitutes could all be in the starting 11 of a team that wins this competition.”Tournaments can define, reshape perceptions and elevate players.Just look at Federico Chiesa, who wasn’t even starting for Italy initially at Euro 2020 but went on to score key goals in the knockout phase.Take Raheem Sterling, whose place in the England lineup was questioned because of his failure to score at any previous tournament and his struggles with Manchester City. He responded by netting the team’s only goals in the group stage, the opener in the win over Germany in the round of 16, and his attacking threat won the penalty that led to England’s semifinal winner against Denmark.“What he’s done for us and the unselfish part of his game goes unspoken about,” said John Stones, Sterling’s teammate with both England and City. “But as players we see it. He’s been a great threat going forward with how direct he’s been in the games and it has been great playing with him.“I’m sure he will be giving everything on Sunday, being that direct, and hopefully get another goal and see where it takes us.”The final takes soccer to the end of an unprecedented period of pandemic disruption since the European Championship began 60 years, completing a unique tournament staged across the continent like never before, after being delayed by a year.Guarding against a presumption of glory might be the hardest thing for England fans energized by the “football’s coming home” lyrics in its team anthem.To home or Rome? We’ll know on Sunday night.———More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

England inspired by expectation, Denmark by resilience

England inspired by expectation, Denmark by resilience

England is shouldering rising expectationsBy ROB HARRIS AP Global Soccer WriterJuly 6, 2021, 9:37 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — England is shouldering rising expectations. Denmark is powered by resilience and recovery.And emotions will be high at Wembley Stadium before their European Championship semifinal match even kicks off Wednesday when there will be a moment to remember the tournament’s most harrowing incident and the player who won’t be playing for Denmark.The England squad has signed a No. 10 jersey emblazoned with Christian Eriksen’s name that will be handed to Denmark captain Simon Kjaer by England counterpart Harry Kane.The England players were on a bus traveling to London from their training base to prepare for their opening game of Euro 2020 on June 12 when Eriksen collapsed on the field while playing against Finland. He had to be resuscitated with a defibrillator.“We saw it on the screens,” said England defender Kieran Trippier, a former teammate of Eriksen’s at Tottenham. “I was close with Christian. The most important thing is he is getting better.”Perhaps what is most remarkable is that while Eriksen recovers from his cardiac arrest, Denmark has managed to reach the semifinals for the first time since unexpectedly winning the European Championship in 1992.“These last four weeks have been the emotions of a lifetime,” Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said. “We’ve been facing death in a way I never hoped I should.”After losing the opening two games — including the Finland match that resumed that day — the Danes looked on the verge of elimination. But they got used to the formation switch from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3 and beat Russia in their final group game to advance before ousting Wales and the Czech Republic to set up the meeting with England.Kasper Dolberg has scored three goals, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg has been excellent in midfield and Kasper Schmeichel has provided leadership even beyond his saves in goal.“With everything that we’ve been going through from the first game to where we are now is quite remarkable,” Denmark midfielder Christian Norgaard said. “We had to pinch ourselves in the arms sometimes to realize what we’ve achieved.”That, to some degree, was the sense in the England squad at the 2018 World Cup when the team reached the semifinals despite little being expected of them under coach Gareth Southgate.Now that they are back in another semifinal — having also lost in the last four of the inaugural UEFA Nations League — there is a sense that England has to deliver in a way it hasn’t since last reaching a final at the 1966 World Cup.“We’ve made a real good progression over the years,” Trippier said. “I spoke to some of the younger lads before the tournament and said, ‘Have no fears. Enjoy it because they are only around every couple of years these tournaments.’”The foundation of England’s progress at Euro 2020 has been in defense with no goals conceded in five games, only one of which has been played away from Wembley — Saturday’s 4-0 rout of Ukraine in Rome.Trippier said moving to Atletico Madrid and being guided by Diego Simeone has helped to improve him as a defender. A career that was waning in the year after the last World Cup is flourishing again with Trippier winning the Spanish title and now hoping for a first England title, too.“Simeone makes sure you defend first and foremost. If not you will know about it in the dressing room,” Trippier said. “I have had to fight for a lot in my career, with so many setbacks. It’s about bouncing back and challenging yourself. I have had to overcome so much. I have been left out of England squads. I have had to move countries. People saying it was a mistake to play abroad.“For me, I’m one of those people who likes to go in the deep end. Doesn’t bother me. It was an opportunity and I grabbed it with both hands.”———More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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