Category Archives: Sports

Argentina qualify for Copa America quarterfinals with win over Paraguay

Argentina ensured their place in the quarterfinals of the Copa America on Monday when they defeated Paraguay 1-0 in a game notable for Lionel Messi’s record-equaling 147th appearance for the national side.

The victory in Brasilia was Argentina’s second 1-0 victory in a row in this tournament and their 16th match without defeat since losing in the Copa America semifinal in 2019.

It gives them seven points from three games and leaves them top of Group A, two points ahead of Chile, four ahead of Paraguay and six ahead of Uruguay.

Bolivia are bottom with no points from two matches so with four of the five teams qualifying for the last eight, Argentina are sure of progressing.

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“We’re through but we have to keep improving,” said defender German Pezzella. “We had a great first half, our intensity wasn’t the same in the second but they didn’t have very many chances at goal.”

Paraguay had never beaten Argentina over 90 minutes in the Copa America, a run that covers 25 matches, and they were up against it as early as the 10th minute when Argentina went ahead.

Alejandro Gomez took a delightful pass from Angel Di Maria and dinked the ball over the diving keeper.

“Angel’s pass was great,” said Gomez. “I just had to get my foot under it and put it away.”

Argentina thought they had a second when Junior Alonso deflected a cross into his own net on the stroke of half-time, but the goal was chalked off by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

Paraguay came out more positive in a changed second half, with Newcastle United’s Miguel Almiron always dangerous on the left wing.

However, although they enjoyed the bulk of the possession they could not turn it into opportunities and now face two tricky games versus Chile and Uruguay.

For Argentina, Sergio Aguero made his first international start since November 2019 but was anonymous up front and it was Di Maria and Messi who stood out.

On the night he equaled Javier Mascherano’s record of 147 games in the blue and white shirt, Messi was a busy presence in the Paraguayan half.

Both he and Di Maria drew fouls from their opponents who ended up committing 23 fouls to Argentina’s 11.

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Hamilton plays down blow of another loss to Verstappen

Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton played down the pain of his latest defeat by Formula One leader Max Verstappen in France on Sunday and said the race was a real reflection of Red Bull’s pace.

The Briton had won at Le Castellet in 2018 and 2019, with no race last year due to COVID-19, but his hopes of a hat-trick ended when resurgent Red Bull out-smarted the champions on strategy.

The seventh race of the season was a reversal of the Spanish Grand Prix in May when Hamilton hunted down Verstappen, who stated then that he felt like a sitting duck, in the closing laps to win.

This time it was the champion who was on the receiving end as Verstappen made a second pitstop and used his fresher tyres to make up the time and overhaul Hamilton on the penultimate lap.

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Asked how gut-wrenching the feeling had been, Hamilton — now 12 points behind his Dutch rival — said it had not been at all.

“I think we did a great job today and it just didn’t work out,” he added.

“I’m not massively disappointed. I think I did the best job I could today. Of course, there were things we could probably have done slightly better but overall they have been quicker than us all weekend.

“It’s a true reflection of the pace they have.”

Hamilton had arrived at Le Castellet having scored just seven points from the past two races won by Red Bull and lagging Verstappen by four.

The 36-year-old recognized that another chance to win had e slipped through his fingers, his tally still stuck at a record 98 career victories.

“If we look in hindsight for sure if we’d have stopped earlier, before they stopped and come out ahead and just gone onto a two stop, we probably could have won the race,” he said.

“But it would still have been very difficult. Their pace was generally very, very strong.

“If he (Verstappen) had not made a mistake in turn one, they would have just led the race all the way probably.”

Verstappen started on pole but went wide at the start, letting Hamilton to take the lead which the Mercedes driver held until the pitstops, when the Dutch driver got back in front before taking a gamble and pitting again.

“Lewis’s tyres were really worn,” Verstappen said of the closing stages. “It was a fairly easy pass.”

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Paris Saint-Germain beat Barcelona, Bayern Munich to Georginio Wijnaldum signing

Paris Saint-Germain have beaten Barcelona and Bayern Munich to the signing of Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool on a free transfer.

Wijnaldum, 30, has agreed a three-year deal with PSG after deciding to run down his contract at Anfield, which concludes at the end of June.

“Signing for Paris Saint-Germain is a new challenge for me,” Wijnaldum said. “I’m joining one of the best squads in Europe and I want to bring all my desire and commitment to this ambitious project. Paris Saint-Germain have proved how good they are in recent years and I am convinced that together, with our supporters, we can go even further and higher.”

The Netherlands international had previously reached an agreement to join Barca. His agents met with the Catalan club’s president Joan Laporta at the end of May and a medical had been penciled in.

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Barca’s interest in Wijnaldum dates back to last summer, when Ronald Koeman made him a target after being appointed as the club’s coach.

However, as first reported by ESPN on Friday, PSG made a late play to hijack Barca’s move for Wijnaldum.

Sources close to the negotiations told ESPN that the Ligue 1 side were willing to double the terms agreed with Barca, while a phone call from coach Mauricio Pochettino also helped persuade Wijnaldum to change his mind.

Bayern Munich also held talks with Wijnaldum, who informed the German club and Barca last weekend that he had decided to sign for PSG.

The midfielder becomes PSG’s first signing of the summer as they look to strengthen after missing out on the league title to Lille and a semifinal Champions League exit to Manchester City.

Wijnaldum, who is preparing for the European Championship with Netherlands, played for Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven before making the move to England with Newcastle United in 2016 for around €15 million.

After Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League a year later, he joined Liverpool on a five-year deal for a fee of €25m.

He helped Liverpool collect the Champions League in 2019, famously scoring twice in the semifinal victory over Barca, and was part of the side which won the Premier League a year later.

During his five-year stay at Anfield, he also won the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup. In total, he made 237 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 22 goals.

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Jairzinho Rozenstruik authors another buzzer-beater, stopping Augusto Sakai in UFC Fight Night

Jairzinho Rozenstruik has a knack for getting finishes right before the bell.

Less than two years after he earned the latest finish in UFC heavyweight history, Rozenstruik uncorked another buzzer-beater Saturday. The kickboxing standout stopped Augusto Sakai via TKO with punches at 4 minutes, 59 seconds of the first round in the main event of UFC Fight Night.

Rozenstruik pressured Sakai against the cage with the first coming to an end. Sakai attempted to circle off to his right, but Rozenstruik caught him with a stunning left hook and then a right hand behind the ear.

Sakai dropped to the canvas and Rozenstruik swarmed with big punches until referee Herb Dean stopped the action right before Sakai could be saved by the horn.

“As soon as I heard the [10-second] clock — tock, tock, tock — I faked him with the right, hit him with the left and hit him with the right again,” Rozenstruik stated in his postfight interview.

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In December 2019, Rozenstruik finished Alistair Overeem via TKO at 4:56 of the fifth and final round, the deepest a UFC heavyweight bout that ended in finish has ever gone.

ESPN has Rozenstruik ranked No. 7 in the world at heavyweight. He was coming off a loss, so this gets him back on track — and right back into title contention.

“Anybody that’s ranked above me makes sense,” Rozenstruik said when asked whom he wants to fight next. “There’s the top five there. I’m coming for you guys. I’m coming.”

Rozenstruik (12-2) has won two of his past three fights.

The Suriname native struggled to pull the trigger in a unanimous decision loss to Ciryl Gane in February. Rozenstruik wanted to return as quickly as he could to remove the bad taste from his mouth from that loss.

Following a quick knockout loss to top contender Francis Ngannou in May 2020, Rozenstruik bounced back with a TKO of former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos last August. And now he has bounced back from the Gane fight.

Rozenstruik, 33, has several kickboxing titles to his name and is now seeking MMA gold in the future. Sakai (15-3-1) has been one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC heavyweight division.

The Brazil native won four consecutive in the UFC before falling to Overeem by fifth-round TKO last December. He has now dropped two straight.

Sakai, 30, has just those two losses in his past eight battles.

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Hamilton ready for new contract talks with Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton is ready to start new contract negotiations with Mercedes, meaning he would stay in Formula One beyond the end of 2021, and is hoping to have a new deal in place by August.

After eight years at Mercedes, the seven-time world champion signed a one-year deal over the winter, meaning he will be out of contract again at the end of 2021.

The one-year deal came as a surprise following a rushed negotiation period at the end of the year, which resulted in team and driver agreeing to start their next contract talks earlier this year.

“We never want to be in the position that we were in in January, in February [this year],” Hamilton said. “It ruined my whole winter and I’m sure it wasn’t helpful for Toto’s, in terms of being out to be off and relaxed, so it felt like we didn’t really have much of a break.

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“I think we have to be sensible. Naturally we don’t have to rush anything, but I think we have to be sensible and start conversations.

“They’re very complex, it’s never a super simple procedure and so hopefully soon we can start, as long as it doesn’t interfere the actual job.

“We still have 19 races to do, but it would be great to get something in place before the break so then we could, again, be in that break and have a clear picture of the future.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is confident Hamilton will commit to F1 for more than a single year under his next contract.

“Yes, it should be [more than a year],” Wolff said. “We don’t want to be in a stressful situation every single year where we are absolutely flat-out trying to win races and needing to negotiate. I would rather that doesn’t happen every year.

“We just need to spend a day or two together, put it out there and decide which are the difficult components.

“We will then lock the door and won’t walk out until it is sorted. That works best for us, and it has worked best for us in the past.”

At 36 years old, Hamilton stated he still feels fit enough to continue in F1 over the coming years.

“There’s still some life in this old dog!” he joked. “I would say I’m more conscious than ever about my body, about my training regime.

“I’ve been training myself for a long time now but constantly growing and learning how to look after, naturally, the vessel that I’m given and feeling great.”

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Man City’s Guardiola: I won’t sleep ahead of Neymar, Mbappe meeting

Pep Guardiola stated he won’t sleep ahead of Manchester City’s Champions League semifinal with Paris Saint-Germain if he thinks too much about the threat posed by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

City will come up versus PSG’s formidable forwards in the first leg in Paris on Wednesday and Guardiola said the pair are so good, they can give opposing managers restless nights.

“Always I believe the quality of these players, they have too much,” Guardiola told a news conference on Tuesday. “I tried to sleep well last night and that was when I was not thinking of them. Incredible top players, their quality. We are ready to try to stop them, defend as a team, play good football and try to score goals.”

Guardiola first faced Neymar when the Brazil forward was playing for Santos versus Barcelona in the Club World Cup in 2011.

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After joining Barcelona in 2013, Neymar moved on to PSG in 2017 but Guardiola said there would be more Champions League trophies in the Camp Nou trophy cabinet had he stayed.

“I remember against Santos, I said this was the king of Santos and all the players were open mouthed: ‘Oh my god, what a player,'” Guardiola added.

“A joy to watch as a spectator, he has Brazil on his shoulders, the No. 10, it’s not easy to wear.

“I’m pretty sure if he’d stayed in Barca they’d have won two or three more Champions Leagues. With Neymar, [Lionel] Messi and [Luis] Suarez, the best three I’ve seen.”

While the tie is only City’s second Champions League semifinal, PSG are trying to reach for the final for the second year in a row after narrowly losing out to Bayern Munich last campaign.

Since then, Thomas Tuchel has been replaced as manager with Mauricio Pochettino.

The former Tottenham boss has been able to get the best out of Neymar since he arrived in January, leading to speculation the 29-year-old is a candidate for the Ballon d’Or and is set to extend his contract.

“I have already talked about it [his contract],” Neymar told a news conference on Tuesday.

“It is not a topic now. I feel great. I am happy this season. It has been by far my happiest this season. “My main objective is the Champions League, not the Ballon d’Or. That is not a priority. I want to be a leader for my team. I want to win. In the future, I will want to remember I have managed to win the Champions League a few times.”

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Usman knocks out Masvidal to win rematch

Kamaru Usman dominated his fight the first time he faced Jorge Masvidal, but he wasn’t thrilled because there were so many unanswered questions left. Masvidal had taken that fight on six days’ notice and needed to cut 20 pounds to make weight.

That seemed to take something off Usman’s one-sided victory.

Saturday’s rematch in the main event of UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida, was just as one-sided, but this time, he left no doubts.

He became the first man to knock out Masvidal when he landed with a perfectly thrown straight right hand. He dropped Masvidal hard and finished him with three hammer fists on the ground, forcing referee Herb Dean to stop it at 1:02 of the second.

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“Thank you to my man Jorge,” Usman said. “You elevated me. You made me go through the workshop to sharpen up my tools to put on a performance like that.”

There was no controversy, no complaints from Masvidal’s side and nothing but respect for a man who is quickly on his way to becoming the greatest welterweight in UFC history.

That’s a big feat considering what Georges St-Pierre accomplished, but in his last seven fights, he’s defeated Demian Maia, Rafael dos Anjos, Tyron Woodley, Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns and Masvidal twice.

That’s a Murderer’s Row if ever there was one, and he knocked out Covington, Burns and Masvidal in the process.

Masvidal paid tribute, saying, “He showed me something he didn’t show me the first time.”

Usman was confident after going through several training camps with Trevor Whitman, a striking expert who has worked hard on sharpening Usman’s stand-up. It showed on Saturday, as he tagged Masvidal several times with clean combinations in the first round.

Usman, a former Division II national wrestling champion, has an extremely complete all-around game.

“I know with my fundamentals, I’m the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet right now,” he said.

There aren’t a lot of people outside of Jon Jones’ camp who would argue that right now.

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Horner sees great races ahead for Perez despite Imola blank

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner forecast great races ahead for Sergio Perez despite the Mexican failing to score from his first front row start in Formula One on Sunday.

The 31-year-old driver, now a veteran of 193 races, concluded 12th in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola while Dutch team mate and title contender Max Verstappen won from third on the grid.

Perez lost out at the start as Verstappen took the lead from Mercedes’ seven-times champion Lewis Hamilton, on pole, with the Mexican dropping to third and then fourth as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc went past.

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He then collected a 10 second penalty for overtaking while the safety car was deployed but was fourth again by the time the race was halted halfway through. Following the restart he spun and dropped to 14th.

“It was tough for him, he had such a good Saturday. The race just didn’t go his way,” said team boss Christian Horner.

“A couple of little mistakes, particularly the spin behind the Ferrari. Tough for him because we should have taken a lot more points out of Mercedes.

“He had good pace in the race and there’s still a long, long way to go.”

Horner stated Perez, a winner in Bahrain with Racing Point (now Aston Martin) last year, just needed time to get used to the adjustment of car.

“It’s different to what he’s used to. He did a mega job to put it on the front row, only just missed out on that pole position,” he said.

“There’s great races to come from him in the future. We could see in clean air his pace was strong.”

The Mexican ended fifth in his first race for Red Bull in Bahrain after starting in the pit lane.

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Robert Whittaker beats Kelvin Gastelum via unanimous decision in Las Vegas

Robert Whittaker doesn’t create a lot of headlines. He doesn’t talk any trash. Never has he made a spectacle of himself.

But quietly, Whittaker has built a résumé that rivals some of the most impressive in mixed martial arts.

The former UFC middleweight champion put forth another brilliant performance Saturday, defeating Kelvin Gastelum by one-sided unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45) in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.

Whittaker beautifully mixed up his striking over all five rounds, landing jabs, straight rights, left hooks, leg kicks and even a front kick to Gastelum’s jaw in the final frame. It was a sublime showcase against another one of the top middleweight fighters in the world.

“I’m feeling on top of the world,” Whittaker said. “Obviously, this was a very hard fight. A lot of people were selling Kelvin short. … He’s one of the best fighters in the division. That was a very tough fight.”

ESPN had Whittaker ranked No. 2 in the world at middleweight coming in. This victory should put him in line for a shot at champion Israel Adesanya, who beat him for the belt two years ago.

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“Nothing but respect,” Whittaker said of Adesanya. “He’s a great fighter. But I think we should talk, mate. I think it’s time we crossed paths again.”

Whittaker and Gastelum were first supposed to fight at UFC 234 on Feb. 10, 2019, when Whittaker was the UFC middleweight champion. But Whittaker withdrew from the fight the day of the card due to a hernia. A collapsed bowel caused him to have to undergo emergency surgery.

On Saturday, Gastelum was replacing Paulo Costa, Whittaker’s original opponent, who had to pull out due to lingering effects of COVID-19.

The change of opponent did not affect Whittaker at all. He rocked Gastelum in the first round with a head kick and never really slowed down from there. The very tough Gastelum hung around for all 25 minutes, but rare was a minute when Whittaker was not in total control.

Later in the first round, Whittaker took Gastelum down and landed some ground-and-pound. In the second, Gastelum had some success with his boxing and straight left hands, but Whittaker landed some nice jabs and counters. Whittaker rocked Gastelum again with a combination in the third, a round in which Gastelum had some success early.

Whittaker landed two nice uppercuts in the fourth round and got right up from a Gastelum takedown. In the fifth, Whittaker was starting to wear some of Gastelum’s offense — Gastelum was bruised up, as well — but Whittaker capped the technical performance with a surprising front kick to Gastelum’s face.

Whittaker outlanded Gastelum in meaningful strikes 150-62, and 115 of those from Whittaker were to the head, according to UFC Stats.

Whittaker (23-5) has won three consecutive fights and 12 of his past 13 overall. The New Zealand-born Australia resident has just one loss since 2014, versus Adesanya. Whittaker, 30, held the middleweight belt from 2017 to 2019, dropping it to Adesanya at UFC 243 in October 2019.

Whittaker is 14-3 in UFC.

Gastelum (16-7, 1 NC) was coming off a unanimous decision victory over Ian Heinisch at UFC 258 on Feb. 13. The California native had lost three straight prior to that.

The 29-year-old Gastelum was once considered one of the best middleweight fighters in the world, fighting Adesanya for the interim belt at UFC 236 in April 2019.

Saturday’s card was held with no fans at the UFC Apex, a facility across from the promotion’s corporate campus, with COVID-19 protocols in place.

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Matsuyama makes history with Masters triumph

Hideki Matsuyama made history on Sunday as the first male golfer from Japan to collect a major championship.

Ten years after making a sterling debut as the best amateur at Augusta National, Matsuyama claimed the ultimate trophy with a triumph in the Masters.

Matsuyama closed with a 1-over 73 and a one-shot victory that was only close at the end, and never seriously in doubt after Xander Schauffele‘s late charge ended with a triple bogey on the par-3 16th.

Moments before Dustin Johnson helped him into the green jacket, Matsuyama needed no interpreter in Butler Cabin when he said in English, “I’m really happy.”

So masterful was this performance that Matsuyama stretched his lead to six shots on the back nine until a few moments of drama. With a four-shot lead, he went for the green in two on the par-5 15th and it bounded hard off the back slope and into the pond on the 16th hole.

Matsuyama did well to walk away with bogey, and with Schauffele making a fourth consecutive birdie, the lead was down to two shots with three to play.

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The next swing all but ended it. Schauffele’s tee shot on the par-3 16th bounced of the hill and dribbled into the pond. His third shot from the drop area went into the gallery. He wound up with a triple-bogey 6.

Never mind that Matsuyama bogeyed three of his last four holes.

All that mattered was that uphill walk to the 18th green, needing only to blast out of the bunker and take two putts for the victory.

That’s what he did, a final bogey for a one-shot victory over 24-year-old Masters rookie Will Zalatoris, who closed with a 70 and stayed on the practice range just in case of a playoff.

Matsuyama ended at 10-under 278 for his 15th victory worldwide, and his sixth on the PGA Tour.

He was far from a sure thing, closing at 40-1 to win the tournament at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Matsuyama could be found upward of 60-1 prior to the tournament at some sportsbooks, making him one of the biggest long shots to win Masters since Danny Willett in 2016.

He was not a popular choice for bettors either. As of Thursday, he accounted for only 1% of the money that had been wagered on the odds to win the Masters at William Hill sportsbooks.

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