Russia slams 2014 World Cup squad doping probe report

Russian deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko on Sunday shrugged off a report that the country’s entire 2014 World Cup squad was under FIFA investigation for doping.British newspaper The Mail on Sunday wrote that the Russian players are being probed by FI…

Russian deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko on Sunday shrugged off a report that the country's entire 2014 World Cup squad was under FIFA investigation for doping.

British newspaper The Mail on Sunday wrote that the Russian players are being probed by FIFA as part of a broader scandal over allegations of state-backed doping in the country.

But Mutko -- who also heads the country's football authorities -- blasted the report as "nonsense" and insisted that there has never been any problem with doping in the Russian game.

"There have never been and will never be any problems with doping in our football - our team are permanently being tested, they undergo doping tests after every match," Mutko told TASS news agency.

"They have written some sort of nonsense. Don't bother reading the English newspapers in the morning," he said.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the 2018 World Cup hosts' squad from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and a further 11 players are being looked into after they ended up on a list of over 1,000 "people of interest" compiled by world anti-doping authorities.

The article quoted a FIFA spokesman as saying that football's governing body was "still investigating the allegations".

There is as yet no clear proof that the players were guilty of doping despite the alleged suspicions, the newspaper added.

The latest claims threatens to cast a shadow as Russia hosts the Confederations Cup tournament a year ahead of the kick off of the World Cup in the country.

Four of the Russian players from the 2014 World Cup squad in Rio have been involved at the Confederations Cup.

Russia was earlier accused by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) of running a state-sponsored operation across sports to aid and protect drug cheats.

Most of Russia's track-and-field team was banned from the Olympic games in Rio over the doping scandal and its entire Paralympics squad was excluded.

The allegations that football might have been involved could represent a major new twist in the doping saga and could drag in some of Russia's highest-profile sports stars.

Russia tries to put brave face on early Confed Cup exit

Russia struggled for positives Sunday after they crashed out of the Confederations Cup on home soil in an ominous sign of how the hosts might fare at next year’s World Cup.Football bosses shrugged off fans’ fears after the team’s early exit following a…

Russia struggled for positives Sunday after they crashed out of the Confederations Cup on home soil in an ominous sign of how the hosts might fare at next year's World Cup.

Football bosses shrugged off fans' fears after the team's early exit following a 2-1 defeat by Mexico in Kazan on Saturday, insisting the squad was making progress despite the disappointing results.

"The tournament is unfortunately over for us but we want to thank the fans," coach Stanislav Cherchesov said in a video statement to supporters.

"While in sporting terms we didn't manage to acheive what we wanted, in terms of morale then I think we took a step forward. Better times await us."

Expectations among Russian fans were low ahead of the Confederations Cup as the national team struggled for form in a series of warm-up games.

Former goalkeeper Cherchesov has largely failed to get his players firing despite overhauling the squad since he was appointed less than a year ago after Russia's woeful showing at Euro 2016.

He insisted that he would remain in charge with 12 months to go to the World Cup.

"Three quarters of the squad have never played at this level, and with new players coming through all the time I'm optimistic about the future," he said in his post-game press conference.

"I've worked with pleasure and will continue my work with the team. Probably even better than I'm doing now."

Russia, who started the Confederations Cup with a win over New Zealand, crashed out of the event after the group stage following consecutive defeats at the hands of European champions Portugal and the most decorated CONCACAF team Mexico.

Television footage showed some furious fans walking out of the Kazan stadium before the final whistle in Saturday's game against Mexico.

"Shame on them! They showed no will to win! It's just impossible to play for the country that way," one fan told state TV.

But while football pundits in the country insisted that any anger was understandable, they said the supporters had to face up to the fact that, with the World Cup looming, the country needs to put its faith in the current batch of players.

"We all need to realise that we don't have another team," Dmitry Zelenov, an expert for the Sport Express newspaper, wrote.

"There should not be despair but faith. Faith that despite the flop we're moving in the right direction.

"There's a strong desire to kill this squad. It's a justified wish. But we shouldn't kill it. Because we don't have another one."

India’s Srikanth stuns Chen to win Australian Open badminton

India’s Kidambi Srikanth claimed a first victory over Olympic and two-time world champion Chen Long to win the Australian Open Superseries final in Sydney on Sunday.The 11th-ranked Srikanth outgunned the sixth-ranked Chinese star 22-20, 21-16 in 46 min…

India's Kidambi Srikanth claimed a first victory over Olympic and two-time world champion Chen Long to win the Australian Open Superseries final in Sydney on Sunday.

The 11th-ranked Srikanth outgunned the sixth-ranked Chinese star 22-20, 21-16 in 46 minutes for his second successive Superseries title after winning the Indonesia Open earlier this month.

It was Srikanth's first win in six encounters against the Rio Olympic champion, with Chen defeating the Indian at the Sudirman Cup on Australia's Gold Coast last month.

"I was not thinking of winning or losing. I missed competitive badminton during my break last year and wanted to enjoy the match," Srikanth said.

"These conditions are such that you can't really attack, it's a bit slow, you have to be prepared for a long match.

"In all the breaks today I had the advantage, (coach) Mulyo told me to keep it going, not to make simple mistakes and allow him back into the match."

Indians have now won four of the six Superseries this year.

Srikanth is in career-best form after returning from injury in April.

He made it to the Singapore Open final and won the Indonesia Open ahead of the Australian event.

Chen is on the comeback trail from a long-lasting injury and has not won a Superseries title since the 2014 Denmark Open.

Chen, who had played two long matches before the final, said he was still recovering from gastroenteritis.

"As a whole I played very well, but since I arrived in Sydney I have had gastroenteritis and diarrhoea, so I haven?t been at my best physical condition,? he said.

"But since I made the final, I wanted to continue to play as well as I could."

Olympic bronze medallist Nozomi Okuhara earlier downed Akane Yamaguchi 21-12, 21-23, 21-17 in an all-Japanese women's final.

Okuhara won her first World Superseries title since the All England last year, displaying the full extent of her indefatigable retrieving style in getting the better of Yamaguchi.

?This morning my home town had an earthquake so I wanted to send good news to them," Okuhara said.

"I said yesterday that I wanted to show that women's singles in Japan is at a high level so in this match, when Akane Yamaguchi really fought in the final game, we showed that."

"After the Rio Olympics I had an injury and was a bit nervous.

"But this year my target tournament is the world championships and step-by-step I am getting better."

Lions view Hurricanes clash as Test tryout

Disappointed British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland sees Tuesday’s clash with the Wellington Hurricanes as a way for players to force their way in to the Test line-up.The All Blacks’ 30-15 first Test win in Auckland on Saturday rocked the Lions,…

Disappointed British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland sees Tuesday's clash with the Wellington Hurricanes as a way for players to force their way in to the Test line-up.

The All Blacks' 30-15 first Test win in Auckland on Saturday rocked the Lions, particularly the way their forward pack was pushed around.

In naming his side Sunday to play the Hurricanes, Gatland indicated changes from the first Test squad were on the cards.

"We are obviously hugely disappointed with the result last night but it is important to regroup," he said.

"We know there are a lot of players motivated to go out and get a result for the whole group.

"A few players put their hands up for selection from the Chiefs game and played their way into the Test team so they know that there is another opportunity for them on Tuesday."

Ireland's Rory Best will captain the team against the reigning Super Rugby champions, leading the side for the second time on tour after taking the reins for the victory over the Waikato Chiefs last week.

Gatland has retained the same forward pack from that game in Hamilton while Greig Laidlaw and Dan Biggar provide continuity in the halves.

Lions (15-1): Jack Nowell (Exeter/ENG); Tommy Seymour (Glasgow/SCO), Jonathan Joseph (Bath/ENG), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/IRL), George North (Northampton/WAL); Dan Biggar (Ospreys/WAL), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester/SCO); CJ Stander (Munster/IRL), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys/WAL), James Haskell (Wasps/ENG); Courtney Lawes (Northampton/ENG), Iain Henderson (Ulster/IRL); Dan Cole (Leicester/ENG), Rory Best (capt, Ulster/IRL), Joe Marler (Harlequins/ENG).

Replacements: Kristian Dacey (Cardiff/WAL), Allan Dell (Edinburgh/SCO), Tomas Francis (Exeter/WAL) Cory Hill (Newport/WAL), George Kruis (Saracens/ENG), Gareth Davies (Scarlets/WAL), Finn Russell (Glasgow/SCO), Jared Payne (Ulster/IRL).

Cheika believes Wallabies can tame All Blacks

Coach Michael Cheika has raised eyebrows by claiming the Wallabies can upset the All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup series following their shaky win over Italy.Australia, coming off a home loss to Scotland the previous week, made six changes as they scram…

Coach Michael Cheika has raised eyebrows by claiming the Wallabies can upset the All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup series following their shaky win over Italy.

Australia, coming off a home loss to Scotland the previous week, made six changes as they scrambled to a 40-27 win over the Six Nations strugglers in Brisbane on Saturday.

The Wallabies held a tenuous 28-27 lead with four minutes remaining, but conjured two late tries to salvage victory over the Azzurri.

Wallaby back Karmichael Hunt reflected what many were thinking when he said after the final whistle: "We just can't afford to do that against the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship because they'll kill us."

Cheika took the opposite tack, talking up their chances of beating the world champions in Sydney on August 19.

"The performance (against Italy) wasn't up to winning that match, for sure," he told reporters after Saturday's game.

"We've got to get our work right in the next six to eight weeks that's left before that first Test (against New Zealand) so we don't play like that, we play much better."

Australia's players now return to Super Rugby for the last two weeks of the regular season, before reassembling to prepare for the All Blacks.

Cheika said he was confident they can pull off a major shock against a team that beat the British and Irish Lions 30-15 in Auckland on Saturday.

"I know everyone's having a laugh when I say that, but I believe with that clear goal we can go there and do that," he said.

"We've got to work extra hard and we've got to be prepared to work even harder once we come out of Super Rugby for that little (training) block to be ready because it's a key element to staying in the game."

Wallabies captain Stephen Moore, meanwhile, lashed Super Rugby franchises for not preparing players for the rigours of Test rugby.

He backed Cheika's comments throughout the June Test series, saying players simply weren't fit enough for the international arena.

"It shouldn't be hard for Super Rugby to produce players that are ready for Test match footy," Moore said.

"I don't know what the issue is there, but we need to make sure the next two months or whatever it is ... we can't waste a day.

"There is a gap between Super Rugby and Test rugby, the intensity's up, but that doesn't mean we can't train like we have to play Test footy."

Wallabies winger Sefa Naivalu is in doubt for the Bledisloe Cup opener after suffering an ankle injury against Italy and will be out for up to seven weeks.

China’s national table tennis team may face sanction after top player no-show

The International Table Tennis Federation threatened on Sunday to slap sanctions on China’s national team after three top players quit a tournament in apparent protest at their head coach’s removal.The ITTF received a public apology from the Chinese te…

The International Table Tennis Federation threatened on Sunday to slap sanctions on China's national team after three top players quit a tournament in apparent protest at their head coach's removal.

The ITTF received a public apology from the Chinese team but it said it was taking the matter "extremely seriously" as it "damaged the image and the integrity of table tennis globally".

"Right now, all potential sanctions are on the table, and the ITTF will continue its investigation before any decisions are made," the sport's world governing body said in a statement.

The ITTF said the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) gave a preliminary statement but it requested a detailed report.

The sport's three top-ranked players -- Ma Long, Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong -- all failed to appear for their second-round singles matches at the prestigious ITTF World Tour Platinum China Open in the southwestern city of Chengdu on Friday. Two coaches also failed to show up.

The national team said in a public apology issued late Saturday that the players forfeited their matches "on impulse without fully understanding the details of the modifications that will be made to the management of the team".

"We have deeply realised the seriousness of this fault, resulting in ... damaging the team's positive social image of upholding patriotism, collectivism, and striving to fight for the glory of the country," it added.

Their no-show prompted China's top sports authority to order an investigation and reprimand the players, saying they had "ignored national honour and interests" and "disrespected the public".

The trio's elimination from the four-day tournament, which ends Sunday, came after they posted online protests over the removal of Liu Guoliang, who had been the Chinese team's head coach for more than a decade.

"At this moment we don't like to play anymore because we miss you, Liu Guoliang," the players said in identical posts on China's Twitter-like Weibo. The two absent coaches posted the same message.

Liu, a former Grand Slam champion, lost his coaching job in a restructuring announced by the CTTA on Tuesday, the official Xinhua news agency said, and was appointed CTTA vice-president.

The shake-up has been a hot topic in table tennis-mad China where the sport has a huge following.

Last month Kong Linghui was replaced as head of the women's table tennis team following a gambling debt scandal, sparking a social media frenzy.

The CTTA released a statement defending the changes, saying they aimed to "strengthen the team structure, reduce the level of management hierarchy, and improve the efficiency of the preparation for the Olympic Games."

Athletics: McLeod sets Jamaican 110m hurdle record

Olympic gold medalist Omar McLeod set a Jamaican national record of in the 110 meter hurdles Saturday with a blistering time of 12.90 seconds during the 2017 Jamaican track and field championships.McLeod says he is dedicating the next few weeks to sett…

Olympic gold medalist Omar McLeod set a Jamaican national record of in the 110 meter hurdles Saturday with a blistering time of 12.90 seconds during the 2017 Jamaican track and field championships.

McLeod says he is dedicating the next few weeks to setting is sights on Aries Merritt's world record of 12.80 seconds which he hopes to break before the London World Championships in August.

"I did not get it, so I am going after it next time," said McLeod, who has races in Paris and Budapest meets before traveling to London.

McLeod's time on Saturday eclipsed the previous Jamaican record of 12.94 seconds set by Hansle Parchment in 2014 in Paris.

McLeod has been having a fantastic last two seasons where he won the World Indoors 60m and Olympic games gold medals five months apart. He also shaved .07 seconds off his previous personal best time.

"It was a great race," said McLeod, who credits his new coach Edrick Floreal with rekindling his enthusiasm for the sport.

"The coach wanted a 12.8 and I know he will be a little upset. But I can tell him I set a national record of 12.90 and am now the fifth fastest man in history."

Indeed, McLeod now has the top four times in the world so far this year and lowered his previous career best of 13.01 seconds. He is tied for fifth best all time with American Dominique Arnold and trails only Merritt, Cuba's Dayron Robles, China's Liu Xiang and American David Oliver.

The sky is the limit for McLeod who will be seeking to make up for his disappointing 2015 World Championships in Beijing, China where he finished sixth.

"I am just really excited about what is to come. A new coach made me fall in love with hurdles again so it is a good thing," he said.

Ronald Levy, the second fastest in the world so far, was second in 13.13 seconds while Parchment, running with an injury, took third place in 13.19 seconds.

Speedster Yohan Blake is on course for the sprint double after qualifying the 200m finals on Sunday, winning his semi-final heat in 20.30 seconds in his first 200m race of the season.

Commonwealth Games champion Rasheed Dwyer was the fastest qualifier after he won his heat in 20.16 seconds while World and Olympic medalist Warren Weir also advanced.

Discus thrower Fedric Dacres retained his Jamaican title with 66.52 meter toss while London Olympian Traves Smikle was second with 63.26m.

Both 400m finals are set for Sunday with all the top contenders qualifying for the deciding races.

Demish Gaye is unbeaten all year and has dropped his times significantly as he won his semi-final heat in 45.26 seconds Saturday while Nathon Allen also won his heat in 45.49 seconds.

NCAA collegiate champion Chrisann Gordon has thrown down the gauntlet among the women in the 400m after lowering her personal best to 50.32 seconds. World and Olympic medalist Shericka Williams finished in 50.48 seconds.

Novlene Williams Mills, in her final national championships, Christine Day and Stephenie-Ann McPherson are all top contenders.

Italy close to being competitive RugbyU force – O’Shea

Italy coach Conor O’Shea says he’s gutted to come so close to upsetting Australia but proud of the strides the Azzurri have made to become a competitive rugby force.Italy fought back magnificently to trail by one point with just four minutes left befor…

Italy coach Conor O'Shea says he's gutted to come so close to upsetting Australia but proud of the strides the Azzurri have made to become a competitive rugby force.

Italy fought back magnificently to trail by one point with just four minutes left before the Wallabies scored two last-ditch tries to claim an unconvincing 40-27 win over the Six Nations strugglers in Brisbane on Saturday.

The Italians head home from their summer tour winless after a 34-13 defeat to Scotland in Singapore and a 22-19 loss to Fiji, but Irishman O'Shea hailed his team.

"It would have been easy on two or three occasions for that team to say: 'Look it?s the end of a long season, it?s the end of the tour'," O'Shea told reporters.

"But you can see there?s just this mentality that if we work hard and we make the changes and we get the support we need we will become a competitive country again.

"The effort out there was incredible."

Italy, ranked 15th in the world, were missing several of their best players, but still caused problems for the Wallabies.

"The emotion is always raw just after a game. I mean, we get within a point and concede a penalty contesting," said O'Shea.

"But to focus on that, I?d talk about the road we?ve had to travel and the changes we?ve made and how the team has improved.

"Look at the scrum. For the second week in a row we played like Italy. We didn?t try and play like anyone else, we were trying to play our way.

"I?m gutted we lost. We didn?t come out here to come second and we had a great chance out there, but I?m so proud because over three weeks together you can see how good we?ve become.

"I?m fast forwarding two years to a World Cup when I have four months with them."

The Italians upset the Springboks 20-18 in Florence last November and led Six Nations champions England at half-time before going down 36-15 at Twickenham in February.

"We have to stay mentally and physically strong because we?re competing at the highest level against the top teams," he added.

"We?re not getting any easy opponents. As long as we keep on working and learning we?ll turn that corner."

Boxer Pacquiao vows to leave Australia as world champion

Philippine boxing great Manny Pacquiao arrived in Australia ahead of his title fight with Jeff Horn and declared: “I will be going home as world champion.”The “Pac Man” touched down in Brisbane late Saturday from Manila with a large entourage for his W…

Philippine boxing great Manny Pacquiao arrived in Australia ahead of his title fight with Jeff Horn and declared: "I will be going home as world champion."

The "Pac Man" touched down in Brisbane late Saturday from Manila with a large entourage for his World Boxing Organization welterweight title bout at Suncorp Stadium next weekend.

"In all my years of boxing, I have never been as motivated and fired up as this fight," he told reporters at the airport.

"My team is very happy with my preparation. I am looking forward to this and I will be going home as world champion."

Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 knockouts) is a clear favourite against Horn, although the Filipino great has not stopped an opponent since his 12th round TKO of Miguel Cotto in 2009.

The eight-weight world champion has said he is using the bout as an opportunity to prove he remains a global force at the age of 38 as he juggles boxing with a full-time job as a senator in the Philippines.

Pacquiao, who briefly retired early last year before making a successful comeback against Jessie Vargas in Las Vegas in November, will need to be on song against the unbeaten Horn, who has won 16 of his 17 fights with one draw.

A relatively unknown physical education teacher, the 29-year-old Australian has been dubbed the "fighting schoolteacher" by promoters, who say the 50,000-seat Suncorp Stadium is almost sold out.

Golf: Ryu sizzles to 61 to seize comfortable Arkansas lead

South Korea’s Ryu So-Yeon fired a tournament record 10-under 61 Saturday to vault into a five-shot lead heading into the final round of the North West Arkansas Championship. The 26-year-old world number three, who missed the cut in her last LPGA Tour o…

South Korea's Ryu So-Yeon fired a tournament record 10-under 61 Saturday to vault into a five-shot lead heading into the final round of the North West Arkansas Championship.

The 26-year-old world number three, who missed the cut in her last LPGA Tour outing, finished off her brilliant round with consecutive bogeys to reach a two round total of 16-under 126.

Ryu has not played since the ShopRight Classic two weeks ago where she missed her first cut in three years. She said the break allowed her to clear her mind.

"I played really well at the beginning of this year, then I didn't really play well at the last championship," she said. "I lost confidence a little bit.

"But I think it was great to have two weeks off, because when you have two weeks off you totally forget about how you played the last few tournaments."

Ryu, who is bidding for her second USLPGA title this year and fourth of her career, also established the 36-hole record at the tournament.

She finished with 10 to take a comfortable lead over Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn and American Stacy Lewis at Pinnacle Country Club.

"It was so much fun," Ryu said of her round. "I made a really long putt at eight, 17, and then I boost up and the shot was getting better and better.

"At the back nine, I was able to make some more short birdies, and then pretty much made all of them. So happy with my round today."

Both Jutanugarn and Lewis each followed their opening-round 66s with seven birdies against one bogey to finish with a 65 on Saturday. Lewis capped her round with back-to-back birdies at the par-three 17th and par-five 18th.

South Korean's Amy Yang shot a 65 to sit in fourth place at 10-under, one stroke ahead of the four-way contingent of countrywoman Park In-Bee (65), Australian Lee Min-Jee (65), Indian Aditi Ashok (64) and Norwegian Suzann Pettersen (66).

First-round leader Park Sung-Hyun shot a 73 on Saturday to fall into a tie for 10th place at six-under, one stroke ahead of defending champion Lydia Ko (67).

Messi’s gritty hometown braces for a glam wedding

Security is at the top of everyone’s minds in Rosario, Argentina these days.On Friday, soccer superstar Lionel Messi will be married there to Antonella Roccuzzo at a lavish celebration bringing together some of the world’s best-paid soccer players, jus…

Security is at the top of everyone's minds in Rosario, Argentina these days.

On Friday, soccer superstar Lionel Messi will be married there to Antonella Roccuzzo at a lavish celebration bringing together some of the world's best-paid soccer players, just up the street from one of the city's poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods.

Some 21 members of the hugely popular FC Barcelona team, including Luis Suarez and Neymar, as well as stars like Gerard Pique -- accompanied by partner Shakira, perhaps more popular than the Catalan defender himself -- will be flying into this port city 180 miles (300 kilometers) north of Buenos Aires.

The luxurious City Center casino-hotel complex, where guests will stay and the ceremony is expected to take place, borders a poor neighborhood known as the birthplace of the bloody drug gang Los Monos.

"Messi's marriage -- like the casino's presence in the neighborhood -- is a metaphor for inequality," provincial official Carlos Del Frade, author of several books on Rosario's exploding drug trade, told AFP.

A mere 400 yards (meters) from the bright lights and neon of City Center, two people on a motorcycle opened fire June 17 on four women belonging to Los Monos. The attack claimed the life of Petrona Cantero, 56, the sister of Ariel Cantero, the historic leader of Los Monos, who is now serving a prison sentence.

Drug gang-linked violence has claimed more than 1,000 lives in the past five years in this gritty port city, Del Frade said.

Last year, the homicide rate in Rosario was double the national average of seven per 100,000 inhabitants, according to a report from the Ministry of Security of Santa Fe province, which includes Rosario.

In the Las Flores neighborhood, just behind the City Center complex, Los Monos holds virtually total power, according to Del Frade, who said the gang amounts to the "de facto government" there.

- 'He feels comfortable here' -

Historically, Rosario has long had a strong working class, and today's violence stems largely from widespread unemployment, political scientists and economists say.

Messi's father, a metalworker here in the 1990s, emigrated with his family to Barcelona in 2000, amid the grave economic crisis then facing Argentina.

Today, the government in Rosario says it feels confident the safety of the illustrious visitor and his guests can be assured, regardless of the high crime rate.

"Rosario is prepared for the wedding," city administrator Monica Fein told AFP. "Lionel chose to come get married here because it is his hometown and he feels comfortable here and we will do everything in our power to make it so."

For now, the details of the planned security operation remain closely guarded.

Last week, local officials met with representatives of the Messi family, but no information leaked out, including on the location of the meeting itself, which was changed at the last moment to keep journalists away.

Gustavo Leone, a Rosario official, explained that this was "a private event."

He added that if some guests want to visit Messi's city a private tour will be arranged, but only under conditions of strict security and confidentiality.

- 'I just can't believe it' -

Some local residents, people who know every twist and turn in the city's streets, cannot understand the decision by the soccer star -- who made some 70 million euros last season, according to the Eurosport sports network -- to hold his wedding celebration in such an unsafe area.

"The truth is, I'm surprised they're doing it here, considering that Messi is one of the best-paid players in the world. I just can't believe it," Micaela Llane, a 24-year-old secretary here, told AFP.

Locals have been following the preparations as if they were all expecting to be invited, so they know all about last-minute changes to the plans.

"The other hotel (the five-star Puerto Norte, where the celebration was to have been held) is in a much prettier area," said Ariel Vallejo, who works for a private security firm.

And everyone dreams of showing off the best parts of the city where the soccer superstar -- five-time winner of the prestigious Ballon d'Or award -- was born.

Homophobia permeates football world in Spain

Death threats and insults: Homophobia remains omnipresent in Spain’s sacred football world, where players don’t dare “come out” in an otherwise gay friendly country whose capital hosts the WorldPride until July 2.”First, they refused to take their show…

Death threats and insults: Homophobia remains omnipresent in Spain's sacred football world, where players don't dare "come out" in an otherwise gay friendly country whose capital hosts the WorldPride until July 2.

"First, they refused to take their showers with me," says Jose Manuel Garoz, who was sidelined from his amateur local team in his teens when his co-players found out he was gay via social networks.

"They provoked me all the time and we argued. We came to blows and the president decided to kick me out," the young man, now 22, remembers as he stands next to a football pitch where he now plays in a "gay-friendly" Madrid club, GMadrid Sports.

A world leader in LGBT rights, Spain became the third country to authorise gay marriage in 2005 and Madrid is now hosting the WorldPride, one of the biggest celebrations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

But homosexuality remains a taboo in the professional football world.

"With around eight percent of the population gay and lesbian, it's not normal at all that there are no overtly gay players," says Paco Ramirez, president of Spain's Observatory against Homophobia.

He believes this is because they fear it will "affect their career".

"For a player to dare come out under these circumstances, there is no assurance that sponsors won't drop him," adds Julien Pontes of the French Rouge Direct collective, which fights homophobia in football.

- 'Homophobia is everywhere' -

Spanish sporting authorities say they are fighting discrimination.

Every weekend, for instance, Spain's national football league LaLiga details all insults shouted in stadiums.

Just several months ago, LaLiga boss Javier Tebas said that the league "would not allow any bad-mouthing from a co-player, the public, the media" if a footballer revealed he was gay.

The clubs also promise they would support any player wanting to come out.

"If someone wants to freely express his homosexuality, there is no constraint in our club," a management source at FC Barcelona told AFP.

And Atletico Madrid's French star Antoine Griezmann told men's magazine Icon: "If I were homosexual, I would say so. Even if it's easier to say this when you're not."

But despite this, no player has taken that step.

"In the football world, homophobia is everywhere," says Jesus Tomillero, a referee who has been the victim of death threats for denouncing homophobic insults aimed at him.

"People think that football is for machos, that a gay man can dirty this image," the 22-year-old says.

- Spain behind -

Homophobic insults are common in Spain's stadiums, used to discredit opponents regardless of their alleged or real sexual orientation.

Several generations of players have been at the receiving end, from Spain's former midfielder Guti to Real Madrid's star striker Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as coach Pep Guardiola.

The rival is a "maricon" ("faggot"), whoever he may be.

"Why don't we condemn this? The referee doesn't write it up in his match report. There is inaction from all those involved in the sport," says Ruben Lopez, in charge of sporting issues at the Spanish LGBT Federation.

In 2016, Spain's interior ministry reported 92 "hate crimes" -- including homophobic acts -- committed in sporting facilities.

Acts targeting LGBT are not counted separately and a parliamentary initiative seeking to specifically include gays and lesbians in a law against intolerance in sports has yet to be adopted.

"The sporting world will gradually progress, but it will still take many years," says Tomillero.

Some recent initiatives have had an echo.

In 2015, some players started lacing their football boots with rainbow laces -- the colour of the LGBT cause.

One of the shirts worn by players of Madrid's Rayo Vallecano, now in Spain's second division, sports a rainbow-coloured strip to fight discrimination.

And since 2016, LaLiga publishes a guide recommending "zero tolerance" of discrimination.

But Spain is nevertheless still behind compared to countries in western and northern Europe, activists say.

"Did the laces have a real impact in the football world?", asks Lopez.

"We don't know. In any case people in stadiums continue to shout 'maricon'."

RugbyU: Savea among three All Blacks released to face Lions

The Wellington Hurricanes will have try-scoring potency when they play the British and Irish Lions on Tuesday with three members of the All Blacks squad released for the game.Julian Savea, Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape will turn out for the Super Ru…

The Wellington Hurricanes will have try-scoring potency when they play the British and Irish Lions on Tuesday with three members of the All Blacks squad released for the game.

Julian Savea, Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape will turn out for the Super Rugby team after not being required for the first Test on Saturday when the All Blacks beat the Lions 30-15 in Auckland.

Blindside flanker Vaea Fifita, who was in the New Zealand squad as injury cover and made his Test debut against Samoa the previous week, is included along with former All Blacks wings Cory Jane and Nehe Milner-Skudder.

Laumape and his Hurricanes' midfield partner Vince Aso head the Super Rugby try-scorers list this year with 14 each.

Savea has 46 tries from 53 Tests, while Jane, who is on the bench, scored 18 tries in his Test career.

Jane will mark a unique milestone if he takes the field -- it would be his second appearance against the Lions after he came off the bench for Wellington when they played the Lions in 2005.

Hurricanes (15-1): Jordie Barrett; Nehe Milner-Skudder, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea; Otere Black, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi; Brad Shields (capt), Callum Gibbins, Vaea Fifita; Sam Lousi, Mark Abbott; Jeff To?omaga-Allen, Ricky Riccitelli, Ben May.

Replacements: Leni Apisai, Chris Eves, Mike Kainga, James Blackwell, Reed Prinsep, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Wes Goosen, Cory Jane.

RugbyU: Sonny Bill gifts All Blacks kit to young Lions fan

All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams has made another heart-warming gesture, this time presenting his All Blacks shorts and socks to a young Lions fan as he left the field after the first test in Auckland.

The latest touching moment follows Williams memorably giving away his World Cup winners’ medal to a young English fan after the All Blacks won the world crown at Twickenham two years ago.

This time, after the All Blacks beat the Lions 30-15 Saturday in the first Test, Williams stripped off his shorts and socks and handed over the kit to a young Lions fan with the gesture caught on video and posted on social media.

“Is there no end to @SonnyBWilliams and his classy gestures?!” tweeted Pat McCarry who put up the video.

“Sonny Bill gives his socks & shorts to a young Lions fan on the edge of Eden Park. Sonny Bill in his undies ladies!” added Melanie D.

After the All Blacks won the 2015 World Cup final against Australia, Williams presented his winners’ medal to a boy who had been knocked over by a security guard.

“I was walking around doing a lap of honour with the boys and a young fella came running out and he got smoked by the security guard, like full-on tackled him. I felt sorry for the little fella,” Williams said at the time.

“If that was a younger brother or cousin I would have given the security guard a hiding. But I just picked the kid up and took him back to his old lady and tried to make the night more memorable for him. Better (for the medal) to be hanging around his neck than mine.”

All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams has made another heart-warming gesture, this time presenting his All Blacks shorts and socks to a young Lions fan as he left the field after the first test in Auckland.

The latest touching moment follows Williams memorably giving away his World Cup winners' medal to a young English fan after the All Blacks won the world crown at Twickenham two years ago.

This time, after the All Blacks beat the Lions 30-15 Saturday in the first Test, Williams stripped off his shorts and socks and handed over the kit to a young Lions fan with the gesture caught on video and posted on social media.

"Is there no end to @SonnyBWilliams and his classy gestures?!" tweeted Pat McCarry who put up the video.

"Sonny Bill gives his socks & shorts to a young Lions fan on the edge of Eden Park. Sonny Bill in his undies ladies!" added Melanie D.

After the All Blacks won the 2015 World Cup final against Australia, Williams presented his winners' medal to a boy who had been knocked over by a security guard.

"I was walking around doing a lap of honour with the boys and a young fella came running out and he got smoked by the security guard, like full-on tackled him. I felt sorry for the little fella," Williams said at the time.

"If that was a younger brother or cousin I would have given the security guard a hiding. But I just picked the kid up and took him back to his old lady and tried to make the night more memorable for him. Better (for the medal) to be hanging around his neck than mine."

RugbyU: ‘Down and dirty’ All Blacks have tip for Lions

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has fired up the verbal war with the British and Irish Lions again, suggesting they play New Zealand style to be competitive in the second Test in Wellington next week.The world champion All Blacks put away their razzle da…

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has fired up the verbal war with the British and Irish Lions again, suggesting they play New Zealand style to be competitive in the second Test in Wellington next week.

The world champion All Blacks put away their razzle dazzle to get "down and dirty" when they beat the Lions 30-15 in the first Test in Auckland on Saturday.

With the Lions outsmarted at their own game, and losing the crucial forward battle, Hansen noted that when the recommended they run the ball more often because that was when they were at their most dangerous.

They were a whisker away from scoring in the opening minute when they took the All Blacks by surprise and went wide only for Elliott Daly to be rolled on his back and forced into touch as he dived for the line.

The Lions then stunned Hansen with an 85-metre sweep featuring Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies and Daly before flanker Sean O'Brien finished the move with a try.

"When they can score tries like that first one you're sitting there thinking they should be doing that more often," Hansen said.

"That was probably one of the best Test tries I've every seen."

It was an observation taken on board by Gatland who regretted his Lions suffered from a lack of finishing skills.

"You could argue that Ben Te'o's an option to shift the ball and create an opportunity for an overlap chance," he said.

"You finish those chances and it changes the whole mindset and momentum of the game and unfortunately we created those and didn't quite finish them off."

Instead the Lions persisted with trying to prove their declared aim of being the best forward pack in the world and Hansen said they lost that battle too.

"Our tight five were very, very good. If your tight five do the job everyone else can play. Tonight's test was always going to be won in the tight five and I think we won that battle ... we've got to be extremely proud of what they did," he said.

"I always find it amusing when everyone tell us they're going to beat us up in the tight five because we're not just a team that plays flashy rugby, we can play down and dirty rugby if we have to, and I mean that in the most respectful way."

With, the Lions needing to win the second Test in Wellington next week to keep the series alive, Gatland said his tourists now "know what to expect," but All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster warned the world champions had not shown their full arsenal.

"We went into this game with a plan to combat them and we showed everything we needed to show," Foster said.

"There's some things we can improve, you've just have to wait and see."

Vikings back receiver Floyd’s alcohol in tea claim

Minnesota Vikings officials are backing receiver Michael Floyd’s fight against a house arrest violation that could land him in jail, one he says was caused by tea that contains alcohol.Floyd said in a sworn affidavit, according to the St. Paul Pioneer …

Minnesota Vikings officials are backing receiver Michael Floyd's fight against a house arrest violation that could land him in jail, one he says was caused by tea that contains alcohol.

Floyd said in a sworn affidavit, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper, that the Vikings encourage players to drink kombucha tea as a health drink, saying it is served "on tap" at the team's headquarters.

Floyd is fighting a ruling that he violated terms of his house arrest by accidentally ingesting alcohol contained in the tea.

Vikings chief operating officer Kevin Warren wrote a letter to Floyd's lawyer backing his claim that he did not know kombucha tea contains alcohol. Floyd drank several bottles while watching movies in the early morning of June 11.

Floyd, 27, later failed three self-administered Breathalyzer tests.

Scottsdale (Arizona) City Judge Statia Hendrix ordered Floyd to appear Monday and prove he did not violate probation from his extreme drunk driving conviction in February, a violation that could lead to jail time.

Floyd, his attorney and the Vikings hope the judge will cancel the hearing and reinstate electronic monitoring for the final five days of Floyd's 96-day home confinement.

"I am writing to request Mr. Floyd not have his court mandated requirements negatively impacted since he did not know the kombucha he ingested contained alcohol," Warren wrote in the June 21 letter.

Warren said the fermented tea is "utilized by many professional athletes as a probiotic and is available at our facility on a daily basis."

Floyd was arrested last December in Scottsdale for drink driving, prompting the NFL's Arizona Cardinals to release him. He pleaded guilty in February and served 24 days in jail before having to serve the final 96 days on house arrest.

The New England Patriots signed Floyd and he caught one pass in the regular season and one in the playoffs but was not activated for their Super Bowl victory over Atlanta.

He became a free agent in March and signed a one-year deal with Minnesota in May. He is likely to face an NFL-imposed suspension as a result of his guilty plea in February.

Floyd has 246 receptions for 3,781 yards and 24 touchdowns in 78 career NFL games.

Spieth keeps PGA Travelers lead with late birdie binge

Jordan Spieth birdied three of the last four holes, including the last with a dramatic 20-foot putt, to grab a one-stroke lead after Saturday’s third round of the US PGA Travelers Championship.Sixth-ranked Spieth, the 2015 Masters and US Open champion,…

Jordan Spieth birdied three of the last four holes, including the last with a dramatic 20-foot putt, to grab a one-stroke lead after Saturday's third round of the US PGA Travelers Championship.

Sixth-ranked Spieth, the 2015 Masters and US Open champion, shook off back-to-back bogeys at 13 and 14 with a sizzling finish, curling in his final putt for a four-under par 66 to reach 12-under 198 after 54 holes.

The 23-year-old American, who won earlier this year at Pebble Beach, could complete a wire-to-wire triumph and claim his 10th PGA title Sunday at TPC River Highlands near Hartford, Connecticut.

American Boo Weekley, who hasn't won a PGA title since 2013 at Colonial and hasn't finished in the top 25 this season, fired a 65 to stand second on 199 with compatriot Daniel Berger third on 201.

Taiwan's C.T. Pan fired the day's low round, a 64, to join England's Paul Casey and Sweden's David Lingmerth in fourth on 202.

Spieth began the day with a one-stroke edge and five opening pars solidified his spot. He found a bunker at the par-3 fifth but sank a clutch 15-foot par putt to stay ahead.

Spieth followed with birdies at the par-5 sixth and par-4 seventh. He blasted from a bunker to off the edge of the green then sank the birdie bid from 27 feet, then landed his approach inside three feet and sank the birdie putt to reach 10-under.

But Spieth closed the front nine with a bogey for the second time in three days and seconds later Charley Hoffman completed an eagle-birdie-birdie run by sinking a five-foot birdie putt at 15 to seize the lead by one at 10-under.

Spieth responded with birdies from eight feet at the 10th and half that distance at the par-3 11th to reach 11-under, jumping back in front as Hoffman made double bogey at the par-3 16th and closed bogey-bogey.

A splashdown second shot for Spieth at the par-5 13th led to a bogey, trimming his edge to one stroke over Daniel Berger. But Spieth missed the green on his approach at 14 and missed a six-foot par putt to fall into a share of the lead with Berger and Weekley.

Again Spieth answered the challenge, firing his tee shot at the par-4 15th into a greenside bunker, then blasting out inches from the cup for a tap-in birdie to reclaim sole possession of the lead at 10-under.

Spieth then sank a five-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th to share the lead with Weekley at 11-under after his rival's birdie-birdie finish, setting up his dramatic go-ahead birdie at 18.

Third-ranked Rory McIlroy, who made the cut on the number, switched to a half-mallet putter as he searched for better results on the greens. He shot 70 with two birdies and two bogeys to stand on 210.

Moyano the villain and hero as Pumas triumph

Ramiro Moyano was the villain and the hero as Argentina won for only the second time in 11 Tests by defeating Georgia 45-29 Saturday in San Salvador de Jujuy. The winger was sin-binned during the first half of the one-off international for tackling an…

Ramiro Moyano was the villain and the hero as Argentina won for only the second time in 11 Tests by defeating Georgia 45-29 Saturday in San Salvador de Jujuy.

The winger was sin-binned during the first half of the one-off international for tackling an airborne opponent, but atoned by scoring three second-half tries within 14 minutes.

Victory was a timely morale booster for the Pumas, whose next outing is away to resurgent South Africa on August 19 in a Rugby Championship opener.

Antetokounmpo brothers – from migrants to basketball ambassadors

Rags to riches NBA All-Star player Giannis Antetokounmpo spoke openly on Saturday of his Nigerian origins and of eking out a living trading on the Athens streets long before his $100 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.Giannis appeared on stage at th…

Rags to riches NBA All-Star player Giannis Antetokounmpo spoke openly on Saturday of his Nigerian origins and of eking out a living trading on the Athens streets long before his $100 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Giannis appeared on stage at the Onassis Cultural Centre with his 24-year-old brother Thanasis, who plays for the Spanish club MoraBanc Andorra, and they talked about their painful struggle in their early days in Greece where their parents had arrived as immigrants.

"We are the products of two cultures, Greek and Nigerian, and we took the best of both worlds," Giannis said.

"There are many people who have gone through tough times, but you still have to look for the light. Our parents taught us not to be selfish, to be honest and sincere," Thanasis added.

The sons of Nigerian immigrant parents, who came to Greece for a better life, Giannis and Thanasis were born in Athens and grew up selling merchandise in the streets of the capital in order to help their poor family.

But basketball changed their lives and last year Giannis signed a $100 million four-year contract with the Bucks. Thanasis also tried his luck in the NBA before joining his Spanish club.

"I started out playing football as my father was a football player back in Nigeria. But basketball was my life and I worked hard. Now that I?ve made it in the NBA it is hard to stay on top so you have to work harder," Giannis said.

He continued: ?You have to test your limits and I believe I want to be the best player of all time and I know I can get there.?

The 22-year-old added he was determined to help other young people in both Greece and in Africa to get ahead.

"I would like to do everything I can to help them have a better life. The Americans gave me a chance to fulfil my dream. If you work hard and believe in your dream you will succeed,? he said.

The Antetokounmpo brothers are very popular in Greece and earlier this month drew a standing-room-only crowd of 5,000 spectators during an exhibition game they organized in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.

"Greece loves us because we are good guys. We promote Greece wherever we go," Giannis said.

Another game by the brothers, who play for the Greek national team, is set for Sunday in Athens and a sell-out crowd of 18,000 is expected.

?I know nothing else but Greece. I have never been to Nigeria. You are not born a Greek, you become a Greek,? Giannis said.

Coleman back on track at US trials

Christian Coleman recovered from his surprise defeat against Justin Gatlin to ease through to the 200m semi-finals at the US World Championship trials on Saturday.The 21-year-old rising star of American sprinting, stunned by veteran Gatlin in the 100m …

Christian Coleman recovered from his surprise defeat against Justin Gatlin to ease through to the 200m semi-finals at the US World Championship trials on Saturday.

The 21-year-old rising star of American sprinting, stunned by veteran Gatlin in the 100m final on Friday, coasted into the next round of the 200m in 20.34sec at Sacramento's Hornet Stadium.

Coleman, the fastest man in the world over 100m this year, was never threatened in his heat, pulling clear to finish ahead of another veteran, Tyson Gay. Gatlin had been entered in the 200m but scratched from his heat.

"As a competitor it was slightly disappointing because you want to come out with a win every time," Coleman said of his upset loss to Gatlin on Friday.

"But, ultimately, I was happy to make it to the team because that was my goal."

The 200m also saw LaShawn Merritt confirm his fitness with a time of 20.74.

Merritt, who is already qualified for the August World Championships by virtue of winning the 400m Diamond League crown last season, said he will skip the remaining rounds of the 200m.

"I just needed to run something, show fitness," the 2008 Olympic 400m champion said, adding that he had abandoned plans to attempt a 200m-400m double in London.

"I was thinking about doubling early in the season but I thought I'd just stick to the 400," he said. "I just want to focus on that and attack that. That's the plan -- just stick to that."

In other action early Saturday, 2012 Olympic 200m champion Allyson Felix eased through her 200m heat.

Felix, a six-time Olympic gold medalist, won her heat in 22.95. The 31-year-old, who has a bye into the World Championships following her 2015 400m gold medal, plans to only run the one-lap event in London.

In the men's 110m hurdles, 2012 Olympic champion Aries Merritt sailed into the semi-finals as the fastest qualifier, winning his heat in 13.41.

Merritt, 31, told AFP he is now fully recovered from the after-effects of his 2015 kidney transplant and a groin injury last season that scuppered his bid to make the Olympic team.

"It has been a few years since I felt as good as this," Merritt said.

"Now everything is completely different. I'm able to move my limbs properly. I'm able to stretch and hit the positions that I need to hit."

Ronaldo delight as Portugal reach Confed football semis

Cristiano Ronaldo expressed his delight at firing Portugal into the Confederations Cup semi-finals after netting his 75th international goal in Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing of New Zealand.”I’m very happy to be in the semi-finals. We’re confident and want t…

Cristiano Ronaldo expressed his delight at firing Portugal into the Confederations Cup semi-finals after netting his 75th international goal in Saturday's 4-0 thrashing of New Zealand.

"I'm very happy to be in the semi-finals. We're confident and want to win," said Ronaldo, who picked up his third straight man-of-the-match award in Russia.

The 32-year-old has a court date in Madrid next month, accused by Spanish authorities of tax evasion, and the fallout has resulted in Ronaldo threatening to leave Real.

Despite the off-field turmoil and constant speculation about his future, the Portugal captain has dazzled on the pitch in Russia and scored two goals in three matches.

Ronaldo converted a 33rd-minute penalty to fire the Euro 2016 winners in front in Saint Petersburg before Bernardo Silva turned in a second goal four minutes later.

Andre Silva added a third on 80 minutes before Nani completed the rout in stoppage time to ensure Portugal finished above Mexico on goal difference.

"I thought we played well in many parts of the game; in others, not so well. Overall though, it was a fair victory," said Portugal coach Fernando Santos.

Ronaldo's latest goal sent him level with Hungary great Sandor Kocsis and to within nine of the legendary Ferenc Puskas' European record of 84 at international level.

After demolishing New Zealand, Portugal progressed as Group A winners and will face the runners-up in Group B -- likely Germany or Chile -- next Wednesday in Kazan for a place in the July 2 final.

Mexico eliminated hosts Russia with a 2-1 win to join Portugal on seven points, with the Gold Cup winners to meet the second-placed side from Group B in the last four.

- Courageous Lozano -

Hirving Lozano's courageous second-half header sealed Mexico's comeback victory over 10-man Russia in Kazan.

Hosts Russia took a deserved 25th-minute lead through Aleksandr Samedov, but Nestor Araujo equalised for Mexico with a looping header on the half hour.

Igor Akinfeev was then left embarrassed as Lozano nipped in front of the Russia goalkeeper to head in from the edge of the area on 52 minutes after a towering clearance caused chaos in the home defence.

Russia suffered a further blow when Yury Zhirkov was dismissed on 68 minutes and substitute Igor Smolnikov blazed over from close range with quarter of an hour remaining to compound their misery.

"We knew we were going to have a really tough game against a very strong side in the host nation, who simply had to go for the win," said Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio.

"This is a big victory for Mexican football. I think we deserved to win and we?re delighted with the result and the performance of the team."

For Russia it was their final competitive fixture ahead of next year's World Cup, but coach Stanislav Cherchesov remained upbeat despite his side's early exit.

"I?m confident that all the players who?ve taken part in the tournament will draw on the experience to develop and mature," he said.

"Three quarters of the squad have never played at this level, and with new players coming through all the time I?m optimistic about the future."

French President shows game side to support Paris Olympics 2024

French President Emmanuel Macron tried his hand at sports including boxing and wheelchair tennis to support Paris’ bid to host the 2024 Olympics on Saturday.Paris and Los Angeles are vying for the Games and as part of the French capital’s campaign orga…

French President Emmanuel Macron tried his hand at sports including boxing and wheelchair tennis to support Paris' bid to host the 2024 Olympics on Saturday.

Paris and Los Angeles are vying for the Games and as part of the French capital's campaign organisers staged an Olympic Day where fans could try out various sports.

"Paris 2024 is a project supported by the whole of France," said Macron. "And it is important to send out the message that the head of state is fully on board."

France's interest in hosting the Games was a question of "pride and optimism," insisted Macron, who at 39 years is the youngest president in French history.

Macron certainly looked fully on board as he gamely thrashed out a few points at wheelchair tennis on the Pont Alexandre-III over the River Seine and pulled on boxing gloves to spar with the boxers.

"There is the universal Olympic spirit, but when I play I always play to win," said the former civil servant and investment banker who swept to victory in the French Presidential election in April and took office in May.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) are expected to announce a decision on July 11 on whether to name the host for the 2024 and 2028 Games simultaneously. The IOC's main meeting in Lima on September 13 will then vote on the host for both editions.

Paris have not hosted the Summer Olympics since 1924, and last hosted the Winter Olympics in Albertville 1992.

Garcia, Bland share Munich lead ahead of final day of golf

Masters champion Sergio Garcia edged closer to his third title of the season when he fired a 67 to share the lead with England’s Richard Bland going into the final round of the BMW International Open.The Spanish star, playing in Europe for the first ti…

Masters champion Sergio Garcia edged closer to his third title of the season when he fired a 67 to share the lead with England's Richard Bland going into the final round of the BMW International Open.

The Spanish star, playing in Europe for the first time since capturing the Masters in Augusta in April, had led after birdies on the 12th and 13th holes before 44-year-old Bland responded.

The Englishman, who had played out of the water on the 11th to hole a 20-footer, jumped out into a two-shot lead.

He holed out from the fairway on the 13th, but Garcia hit a fine approach into the 15th and a better tee shot into the 17th to move alongside him.

"I think it was a good, solid day," Garcia told www.europeantour.com, as his 67 was matched by Bland with both men standing at 13 under par for the three rounds.

"Obviously a couple of little putts there at the end that looked like they were going to go in and didn't but, overall, I felt like I played nicely.

Garcia, who carded seven birdies, added: "It's nice but it doesn't mean that it's finished. Still we have a long day tomorrow. We've got to go out there, play well again and see if we can pull it off."

Bland is playing in his 410th European Tour event but has yet to clinch a title.

"I hit some really good shots out there and I hit a couple of scrappy ones coming in but my short game saved me," said Bland.

"Got my feet wet and holed a second shot into 13. So yeah, kind of ran pretty much into everything."

Swede Joakim Lagergren, who had shared the overnight lead, is 12 under, two shots clear of Belgian Thomas Detry and Argentinian Andres Romero.

New Zealand stay perfect in pursuit of America’s Cup

Emirates Team New Zealand remained perfect in pursuit of the 35th America’s Cup on Saturday, opening the day’s racing with a fifth victory over holders Oracle Team USA.The Kiwi’s win gave them a 4-0 lead in the first-to-seven points series — which the…

Emirates Team New Zealand remained perfect in pursuit of the 35th America's Cup on Saturday, opening the day's racing with a fifth victory over holders Oracle Team USA.

The Kiwi's win gave them a 4-0 lead in the first-to-seven points series -- which they started with a one-point deficit due to the USA's topping the round-robin qualifying.

Team USA, hoping to turn things around after a five-day break in racing, instead were hindered by two penalties.

Skipper Jimmy Spithill was a fraction early across the startline for a penalty that handed helmsman Peter Burling and the New Zealanders an instant advantage.

But mid-week alterations had borne fruit for the USA, and their foiling catamaran's improved speed let them take the lead on the third leg -- only for another penalty for hindering the Kiwis to set them back.

New Zealand were comfortably in front at the fourth mark and powered on to win by more than two minutes.

A defiant Spithill said he still believed the team had made gains and he was aiming for a win in Saturday's second race.

"There is no speed for free, so we are on edge a little bit more," he said. "We had a few issues - the pre-start was obviously frustrating and then we picked up a pen that we were very surprised with.

"The good news is that the boat was going well. I think we can win this next race. We've got the speed."

Brave Lozano heads Mexico into Confed Cup football semis

Hirving Lozano’s courageous second-half header sealed Mexico’s 2-1 comeback win over 10-man Russia on Saturday and fired them into the Confederations Cup semi-finals.Hosts Russia took a deserved 25th-minute lead in Kazan through Aleksandr Samedov, but …

Hirving Lozano's courageous second-half header sealed Mexico's 2-1 comeback win over 10-man Russia on Saturday and fired them into the Confederations Cup semi-finals.

Hosts Russia took a deserved 25th-minute lead in Kazan through Aleksandr Samedov, but Nestor Araujo equalised for Mexico with a looping header on the half hour.

New PSV Eindhoven signing Lozano then headed Mexico into the last four as he beat Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev to Hector Herrera's towering kick from inside his own half.

Russia's hopes of a comeback were further hampered in the final 20 minutes when Yury Zhirkov was sent off for a second yellow card.

While the hosts bow out, Mexico progress as Group A runners-up to play the winners of Group B in Sochi next Thursday.

Having made eight changes for the team which beat New Zealand, Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio again rang the changes against Russia with only defender Araujo and forward Giovani dos Santos retained in the starting line-up.

Lozano replaced from Raul Jimenez in a completely different forward line alongside Mexico's all-time top scorer Javier Hernandez and former Arsenal winger Carlos Vela.

Just as they did in the 2-2 draw with Portugal and victory over New Zealand, Mexico made a slow start and again fell behind.

Mexico captain Andres Guardado picked up an early booking that will rule him out of the semi-final, while the video assistant referee was summoned to reject Russian penalty claims after Fyodor Smolov went to ground in the area.

Russia went ahead though as Smolov hit the post, with Aleksandr Erokhin knocking the rebound to Samedov who drilled past Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

But the goal sparked Mexico into life and they were level just five minutes later.

Porto midfielder Herrera fired in a deep cross to the far post where Araujo lifted the ball over Akinfeev and into the opposite corner.

Mexico lost Diego Reyes to injury just before the break when the Espanyol defender rolled his ankle making an innocuous pass.

The linesman's flag denied Spartak Moscow's Samedow after he put the ball in the net early in the second half, and Mexico forged ahead as Lozano's brave gamble paid off.

Herrara's thumping clearance was allowed to bounce just outside the Russian area, with Lozano clattered by Akinfeev as he nipped in front of the keeper to head into an unguarded net on 52 minutes.

Mexico then had another goal ruled out for offside following further consultation with the video referee, and Russia suffered a further blow when Zhirkov was dismissed on 68 minutes.

Substitute Igor Smolnikov blazed over from close range with quarter of an hour remaining to compound Russia's misery.

Frankel’s jockey mines Diamond Jubilee on The Tin Man

Tom Queally, who rode the mighty Frankel, landed the Royal Ascot meeting’s closing Group One on Saturday on The Tin Man, but only after a nervous wait.The Irish jockey prevailed in a tight three-horse finish for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes but was then …

Tom Queally, who rode the mighty Frankel, landed the Royal Ascot meeting's closing Group One on Saturday on The Tin Man, but only after a nervous wait.

The Irish jockey prevailed in a tight three-horse finish for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes but was then made to sweat as the stewards' held an inquiry after the 9-2 shot bumped Limato, the 2-1 favourite and eventual third.

The 15-minute investigation maintained the result, with Taslett (7-1) in second, after finding that the manoeuvre had not made a crucial difference to the outcome.

Queally, who won a different race at Royal Ascot last year on the same horse, paid thanks to The Tin Man after seeing his big race winners at the royal festival dry up since the Frankel days.

The Irishman reflected: "It?s hard to get rides here, it?s hard to have runners, and it?s even harder to have winners. You?re only as good as the horses you ride and he?s an outstanding horse."

Queally's compatriot Aidan O?Brien secured the Royal Ascot top trainers? title by half-way through the afternoon when Idaho made it win number six for the week in the Hardwicke Stakes after September, the hot favourite, took the opening Chesham Stakes.

Idaho is the younger brother of the globetrotting Highland Reel, successful in one of the week's most prestigious events, Wednesday's Prince Of Wales?s Stakes.

Idaho's jockey Seamie Heffernan had been unseated when the horse stumbled as a favourite for last year?s St Leger, so it was a far more pleasant experience for the Irish combination here as they made up for lost time.

Idaho showed the determination of his decorated sibling to hold the fast-finishing Barsanti by half a length.

Like Highland Reel, Idaho could be on his travels.

"He's by Galileo and they don't know when to stop improving or stop trying," said O?Brien.

"The King George is a possibility. I think he?ll be busy."

There was to be no repeat for Queen Elizabeth II?s Dartmouth, with last year's winner finishing fourth.

"He wasn't good enough," shrugged Michael Stoute, who has had a disappointing week despite having high hopes of edging ahead of the late Henry Cecil to become Royal Ascot's most successful trainer.

"He's versatile, and can go up in trip, but he won't be going for the Melbourne Cup," added Stoute, who drew level with the late Henry Cecil's record tally of 75 last year, with Dartmouth.

RugbyU: Boks end Ellis Park jinx in series whitewash

South Africa ground out a 35-12 victory Saturday to beat France at Ellis Park in Johannesburg for the first time and complete a 3-0 Test series whitewash.Les Bleus, who won the four previous clashes with the Springboks at the ground, fell behind after …

South Africa ground out a 35-12 victory Saturday to beat France at Ellis Park in Johannesburg for the first time and complete a 3-0 Test series whitewash.

Les Bleus, who won the four previous clashes with the Springboks at the ground, fell behind after six minutes and never looked likely to snap a losing streak on this tour.

Victory in a match that never scaled great heights continued a South African revival after a calamitous last season in which they lost eight of 12 Tests.

Winning the first two matches of the series has reignited public support for the Springboks with a 55,820 crowd creating an electric atmosphere.

South Africa were skippered by lock Eben Etzebeth for the first time after the late withdrawal of No.8 Warren Whiteley due to a groin injury.

Flanker Jean-Luc du Preez replaced Whiteley with Jaco Kriel coming into the team off the bench.

Etzebeth said: "What an unbelievable day it was for me and the whole team. This whole three weeks was unbelievable.

"The crowd that was here tonight, all the support back home. We just want to thank everyone for this massive day and this great three weeks.

"(The buildup) was not tough at all. I think if you put on a Springbok jersey, you want to win every game. That is exactly what we wanted to do tonight.

"We are really happy and so excited for the squad and looking forward to the Rugby Championship."

France captain and hooker Guilhem Guirado said: "Tonight, three games, three Tests, three times (almost) the same score -- very bad for the French team.

"But now we know what we have got to do. The Springboks played very well, putting a lot of pressure and they are a good team.

"(Having a young team) is not an excuse. Young team, young players, but when you play you can win every time.

"We must build and hope to play well in future."

South Africa won the World Cup for the first time on the same date 22 years ago and one of the team, winger Chester Williams, was introduced to the crowd before the kick-off.

Fly-half Elton Jantjies, who had succeeded with 11 of 12 kicks at goal during the previous two Tests, put the home team ahead with a sixth-minute penalty.

Within two minutes that lead had stretched to 10 ponts as French winger Virimi Vakatawa was dispossessed and prop Ruan Dreyer sent centre Jesse Kriel over in the corner.

Jantjies converted, but France trimmed the deficit to four points as recalled fly-half Jules Plisson slotted two penalties.

It took 27 minutes for the first scrum which had to be reset, in keeping with a trend of the series, before the work of new cap Dreyer won South Africa a penalty.

A battle of the boots continued until half-time with Jantjies kicking two more penalties and Plisson one, on the stroke of half-time, to leave South Africa 16-9 ahead at the break.

South Africa scored a second try just two minutes into the second half after inside centre Jan Serfontein won a line-out and Etzebeth barged over for an unconverted try.

Plisson missed his first penalty attempt of the match after 53 minutes of a stop-start match with too many penalties, most after basic error by both teams.

The French fly-half succeeded with another penalty only for South Africa to go 28-12 ahead just past the hour when hooker Malcolm Marx drove over and Jantjies converted.

Substitute scrum-half Rudy Paige rubbed salt into French wounds with a try five minutes from time which Jantjies converted.

Ronaldo hits milestone as Portugal sink New Zealand

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 75th international goal as Portugal trounced New Zealand 4-0 in Saint Petersburg on Saturday to advance to the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup.The Real Madrid star struck from the penalty spot on 33 minutes to fire th…

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 75th international goal as Portugal trounced New Zealand 4-0 in Saint Petersburg on Saturday to advance to the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup.

The Real Madrid star struck from the penalty spot on 33 minutes to fire the European champions in front before Bernardo Silva turned in a second goal four minutes later.

Andre Silva added a third on 80 minutes before Nani completed the rout in stoppage time to ensure Portugal progressed to last four as winners of Group A, finishing above Mexico on goal difference.

Mexico eliminated hosts Russia with a 2-1 win in Kazan to join Portugal on seven points, with Fernando Santos' side to face the runners-up of Group B on Wednesday for a place in the July 2 final.

Copa America holders Chile lead Germany on goal difference ahead of the final round of matches in Group B, although Australia and Cameroon still harbour outside qualification hopes.

Santos fielded an attacking line-up packed with experience and resisted the temptation to rest Ronaldo with Portugal still requiring a point to qualify and vying with Mexico and Russia for top spot.

Ronaldo twice threatened the New Zealand goal in quick succession, nodding straight at goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic on 24 minutes and then clattering the crossbar shortly after with another header from a Ricardo Quaresma cross.

But the Portugal captain made no mistake after Danilo was wrestled to the ground in the area by a combination of Tom Doyle and Tommy Smith following a corner.

Ronaldo buried the resultant penalty beyond Stefanovic to draw level with former Hungary great Sandor Kocsis and within nine goals of the legendary Ferenc Puskas' European record of 84 at international level.

Portugal swiftly doubled their lead when Eliseu's dangerous low cross from the left was forced home by Silva, although there was brief concern for the new Manchester City signing as he landed awkwardly on his ankle.

New Zealand skipper Chris Wood nearly grabbed a lifeline for the All Whites on the hour, but his back-post effort was scrambled off the line by a combination of Rui Patricio and Bruno Alves.

Ronaldo could have added to his tally when he climbed to meet a Nelson Semedo delivery, his header scooped away by Stefanovic who then stood tall to superbly deny Andre Silva.

Santos withdrew Ronaldo on 67 minutes with the semi-finals in mind, and his replacement Nani struck within moments of his introduction only for Stefanovic to brilliantly tip behind his deflected shot.

Silva finally provided Portugal with further breathing space 10 minutes from time as the AC Milan-bound striker ran at the Kiwi defence before drilling into the roof of the net.

Former Manchester United winger Nani then drilled in a fourth in injury time, with Portugal now having lost just one of their last 23 competitive fixtures.

‘Fantastic’ Hamilton leaves Lauda stunned

Mercedes team boss Niki Lauda said he had never seen anything like it after watching Lewis Hamilton scorch to pole position in the final seconds of Saturday’s qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.The three-time champion Austrian, who is Mercedes’ n…

Mercedes team boss Niki Lauda said he had never seen anything like it after watching Lewis Hamilton scorch to pole position in the final seconds of Saturday's qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The three-time champion Austrian, who is Mercedes' non-executive chairman, also praised the team for their work in turning around a car that had struggled on Friday, when Hamilton was 10th, into the fastest just 24 hours later.

"The team really did a fantastic job to set the car up in the right way and Lewis with his lap here -- I have never seen anything like it," said the 68-year-old Austrian.

"And it was not plain sailing at all, but I tell you, a lot of thinking, digging back to the factory, forward and whatsoever and, in the end, the improvements they did -- the engineers -- and all the mechanics did to the car today is outstanding.

"And then what Lewis did today! Nobody else, I think, can do that."

Hamilton's 66th pole position lifted the 32-year-old into outright second place in the record books behind only seven-time champion German Michael Schumacher, on 68.

"He's fantastic," said Lauda. "Especially I am now thinking about his lap time here. The difference he makes to everybody is only Lewis. So -- fantastic."

Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas had been quickest in the final Q3 session until Hamilton's late intervention.

"I think Lewis had a really good lap and I didn't," said Bottas.

"I wasn't quite comfortable with the tyre temperatures. It was the first time we tried to go for a time in the first lap of the tyres and I couldn't get them to work as well as Lewis.

"I didn't have enough grip. The run before was good and, before the red flag, everything was going ok.

"In the end, I'm disappointed to lose the pole position, as that was definitively the target for me."

"But I'm really proud," added the 27-year-old Finnish driver. "We've made quite big changes through the practice sessions, we were quite lost, to be honest, in the beginning and we managed to turn it around.

"So for that I'm really, pleased. For tomorrow we, as a team, definitively have a great starting position and we're going to have a good fight and try to get another one-two."

Vettel shrugs off Mercedes’ Baku lockout

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was anything but downbeat after his Ferrari team were swept aside by a Mercedes front row lockout in Saturday?s qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.Despite being beaten by his main rivals and outpaced by his te…

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was anything but downbeat after his Ferrari team were swept aside by a Mercedes front row lockout in Saturday?s qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Despite being beaten by his main rivals and outpaced by his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, the four-time champion growled with defiance as he licked his wounds after the session.

?It's one of those tracks where you need to have the car in the window, the tyres in the window and if you feel confident, you extract a lot of lap time," he said.

?I'm not too bothered by the gap. It's not nice, but equally I'm not worried. The car was very good on Friday. In the long run, we looked very competitive so it should be fine.

?Third was probably the maximum. As a team, we got what we could today. Tomorrow can be a different story and I think the race pace should be a lot closer."

Three-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who is 12 points adrift of him in the drivers? title race, took pole for Mercedes with a blistering lap in a dramatic finale.

He outpaced team-mate Valtteri Botas by half a second and was more than a second clear of third-placed Raikkonen with Vetterl 1.25 seconds adrift in fourth.

It was Hamilton?s 66th pole lifting him one clear of his hero three-time champion Ayrton Senna?s record of 65 and within two of equalling the record of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher.

Vettel struggled with problems including a hydraulics leak that forced Ferrari to revert to an older engine on his car before qualifying.

"I don't like excuses, so I think it was a good effort by the whole team to get the car out in time without losing anything of the first part of qualifying," said Vettel.

Eight-time champion Federer to face Zverev in Halle final

Roger Federer, chasing a ninth title at the Halle grass court tournament, despatched Russian Karen Khachanov 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) on Saturday to move into the final.The world number five, building up to an assault on an eighth Wimbledon title in July, will n…

Roger Federer, chasing a ninth title at the Halle grass court tournament, despatched Russian Karen Khachanov 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) on Saturday to move into the final.

The world number five, building up to an assault on an eighth Wimbledon title in July, will now face German fourth seed Alexander Zverev who saw off France's Richard Gasquet 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Federer, 35, has yet to drop a set in Halle, where he was playing his 13th consecutive semi-final.

"I thought it was extremely close, especially that second set. I'm still just very happy how I was able to close it out in the tiebreaker,? said Federer who first reached the Halle final in 2003.

Federer defeated Zverev's older brother Mischa in the second round this week.

However, he was defeated by Alexander Zverev in three sets in the semi-finals at Halle in 2016.

‘Dream performance’ as Srikanth sets up Chen badminton final

India’s Kidambi Srikanth blew away China’s Shi Yuqi with a “dream” performance to set up an Australian Open final against Olympic champion Chen Long on Saturday.The 11th-ranked Srikanth beat Shi, the world number four, 21-10, 21-14 in just 37 minutes t…

India's Kidambi Srikanth blew away China's Shi Yuqi with a "dream" performance to set up an Australian Open final against Olympic champion Chen Long on Saturday.

The 11th-ranked Srikanth beat Shi, the world number four, 21-10, 21-14 in just 37 minutes to reach his third successive Superseries final.

China's Chen gave himself a shot at his first Superseries title this year by fighting off South Korean veteran Lee Hyun-Il 26-24, 15-21, 21-17 in 68 minutes.

The women's final on Sunday will be an all-Japanese affair between Akane Yamaguchi and Nozomi Okuhara.

Okuhara made her first Superseries final in over a year, wearing down China's Sun Yu 21-18, 18-21, 21-14, while Yamaguchi played a brilliant counter-attacking game to shock Taiwanese top seed Tai Tzu Ying 21-19, 21-12.

Srikanth, who won last week's Indonesia Open and also reached the Singapore Open final in May, gave a masterclass in net play and deception to blitz Shi.

"Yes, it's a dream performance," Srikanth said. "I played a World Superseries final (Singapore Open) after two years, and then to play the next two finals is a dream for sure.

"I was in control of the whole match, I didn't give him any easy points at the start. It's just that I had to stay there and not give him easy points. I was in control at the net."

In the other men's semi-final, Lee pinned Chen to the lines and kept things tight until he chose his moment to attack.

Chen's usually airtight defence was frequently pierced as he struggled to read the lines of Lee's attack.

The Korean dominated the Olympic champion but failed to convert any of four game points in the opener. He took the second game and had his chances in the third until a late surge by Chen proved too much.

"I'm quite satisfied with my performance this tournament. I feel less pressure now as an independent player, that's why my performances have improved in recent times," Lee said.

In the women's semi-finals, Yamaguchi went for winners and never let off her pace against Tai, the world number one.

Tai stayed level through the first game but Yamaguchi got lucky on her first game point -? the shuttle catching the tape and tumbling into Tai's court -? and the Japanese consolidated her lead with solid play in the second.

Okuhara has lost four straight matches to her compatriot Yamaguchi, but she was hopeful of turning it around in Sunday's final.

"After the Rio Olympics, I had an injury and it has taken time to recover," Okuhara said.

"My condition is better now. I face Akane again. Last week I lost to her but I want to challenge her tomorrow."

Kenya’s Kipruto ready to step up steeplechase ladder

Kenya’s Olympic 3,000 metres steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto feels victory at this year’s world championships in London would cement his place one of the distance greats.The 22-year-old, twice gold medallist in 2013 in Moscow and in Beijing in …

Kenya's Olympic 3,000 metres steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto feels victory at this year's world championships in London would cement his place one of the distance greats.

The 22-year-old, twice gold medallist in 2013 in Moscow and in Beijing in 2015, said he's ready to step up the ladder as the next dominant after compatriot and four-time world champion Ezekiel Kemboi.

"This time I want to change the way I have been running at the world championships," said Kipruto, after his victory at the Kenyan national trials at the Nyayo National stadium on Saturday.

"Having won the Olympics, I now have the course. I want to be is a world champion and the take the mantle from Kemboi."

Kipruto will however have the 2007 world champion Brimin Kipruto to contend with in London after the resurgent 2008 Olympic champion fought his way to qualify for his seventh career championship in London with a second-place finish.

Two-time Diamond League winner Jairus Kipchoge Birech finished third in 8:20.01 to complete the three-man line-up.

American National Collegiate 800-metre champion Emmanuel Korir upset a strong field to win his first Kenyan title in an impressive time of 1:43.86.

Korir finished well clear of the Shanghai Diamond League winner Kipyegon Bett and fellow US-based Michael Saruni, who took second and third place respectively in 1:44.04 and 1:44.61.

National champion Ferguson Rotich was relegated into fourth, but was included in the world championship squad by virtue of being the 2016 Diamond League champion.

Reigning 800m champion David Rudisha also earned the wild card, despite not taking part in the two-day championship.

The women's 800m was won by Olympic bronze medallist Margaret Nyairera in her fourth personal best time of the season in 1:59.68.

Eunice Sum, the African and Commonwealth 800m champion was a distant second in 2:00.03 with Emily Cherotich (2:00.08) third.

There was no surprise in the men's 10000m, as national champion Geoffrey Kamworor lead Bedan Karoki and Paul Tanui in a repeat of the team that represented Kenya in the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Kamworor, the two-time world cross country and world half-marathon champion said the trio will work as a team to topple Britain's two-time world 10000m champion, Mo Farah in London.

"We need to change the technique and with enough training between now and August there is no doubt about beating Farah. It is high time we won back the 10000m world title. That time is now," said Kamworor.

Zarco claims maiden pole in Assen

Yamaha Tech3’s French rider Johann Zarco edged four-time champion Marc Marquez in final qualifying to claim his maiden MotoGP pole on Saturday for the Dutch Grand Prix in Assen.Honda’s Marquez and Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci keep Zarco company on the fron…

Yamaha Tech3's French rider Johann Zarco edged four-time champion Marc Marquez in final qualifying to claim his maiden MotoGP pole on Saturday for the Dutch Grand Prix in Assen.

Honda's Marquez and Ducati's Danilo Petrucci keep Zarco company on the front row with world championship leader Maverick Vinales only managing to make the fifth row.

Italian veteran Valentino Rossi sets off on the second row with Briton Scott Redding and Zarco's teammate Jonas Folger.

Reigning Moto2 champion Zarco, at only his eighth attempt, becomes the first Frenchman since Olivier Jacque in Germany 15 years ago to set off from pole in the world championship's top category.

The 26-year-old coped best with a wet circuit and windy conditions to shade Marquez by .065sec and Petrucci by .385s as Vinales, who had posted the fastest time in practice, failed to make an impact.

Yamaha's Spanish rider trailed in 11th in the pole-deciding session, a full 2.125s adrift.

At least Vinales made it through to second qualifying, in contrast to three time former MotoGP titleholder Jorge Lorenzo who trailed in 21st to leave him languishing on the penultimate row on Sunday's grid.

In the race for the 2017 world championship Vinales leads on 111 points from Dovizioso (104) and Marquez (88).

Zarco, in sixth with 75 points, is seeking to become the first French MotoGP winner since Regis Laconi in 1999, with none of his fellow countrymen ever wearing the MotoGP crown.

Deans to coach Barbarians against New Zealand

Robbie Deans will coach the Barbarians against his native New Zealand when the teams meet at Twickenham later this year, the invitational club have announced.The Killik Cup clash on November 4 will celebrate the 125th anniversary of the foundation of t…

Robbie Deans will coach the Barbarians against his native New Zealand when the teams meet at Twickenham later this year, the invitational club have announced.

The Killik Cup clash on November 4 will celebrate the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the New Zealand Rugby Union.

For Deans, a former fullback capped five times by the All Blacks, it will be his third stint in charge of the Barbarians, having most recently overseen last year's 31-31 draw with South Africa across London at Wembley.

November's fixture will revive memories of the most celebrated of all Barbarians matches, a 23-11 win over New Zealand at Cardiff in 1973 which saw Wales great Gareth Edwards cap a length-of-the-field move to score what is still widely regarded as one of the best tries in rugby union history.

"That was a landmark fixture that set high standards of how the game could be played in people?s minds and a huge part of the rivalry stems from that,? said Deans.

"It launched the Barbarians to another level in terms of interest in them and their mystique," added Deans, 57, in a Barbarians statement.

England, whose governing Rugby Football Union owns Twickenham, had approached the NZRU about playing the reigning world champion All Blacks at 'headquarters' on November 4 instead of the Barbarians.

But New Zealand officials opted to stick with the Barbarians.

Deans said that was testament to the enduring appeal of a fixture which the Barbarians also won in 2009, with Bryan Habana, the outstanding Springbok wing, scoring a hat-trick of tries.

November's match -- the All Blacks' first at Twickenham since they won the 2015 World Cup final at the southwest London ground -- promises to be as tough as any the Barbarians have had in recent times.

Deans, speaking before New Zealand's 30-15 first Test win against the British and Irish Lions in Auckland on Saturday, added: "We want to be able to test the All Blacks ?- we don't want to spend all day chasing them."

Marin Cilic downs Muller to reach Queen’s Club final

Croatia’s Marin Cilic reached his third Queen’s Club final as the world number seven won the battle of the big servers to beat Gilles Muller 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 on Saturday.Cilic became the first player to break Muller in the tournament despite a barrage of …

Croatia's Marin Cilic reached his third Queen's Club final as the world number seven won the battle of the big servers to beat Gilles Muller 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 on Saturday.

Cilic became the first player to break Muller in the tournament despite a barrage of 22 aces from the world number 26 and hammered down 20 aces of his own to return to the final of the Wimbledon warm-up event for the first time since 2013.

The 28-year-old lifted the Queen's trophy in 2012 and finished runner-up to Andy Murray a year later.

Although Cilic dropped a set for the first time this week, the former US Open champion hit back impressively to secure his second ATP final berth of 2017.

Cilic will face Grigor Dimitrov or Feliciano Lopez in Sunday's final as he eyes a second title this year, and 18th in total, following his success in Istanbul last month.

Both Cilic and Muller had made it to the last four without dropping serve, while the Croatian hadn't even faced a break point.

It was Muller who cracked first as Cilic unloaded a backhand down the line to break for a 4-2 lead.

With his own serve still untouchable, that was all the advantage Cilic needed to close out the first set.

Muller wasn't going to surrender without a fight.

He saved a host of break points in the second set before suddenly rocking Cilic with the first break of the Croatian's serve to level at one set all.

Having won the 's-Hertogenbosch title last week, Muller came into the semi-finals holding a 7-0 record on grass this year.

But Cilic, who won 78 percent of his service points, held the edge on the rare occasions when the serving slugfest gave way to a prolonged rally.

He delivered the knockout blow with a break in seventh game of the final set and fittingly sealed the victory with an ace.

Germany’s Goretzka brushes off Arsenal rumours

Germany’s rising star Leon Goretzka on Saturday brushed off reports that Arsenal are set to swoop for the midfielder who has impressed at the Confederations Cup.With Germany’s World Cup-winning stars all rested for the Confed Cup, the 22-year-old is on…

Germany's rising star Leon Goretzka on Saturday brushed off reports that Arsenal are set to swoop for the midfielder who has impressed at the Confederations Cup.

With Germany's World Cup-winning stars all rested for the Confed Cup, the 22-year-old is one of those who has seized his chance to shine in Russia.

He is set to face Cameroon on Sunday in the final Group B match with Germany on the verge of the semi-finals.

The Schalke midfielder scored in Germany's opening 3-2 win over Australia in Group B, then put in a strong display in Thursday's 1-1 draw with Chile.

He has a year left on his Schalke contract and Goretzka insists he is fully focused on the Confed Cup.

However, with Juventus, Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur also said to be interested, reports from the UK claim Arsenal are preparing a 21 million pounds ($26.8m) bid for him.

"I do not really want to say anything about the transfer rumours, I'm focusing on the Confed Cup," he said in Sochi.

"I'm not going to give state-of-play updates, but if there are facts, I will announce them.

"I'm not the type to be impressed by newspaper reports, I know what my qualities are, but I will not build myself up."

If he joins the Gunners, Goretzka would be Arsenal's second off-season signing from Schalke after Bosnia defender Sead Kolasinac left earlier this month.

Christian Heidel, Schalke's general manager, says they will not let Goretzka leave before his contract expires in June 2018.

However, Germany's head coach Joachim Loew revealed he has spoken to the midfielder about his future.

"I had a long chat with Leon before the Confed Cup about various scenarios and opportunities," said the Germany boss.

"I gave him my thoughts, which I won't share here, and we've blended the transfer rumours out at the Confed Cup.

"He has done very well here and is intelligent enough to take the right steps (for his future)."

Germany hope Liverpool’s Emre Can fit for Cameroon

Liverpool midfielder Emre Can is Germany’s only injury concern for Sunday’s Confederations Cup match against Cameroon after a training knock.The 23-year-old, who impressed in Thursday’s 1-1 draw against Chile, went down ahead of the German’s final Grou…

Liverpool midfielder Emre Can is Germany's only injury concern for Sunday's Confederations Cup match against Cameroon after a training knock.

The 23-year-old, who impressed in Thursday's 1-1 draw against Chile, went down ahead of the German's final Group B match in Sochi.

The German camp is hoping Can will be able to feature at the Fischt Stadium where the world champions need a point to reach the semi-finals.

"Emre Can went over in training, he caught his studs on the grass," said Germany's head coach Joachim Loew.

"It doesn't appear to be anything big, but we'll see how he responds."

The Germans are second in the table on goal difference behind Chile with both teams on four points.

Copa America winners Chile face Australia, who like Cameroon also have just one point from their two games, on Sunday in Moscow.

The Germans hope to win the group, enabling them to stay in Sochi for Thursday's semi-final and have an extra day's rest.

Finishing second would mean a semi-final in Kazan on Wednesday against the Group A winners.

"You avoid another day of travel and have a day more break," said midfielder Leon Goretzka.

"It is not the worst thing in the world when you get a view of the sea at meal-times.

"Cameroon is a physically very strong team.

"We will try to move the ball around quickly so that Cameroon players don't get into one-on-one situations."

Ioane try double as All Blacks maul Lions

Rieko Ioane grabbed a second-half try double as the All Blacks steamrollered the British and Irish Lions 30-15 on Saturday to leave the visitors on the brink of yet another series defeat.The 20-year-old wing justified his surprise pick ahead of the pro…

Rieko Ioane grabbed a second-half try double as the All Blacks steamrollered the British and Irish Lions 30-15 on Saturday to leave the visitors on the brink of yet another series defeat.

The 20-year-old wing justified his surprise pick ahead of the prolific Julian Savea, handing New Zealand complete control against a Lions side which had been expected to run them close.

It was a match that confounded stereotypes as the All Blacks employed a direct, forwards-based game and the Lions produced a superb running try, finished off by flanker Sean O'Brien.

The world champions turned 13-8 ahead after an absorbing first half but they took charge in the second period, in which the Lions' lone score was Rhys Webb's try at the death.

It leaves the Lions, who have not won a series in New Zealand since 1971, with much to ponder heading into the second of three Tests next week in Wellington.

"No excuse in terms of the result," Gatland said. "The All Blacks were very direct, better than us at the breakdown and we missed opportunities -- all things we can fix.

"We created chances and shifted the ball pretty well. They didn't come out and play champagne rugby, they were very direct off nine.

"We were looking to get the upper hand up front, but in fairness to them they got it today."

After a fevered build-up to the game, which All Blacks coach Steve Hansen compared to a World Cup final, Beauden Barrett's early penalty and hooker Codie Taylor's try, after he plucked a pass off his shoelaces, put New Zealand 10-0 up.

They were struggling to build on their 13-8 half-time lead before Ioane, cashing in on some demolition work by the powerful All Blacks pack, exploded into action.

"It was a bloody tough Test match. Certainly that first half had everything -- both teams throwing the ball around, two bloody good sides," said All Blacks captain Kieran Read.

"That's one (win)," he added. "We'll go back to the drawing board on Monday. Nothing's been earned yet so we will work harder next week."

- Tactical twist -

Twelve years since the Lions were 'blackwashed' 3-0 on their last visit to New Zealand, the game turned on a brutal scrum by the All Blacks.

It led to Ioane's first try on 55 minutes, and the second came when the All Blacks forwards secured turnover ball.

Scrum-half TJ Perenara, taking a leaf from the playbook of his Lions opposite number Conor Murray, put in a box kick which Ioane gathered and raced away to score.

Murray's own box kicks, which caused the All Blacks much discomfort in the opening 30 minutes, faded as the Lions pack started to wilt.

The three-tries-to-two victory kept alive the All Blacks' phenomenal record, with 47 wins in a row on home soil since 2009 and no defeats at Eden Park since 1994.

But it was a brutal, bloody encounter. The All Blacks lost both fullback Ben Smith (concussion) and outside centre Ryan Crotty (hamstring) in the first 30 minutes.

After being on the back foot for the first 10 minutes, the All Blacks gave the Lions a taste of their own medicine with a series of charges through the middle which had the tourists scrambling before they eventually conceded a penalty, which Barrett converted.

Five minutes later, from a repeat of the same, direct approach, the All Blacks won another penalty close to the Lions line.

While the Lions switched off, expecting a shot at goal, the All Blacks took a quick tap which resulted in Taylor's try in the corner.

After an exchange of penalties by Owen Farrell and Barrett the Lions launched their running game with a counter-attack by Liam Williams inside his own 22 which caught the All Blacks off guard.

He offloaded to Jonathan Davies who took play deep into All Blacks territory, where the ever-present O'Brien finished off a brilliant move.

In a torrid second half in the rain, the game broke open with Ioane's tries on 55 and 70 minutes, before Webb's late consolation effort for the visitors.

Surprise switch did it for All Blacks: coach Hansen

All Blacks coach Steven Hansen said the surprise tactical switch of playing the British and Irish Lions at their own game did the trick after the world champions swept to victory in the first Test on Saturday.Two tries from unexpected wing selection Ri…

All Blacks coach Steven Hansen said the surprise tactical switch of playing the British and Irish Lions at their own game did the trick after the world champions swept to victory in the first Test on Saturday.

Two tries from unexpected wing selection Rieko Ioane broke the game open in the second half as the New Zealand romped home 30-15, with the visitors' score boosted by a try on full-time.

Rival coaches Hansen and Warren Gatland agreed before the long-awaited Test that it would be a battle of contrasting styles, with the free-spirited All Blacks known for their running game and the Lions favouring forward power and kick-and-chase.

But after a fruitless first 10 minutes for the All Blacks they overcame the much-vaunted Lions defensive line-speed by employing the tourists' close-quarter tactics, with scrum-half Aaron Smith directing play.

While Ioane's first try, midway through the second half, put the result beyond doubt, Hansen believed the turning point came much earlier.

"It was more our ability to play off nine (Smith) and hurt them, just getting behind them and taking away what they wanted to do. That was more the turning point," the coach said.

"Once we really looked after the ball and stopped trying to offload and do the stuff we're known to do we built some real pressure by doing that time after time.

"I don't know what the tackle count was but they had to make a lot of tackles and in the end that fatigues you, and when you're fatigued you make mistakes and that's really the turning point. That was the critical part of the game."

When the All Blacks switched to playing tight they put on 10 points in five minutes.

At half-time they led 13-8 and the score blew out to 30-8 before Rhys Webb scored a consolation try for the Lions on the stroke of full-time.

A disappointed Gatland had to admit his Lions were outsmarted by a superior forward pack and the All Blacks' decision to abandon their running game.

"They played very well up front. They did a good job of stopping our line speed. They came really hard off nine which got them some front foot ball and were very aggressive at the breakdown," he said.

"The All Blacks haven't played champagne rugby, throwing the ball all over the place. In fairness to them they were very direct up front so we need to make sure we are better in those areas."

The Lions, who haven't won a Test series in New Zealand since 1971, need to win in Wellington next week to keep the three-match series alive.

Kvitova reaches her first grass court final since Wimbledon 2014

Petra Kvitova took a big step forwards to convincing herself that she can make a full recovery from career-threatening injuries when she reached the final of the Aegon Classic by outplaying her exhausted friend and Czech compatriot Lucie Safarova.The t…

Petra Kvitova took a big step forwards to convincing herself that she can make a full recovery from career-threatening injuries when she reached the final of the Aegon Classic by outplaying her exhausted friend and Czech compatriot Lucie Safarova.

The twice former Wimbledon champion showed few signs of the knife injuries to her playing hand,suffered when she tackled an intruder at her home in December, securing a one-sided 6-1 1-0 victory over Safarova, who was forced to retire with a thigh strain.

It is only Kvitova's second tournament since the seven-month gap in her career caused by her injuries, and this was only her sixth match, yet she has reached her first grass court final since her 2014 Wimbledon triumph.

So well has she been playing that it has become even more significant that this tournament is a Wimbledon warm-up event, for Kivitova is already beginning to suggest she can again do well at the grass court Grand Slam starting in nine days? time.

"It's tough to play against a friend like Lucie," Kvitova said. "It's hard to think about yourself and not your opponent. I am sorry for her and hope she soon gets a bit better.

"I'm pleased with how I am playing. I love playing finals, I like big matches, and I've missed it over the last six months. So this is quite a dream."

Kvitova had never lost any of her nine WTA Tour encounters with Safarova, and this one had a sense of inevitability about it from the start.

She won her opening service game to love, took 14 of the first 15 points, and kept the rallies ultra-short by striking winners freely, especially with her hard-to-read flat-hit forehand.

Safarova had had to battle like a trooper to reach this stage, saving match points against both Dominika Cibulkova, the third seed, and Daria Gavrilova, the ninth seed from Australia, and by the end of a first set lasting only 26 minutes it was clear her resources were seriously depleted.

After dropping her serve in the opening game of the second set, she decided to call it off. She had won only 12 points.

That left Kvitova due to play Sunday's final against either Garbine Muguruza, the former French Open champion who is seeking a repeat of her 2015 achievement in reaching a Wimbledon final, or Ashleigh Barty, the 21-year-old unseeded Australian who beat the twice former finalist Barbora Strycova, another Czech en route to the last four.

S. Korea president invites N. Korea to Pyeongchang Olympics

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday invited North Korea to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, saying sports could serve as a peace maker. The South and nuclear-armed North Korea are separated by one of the world’s most heavily armed borders and …

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday invited North Korea to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, saying sports could serve as a peace maker.

The South and nuclear-armed North Korea are separated by one of the world's most heavily armed borders and remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

But the centre-left Moon is known to favour engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table in a break from his conservative predecessors who took a hardline stance.

"I believe in the strength of sports that has been brokering peace," Moon said.

"If a North Korean delegation takes part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, I believe it will greatly contribute to realizing the Olympic values of friendship and peace," he said, according to a script of his remarks released by the presidential Blue House.

Moon also suggested the two countries pool their athletes to form joint teams for the games to achieve better performances.

The president was speaking at the opening of the World Taekwondo Championships in the southern county of Muju.

Also on hand was North Korea's top sports official Jang Woong, the country's sole IOC member, together with a North Korean delegation of athletes.

In March, Jang reportedly said in Japan that there was no reason for the North to stay away from the Olympics, but that the games would be hosted by South Korea.

In Seoul on Friday he said he would discuss the idea of co-hosting the Winter Games with Olympic chief Thomas Bach when he meets him in South Korea next week.

He was speaking after South Korea's sports minister Do Jong-Hwan was quoted as saying some skiing events for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics could be held in North Korea, although officials insist he was misunderstood.

However, Do does plan to raise the idea of inviting North Korean players to join South Korea's women's ice hockey team for the Pyeongchang Olympics, a spokesman of the ministry said.

South Korea considered sharing some events at the Seoul 1988 Olympics with the North, but talks broke down and the North boycotted the Games.

Moon suggested earlier this month that the two Koreas should apply to co-host the 2030 World Cup.

Ford steps down as Sri Lanka cricket coach

Sri Lanka’s cricket coach Graham Ford has quit, officials said Saturday, midway through a 45-month contract and just two weeks after the team’s early exit from the Champions Trophy.Sri Lanka’s cricket board said the 56-year-old South African was ending…

Sri Lanka's cricket coach Graham Ford has quit, officials said Saturday, midway through a 45-month contract and just two weeks after the team's early exit from the Champions Trophy.

Sri Lanka's cricket board said the 56-year-old South African was ending his second stint with the team after a "decision arrived at mutually."

No immediate replacement was announced. Sri Lanka will play a home series of five ODI matches and one Test against Zimbabwe from the end of this month.

Ford, who was previously with Sri Lanka from 2012 to 2014, had said he faced a huge rebuilding task when he returned to the team in February last year, when the islanders had dropped down the rankings.

Sri Lanka failed to reach the semi-finals of this month's eight-team Champions Trophy in England, and there have been recriminations with the country's sports minister accusing the players of being too fat.

"Sri Lanka has grown on me, and although we've made the decision to part ways where coaching is concerned, she will always have a little piece of my heart," Ford said in a statement issued by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).

After Ford took the job in February last year, Sri Lanka whitewashed their three-Test home series against then world number one Australia.

Under Ford, Sri Lanka also won a triangular series in Zimbabwe also involving West Indies. He had been due to coach them until the next World Cup in 2019.

"He joined us at a time when we were quoted by the ICC as being on the 'verge of suspension' and at a time when things were volatile and uncertain," said SLC chief Thilanga Sumathipala.

"Ford had faith in us and has given us his fullest support. Ford epitomises the character of cricket as a true gentleman, and we are indeed sorry to see him go."

Ford, who has also coached South Africa, Surrey and Kent, ended his first spell in Sri Lanka in 2014 when his two-year contract expired.

Gatland says Lions spots up for grabs after first Test flop

Coach Warren Gatland said his forwards had under-performed and indicated he was ready to wield the axe after the British and Irish Lions crashed to a 30-15 defeat to the All Blacks on Saturday.The New Zealander said Tuesday’s tour match against the Wel…

Coach Warren Gatland said his forwards had under-performed and indicated he was ready to wield the axe after the British and Irish Lions crashed to a 30-15 defeat to the All Blacks on Saturday.

The New Zealander said Tuesday's tour match against the Wellington Hurricanes was a big chance for players to force their way into the side for next week's second Test.

Gatland had placed great store in his forwards dominating the battle up front but found they were not good enough against an All Blacks side that posted a commanding victory.

After leading 13-8 at half-time, the hosts pulled away midway through the second half when the All Blacks demolished a Lions scrum, leading to a try by 20-year-old wing Rieko Ioane.

"It's a big game for those guys on Tuesday against the Hurricanes. They'll see it as an opportunity," Gatland said, who must now go back to the drawing board.

"From my point of view we've got to be much more physical next week because they've taken a very physical approach tonight."

Gatland said he was "disappointed" in his forwards, who had no answer to the All Blacks' strength.

"We've had some success off our driven lineout (before) but the All Blacks sacked us... we didn't get a lot of success from our proper lineout," he said.

"And obviously one scrum caught us and put us under pressure, so from a set-piece point of view there are a couple of areas for improvement."

Loew looks to add to Germany’s strong Confed Cup semis record

Joachim Loew can maintain his proud decade-long record of steering Germany to the semi-finals at major tournaments with a draw against Cameroon on Sunday enough to reach the last four of the Confederations Cup.Since Loew took charge as head coach after…

Joachim Loew can maintain his proud decade-long record of steering Germany to the semi-finals at major tournaments with a draw against Cameroon on Sunday enough to reach the last four of the Confederations Cup.

Since Loew took charge as head coach after Germany finished third at the 2006 World Cup on home soil, the team has always reached the semi-finals at either European championships or World Cup finals.

The world champions take on Cameroon's Indomitable Lions at Sochi's Fisht Stadium on Sunday while Chile play Australia in Moscow in the final round of Group B games.

Germany are second to Chile in the table only by a single goal with both teams on four points while Cameroon and Australia have a point each.

While Germany need a point in Sochi, Cameroon must win by two clear goals to progress.

"A draw would be enough for us to go through, but it would be good to win the group so we'd play our semi-final in Sochi," said Loew.

"I'm planning a few changes in a position or two, some will get a break to allow fresh faces to come in."

Germany have won two of the three previous meetings and there was a 2-2 draw when the teams last met in a pre-World Cup friendly in 2014.

A year before the World Cup, Loew took the gamble of leaving all of his World Cup-winning stars at home to blood fringe players.

The move has paid off with forward Lars Stindl scoring in both Monday's 3-2 win over Australia and Thursday's 1-1 draw with Chile leaving him as the Confed Cup's top-scorer.

Loew's young side has so far been convincing in Russia.

They dominated Australia for the first hour in Sochi, then weathered a Socceroos fight back, while in Kazan against Chile they showed guts in fighting back after conceding an early goal.

Loew opted to make no changes against Chile -- the first time a German coach has done that in an international since 1995 -- saying he wanted his team to "tough it out".

With first-choice shot-stopper Manuel Neuer recovering from foot surgery, Loew is expected to again rotate his goalkeeper with Paris Saint-Germain's Kevin Trapp set to start.

Cameroon coach Hugo Broos fielded the same starting line-up for both their opening 2-0 defeat to Chile and Thursday's disappointing 1-1 draw with Australia.

The Belgian is expected to call up the same again against the world champions.

- Socceroos' big test -

Australia face Chile at Moscow's Spartak Stadium with a draw good enough for the Copa America champions while the Socceroos need a win by three clear goals to reach the last four.

It would be the biggest result in the three-year tenure of Australia's coach Ange Postecoglou, regardless of the result.

"Our game against Chile is another massive one for us," said Australia captain Mark Milligan.

"We will not just be hoping, we will prepare to try to win.

"Chile are a very good side, but they have weaknesses too."

Chile's captain, Inter Milan defender Gary Medel, is set to miss out after picking up a leg injury in the draw with Germany.

Having become Chile's all-time top-scorer by scoring early against Germany, Arsenal's striker Alexis Sanchez will be looking to add to his tally of 38 international goals.

Bottas on top after incident-filled final Azerbaijan GP practice

Valtteri Bottas topped the times for Mercedes in Saturday’s incident-filled, third and final free practice session ahead of Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.The Finn clocked a fastest lap in one minute and 42.742 seconds around the Baku street circuit on…

Valtteri Bottas topped the times for Mercedes in Saturday's incident-filled, third and final free practice session ahead of Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Finn clocked a fastest lap in one minute and 42.742 seconds around the Baku street circuit on a hot day that saw all the usual suspects demonstrate they have the pace to claim pole position later Saturday.

Bottas?s time lifted him one-tenth of a second clear of nearest rival and compatriot Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari as the two leading teams? second drivers led the way.

Three-time champion Lewis Hamilton was third fastest in the second Mercedes, showing an improvement on his struggles on Friday, ahead of Australian Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull, Frenchman Esteban Ocon of Force India and Dutchman Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull.

Championship leader and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was 12th fastest for Ferrari, the German managing only seven laps in a session curtailed for him by hydraulics problems.

Verstappen?s session also ended with him out of action after his car cut out and lost all power, leaving him to park it and abandon his challenge out on track.

Brazilian Felipe Massa narrowly avoided a crash into the wall in his Williams on his way to seventh place ahead of Russian Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso, Canadia Lance Stroll in the second Williams and Mexican Sergio Perez in the second Force India.

Stroll was one of many drivers who spun and recovered, but the most spectacular incident belonged to luckless Briton Jolyon Palmer whose Renault burst into flames after only six minutes.

China orders table tennis probe after top players quit tournament

Chinese sports authorities have ordered a probe into the decision by two coaches and three top table tennis stars to quit an international tournament in apparent protest at their head coach’s removal.Ma Long, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin, who are the top th…

Chinese sports authorities have ordered a probe into the decision by two coaches and three top table tennis stars to quit an international tournament in apparent protest at their head coach's removal.

Ma Long, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin, who are the top three players in the world, did not show up for their second round singles matches at the China Open in the southwestern city of Chengdu on Friday.

China's General Administration of Sports berated the two coaches and three players in a statement late Friday.

By abandoning the matches, they "ignored professional ethics, they ignored national honour and interests, they disrespected the public, they disrespected the opponent".

"This is extremely wrong," the statement said, adding that teams and athletes must put "patriotism and collectivism" first.

The body said it had instructed China's table tennis association to find out the facts and deal with it seriously.

The International Table Tennis Federation said Friday it was unclear why the players failed to appear for their matches, but it noted the crowd "consistently shouted the name of Liu Guoliang", who was China's head coach until Tuesday.

Ma, Fan and Xu's elimination from the four-day tournament, which ends Sunday, came after they made online protests over Liu's removal.

"At this moment we don't like to play anymore because we miss you, Liu Guoliang," the players said in identical posts on China's Twitter-like Weibo.

Men's coach Qin Zhijian and former ping pong player Ma Lin also posted the same message.

Liu, a former Grand Slam champion, lost his top coaching job in a restructuring announced by the Chinese Table Tennis Association on Tuesday, the official Xinhua news agency said.

He has been appointed vice president of the body.

The shake-up has been a hot topic in table tennis-mad China where the sport has a huge following.

Last month Kong Linghui was replaced as head of the women's table tennis team following a gambling debt scandal, sparking a social media frenzy.

Ioane double as All Blacks maul British and Irish Lions

Rieko Ioane scored two second-half tries as the world champion All Blacks stamped their authority with a 30-15 victory in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday.Both tries were off the back of demolition work by a powerful New Z…

Rieko Ioane scored two second-half tries as the world champion All Blacks stamped their authority with a 30-15 victory in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday.

Both tries were off the back of demolition work by a powerful New Zealand pack. The All Blacks outscored the Lions three tries to two to win their maintain their 24-year unbeaten record at Eden Park.

After a fevered build-up to the game, the All Blacks made their mark early on with a penalty and Codie Taylor's converted try to lead 10-0, and they were ahead 13-8 at half-time.

But they were struggling to build on that lead in the second half before Ioane, selected ahead of prolific try-scorer Julian Savea, exploded into action.

Twelve years since the Lions were 'blackwashed' on their last visit to New Zealand, the game turned on a brutal scrum by the All Blacks.

It led to Ioane's first try and the second came when the All Blacks forwards secured turnover ball.

TJ Perenara, taking a leaf from the playbook of his Lions opposite scrum-half Conor Murray, put in a box kick which Ioane gathered and raced away to score.

As expected, the Test was a collision of two distinct styles -- enterprising running and audacious offloads, against box kicks and close-quarter charges -- but with a twist.

The All Blacks countered the renowned Lions' defensive line speed by employing the visitors' tactics of a direct crash-and-bash up the middle.

Murray's clever box kicks, which caused the All Blacks much discomfort in the opening 30 minutes, faded as the Lions pack started to wilt.

- Richter scale -

The convincing victory kept alive the All Blacks' phenomenal record, with 47 victories in a row on home soil since 2009 and no defeats at Eden Park since 1994.

But it was a brutal, bloody encounter with collisions that rocked the Richter scale. The All Blacks lost both fullback Ben Smith (concussion) and outside centre Ryan Crotty (hamstring) in the first 30 minutes.

After being on the back foot for the first 10 minutes. the All Blacks gave the Lions a taste of their own medicine with a series of charges through the middle which had the tourists scrambling before they eventually conceded a penalty, which Beauden Barrett converted.

Five minutes later, from a repeat of the same direct approach, the All Blacks won another penalty close to the Lions line.

While the Lions switched off, expecting a shot at goal, the All Blacks took a quick tap which resulted in a try to Taylor in the corner.

After an exchange of penalties by Owen Farrell and Barrett the Lions launched their running game with a counter-attack by Liam Williams inside his own 22 which caught the All Blacks off guard.

He offloaded to Jonathan Davies who took play deep into All Blacks territory, where the ever-present Sean O'Brien finished off a brilliant move.

In a torrid second half in the rain, the game broke open with Ioane's tries on 55 and 70 minutes.

Rhys Webb scored the Lions' second try on full-time to give the visitors hope ahead of next week's second Test in Wellington.

Ireland beat Japan 35-13 to complete tour whitewash

Ireland overpowered Japan 35-13 on Saturday to finish with a perfect record in their three-game summer tour of the country.Joe Schmidt’s second-string side looked on course to rack up 50 points for the third successive match as they ran in four first-h…

Ireland overpowered Japan 35-13 on Saturday to finish with a perfect record in their three-game summer tour of the country.

Joe Schmidt's second-string side looked on course to rack up 50 points for the third successive match as they ran in four first-half tries in Tokyo.

The signs were ominous for Japan's "Brave Blossoms" when Gary Ringrose scored under the posts and flanker Josh van der Flier wriggled over in the corner in the first 10 minutes.

Bulldozing tries from Kieran Marmion and stand-in skipper Rhys Ruddock further stretched the lead for Ireland, the bulk of whose regular players are on British and Irish Lions duty in New Zealand.

Japan's sole glimmer of hope had been Kotaro Matsushima's fine try on 24 minutes but after trailing 28-8 at half-time, the 2019 World Cup hosts offered significantly more resistance after the interval.

Akihito Yamada raced clear to score Japan's second try, while Ireland narrowly avoided going scoreless in the second half thanks to Sean Reidy's late effort.

Fly-half Paddy Jackson converted all five tries for Ireland, who crushed Japan 50-22 last weekend and also broke the 50-point mark against the United States in their opening tour game in New Jersey.

Australia score late tries to see off Italy in Brisbane Test

Australia scored two late tries as they survived a fightback from Italy to win 40-27 on Saturday and avoid a second straight defeat.The Wallabies were 21-13 ahead at half-time and then increased their lead to 28-13, before Italy scored two converted tr…

Australia scored two late tries as they survived a fightback from Italy to win 40-27 on Saturday and avoid a second straight defeat.

The Wallabies were 21-13 ahead at half-time and then increased their lead to 28-13, before Italy scored two converted tries to get within a point at 28-27.

But Bernard Foley and Reece Hodge both crossed in the final minutes to stave off the threat of a second loss after last week's shock reverse to Scotland.

The win will do little to ease the pressure on the hosts, who were criticised ruthlessly both by media and supporters following the 24-19 loss to Scotland.

Captain Stephen Moore called it a "tough week for everyone" and said Australia had much work to do before the Rugby Championship starts in August.

"(Italy) were really gritty, they fought their way back into the game. It probably shows we're out a little bit, probably down on confidence in that game," said Moore.

Italy, the Six Nations wooden-spooners, came into the match after consecutive losses to Scotland and Fiji and without a win against Australia in their 16 previous meetings.

"I'm very proud of my boys," said Italy captain Francesco Minto.

"Probably we deserved to be awarded a try in the first 10 minutes of the game but what I'm most proud of is we played a very committed game and pushed the Wallabies to their limit."

- Naivalu scorcher -

The visitors opened the scoring in just the second minute with a Tommaso Allan penalty, before they were denied minutes later when lock Dean Budd appeared to score in the corner.

However, the television match official ruled that winger Giovambattista Venditti's boot had scraped the touchline with one fingertip still touching the ball as he passed infield to Budd.

The Wallabies, who had hardly been in the Italian half, hit the lead after 15 minutes when Sefa Naivalu scorched 40 metres down the touchline to score.

Foley converted to make it 7-0, which became 14-0 minutes later when Israel Folau scored in the corner.

Folau was in again 10 minutes before the break when inside centre Karmichael Hunt found the fullback with a long, flat pass to beat the Italian defence.

However, the Italians struck back just before the break with a superb try to outside centre Michele Campagnaro, who burst onto a ball following a midfield break by Venditti and outpaced the Wallaby defence.

Five minutes after the restart Naivalu crossed for his second following some slick backline work from the Wallabies, including a between-the-legs pass from Foley.

The Italians refused to give in and they got back into the contest when Wallabies winger Dane Haylett-Petty spilled a cross-field kick into the arms of Italian fullback Edoardo Padovani, who scored in the corner.

Australia's lead shrank to 28-27 when replacement Tommaso Benvenuti intercepted a Rory Arnold pass in the Australian 22 and crossed despite Folau's desperate tackle.

The Wallabies lost prop Toby Smith to a yellow card for repeated scrum infringements, but Italy also went down to 14 men when Abraham Steyn was yellow-carded for playing the ball while on the ground.

Foley burst through the Italian defensive line to settle Australian jitters, and then Reece Hodge grabbed a try at the death as he burst down the line.