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Colombia stun Germany at World Cup but New Zealand out in tears



Colombia scored a 97th-minute winner to stun Germany 2-1 on a night of Women’s World Cup drama Sunday which also saw Norway and Switzerland into the last 16 but co-hosts New Zealand dumped out in tears.

Germany smashed Morocco 6-0 in their opener to underline why they were among the pre-tournament favourites, along with Spain and England, to snatch away the United States’ crown.

But they came crashing back down to earth at the hands of a Colombia side inspired by 18-year-old Linda Caicedo and roared on by the majority of a rowdy 40,000 crowd in Sydney.

The Real Madrid attacker scored one of the best goals of the tournament so far, darting past two Germany defenders before curling the ball into the top corner to open the scoring.

Germany thought they had salvaged a point in the 89th minute when skipper Alexandra Popp defied the whistles to score from the penalty spot.

But with a pulsating game that deep into stoppage time appeared destined for a draw, Manuela Vanegas popped up to head home from close range and put Colombia on the verge of the last 16.

“Germany is a world power, that’s a reality, but Colombia has been making great strides and today Colombia is a world power,” said the defender Vanegas.

“I dreamed of scoring a goal in a World Cup, I knew it was going to come and I decided to do it for today’s game.”

Going into the last round of group matches, Colombia are top of Group H on six points, Germany and Morocco have three and South Korea have zero.

Germany’s fate is still in their own hands when they face the Koreans next, with Colombia against Morocco.

Morocco won a Women’s World Cup match for the first time after Ibtissam Jraidi struck early to give them a 1-0 victory over South Korea.

In the match, Moroccan defender Nouhaila Benzina became the first player to wear a hijab at the Women’s World Cup.

Norway through, New Zealand out

Norway and Switzerland both emerged out of an excruciatingly tight Group A.

Former champions Norway thrashed the Philippines 6-0 in Auckland to squeeze into the last 16 on goal difference from New Zealand.

A full house in Dunedin saw the co-hosts held 0-0 by a stubborn Switzerland as the Football Ferns bowed out of their home tournament in tears.

The 1995 champions Norway needed a win and they did it in style against World Cup debutants the Philippines, who themselves were still in with a chance of reaching the knockouts.

Sophie Roman Haug scored a hat-trick as the Philippines’ fairytale journey came to a shuddering halt.

With Norway well ahead, New Zealand now needed to beat Switzerland.

The hosts had the better of the first half with a string of chances, the pick of which saw forward Jacqui Hand rattle the post on 24 minutes.

As Norway chalked up the goals in Auckland, the New Zealanders upped the intensity, knowing only a win would be good enough to advance.

But the goal they so desperately needed never came.

“There are a lot of tears out there, but they should be so proud to finish on four points,” captain Ali Riley said.

Australia wait on Kerr

On Monday, Australia will hope to avoid the same fate as their co-hosts.

The Matildas must beat Olympic champions Canada to guarantee a place in the last 16 but are still sweating on their skipper and talismanic striker Sam Kerr.

She has declared herself available after a calf injury but it remains to be seen how much of a part she plays.

“Everyone involved in sport knows that with calf injuries it’s one thing that you’re available, but there’s also risk when you come back from a muscle injury,” said Australia’s coach Tony Gustavsson.

Also in Group B, surprise-package Nigeria need just to avoid defeat against already-eliminated Ireland to progress.

Former champions Japan and title contenders Spain meet to decide who tops Group C with both already into the last 16.



Hit soccer video game adds mixed-gender teams, sheds FIFA name



The blockbuster soccer video game franchise from Electronic Arts, no longer linked to FIFA, will allow mixed-gender lineups in fantasy matches that have triggered sexist pushback even before the Friday release.

Early access to the game, now renamed FC 24, began last week with the novel feature of female soccer stars virtually taking to the pitch with male counterparts for fantasy squad matches in an “Ultimate Team” mode of online play.

A version of the game tailored for mobile devices powered by Apple or Android operating systems was released Tuesday.

Spotlights on female soccer stars such as Sam Kerr and Alexia Putellas reflect the reality of the sport today, something the franchise wants to capture, EA Sports FC vice president of brand David Jackson told AFP.

“It’s not a moral thing; it’s not a cause-related thing,” Jackson said of fielding women soccer stars.

“It’s a faithful replica representation of the real world of football.”

Fans of the franchise offended by the idea of women and men athletes battling in mixed matches have bashed the game in online posts.

“This is like putting go-karts in F1 and racing them together,” a critic groused in a chat forum on YouTube.

“Putellas is actually good though,” a reply countered. “Don’t be sexist.”

Farewell FIFA

The launch of FC 24 marks the end of an alliance with world soccer governing body FIFA that spanned three decades.

Since kicking off the franchise in 1993 with FIFA International Soccer, the annually refreshed lineup has become a key part of EA’s business, boasting some 150 million players last year alone.

The franchise has shed the FIFA name for the first time as the California-based video game giant pursues a vision of becoming a “global football platform” incorporating broadcast games, live match play and more.

“There are a number of different ways we can grow and expand and we intend to do that in the future,” Jackson said.

“While we were called FIFA, we weren’t able to realize the potential due to limitations of the rights that we held.”

Along with freeing EA from contractual constraints that came with carrying the FIFA name, the rebranding also enables the franchise to avoid being marred by scandals at the governing body.

“If we’re going to carry the name of the organization as the name of our product, we’ve got to make sure that name carries the requisite level of quality, integrity and weight over time,” Jackson said.

“Now that we own that name, it’s all on us.”

Likely top seller

EA designed FC 24 to be familiar to fans while adding novelty to make it fresh, according to Jackson.

EA uses motion-capture technology on real athletes and in-stadium cameras to capture action that translates into the gameplay, ramping up the amount of content it gets from games in top leagues, he said.

“Yes, the FIFA license is gone, and the game won’t feature the World Cup, but other than that, the feature set is basically unchanged and arguably even improved,” Circana video game analyst Mat Piscatella said of FC 24.

“It’s been a huge part of the US gaming landscape over the past decade, and of course elsewhere in the world it’s even bigger.”

Piscatella expects FC 24 to be among the top 10 best selling video games of this year in the United States.

The games have already been among the top 20 best selling titles annually in the United States for more than a decade, he added.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter expects most players to see FC 24 as the game they have come to know, just with a different name.

As the franchise evolves, EA may explore incorporating advertising or real-time matches into its game engine, eventually allowing live-action viewers to play out matches their own way.

“You could be watching an English Premier League game,” Jackson envisioned.

“If you don’t like the score at halftime, then you jump out of that and into our game and kind of rewrite history.”


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Vietnamese billiards player leaves friendly tournament in China to protest ‘9-dash line’ map



Vietnamese billiards player Tran Quyet Chien withdrew from a friendly tournament in China on Saturday to oppose the use of China’s illicit ‘nine-dash line’ map in the live broadcast of Chien’s match, an official confirmed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Sunday.

Deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Culture and Sports Nguyen Nam Nhan said that Chien was invited to a friendly tournament jointly held by the Union Mondiale de Billard (French for the World Union of Billiards) and the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association in Shanghai City on Saturday and Sunday.

The event gathered three other world’s leading billiards players, including Dick Jaspers from the Netherlands, Tayfun Tasdemir from Turkey, and Cho Myung Woo from South Korea.

The match between Chine and Dick Jaspers took place normally on Saturday.

However, an image of China’s ‘nine-dash line’ map, which Beijing uses to illegally claim its sovereignty over most of the East Vietnam Sea, was incorporated into the live broadcast during the match.

Chien did not see the image during the match but he was informed of the issue later, Nam said. 

The player came to China alone without a coach or assistant. 

After the match, Chien discussed the issue with Nguyen Viet Hoa, head coach of the Ho Chi Minh City billiards team, and made a decision to leave the tournament and return to Vietnam the same day.

The Ho Chi Minh City Department of Culture and Sports frequently reminds coaches and athletes competing in other countries about possible situations and incidents, asking them to be aware of protecting Vietnam’s image and sovereignty, Nam added.

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Vietnam PM visits Brazil’s top football club



Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh paid a visit to Corinthians, a Brazilian professional football club, in Sao Paulo on Sunday morning (Brazil time), as part of his ongoing Brazil trip, which is scheduled to wrap up on Monday.

His visit to the club was aimed at boosting cooperation in football between the two nations.

Founded in 1910, Corinthians is one of the leading football clubs, boasting multiple achievements and becoming one of the most popular sports clubs in Brazil and Latin America.

Speaking at a meeting with the leadership of the club, PM Chinh said that many Vietnamese people know Brazil for its unique Latin American culture, and as one of the world’s big economies with its gross domestic product at nearly US$2 trillion.

Notably, Vietnamese people love football and admire Brazilian football, he said, adding that the Brazil men’s national football team, nicknamed Selecao, were crowned winners of the World Cup several times thanks to their attacking flair.

Legendary players from Brazil include Pele, Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Rivaldo.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh (C) takes a stroll around the headquarters of Corinthians, a Brazilian professional sports club, which was founded in 1910, and is one of the most supported football teams in the world. Photo: Nhat Bac / Tuoi tre

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh (C) takes a stroll around the headquarters of Corinthians, a Brazilian professional sports club, which was founded in 1910, and is one of the most supported football teams in the world. Photo: Nhat Bac / Tuoi Tre

The prime minister underlined that the Vietnamese government always creates favorable conditions for partnership in sports, mainly football, seeing huge potential for football cooperation between the two nations.

Vietnam has made great strides in football over the past few years, he added.

The Vietnamese government leader proposed the Brazilian side and Corinthians beef up their cooperation and support for Vietnam in football, with a focus on player training.

PM Chinh also expected the two nations to jointly organize football matches and exchange players.

A representative of Corinthians pledged to foster cooperation with Vietnamese partners to contribute to strengthening the two countries’ ties.

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