No one hit wonders

EURO STRAP

DID YOU KNOW?

Wales’ first football match at the Millennium Stadium was against Finland on March 29, 2000. The Finns won 2-1, with Jari Litmanen becoming the first player to score. Ryan Giggs scored for Wales.

LYON — Gareth Bale says Wales are “hungry” to prove themselves at the next World Cup after their “incredible” Euro 2016 campaign.

Bale and the rest of Chris Coleman’s squad will fly back to Cardiff today for an open top-bus parade after reaching the semifinals in France.

Their memorable campaign, at the nation’s first major finals since 1958, was ended in the last four with a 2-0 loss in Lyon to Portugal.

But star man Bale, who scored in all their group games as Wales finished top of Group B, insists Chris Coleman’s squad have done the nation proud.

His optimistic ahead of the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup, which start on Sept 5 against Moldova at home.

Bale, 26, said: “To be so close to the final and miss out is disappointing but we have to be proud of what we’ve achieved.

“It hurts now because it’s fresh but we’ve been on an amazing journey.

“The whole nation has enjoyed the journey as much as us and it’s been amazing, incredible.

“Fans, staff, everyone – it’s been one of those moments in your life we’ll never forget and very special to all of us.

“Now our hunger is there more than ever to get back.

“It hurts now but we’ve enjoyed it and we feel there’s still a lot more to come.

“There’s more improvements from us and come the World Cup qualifiers — which are not too far away — we’ll get back to working hard and doing what do best.

“We always wanted to test ourselves against the best and I think we’ve done everybody proud — including ourselves. We can hold our heads high and give it a right go again.”

Bale was overshadowed by his Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo in the last four as the Portuguese ace scored a fine header and assisted Nani in the 2-0 victory.

But Bale added: “We can be a better side from it.

“We’ve grown in confidence, we’ve grown in stature and I think we’ll be more respected.

“The hunger is there, the spirit is there and we’ll take all the positives from this and go into the next campaign trying to do it again.

“We said all along we didn’t just want to qualify for this tournament — we want to qualify every time.” — Daily Mirror

Heads, Ronaldo wins

CRISTIANO RONALDO matched Michel Platini’s record of nine goals in European Championship finals matches by scoring in Portugal’s semifinal win over Wales on Wednesday. Out of the nine, he has scored five headers. We take a look at how he reached his milestone.

Euro 2004

Portugal 1 Greece 2

Ronaldo’s first Portugal goal came in ignominious circumstances as he headed a corner deep into injury time as Portugal’s start on home soil got off to the worst possible start with a shock 2-1 defeat to eventual champions Greece.

Portugal 2 Holland 1

A second, almost carbon copy, header from a Deco corner followed to spark scenes of joy on Ronaldo’s return to Lisbon’s Jose Alvalade — where he started his career with Sporting Lisbon — with the opening goal as Portugal reached their first ever major final.

Euro 2008

Portugal 3 Czech Republic 1

Ronaldo was expected to shine in Austria and Switzerland fresh from winning the Champions League with Manchester United.

However, his solitary goal came when he swept home from the edge of the box to ensure Portugal finished top of Group A with a 3-1 win over the Czechs in Geneva.

Euro 2012

Portugal 2 Holland 1

Fresh from a 60-goal season with Real Madrid, Ronaldo was kept quiet during Portugal’s opening two group games against Germany and Denmark, but came to life with Portugal facing an early exit to fire home an equaliser in Kharkiv.

He sent the Dutch home with three defeats from three matches by sweeping home at the end of a flowing counter-attack 16 minutes from time to ensure Portugal’s place in the last eight.

Portugal 1 Czech Republic 0

The Czechs resisted Ronaldo’s constant threat for 79 minutes at Warsaw’s national stadium, but eventually the three-time World Player of the Year bullied his way past the defence to head home Joao Moutinho’s cross.

Euro 2016

Portugal 3 Hungary 3

Similarly to 2012, Ronaldo endured a nightmare start when he was shut out by Iceland and then missed a penalty against Austria as Portugal started with back-to-back draws in France.

However, Ronaldo ensured third-place was enough to book their place in the last 16 as he beautifully back-heeled into the far corner to become the first player to score in four editions of the Euros.

Only 12 minutes had passed before Ronaldo notched his second with a bullet header as Portugal equalised for the third time in the game.

Portugal 2 Wales 0

Billed as a battle between Ronaldo and Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale, it was the former who came out on top in the semifinal in Lyon. His bullet header from Raphael Guerreiro’s cross broke the deadlock early in the second half before his shot teed up Nani for Portugal’s second that took them into the final. — AFP

We did it our way, says Santos

LYON — Portugal coach Fernando Santos said it was time to give credit to his team after their 2-0 win over Wales took them to the final on Wednesday.

Portugal had not previously won a game inside 90 minutes at the
tournament and had been criticised for taking part in dull matches.

They struggled again to break down Wales but coasted home after Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani scored early in the second half.

“At some point they will have to say that Portugal had the merit of dismantling our opponents,” Santos told
reporters.

“They keep saying merits belong not to Portugal but our opponents such as Iceland.”

Portugal have not lost one of their 13 competitive matches since Santos was appointed in September 2014, although the Wales game was the first time they have won by more than a single-goal margin under his leadership.

Santos, who previously coached Greece at Euro 2012 and the last World Cup, emphasised Portugal had not given an inch to their opponents once again.

“Portugal always have a game plan, an attacking game plan and a defensive game plan,” he said.

“We know we aren’t the best in the world, but we also know that it will be difficult for anyone to beat us.
— Reuters

All-round praise for finalists

LISBON — Portugal’s press gave a big
salute to Cristiano Ronaldo and the entire national team yesterday after their 2-0 win over Wales clinched a return to the final for the first time in 12 years.

Daily sports newspaper A bola has a photograph of Ronaldo celebrating after scoring with the headline: “Portugal, je t’aime — heroic Selecao, reaches the final in Paris.”

Ronaldo’s impressive header early in the second half put Portugal on their way before the Real Madrid superstar saw his shot turned in by Nani soon after for the team’s second goal.

Fernando Santos’s side had not won a single game in the tournament over 90 minutes until Wednesday’s dominant
performance in Lyon.

Ronaldo scored 51 goals in 48 games in all competitions for Real this season and delivered the decisive spotkick in the
penalties during the Champions League final win against Atletico Madrid. But he had been under scrutiny after a poor start to the tournament in France.

His struggles are now in the past, with Lisbon-based Correio da Manha national newspaper shouting in a front headline: “Ronaldo flies to the final.”

Wednesday’s goal, his third of the
tournament, saw the 31-year-old equal Michel Platini’s record of nine in European Championship finals.

Sports dailies Record and Ojogo had
photographs of Ronaldo jumping higher than Wales centreback James Chester to break the deadlock, with the former
applauding Ronaldo in a headline that says: “Again he is the man of the match.”

Online national newspaper Diario de Noticias shows Ronaldo celebrating on their front page with a quote from the captain that says: “The dream is here. I believe.”

Ronaldo started in Portugal’s 1-0 defeat to Greece in the final of Euro 2004 and also when the team reached the
semifinals four years ago but were
eliminated by Spain on penalties.

The Publico national daily newspaper has a photograph of Ronaldo celebrating with his teammates on its front page with the headline: “All that is left is the Cup.”

According to Ojogo, Ronaldo is showing more determination and resolve than ever before in the hope of leading Portugal to their first European title.

The Sports daily includes a quote from Ronaldo on their front page which reads: “I believe we will win in Paris.” — Reuters

Wales overtake England … again

WALES’ success will them rise to 11th in the Fifa world rankings — two places above England.

Chris Coleman’s side suffered semifinal heartbreak against Portugal, but will climb the rankings after surpassing expectations in France.

Goals from former Manchester United duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani were enough to secure Portugal’s passage to the final, and send Wales home as national heroes.

Two victories in their three group games saw them top their pool, before a victory over Northern Ireland saw Wales replicate their only other major tournament, the World Cup in 1958, by reaching the quarterfinal.

A shock 3-1 victory over Belgium put them in the last four, but the dream ended in Lyon for Gareth Bale and co.

England endured yet another disaster on the big stage, finishing second behind Wales in Group B despite beating their neighbours, before crashing out to minnows Iceland in the last 16.

Both countries will now turn their attention to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. — Daily Mirror

Fergie: Big Sam’s your man

LONDON — Sam Allardyce is the obvious candidate to replace Roy Hodgson as England manager if the FA decide to go with a home-grown candidate for the job, former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson has said.

A three-man panel has been tasked with finding a successor for Hodgson, who resigned following England’s humiliating defeat to Iceland on June 28.

Gareth Southgate, the England Under-21 coach, Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe, Hull’s Steve Bruce and former England manager Glenn Hoddle are among those who have been linked with the job by the
British media.

Ferguson, however, said Sunderland manager Allardyce’s experience of coaching in the English top flight should make him the frontrunner if the FA decide to appoint a local.

“Sam’s the best English candidate because he’s in the Premier League,” the 74-year-old told Sky Sports.

“It’s difficult to think of the right man and there are only three English managers in the Premier League. With Sam’s experience, he is the obvious choice.

“If it’s Sam, fine. But they have to have someone with the capabilities, the tactical awareness and the feel for the national side.”

A 13-time Premier League winner with United, Ferguson felt the gruelling domestic club schedule had played a role in England’s disappointing Euro campaign.

“The league programme English players go through — to then play a major tournament after that makes it impossible,” he added.

“In Germany they have a rest in December and January and teams who play in a better climate must be better prepared than English players.” — Reuters

No charges in Clinton email probe, Trump cries foul

WASHINGTON — No charges will be brought against Hillary Clinton for using a private email server while secretary of state, the Justice Department announced Wednesday, prompting Donald Trump to accuse his presidential rival of “crooked” dealings.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch made the widely expected announcement following a meeting with FBI Director James Comey as well as prosecutors and agents who led a high-profile investigation that has weighed heavily on Clinton’s Democratic White House campaign.

“I received and accepted their unanimous recommendation that the thorough, year-long investigation be closed and that no charges be brought against any individuals within the scope of the investigation,” Lynch said in a statement.

The attorney general had previously pledged to respect FBI and prosecutors’ decisions about whether to bring charges after it emerged that she met briefly with Clinton’s husband, Bill, last week — prompting Republicans to cry foul over possible government interference.

Comey recommended on Tuesday that no charges be brought over Clinton’s email use, saying its investigation does not support a criminal prosecution.

“Our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” he said.

But the FBI’s assessment found that Clinton was “extremely careless” in sending classified information via her personal email account.

While the former first lady can breathe a sigh of relief over avoiding criminal charges that could have ended her campaign, the damning FBI assessment could still complicate an increasingly tight race against Trump.

He and fellow Republicans immediately seized on the findings to brand Clinton a liar and charge that the system was rigged.

“She made so many false statements,” Trump said during a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio on Wednesday evening. “Is she going to be brought before Congress or something? Is something going to happen? It’s a disgrace.”

“She’s crooked Hillary. That’s all you have to know,” the Republican White House hopeful said.

He went on to accuse Bill Clinton of bribing Lynch during his meeting with her, alluding to reports that Clinton is considering retaining the attorney general if she wins the election in November.

“She said she’s going to reappoint the attorney general and the attorney general is waiting to make a determination as to whether or not she’s guilty and boy, was that a fast determination. Wow!” Trump said.

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus called the attorney general’s a decision a “slap in the face” to many Americans.

“Those who have mishandled classified information have had their security clearances revoked, lost their jobs, faced fines, and even been sent to prison, yet Hillary Clinton is being allowed to play by a different set of rules,” he said in a statement.

Of some 30,000 emails Clinton turned over to the FBI, Comey said 110 contained classified information — Clinton had said none was classified at the time they were sent — adding that her emails could have been hacked.

Another 2,000 emails were later “up-classified” to confidential.

Investigators also recovered thousands more emails that were not provided by Clinton’s attorneys. Still, they found “no evidence” that Clinton’s camp intentionally deleted messages in an effort to conceal them, Comey said.

He is set to testify before Congress Thursday about the email investigation and his recommendation not to prosecute Clinton.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said lawmakers would ask the FBI director to explain how he could censure Clinton over her private email account without finding that she broke the law.

“We’re going to have hearings,” he told Fox News on Tuesday. “There are a lot of unanswered questions here.”

He also recommended that Clinton’s access to classified information be blocked as punishment.

Seeking to move past the controversy, Clinton on Wednesday appeared in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where Trump developed casinos that went out of business.

Standing by a faded “Trump” sign in front of the empty Trump Plaza Casino, she accused the billionaire tycoon of “multiple bankruptcies, stiffing contractors and spurring hundreds of job losses.”

“Isn’t he supposed to be some sort of amazing businessman?” she said. “What in the world happened here?” — AFP

US sanctions North Korean leader for rights abuses

WASHINGTON — The United States placed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on its sanctions blacklist for the first time on Wednesday, calling him directly responsible for a long list of serious human rights abuses.

US officials said Kim and 10 other top officials also blacklisted were behind widespread abuses including extrajudicial killings, forced labour and torture in the country’s system of prison camps for political detainees that has made North Korea “among the world’s most repressive countries.”

They also were responsible for harsh censorship of media, academic and cultural activities, including imprisoning people accused of viewing foreign films.

“Under Kim Jong-un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable cruelty and hardship on millions of its own people, including extrajudicial killings, forced labour, and torture,” said Adam Szubin, acting Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Treasury said that Kim, North Korea’s “Supreme Leader,” was responsible for abuses in his roles as head of the country’s Ministry of State Security and Ministry of People’s Security.

According to officials in Washington, the Ministry of State Security holds 80,000 to 120,000 prisoners in political prison camps where torture, execution, sexual assault, starvation, and slave labour
are common.

Authorities in Washington for the first time identified other top officials directly involved in rights abuses, including Choe Pu Il, the Minister of People’s Security, Ri Song-chol, a senior official in the Ministry of People’s Security, and Kang Song-nam, a Bureau Director with the Ministry of State Security.

Another on the new sanctions list, Cho Yon-jun of the powerful Organisation and Guidance Department, is in charge of enforcing loyalty to Kim, including executing those who defy his will, the senior US official said.

It is not the first time the United States has placed a head of state on a sanctions list. Previously sanctioned leaders include Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Charles Taylor of Liberia, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

US officials said they do not expect immediate consequences from the sanctions, which freeze the US-based assets of those named, and forbids Americans from doing business with them. — AFP

Trump’s love for dictators

CHARLOTTE (United States) —Donald Trump has praised late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein for killing “terrorists,” reprising previous comments in support of dictators in the Middle East and earning a swift rebuke from White House rival Hillary Clinton.

The United States “shouldn’t have destabilised” Iraq, now a hotbed for the Islamic State group 13 years after the US-led invasion, said Trump, who showed lukewarm support for the war before it took place and later opposed it.

“He was a bad guy – really bad guy. But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good,” Trump told supporters on Tuesday in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. It was over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism,” the Republican firebrand added, referring to the prestigious
US university.

Shortly after the remarks, Clinton’s campaign pounced on Trump’s apparent support of a strongman who was hanged in Iraq in 2006 for ordering the sectarian killings of nearly 150 Shiites two
decades earlier.

Saddam has been accused of committing numerous other mass atrocities, killing an estimated hundreds of thousands of people, including by using poisonous gas on Iraq’s Kurds.

“Tonight, Trump yet again lauded Saddam Hussein as a great killer of terrorists, noting with approval that he never bothered to read anyone their rights. In reality, Hussein’s regime was a sponsor of terrorism,” Clinton senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan said in
a statement.

“Trump’s cavalier compliments for brutal dictators, and the twisted lessons he seems to have learned from their history, again demonstrate how dangerous he would be as commander-in-chief and how unworthy he is of the office he seeks.”

Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, did not back Trump when asked about
the comments.

Saddam “was one of the 20th century’s most evil people. He was up there, and he committed mass genocide against his own people using chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein was a bad guy,” Ryan said on Fox News.

Last year, Trump said the world would be “100 per cent” better off if Saddam and slain Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi were still in power, adding that human rights abuses are “worse than they ever were” in Iraq and Libya.

“I mean, look at Libya. Look at Iraq. Iraq used to be no terrorists. He (Saddam) would kill the terrorists immediately, which is like now it’s the Harvard of terrorism,” Trump said at the time.

“If you look at Iraq from years ago, I’m not saying he was a nice guy, he was a horrible guy, but it was a lot better than it is right now.” — AFP

Australian PM wins key support, edges closer to forming government

SYDNEY — Embattled Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appeared likely to retain power after gaining the support of a key independent yesterday, although the closeness of the vote signalled more tough political and economic times ahead.

There were signs that the political instability after Saturday’s cliffhanger election was beginning to take its toll on the Australian economy, with Standard and Poor’s cutting Australia’s credit rating outlook to negative from stable, threatening a downgrade of its coveted triple A status.

Turnbull flew to northern Queensland state to win reluctant support from Bob Katter, a maverick former member of the ruling conservative coalition who is now a potential kingmaker if Turnbull is unable to win the 76 lower house seats needed to form government outright.

“Today we are announcing our support … for a Turnbull government. I do so with no great enthusiasm,” Katter told reporters. “I will maintain my right to change at any point of time in the future.”

Katter’s support gives Turnbull’s coalition a total of 74 seats, according to the latest Australian Broadcasting Corp. projections, as vote counting continues.

Labor is projected to win 66 seats, meaning they would need to win the six seats still being counted and do deals with all the four remaining independents to form government – a scenario considered extremely unlikely by pollsters.

“I remain confident that we will form a government, and we will unite the parliament as far as we are able to,” Turnbull told reporters after meeting Katter.

“We will unite the nation in a common purpose to continue to ensure that we have strong economic growth,” he said.

Turnbull, however, will realistically only scrape through with the slimmest of margins and faces an even more hostile upper house Senate, making it difficult for him to pass planned economic reforms.

That point was rammed home by Labor leader Bill Shorten, who acknowledged the coalition would most likely win, but “with a diminished authority, diminished mandate and a very divided political party”.

“If Mr Turnbull is dragged across the line narrowly his problems and Australia’s are only just beginning,” Shorten told reporters in the western city of Perth.

The Australia dollar fell half a US cent after S&P’s announcement, which cited concerns the coalition government would be hampered in its plans to return to budget surplus as it struggles to form a majority government.

“I think what the Australian people want to be assured of today is that there is a clear plan, should we be able to form government, to maintain the fiscal health of this country and that is what the agencies are saying is necessary,” Treasurer Scott Morrison told reporters soon after the S&P announcement.

Turnbull’s gamble in calling an election, ostensibly to clear the upper house Senate of what he saw as obstructive minor parties, backfired badly with a much bigger swing to the centre-left Labor opposition than expected.

It also saw minor parties and independents become even more powerful, making it less likely Turnbull will be able to push his reformist economic agenda, which includes a A$50 billion (RM151 billion) corporate tax break over 10 years, through an intransigent upper house.

That places Katter and centrist Nick Xenaphon as potential kingmakers with team members in both houses. Two other lower house independents, Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan, have ruled out any deals with the government. — Reuters


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