1. Brazil \nThe "Three R's" and a mean defense could propel Brazil toward a record fifth World Cup success -- and Ronaldo may get the chance to exorcise the demons left over from France '98. \nFrom the most recent practice sessions at the country's training base in Ulsan, South Korea, it looks as if coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will play the Three Rs: Ronaldo in the center, Rivaldo on the left and Ronaldinho on the right. \nFour goals against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur last weekend and Ronaldo's first international strike in two-and-a-half years could presage a shower of goals in these finals. \nIt looks as if the former "best player in the world" has recovered from a series of injuries just in time to display his talent on soccer's greatest stage. \nThough a relative veteran with three World Cup campaigns behind him, the "Phenomenon" is still only 25-years-old and might reasonably be expected to be at his peak -- if he doesn't break down. \nBut the foundation for Brazil under the aggressively defense-minded Scolari will be Edmilson, Cafu, Junior, Lucio and Roque at the back. With Edilson in front, Roberto Carlos on the left and a string of good goalkeepers behind, Brazil's defensive wall should be difficult to breach. \n2. Italy \nWith an embarrassment of riches up front and a rock-solid defense that let in just three goals in eight games during qualifying, the "Azzuri" could benefit from a relatively trouble-free run-in to the final. \nThey say there are no easy matches at the World Cup, but Italy will not fear the other teams in Group G -- Croatia, Ecuador, Mexico -- and in the next round will likely play the runner-up from Group D, one of the weaker groups. \nA quarterfinal matchup with Germany could be on the cards and if so, then it has the firepower to go all the way. \nCoach Giovanni Trapattoni has won just about everything there is to win in European club football and would love to crown his career with international success. \n3. Argentina \nArgentina has been made the second favorite to win the Cup, with British betting agency William Hill offering odds of 9-2 for the team to win. And after a near error-free qualifying campaign, soccer legend Diego Maradona rates his compatriots' chances highly. \nCoach Marcelo Bielsa has developed a well-balanced side with a strong team spirit in the four years he has been at the helm. \nPreparations have been near to ideal and, unlike many other teams, there have been few injury concerns. \nHe has also had the luxury of being able to tinker with his final formation and has a choice of players in vital areas, in goal and in attack. \n4. Cameroon \nOlympic champions and Africa Nations Cup winners, the "Indom-itable Lions" were the first to qualify for the World Cup, but were the last to arrive. \nRows over bonuses, cancelled flights and getting stranded in Bombay, India, did not stop Cameroon from getting the best of a 2-2 draw with England last weekend. \nCoached by German Winfried Schaefer, Cameroon has the players and the heart to go a long way in the competition. \n5. France \nWhile it is the 10-3 favorite to win come June 31, a thigh injury to Zidane has forced France to think the unthinkable: A World Cup odyssey without its talisman. \nThe French papers have been dismissive of their country's chances without "Zizou" and they could be right. \nWhile Ronaldo froze at the Stade de France and later faced an inquiry into why, it was Zidane who was the difference between the two sides, scoring two goals and lifting his country to soccer's pinnacle in 1998. \nFrance retains the backbone of its World Cup and Euro 2000 sides, and now has newcomers Mikael Silvestre of Manchester United in defense and the athletic Djibril Cisse. \nBut France's defense could turn out to be its weakness, and while Marcel Desailly and Frank Leboeuf will be asked to reprise their heroics of previous competitions, they may come up short. \n6. Portugal \nEveryone knows about Luis Figo because he plays for Real Madrid and was the world's most expensive player, before the Spanish club went and bought Zidane too. \nWith a FIFA world ranking of four and a supporting cast for Figo of Liverpool defender Abel Xavier, Rui Costa and Jaoa Pinto, Portugal is expected to do well. \nThey could flatter to deceive, however. \n7. Germany \nThough the team has a reputation of perennial success, Germany is not expected to do well this year. \nIn the middle of a rebuilding program that has put Michael Ballack at the center of operations, the Germans could have their eyes on hosting the World Cup in four years, when they will want to peak. \nJust over 92 percent of Germans don't think their team will win the final and they probably know best. \n8. England \nIf they start well they can do well. \nBut if David Beckham is rusty and the team displays the inconsistency and clumsiness it has in recent World Cup preliminary games -- winning just once in six outings -- then it could face an early exit. \nInjury ravaged and sometimes unstable at the back, Sven-Goran Eriksson's England has to clean up its act if it is not to take an early bath. \n9. Spain \nOften promising and as often disappointing at the World Cup, Spain's best result in 68 years of trying was fourth in 1950. \nBut, the Spaniards have quality in all areas, with Fernando Hierro, Miguel Angel Nadal and Carles Puyol providing strong cover in defense, Gaizka Mendieta running the midfield and Fernando Morientes with Raul up front always posing a threat. \n10. Slovenia \nSecond to Russia in its qualifying group, Slovenia has done incredibly well to get this far. \nDrawing on a population of just 1.9 million after gaining independence just over 10 years ago, FIFA's 25th-ranked team did well at the Euro 2000 finals, but are against the world's very best this time. \nCentral midfielder Zlatko Zahovic is the Slovenian dynamo and also scores goals. \n11. Japan \nJapan will be looking for face at the World Cup it is hosting with South Korea. \nThe team obviously needs to do well in front of the home fans, but has been having trouble scoring goals. \nThough its back line wobbles under pressure, Hideotshi Nakata of Parma, supported by Junichi Inamoto just behind, comprise a worthy midfield. \nThough it may be the best team in Asia, winning the Asian Cup title in 2000, it's unlikely to go all the way, as six host countries have done since the tournament began in 1930. The second round is a must however. \n12. Turkey \nTurkey has established itself as a force in European club soccer, but has not appeared at a World Cup since 1948. \nThis should not deter the Turks. \nBayer Leverkusen's midfielder Yildiray Basturk links up well and should provide goals for star striker Hakan Sukur, while there is a strong team spirit and considerable skill among the players. \n13. Croatia \nCroatia has firepower from Bosko Balaban and Alen Boksic, in addition to a well-marshalled defense. Croatia came third at France '98 but may find it harder going this time. \n14. United States \nWinning one match will be an improvement on its performance in 1988, where it lost all three. \nOn the other hand, the US has made it to four World Cup finals in a row and has home-grown 20-year-old Landon Donovan -- who has genuine pace and is a sharp shooter -- alongside veterans like Cobi Jones and Jeff Agoos. \nDonovan helped San Jose win the MLS Championship and could be an inspiration. \n15. Belgium \nBelgium's warm-up matches must have provided some cause for optimism back home, as it beat world champions France in Paris before winning its final warm-up against Costa Rica in Oita last weekend. \n16. Mexico \nIt should be a mix-up for second place between Mexico and Croatia in Group G, with Italy taking the top spot. \nMexico's coach, Javier Aguirre, has said he is confident of his team's chances and contends the Croations are overrated. \n17. Sweden \nSweden beat Turkey to come top of its qualifying group, but is unfortunate to have landed in the "group of death" alongside Argentina, England and Nigeria. \n18. Nigeria \nThe "Super Eagles" will play their traditionally flamboyant and athletic game and will attempt to pass beyond the second round for the first time, after topping their groups in the past two finals. \n19. South Africa \nThe "Bafana" (boys) will be taking part in their second finals but will need to develop still further if they are to pass beyond the first round. \n20. Costa Rica \nPlayed 11, lost two is not a bad record going into the World Cup and Costa Rica has Manchester City striker Paulo Wanchope along with Rolando Fonseca, who are capable of being a problem for the best defenses. \n21. Russia \nNot likely to be contenders but a solid team which has a lot of experience on board and can be difficult to beat. \n22. Denmark \nUnbeaten in qualifying, with a FIFA world ranking of 17 and prolific striker Ebbe Sand, Denmark should be able to make an impression. \n23. Uruguay \nRows between star striker Dario Silva and coach Victor Pua have not helped preparations, but the South American side has other players to call on. \n24. Saudi Arabia \nOf all the teams that qualified for South Korea and Japan, Saudi Arabia scored the most goals: 47 in 14 matches. \nIt won't be so easy this time, but the lanky Sami Al-Jaber should find the net if he is given support by Asian player of the year Nawaf Al-Temyat. \n25. South Korea \nIf only "Thunder" Kim was older South Korea might pull off a couple of victories at the World Cup finals it is hosting jointly with Japan. \nThe 12-year-old schoolboy from Kwangju has been compared with Ronaldo and is FIFA's special ambassador to promote the Cup. \nHe will appear at halftime during matches to show off his amazing skills. His record for keeping the ball up is apparently 10,700 times without a break. \n26. Poland \nNot the side it was in the 1970s when it scared everyone, particularly the English, Poland has started scoring goals again after importing Nigerian-born Emmanuel Olisadebe. \n27. Paraguay \nThough Italian coach Cesare Maldini will extract the most from his side, Paraguay is most likely to end up bottom of Group B. \n28. Ecuador \nBeating Brazil in qualification is just the kind of form any serious contender would want to bring to the World Cup finals. \n29. Ireland \nManchester United's Alex Ferg-uson will probably go into defend-my-player overdrive when Ireland is dumped at the first stage and Roy Keane's walkout on his country is blamed for the speedy exit. \n30. Senegal \nThe country's World Cup journey hit the curb earlier this week when midfielder Khalilou Fadiga allegedly stole a US$230 gold necklace in Daegu, South Korea. \nSenegal plays defending champion France in the tournament's opening match tomorrow. \n31. Tunisia \nNo-one expects Tunisia to do well and with coach Henri Michel resigning just two months before the start of the World Cup the `Eagles' will likely take flight at the earliest stage. \n32. China \nWilliam Hill says China is the longest shot along with Saudi Arabia for a World Cup victory and gives odds of 750-1. \nChina's masses aren't taking any notice, however and just one victory should be enough to ensure a small heroes' welcome when they return home. \nChina is not in a position to challenge its first-phase competitors, Brazil, Turkey and Costa Rica, but it's team is in the right hands. \nCoach Bora Milutinovic is embarking on his fifth World Cup finals, having successfully taken Mexico, the US, Costa Rica and Nigeria into the second round of the past four tournaments.
‘CRIMINAL ACT’: The UCI said it ‘strongly condemns’ Dylan Groenewegen’s ‘dangerous behavior,’ which left Jakobsen in critical condition and injured other cyclists Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was in a coma on Wednesday, in “serious” condition, after he was thrown into and over a barrier at 80kph in the conclusion to the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne. Footage showed 23-year-old Jakobsen, of the Deceuninck-Quick-Step, racing elbow-to-elbow with fellow Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen of Jumbo-Visma as both men frantically tussled in a tight sprint to the line in Katowice. However, Jakobsen came off worst, somersaulting over the barriers before colliding with a photographer after Groenewegen had veered suddenly to the right, squeezing his rival into the security wall. “His condition is very serious. His life is
Taiwan Steel on Sunday grabbed three points with a narrow 1-0 win against Hang Yuan FC, to move into the No. 2 spot on the Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL) log, while Taipower FC beat NTUS 2-0 to maintain first place. Taking advantage early in the match of opposition defenders who had not yet settled down, Taiwan Steel’s attacking trio of Wu Chun-ching, Marc Fenelus from the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Benchy Astama from Haiti pushed forward with good passes. After only one minute of play, Fenelus dribbled from the right flank, feeding a short pass inside the penalty area to
STAYING COOL: Hamilton said that his ‘heart nearly stopped’ when he noticed the puncture, but he kept going to beat Alain Prost’s total of six home wins in France Lewis Hamilton said he feared he might not make it home when a last lap puncture almost derailed his charge to a record seventh British Grand Prix victory on Sunday. “I didn’t think I would make it round the last two corners,” the world champion said. The front left tire of his Mercedes had delaminated and deflated on his final lap, leaving the six-time world champion to nurse his vehicle to the finish as second-placed Max Verstappen hunted him down. “I just can’t believe it,” Hamilton said. “It was heart-stopping. I backed off and stayed chilled and was so glad it happened on
Growing concern over health standards in e-sports has prompted a new federation to pledge to address the problem, as players fall victim to conditions ranging from wrist injuries to obesity, stress and diabetes. The retirement of top Chinese player Jian Zihao, better known by his gaming handle “Uzi,” sent tremors through the booming sport, whose revenues are predicted to reach US$1.1 billion this year, according to industry analyst Newzoo. The 23-year-old, hailed as an “icon” of the League of Legends game, stepped away from e-sports in June, saying that “chronic stress, obesity, irregular diet, staying up late and other reasons” had given