France has no place left to hide. Coach Raymond Domenech's beleaguered side faces a make-or-break World Cup qualifying match against Ireland today. \nPoor recent form has cast doubt on whether the once mighty French team can qualify for World Cup 2006, and confidence is arguably at its lowest since 1993: when Les Bleus dismally failed to qualify for World Cup '94. \nFollowing a tepid 0-0 draw at home to Israel and a scrappy 2-0 win away at Faroe Islands last month, France desperately needs a strong showing against Ireland to quieten the critics and establish a stranglehold in Group Four. \n"This is our big test and we absolutely have to get three points," defender William Gallas said Thursday at the French training camp in Clairefontaine. \n"It is going to be very tough for us. Everyone will want to see what shape the French team is in," Gallas said. "Ireland is a very good side with talented individuals like Damien Duff, Clinton Morrison and Roy Keane." \nGallas, at right-back, will be pitted against Chelsea teammate Duff and considers him to be Ireland's main attacking threat. \n"He has so many qualities it's difficult to list them all," Gallas said. "He's good on the ball and has been in top form recently." \nA defeat would seriously hinder France's qualifying chances and increase the pressure on Domenech. \nLatvian soccer coach Alexandrs Starkovs will be on the sidelines for Latvia's World Cup qualifier against Slovakia today, despite a six-game suspension imposed by FIFA, a Latvian team spokesman said yesterday. \nStarkovs received the suspension after being ejected from Latvia's Sept. 4 qualifier against Portugal in Riga for arguing an apparent hand ball by Portugal's Christiano Ronaldo that led to Portugal's first goal in a 2-0 win. \nStarkovs made an ironic thumbs-up gesture to referee's assistant suggesting he blew the call and was subsequently dismissed by the game's fourth official. \nAt the post game press conference, Starkovs suggested the referee, and not himself, should be sanctioned by FIFA for blowing the call. \nLatvia has played two qualifiers and is currently fourth in its group with three points. Slovakia, which has played three games, sits atop the group with seven points. \nDenmark's first ever soccer strike was called off on Thursday according to the players' and clubs' representatives, who refused to release details of the agreement. \nThe bulk of Denmark's professional soccer players went on strike on Aug. 17 after talks between officials and the National Players' Association collapsed in a dispute over FIFA's transfer rules for players under 23. \nThe strike was then twice suspended when the two sides agreed to return to the bargaining table. After days of talks, the players' group and Division Association representing the clubs said they agreed on a new collective agreement late Wednesday. \nIn a joint statement on Thursday, the two sides said the new agreement "must now be approved by the competent bodies in the National Players' Association and Division Association." That "should be done very fast so the collective agreement can go into effect in the middle of next week." \nBoth parties refused to comment further on the deal. Initially, the players' association refused to accept FIFA rules on the payment of transfer sums for players younger than 23 years of age after the expiration of their contracts.
STANDINGS: The Uni-President Lions’ victory pushed the CTBC Brothers to first place after they won their third straight game, beating the Fubon Guardians 6-3 The big bats of the Uni-President Lions were on fire in the CPBL yesterday as they crushed the Rakuten Monkeys 21-5 in Taoyuan, with outfielder Lin An-ko driving in seven runs on five hits and two homers. The result enabled the CTBC Brothers to take the No. 1 spot after they beat the Fubon Guardians 6-3. It was a highlight reel for the Taiwanese-Argentinian star Lin, who drilled two homers amid a heated home-run race between himself, now on 16 for the season, and Lions teammate Su Chih-chieh, who is on 18. Lin performed outstandingly, collecting five hits at six at-bats to drive
GERMAN LEADER: Liverpool’s 19th English title, one behind Manchester United’s record of 20, owes much to the transformational impact of coach Juergen Klopp Liverpool on Thursday ended a 30-year wait for the English title as they were crowned Premier League champions, triggering jubilant scenes as fans ignored social distancing measures to celebrate uproariously. Juergen Klopp’s men sealed a 19th league title with a record seven games remaining after Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat of second-placed Manchester City left the defending champions an unbridgeable 23 points adrift. Liverpool’s first English title since 1989-1990 — delayed by the COVID-19 suspension — earns them their maiden trophy in the Premier League, which was introduced in 1992-1993 and has been won 13 times by their archrivals Manchester United. Klopp was in tears
WOLFSBURG BEATEN: Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski scored from a penalty, his 34th league goal this season, finishing as the top Bundesliga scorer for the fifth time Werder Bremen gave themselves hope of avoiding relegation from the Bundesliga by thrashing Cologne 6-1 to grab a playoff place on the last day of the season, while champions Bayern Munich routed VfL Wolfsburg before lifting the trophy on Saturday. Japan striker Yuya Osako scored twice as Bremen stole the lifeline of the relegation/promotion playoff place from Fortuna Duesseldorf, who lost 3-0 against Union Berlin and were relegated with SC Paderborn, finishing one point behind Bremen. “We put in a great performance under pressure, but we are aware that we haven’t achieved anything — in the relegation playoff, the emotions will be
Alexis Lafreniere was supposed to walk on stage on Friday night in Montreal as the top pick in the NHL draft. After the COVID-19 pandemic paused the hockey season and postponed that possibility, Lafreniere was supposed to find out Friday night where he would be going when the league held its draft lottery. Instead, he must wait a little bit longer. Chaos reigned at the NHL draft lottery, with the No. 1 pick still up for grabs in a second lottery drawing among the eight teams that lose in the qualifying round of the playoffs — if play resumes. “We all knew