FIFA World Cup 2018: Midfield still a problem, but can forwards carry Brazil to win?


Samara: So can Brazil go all the way in this World Cup? Their win against Mexico in the Samara Arena took them one step closer to the title they haven’t won since 2002, but still left some questions to be answered. Once again, the Brazilians made it clear that their attacking trio of Willian, Gabriel Jesus and Neymar, with Philipe Coutinho in close attendance can cause damage if they get the ball, but the key word is ‘if’, reports Xinhua news agency.

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“We had 21 chances, it was a great game and I really enjoyed it. Our transitions were really quick,” said Brazil coach Tite after their 2-0 defeat of Mexico on Monday night and he was half right. In the first 45 minutes against Mexico, Brazil again struggled to get the ball to their best players on a regular basis, due partly to a pragmatic midfield of Casemiro and Paulinho.

Casemiro performs the holding role he has adapted to so well at Real Madrid, but at Real Madrid he is accompanied by Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, two of the best passers in the game, while with Brazil he is accompanied by Paulinho. Paulinho has had a good season with FC Barcelona, where his ability to break into the box and score key goals was important, but that doesn’t make him one of the great passers in the game.

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In the past Brazil would have had Dani Alves and Marcelo tearing upfield from full back, but injury ruled Alves out of the tournament and a hotel mattress (apparently) saw Marcelo start on the bench against Mexico. His replacement Felipe Luis usually is more solid defensively and gets forward well but has just come back from a broken leg, while, Fagner, who played on the right is no Alves. As a result Brazil struggled to play the ball out as long as Mexico were able to maintain their pressure high up the field and had Mexico been a bit sharper upfront or maybe had a bit more faith, they could have made them pay.

You wonder whether a Belgium with Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazzard and Kevin de Bruyne or France with Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud would be quite as unforgiving.What can Tite do to change things? Marcelo should be back for the quarterfinals. While the inclusion of Fernandinho, who had a good season with Manchester City, may offer more fluidity than Paulinho, although Casemiro’s suspension means that Paulinho will probably keep his place.

When Mexico tired Brazil created enough chances to have won by more than 2-0. But those first 45 minutes just leave that seed of doubt that against a really top side things might be different.

AGENCY 




FIFA World Cup 2018, France vs Peru preview: France to ramp up intensity against Peru


Yekaterinburg: With their title rivals failing to fire, France have vowed to ramp up the intensity and put their stamp on the World Cup with victory over Peru here tomorrow.

Didier Deschamps’s team were far from fluid against Australia in their opening game in Russia, needing VAR (the Video Assistant Referee) and consequent Antoine Griezmann penalty, then an own goal about 10 minutes from time, to snatch a 2-1 win. But, while unconvincing, a French side featuring a misfiring front three of the usually prolific Griezmann and starlets Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele at least avoided embarrassment.

With holders Germany losing to Mexico and Spain, Argentina and Brazil all drawing their opening games, the Peru clash is a prime opportunity for the French to stake their claim as the team to beat in Russia.
“We took stock of what was done well or not so well and all agree that we will have to increase our physical intensity and improve our attitude in general,” Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane, the France vice-captain, said yesterday.

“Other teams (among the favourites) did not win or even lost. We won, but we know that there are things to improve on. We know what direction we need to go in.” Deschamps, a World Cup winner as a player in 1998, has an impressive selection of forwards to choose from and could give Olivier Giroud a start.

Talking to the press ahead of the Group C game in Yekaterinburg, the most eastern city at this World Cup, Varane leapt to the defence of Mbappe, who faded after a strong start against Australia.

“This is a player that is 19 years old and who did what few or no players did (in playing for France at such a young age). He has a lot of talent,” said Varane, 25.

The defender also backed Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, who struggled for consistency in the Premier League last season and at times found himself on the bench. Pogba, 25, told French television at the weekend that he was “the most criticised player in the world”.

“Not bitter,” was Varane’s assessment of Pogba, before adding to the press: “If you could be a little bit more positive as well, that would be cool.” France’s talented but young squad will be favourites against a Peru side beaten 1-0 by Denmark in their opener.

But Peru, backed by their vocal fans who have travelled in numbers, were the better side for long spells against the Danes and missed a golden opportunity to go in front when Christian Cueva ballooned his penalty over Kasper Schmeichel’s crossbar.

Another defeat for Peru, who will again be sporting their distinctive red sash shirts, could spell the end of their hopes of reaching the knockout rounds, in their first World Cup since 1982.

The 34-year-old striker Paolo Guerrero, who won a late reprieve to play in Russia after his drugs ban was overturned, came on for the last 30 minutes against Denmark and Peru’s all-time leading goalscorer looks likely to start.




IPL 2018, Match 35: FPJ’s Dream XI for Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore


MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings (CSK) who lost their last three games will take on Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). The top concern for CSK is their bowling which doesn’t look to subside anytime soon. CSK are second on the points table and are on the edge to make it to the playoffs once again. This season, CSK have been involved in some dramatic finishes. The last time CSK met RCB, they managed to pick up an easy win at Bengaluru. Here are the probable dream XI for the Super Kings:

CSK: Shane Watson, Faf Du Plessis, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Karn Sharma, Lungi Ngidi, KM Asif, Deepak Chahar.

On the other hand, RCB has pulled up their socks in the last encounter against Mumbai Indians which they won by 14-runs. But the job for RCB is not yet done. In eight matches, they have only managed to win only three, and now they need to win all their remaining matches to make it through the playoffs. The good news for RCB is that their explosive batsman AB de Villiers has recovered from his illness and will be added to the playing XI against CSK. RCB will be eager to exploit the recent setbacks CSK have faced and will look to bring a more confident side to challenge the home side. But they still would need to be cautious considering the tremendous batting line-up at CSK’s disposal. Here we see the probable dream XI for the Royal Challengers:


RCB: Brendon McCullum, Parthiv Patel, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Corey Anderson, Mandeep Singh, Mohammad Siraj, Manan Vohra, Washington Sundar, Tim Southee, Umesh Yadav.




IPL 2018: 5 Talking points from Mumbai Indians’ win over Kings XI Punjab


Defending champions Mumbai Indians kept their campaign alive with a win over Kings XI Punjab by six wickets at Indore on Friday. Mumbai, who have struggled right throughout the tournament won key phases of the game and would now look to string together a couple of wins to get some momentum at the business end of the tournament.

5 talking points from Mumbai’s win:

1. Rahul-Gayle stitching together another 50 run partnership:

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Chris Gayle and KL Rahul are having a wonderful tournament and both of them again gave Punjab a wonderful start and added 54 runs for the first wicket. Gayle, who likes to attack and take down opposition was kept quiet by Jasprit Bumrah, but on the other hand, Rahul played with positive intent and this partnership has allowed Punjab’s middle order some breathing room.

2. Is Yuvraj Singh playing his last IPL?:

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India’s foremost one day player and winner of 2007 World T20 and 2011 World Cup (man of the tournament) is currently going through a really rough patch. After getting dropped in the last game, Yuvraj made a comeback and batted at No 3, but struggled for timing and fluency and could only score 14 off 14 balls before being run out.

It would be very sad if this turns out to be Yuvraj’s last IPL, but time and tide wait for none and every legend has to take a call on his career at the right time.

3. Jasprit Bumrah proving his worth:

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Indian speedster Jasprit Bumrah is not having a great tournament by his lofty standards and has been guilty of being expensive in the death overs. But on Friday, Bumrah brought his A game and only gave away 19 runs in four overs and picked up a wicket. Bumrah had to ball against a rampaging Gayle and kept him quiet and this augurs well for Mumbai that Bumrah is bowling at his best.

4. Punjab bowlers keeping Mumbai in check:

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Kings XI Punjab’s bowling attack has been doing the job with limited resources and on a small Indore ground, KXIP bowlers almost won the game for their side. Punjab struck at regular intervals and if it weren’t for Krunal Pandya-Rohit Sharma partnership in the end then Punjab might have been on the winning side.

5. Krunal Pandya clinching it for Mumbai:

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Mumbai Indians in this tournament have lost quite a few matches and their big signing players have failed to perform. Krunal Pandya, who is more known as Hardik Pandya’s brother came to the party and alongside Rohit Sharma won the game for Mumbai.

Pandya scored a quickfire 31 off 12 balls and was there till the end. Pandya has been a utility player for Mumbai in the last couple of years and playing a match-winning knock will boost his confidence.




Sandesh Prasannakumar preparing for Thailand Superbike Championship 2018


Sandesh Prannakumar is an arduous, meticulous and speed loving bike racer. Although it was not decided that he will be a bike racer one day, he was destined to be one. His inclination towards sports was however quite evident since his childhood. He even played Zonals under 14 cricket for a year and opted out as India’s most popular sport couldn’t hold his interest for long.

It was after he received a bike on his 20th birthday that he fell in love with speed and there was no looking back since then. Matching up to his dreams, he won his debut motorbike race in 2011 named Nandi Hill climb. Then he didn’t know that he was the champion in the making who will one day become the first Indian to do a Lap Record in Buddh International Circuit in the year 2015.

Winner of JK Tyre Superbike Cup race (2016), Sandesh Prasannakumar has also finished podium 3rd at Malaysia Superbike Championship (2015) in Superstock 1000cc category. This was his maiden international race. Earlier, he also finished a runner-up in the Yamaha One make championship in 2012 and got selected in Underbone Race (Indonesia).

Sandesh has his belts tightly fastened to pump up his motorcycle in Thailand Superbike Championship in superbike category which is supposed to be the toughest championship in Asia in motorcycle racing. No Indian has participated in Thailand Championship on a 1000cc yet. Challenging himself further, he also looks forward to a wild card entry in Asia Supermoto championship which is scheduled to be held in Bangalore, India. He will also participate in the JK Tyre National Superbike Cup which will be held in Delhi.

Sandesh Prasannakumar believes that fitness, zeal, rigorous training and undying passion for the sport together can make one a winner no matter how hard the competition.




IPL 2018, MI vs SRH preview: Struggling Mumbai to take on Sunrisers in a battle to re-discover winning touch


Mumbai: Under pressure after slumping to their fourth loss in five games, defending champions Mumbai Indians have the onerous task of re-discovering their winning touch when they lock horns with Sunrisers Hyderabad in an IPL match here tomorrow.

MI had started their campaign with three losses on the trot before a victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore arrested the streak, but the three-wicket defeat yesterday in Jaipur to Rajasthan Royals, their fourth last-over setback, has put them under tremendous pressure. With nine games left before the play-off stage, MI find themselves in a difficult situation to win at least seven of them to improve their chances. As such, a win over SRH tomorrow is imperative to keep them in the hunt. Sunrisers too have slipped from their earlier top perch after suffering back-to-back defeats, following three straight wins, and would be as keen to bounce back to winning ways.

MI’s campaign has been led from the front by local product Suryakumar Yadav who has been the top batsman with a consistent run of good scores in the opening slot which has left him four short of reaching the 200 mark for the season. However, lack of runs from Rohit Sharma barring one match-winning knock of 94 against Royal Challengers Bangalore has hurt badly the three-time champions’ run and they need their inspirational captain to make it up with a big knock against SRH.


Another major disappointment has been the big West Indian Kieron Pollard who has mustered just 54 runs in five games. He is in danger of being left out at the bench.The Trinidadian’s compatriot Evin Lewis has been neither outstanding nor a total let-down with the bat, but the Pandya brothers — Hardik and Krunal — have not sparkled with the bat.

Pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah showed he is close to his best in yesterday’s game against RR although he could not get MI across the finish line with a final burst of wickets, while Mustafizur Rahman has been a good foil. Mitchell McClenaghan has got among the wickets but has leaked runs too while the Pandya siblings have done a decent job with the ball. MI have not made too many changes to their playing eleven and could mull over it seriously before it is too late.

Sunrisers’ campaign had begun in pretty impressive fashion with three wins on the trot but successive defeats to Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings have dented their progress and confined them to the lower half of the table.

While captain Kane Williamson has been in superb form, carrying the batting on his shoulders to amass 230 runs in five games, the other batsmen, including Shikhar Dhawan, have not given him adequate support. Wridhiman Saha has been particularly below par with the bat with a tally of a measly 62 runs and needs to buck up quickly or lose the spot to Shreevats Goswami.

Yusuf Pathan showed glimpses of his old attacking self against RR with a quick 27-ball 45, but overall his batting has been below par. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been the stand-out performer in bowling and the visitors would be hoping for the others to chip in too.

The Teams (from):

Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma(captain), Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Mustafizur Rahman, Suryakumar Yadav, Krunal Pandya, Ishan Kishan, Rahul Chahar, Evin Lewis, Saurabh Tiwary, Ben Cutting, Pradeep Sangwan, Jean-Paul Duminy, Tajinder Singh, Sharad Lumba, Siddhesh Lad, Aditya Tare, Mayank Markande, Akila Dhananjaya, Anukul Roy, Mohsin Khan, MD Nidheesh, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: Kane Williamson (captain), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shikhar Dhawan, Shakib Al Hasan, Manish Pandey, Carlos Brathwaite, Yusuf Pathan, Wriddhiman Saha, Rashid Khan, Ricky Bhui, Deepak Hooda, Siddarth Kaul, T Natarajan, Mohammad Nabi, Basil Thampi, K Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Sachin Baby, Chris Jordan, Billy Stanlake, Tanmay Agarwal, Shreevats Goswami, Bipul Sharma, Mehdi Hasan, Alex Hale.

Match starts at 8 pm.




IPL 2018, Match 22: FPJ’s Dream XI for Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab


Delhi Daredevils (DD) are back in their derby. DD, who are the bottom of the points table will take on Kings XI from Punjab (KXIP), who are among the top two. There is no question that the DD have been the least impressive among all teams in past few seasons. It is their first home match and they will look to take that advantage against Chris Gayle-inspired Punjab side. While KXIP have won four and lost one of their five games, DD have won one and lost four. Despite having a two-time IPL champion skipper, DD are having an awful time. Multiple changes have been made, fresh faces brought in, but no results. While promising Rishabh Pant leads the batting side, it is their bowling unit that is disappointing. Here is DD’s probable dream XI against Punjab.

Delhi Daredevils: Jason Roy, Gautam Gambhir, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Glenn Maxwell, Amit Mishra, Chris Morris, Mohammed Shami, Trent Boult, Rahul Tewatia, Jayant Yadav

Talking about Punjab side, skipper Ravichandran Ashwin-led side have been one of the most impressive side this tournament. While Ashwin’s captaincy is impressing one and all, their top order (Gayle and KL Rahul) is in such a good form that anyone hardly looks at the middle order. But the only worry for the side is Axar Patel and Yuvraj Singh’s form. Here is Kings XI’s probable dream XI for today.


Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Karun Nair, Aaron Finch, Mayank Agarwal, David Miller, Yuvraj Singh, Axar Patel, Andrew Tye, Barinder Sran, Mohit Sharma




IPL 2018: Who is Krishnappa Gowtham? Rajasthan Royals’ surprise hero against Mumbai Indians


IPL 2018 is reaching its halfway stage and on Sunday Rajasthan Royals’ Krishnappa Gowthan stole the headlines and scored an unbeaten 33 off 11 balls and clinched the match for RR from nowhere. So, who is Gowtham and how come he was paid Rs 6.2 crore without even playing for India?

Krishnappa Gowtham hails from Karnataka and is 29 years old. Like many cricketers from the region, Gowtham wanted to play for India, but the competition in India as well as in the Karnataka side kept him waiting. Gowtham finally made his first-class debut in 2012 against Uttar Pradesh and was waiting for that performance that could launch his career. Gowtham, in the meanwhile, forged a solid reputation as a big hitter and a canny off-spinner and was becoming some sort of a T20 specialist.

Krishnappa Gowtham’s big break came when in 2016 when he broke back into Karnataka’s Ranji Trophy side and took 18 wickets in his first three matches. His consistency earned him a place with the India A team in 2017 and his career was finally taking off. Gowtham was selected by Mumbai Indians in IPL 2017 for Rs 2 crore, but couldn’t play any matches due to stiff competition (read: Harbhajan Singh, Krunal Pandya, Karn Sharma) and was warming the benches.


IPL 2018: Rajasthan Royals overcome Mumbai Indians by 3 wickets, jump to 5th spot
Amid these moments was a bit of controversy as well when Gowtham took leave from the Duleep Trophy in 2017, citing illness, and was found a few days a later playing in the Karnataka Premier League (local T20 league). The BCCI pulled him out of the squad to play New Zealand A for actions that were a “gross insult to the system”. But, after this indiscretion Gowtham has tried to change his image and his work ethic and results are there for everyone to see.

Life and cricket are all about second chances and Gowtham’s big pay day arrived in 2018 when during mega-auction, Gowtham fetched a whopping bid of Rs 6.2 crore from Rajasthan Royals. Royals rated him pretty high and, unlike last year, Gowtham got to play on a consistent basis and despite being average and mediocre, the Karnataka lad’s big moment arrived against Mumbai Indians (ironic, isn’t it?). That one innings has changed the perception and now Gowtham is the talk of the town, Royals’ messiah and big gun player going forward.




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