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SOCHI: Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium proved too good for World Cup debutants Panama in the opening match in England’s Group G.
After a goalless first half Belgium, ranked third in the world, finally broke Panama’s resistance when Dries Mertens steered in a spectacular 15-yard volley early in the second half.
Panama, 55th in the rankings, had a chance to snatch an equalizer but Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was quick off his line to save Michael Murillo’s shot with his legs.
Manchester United striker Lukaku made certain of the victory as he scored with a diving header after an exquisite pass from Kevin de Bruyne with the outside of his boot.
Lukaku then added a third with a chipped finish after a fine through ball from Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
BELGIUM FINALLY FIND A WAY THROUGH:
‘Moment of magic’ – Dries Mertens volley gives Belgium lead
Belgium, who included seven British-based players in their starting line-up, scored 43 goals in qualifying, a joint record for a European team, but suffered a frustrating first 45 minutes in Sochi.
Panama’s goalkeeper Jaime Penedo denied Yannick Carrasco, Mertens, Hazard and Lukaku in the opening 40 minutes as the Central Americans battled hard to try to contain one of the World Cup favorites.
The Europeans also failed to capitalize on two Panama errors when Hazard shot into the side-netting after a short Roman Torres back pass, before Mertens also missing the target when allowed to shoot from a quickly-taken short corner.
The opening matches at the World Cup have seen Brazil and Argentina both draw their opening matches, with holders Germany losing to Mexico.
But Belgium ensured there would be no upset at the Fisht Stadium as Mertens took advantage of Panama failing to clear their lines with a superb volley over Penedo.
They had a chance to double their lead as De Bruyne curled a free-kick wide before Lukaku dived in to score from the Manchester City midfielder’s pass and settle any nerves.
Six minutes later Lukaku grabbed his second and Belgium’s third with a composed over the advancing Penedo.
There were two kinds of Eids being celebrated on Monday. The first, of course, was the third day of Eid ul Fitr celebrated across the Muslim world. The second, was a more personal Eid for Pakistanis, as it marked the one year anniversary of the country’s triumph in the Champions Trophy.
The Champions Trophy was the only men’s ICC event – senior or junior – that Pakistan had never won. In its eighth edition, after nearly 20 years separating the first one in Bangladesh in 1998, that aberration was removed by Sarfraz Ahmed and his charges.
That the win came against arch-rivals India, and with great panache too, made the win even sweeter. That in their first game Pakistan had been given a thorough drubbing at the hands of the very Indian team which it so effortlessly dominated in the final game did not just make things a tad bit better, it made the tournament poetic.
The Champions Trophy win last year was perhaps the biggest moment in Pakistan cricket since the 1992 world cup – bigger even than the number one test ranking, the 2009 T20 World Cup, falling to number 7 in the test rankings, losing against Sri Lanka in the UAE or any of the other moments in between – good or bad.
The 92 World Cup, of course, is special. If there are two things that have captured the imagination of the average Pakistani about his own country, it is the victory over England in the final of the 1992 Cricket World Cup.
The one thing that will undoubtedly make any Pakistani paint themselves green and white, wave a flag and shout ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ is the memory of the 1992 World Cup. Even the cricket illiterate have a certain affinity for the images of Imran Khan lifting the crystal trophy and as such that little moment occupies a special place in the collective heart of the nation. Heck, even Mian Nawaz, cricket fan that he is, would never wish that the win had never come.
There is something about the 92 World Cup that just ticks. For one it has to do with the optics. The ’92 World Cup was a flashy affair. For the first time cricket was being played with a white ball and in colored clothes. The Packer revolution had left its mark. The official world cup song and images of entire teams on cruise ships created a buzz in the cricketing world. Nothing of the sort had been done before and the world was excited.
A world cup is always special, but this was a limited edition. Cricket was trying to become sexy, and under the captaincy of the dashing Imran Khan, Pakistan became the perfect ambassador for the game’s adopted identity.
Then there were other reasons. For starters, the rain miracle that got Pakistan to the quarters seemed an act of God at par with Javed Miandad suddenly finding form again. We were also apparently fighting for a greater cause: Imran Khan’s cancer hospital.
But for all the reasons that the 92 World Cup is special and irreplaceable in the hearts, minds and collective memory of the nation, on its own merits, the Champions Trophy of 2017 might just take the cake of being our finest moment. Sure there are similarities between the two, so far as there are in all underdog tales, but boy was one year ago today a real underdog story.
Coming up from the bottom-ranked team to become Champions of the world, this tournament was the sort of things that sports movies are made of. Barely making it to the tournament? Check. Young and inexperienced? Check. Initial slump and humiliation? Check. Sudden rise against all odds? Checks. Expectations to falter at the last moment? Check. Dangerously close moments in the game? Check with Fakhar’s no-ball and Kohli’s drop. Win nonetheless? You bet that’s a check.
But in that entire process, Pakistan did something magical. It was all so insanely unrealistic that we just kept waiting for something to go wrong, but even when it did, we somehow got back up and gave as well as we could take. It was nothing short of a fairy tale, and in time we might just come to realize that it was nothing short of 92. Right now, we maybe just can’t see it because even one year later it is all so unbelievable.
Defeats in the first two ODIs against England have sent Australia tumbling to a 34-year low in the ICC rankings. They have slipped to sixth place and will need to win at least one of the three remaining games in the series to climb back above Pakistan to fifth.
The last time Australia found themselves in sixth position was back in January 1984, reported Cricket Australia.
Australia’s rankings situation reflects their downturn as an ODI side since beating Pakistan in a home series in January 2017. Thereafter, they have lost 13 of their 15 completed ODIs, in which time they have lost three successive bilateral series – to New Zealand, India and England – and exited the Champions Trophy at the group stage.
Meanwhile, Pakistan stand firm at fifth spot and below New Zealand. England is leading the ICC ODI rankings. It is above India and South Africa.
PESHAWAR: Seven Junior Squash players from Peshawar would participate in the U-13, U-15, U-17 and U-19 events of the CMS Bornio Junior Open Squash Championship and Penang (Malaysian) Junior Open Squash Championship to be held in Malaysian cities of Sarawak and Penang from June 20-24 and June 26 July 1, 2018, respectively.
Zeeshan Zeb will compete in the U-15 in these events while Khushal Riaz Khan and Hammad Khan in U-17, Noor Zaman, Muhammad Hamza and Muhammad Ammad in U-15 and Yaseen Khattak in U-13 category. Ft Lt Mr. Amer Iqbal of Pakistan Squash Federation would accompany the junior Squash team as manager while Mr. Wazir Khan has been assigned the responsibilities of the coach during this tour.
While talking to media, coach Wazir Khan said under the leadership and keen interest of Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Shahid Alvi, Qamar Zaman and Tahir Sultan, Pakistan Squash Federation Pakistan is making all efforts to restore the past glory of the country in the field of Squash. Pakistan Squash Federation gives special emphasis to promote and polish the young talent in the field of Squash to provide them opportunities to play in international events.
He said that all the players are fully determined and committed to defeat the opponent teams in both these important junior squash championships and in this connection they have completed all of their preparations.
MOSCOW: Germany were stunned 1-0 by Mexico in the opening game of their World Cup defence on Sunday as Hirving Lozano finished off a sharp counter-attack that exposed the ragged defending that the four-times winners had displayed in their warm-up games.
Germany’s defence had looked stretched to breaking point on several occasions in the opening half-hour, and it was no surprise when Javier Hernandez again left Mats Hummels for dead to play in Lozano, who cut inside Mesut Ozil and smashed the ball low into the corner to release an explosion of noise in Luzhniki Stadium.
Germany came close to levelling late in the half when a Toni Kroos free kick was touched on to the bar by goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, and they gradually took command once Marco Reus joined the fray after an hour and introduced some pace to their attack.
But despite almost constant pressure they were largely kept at long range, and their poor finishing rarely threatened Ochoa as Mexico held out for only their second victory against the Germans in 12 attempts.
ROSTOV-ON-DON: A second-half header from Steven Zuber cancelled out a sensational early goal from Philippe Coutinho as Switzerland and Brazil drew 1-1 in a tight Group E World Cup opener on Sunday.
With 20 minutes gone, Coutinho gathered a clearance 25 yards from goal and curled a marvellous shot into the far corner off the post to give the five-times world champions the lead.
However, Switzerland, who had looked toothless throughout the first half, got back on level terms five minutes into the second period when Zuber rose unmarked to head home a corner kick. Coutinho had Brazil’s best chance after the break but shot wide.
The result means that Serbia lead Group E after beating Costa Rica 1-0 earlier in the day.