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Champions League semifinal: Paris Saint-Germain vs Borussia Dortmund (preview)

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Paris, May 7 (IANS) The UEFA Champions League is back as the semi-finalists gear up and get set to try and book their place in the final of Europe’s premier football competition. It will be Borussia Dortmund, who travel to the Parc De Princes on Tuesday (Wednesday as per IST) to take on the daunting Paris Saint-Germain on their hunting grounds.

Dortmund head into the game with a slender 1-goal advantage thanks to the goal by Niclas Fullkrug in the 36th minute of the first leg which was the only goal on the night although PSG did come agonizingly close to scoring on multiple occasions. Kylian Mbappe and Achraf Hakimi both hit opposite ends of the woodwork but could not find the back of the net.

PSG is no stranger to adversity, as they were in a similar pickle in the quarterfinal stages of the competition as well. The Parisian side trailed by a goal heading into the second leg against FC Barcelona at Camp Nou but managed to overcome the deficit dominantly as they won 1-4 on the night.

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The stakes have never been higher, especially with this being the last season that the tournament is being played in the traditional 32-team format and every team has their eyes on the trophy in hopes of securing it before the inevitable change takes effect next season.

Dortmund’s last trip to the Champions League final was at the iconic Wembley Stadium in London, which is also the venue for the 2023/24 final. One of Kylian Mbappe or Marco Reus will also be playing their last Champions League game with their respective clubs.

PSG will also be without Lucas Hernandez on the night following a cruciate ligament injury he suffered in the first leg. Along with him, Kurzawa, Kimpembe, and Rico will also be unavailable. Dortmund, on the other hand, will see Sebastian Haller back on the bench. It is likely, that the German team will be looking to field the same playing XI as in the first leg.

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“The aim isn’t to win by two goals, but to win, if you think you have to score two goals that seems like a big target. We just want to play and score. If we score in the 89th minute, it will carry on. We don’t need to score right away, we just want to win the game,” said PSG manager Louis Enrique in the press conference ahead of the much-awaited tie.

“We showed a good game last week, which gave us that little lead. But that performance probably won’t be enough to get us into the final, we have to do everything together tomorrow, with a good plan, with a good idea. Paris will certainly do better than last week. We want to earn this ticket to the final. We’ll tackle that together tomorrow,” said Dortmund head coach Edin Terzic in the press conference leading up to the all-important game.

–IANS

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'It's disappointing', says Bangladesh captain Shanto after T20I series loss to USA

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Houston (USA), May 26 (IANS) Bangladesh defeated the USA by 10 wickets in the third and final T20I but finished the series 2-1 after suffering defeats in the first two matches. Captain Najmul Hossain Shanto said the result was disappointing but it gave them a chance to adapt to the conditions ahead of the T20 World Cup.

USA are the co-hosts of the T20 showpiece along with the West Indies that starts on June 1 (June 2 as per Indian Standard time).

In the third T20I on Saturday, pacer Mustafizur Rehman’s exceptional 6-10 figures allowed them to restrict the USA for 109/9 in 20 overs. Tanzid Hasan’s unbeaten half-century (58*) coupled with opener Saumya Sarkar’s 28-ball 43 not out handed the visitors a 10-wicket win in 11.4 overs.

“Boys showed a lot of character and everyone executed their plans. It’s very disappointing to lose the series, we did not play well, to be honest. But to finish on a high today will help us ahead of the World Cup. We know the conditions and how it will be and we are looking forward,” Santo said in the post-match presentation.

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Mustafizur was adjudged Player of the Match as well as Player of the Series for bagging 10 wickets in three games. The left-arm pacer said his variations yielded results for him in the series. “Very happy with the way I bowled. I tried a lot of variations and mixed it up. Feeling really good for winning these awards,” he said.

Bangladesh will now take on the USA and India in the two warm-up matches before locking horns with Sri Lanka in their T20 World Cup opener on June 7 (June 8 as per IST)

–IANS

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Competing in Asian Taekwondo C'ships is a step towards Worlds: Rodali Barua

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New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Assam’s Rodali Barua, who won bronze in Kyorugi Category of the Asian Taekwondo Championship, become a household name in the Indian Martial arts and aspires to go places to become a powerhouse in national and international events. She also aims to participate in the World Championships next year.

Rodali’s journey began in the corridors of Kendriya Vidyalaya No. 1 in Tezpur, where the athlete trained for Taekwondo as a compulsory extracurricular activity. “I started Taekwondo to have another extracurricular activity as a way to bunk classes,” remarks Rodali. “Well, my advantageous height and talents registered soon enough. And I developed them in the heavyweight category as there were fewer participants and a better chance of winning the medals.”

Signifying her junior achievements, Rodali’s pursuit of Taekwondo came to fruition once the athlete clinched a bronze at the 4th Junior Nationals in Pondicherry. It was the first of a string of competitive achievements as the young athlete seamlessly stepped up to secure gold at the National Championships in 2016 under the senior participation.

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Continuing her progress of elevating performance, the athlete did dropout from the Asian Championship camp back in 2016 due to a weight challenge. Relentless in her quest, she persisted in her training to qualify for the 2018 Asian Championship in Vietnam. Her triumphant return to competitive Taekwondo was marked by her victorious gold medal win at the 2019 South Asian Games

Being of stubborn determine, the athlete shared, “My goal was to prove myself and make sure my weight category wasn’t dropped from international tournaments.”

Raised in an affluent family of four members who had no sporting influences, the Barua clan has been a constant support in the athlete’s journey, Rodali said, “My family has been a constant guide always. My father is a tea estate businessman, my mother a housewife, my younger brother is completing his graduation and my elder sister a clinical psychologist is proud of the fact that I have been determined in my choice of sport and excelling at the same time.”

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Explaining her path to engaging in more international participations as possible, the athlete shares, “Proving myself in the Asian Championships and other International Tournaments has been demanding, yet has improved my chances of winning the World Championships and bringing home the gold.”

Surendra Bhandari, only Indian to win a medal in Taekwondo at the Asian Games, has served as an inspiration to Rodali throughout her career. For aspirant Taekwondo practitioners in India, Bhandari’s feat from 2002 continues to be a source of inspiration and a standard.

Rodali stressed the value of financial support and exposure abroad for Indian athletes, she said, “Other country players compete in 10 to 15 international open tournaments annually earning invaluable experience. We don’t have the same exposure or financial backing despite having comparable skills and methods. We could compete just as well on a global scale if we had greater chances and assistance.”

Driven by the desire to win an international medal and motivate the upcoming Taekwondo practitioners in India, Rodali is training extremely hard in anticipation of the World Championship.

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“This is only the beginning. Since the World Championship offers a greater stage than the Asian Championship’s I must put in more effort and win a medal there.”

–IANS

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'All round team, hard to defeat': Kumble, Watson pick KKR as favourites to lift IPL 2024 trophy

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New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Former India spinner Anil Kumble and ex-Australian all-rounder Shane Watson have picked Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) as favourites to lift the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 title against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the final at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Sunday.

Kumble backed KKR for the blockbuster clash due to their firepower in both batting and bowling while Watson feels SRH will have an advantage of knowing the wicket without dew but Kolkata will head fresh into the summit clash and they are going to be very challenging on the field.

“It gives Sunrisers an edge for sure as they know how the wicket plays, especially when there is no dew. They will have to back-up, and regenerate their mental and physical energy quickly, but for me, KKR are the favourites. They are fresh as a daisy; they have got world-class players through their team, and they are going to be very hard to defeat,” said Watson on JioCinema.

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This season has proved to be a run-fest with a team total of 250 plus being achieved eight times, which is four times more than what was achieved in the history of IPL. This onslaught was led by the two teams playing the finals, with SRH crossing 250 in three games whereas KKR achieved the score on two such occasions.

“Both these teams have redefined how to go about in the powerplay, and we saw that. This is a surface that requires you to utilise the powerplay and we saw how SRH did that. Two teams that have done well throughout the tournament dictated the terms right from ball one consistently and no wonder they are playing the finals in Chennai on Sunday,” said Kumble.

“KKR has been the all-round team, with the ball or with the bat. You name it, you have the players with Rinku Singh yet to chip in. When you have a side with explosive batters, a bowler like Starc who is coming into his form, we saw his impact in the last game and Shreyas Iyer. Even he has done exceptionally well as a captain, he has been calm and used his resources well. He got the best out of Andre Russell and they have the firepower with both the bat and ball,” he added.

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Menawhile, former India all-rounder Suresh Raina feels that eight overs of spin will be the deciding factor in the summit encounter and also highlighted Pat Cummins’ leadership skills that handed Australia their sixth ODI World Cup last year.

“Sunrisers should back their batting first approach and put runs on the board, but the eight overs of spin will be crucial. With KKR having won an IPL in Chennai, the pressure will be different. The key point for SRH is Pat Cummins who has already won the World Cup, he knows how to keep the dressing room running. You follow the process, you are switched on for the finals, the players know their roles, and everything will be organised,” Raina said.

KKR will be backing themselves to go to the Chepauk Stadium and lift their third IPL trophy and win the title after a 10-year long wait. Hyderabad, on the other hand, are playing the final for the first time in six seasons. They last reached the final in 2018 and lost the title to MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings.

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KKR last clinched the IPL title in 2014 under the leadership of Gautam Gambhir, who is now the mentor of the franchise. Meanwhile, SRH secured the title in 2016 with David Warner as captain and, in 2024, they are once again being led by an Australian cricketer.

–IANS

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'If they don’t want me…': Erik Ten Hag addresses exit rumours after FA Cup triumph

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London, May 26 (IANS) Manchester United manager Erik Ten Hag silenced much of the criticism by defeating Manchester City to win the FA Cup final. Amid recent rumors suggesting that the Dutch manager is soon to be sacked, the 54-year-old addressed his future, stating that if “the club doesn’t want him, he’ll go elsewhere to win trophies.”

Ten Hag’s comment stem from the reports which suggested that the club’s stakeholders has already made it’s decision and he will be sacked despite the result in the FA Cup final. However, more developments on the matter should follow in the coming days.

“I don’t think about this. I am in a project and we are exactly where we want to be, we are constructing a team for the future. When I took over we were in a mess,” said Ten Hag in the post game press conference.

Manchester United’s 13 FA Cup trophy is sure to be one of the sweetest for the club considering the side is coming off a group stage exit in the UEFA Champions League and their worst ever finish in the Premier League.

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“The team is developing, the team is winning and the team plays to an identity but you need the players to be available and a a strong squad especially when you play in England and Europe. There is a lot of work to do but we have value in the squad, high potentials, the team is progressing and we are winning trophies,” added the former Ajax Manager.

“Two trophies in two years is not bad, three finals in two years is not bad. If they don’t want me, then I go somewhere else to win trophies because that is what I do,” he concluded.

–IANS

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'Thank you for everything', Toni Kroos gives heartfelt tribute to Real Madrid prez Florentino Perez

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Madrid, May 26 (IANS) Real Madrid’s most loyal servants stepped onto the Santiago Bernabeu for one final time on Saturday. On a night where it was all about Toni Kroos, the German gave a heartfelt tribute to Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.

Once the match and all tributes for the 5-time Champions League winner were over, Kroos and Perez stepped onto the pitch and had a photo clicked with all 22 trophies that the Kroos garnered during his time in Madrid.

“To my dear president, thank you for everything,” the German midfielder gave a shirt to Florentino with this dedication.

The ‘German Sniper,’ announced his shocking retirement just days before and will be playing his final game in a Los Blancos shirt on June 1 (June 2 as per IST) in Real Madrid’s attempt to grab their record extending 15th UEFA Champions League trophy.

Following the Champions League final he will be making his way back to Germany to join up with the National Team for the 2024 European Championship, which will take place in his home country.

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Over the course of his decorated career there is only one trophy that still eludes one of the greatest players of the game and that is the Euros.

A deep Euro’s run could be the fairytale ending to a career unlike no other.

–IANS

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