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World Cup Qualifiers: Stimac hails fans for incredible support, says “We need to believe” ahead of Qatar encounter

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Kolkata, June 6 (IANS) India and Kuwait played in a goalless draw in their sides’ penultimate game of the second round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Thursday. This was a huge dent in India’s hopes of qualifying for the third round, a feat that’s never been done before.

The 58,291 fans in attendance at the Salt Lake Stadium roared throughout and despite the draw cheered for their skipper Sunil Chhetri who played his final international game.

“Huge appreciation to the fans for their support. We need to believe in our team, we need to believe in our abilities. We are a young team and of course, we have work to do. In five days, this might be India Under-23 vs Qatar Under-23 if you look at the ages of the players so we will learn from this game,” Igor Stimac told IANS when asked to give a message to the fans.

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India will be taking on Asian champions, Qatar in a few days in what will be a do-or-die game for the Blue Tigers. The reverse fixture saw India lose 3-0 on home turf.

“We are still alive, I need to do everything as a coach in the next five days to make the boys believe, to create the atmosphere, the environment of belief which can take us into the challenge that is ahead of us on 11th.

“Playing against the Asian champions, who are a very different team which is giving us hope, a small hope but it’s still there and we need to believe, we need to have trust in our abilities, in ourselves, and go and give our best shot to win the game,” added Stimac whilst speaking to reporters in the post-match conference.

India will travel to Qatar and play the table-toppers in the final game of the group stage on July 11 at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in a must-win game.

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–IANS

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Draper clinches first ATP Tour title in thrilling victory over Berrettini

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Stuttgart, June 16 (IANS) British No. 1 Jack Draper secured his maiden ATP Tour title with a resilient comeback against Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, winning 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 at Stuttgart Open, here on Sunday.

The match, played on Sunday, began with Berrettini displaying his formidable serving power, which earned him the first set 6-3.

Draper struggled to find his rhythm against the Italian’s consistent baseline play and powerful serves. However, the second set saw a different Draper, one who matched Berrettini’s intensity and refused to back down.

The second set was a nail-biter, with both players holding serve throughout. Draper had two opportunities to take the set at 5-4 but was unable to capitalize. Berrettini then had two break points at 5-5, but Draper dug deep, fending off the Italian’s advances to force a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, Draper showcased his mental fortitude, clinching it 7-5 to level the match and push it into a deciding set.

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The third set was equally competitive, with both players battling hard. The turning point came at 3-3 when Draper managed to secure a crucial break of serve. Holding his nerve, Draper served out the match, winning the set 6-4 and with it, his first ATP title.

“It is incredible. Thanks for all the support. It was a really tough match and I am really happy to win my first title. It means so much to me,” Draper said after his victory. “There has been a lot of hard work and a lot of tough moments. It’s been up and down but I’m really glad with the way I played, and it’s a testament to the work I have been doing.”

Draper’s journey to this point has not been without its challenges. He previously reached two ATP 250 event finals, losing to Adrian Mannarino at the Sofia Open in November 2023 and to Jiri Lehecka at the Adelaide International in January. This victory, however, signifies a breakthrough, highlighting his growth and potential on the professional circuit.

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Berrettini, a seasoned player with eight ATP Tour titles to his name, including two at the Stuttgart Open and five on grass, was gracious in defeat. “Congratulations to Jack – an unbelievable week, an unbelievable match. I am sure this guy is going to lift more trophies,” the Italian said. “I got close and this will hurt for a bit, but that is tennis. Hopefully this is the first step on the grass-court season.”

For Draper, the celebration will be short-lived as he prepares to play in London on Tuesday. “In tennis, there is not a lot of time to celebrate,” he noted, already looking ahead to his next challenge.

–IANS

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Euro 2024: Weghorst strikes late to secure Netherlands' 2-1 Victory Over Poland

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Hamburg (Germany), June 16 (IANS) The Netherlands overcame an early setback to defeat Poland 2-1 in Hamburg, with former Manchester United striker Wout Weghorst coming off the bench to score a decisive late winner in Group D opener, here on Sunday.

Poland, missing their star striker Robert Lewandowski due to a hamstring injury, found an early hero in Adam Buksa. Buksa, stepping in for Lewandowski, capitalized on a Piotr Zielinski corner to head Poland into the lead in the 16th minute. The goal stunned the Dutch side, who had already squandered good chances through Tijjani Reijnders and Xavi Simons.

The Netherlands, however, quickly sought redemption. Memphis Depay, having missed a golden opportunity by lifting his shot over the bar just minutes earlier, saw his team level the score when Cody Gakpo’s deflected shot wrong-footed Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the 29th minute. This goal marked the beginning of an intense offensive display from Gakpo, who registered five attempts in the first half, the joint-most on record for a Dutch player in the first half of a match at the Euros since 1980.

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Poland, needing to regroup, showed renewed vigor after the halftime break. Jakub Kiwior’s shot deflected off Nathan Ake, forced a save from Dutch goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen. Piotr Zielinski then tested Verbruggen again with a long-range effort, highlighting Poland’s determination to regain the lead.

The Dutch responded with equal intensity. Denzel Dumfries came close, sweeping an attempt wide of the far post. The breakthrough for the Netherlands came in the 84th minute when substitute Wout Weghorst, still on Burnley’s roster, latched onto a clever through ball from Nathan Ake.

Weghorst coolly guided the ball into the net, marking his seventh goal in his last 11 appearances for the Oranje and securing a late lead.

Poland refused to bow out quietly. Substitute Karol Swiderski nearly equalized when he met Jakub Piotrowski’s cross, firing a low shot that forced Verbruggen into a full-stretch save. Piotrowski’s follow-up, however, was sent into the side-netting, sealing Poland’s fate.

The victory places the Netherlands at the top of Group D, with the next match featuring France and Austria set to take place in Dusseldorf on Monday.

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–IANS

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1st ODI: Mandhana, Sobhana help India decimate South Africa by 143 runs (Ld)

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Bengaluru, June 16 (IANS) Vice-captain Smriti Mandhana slammed a fantastic 117 off 127 balls, also her sixth century in ODIs, while leg-spinner Asha Sobhana shined with a four-wicket haul on debut to setup India’s 143-run thrashing of South Africa at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and begin the multi-format series on a high note.

On a slightly sluggish pitch which offered variable bounce, seam movement and spin, India were reduced to 99/5 at one stage after electing to bat first. But Smriti stood tall, played her shots all over the park and even kept cramps at bay to keep India’s innings together with utmost discipline, control and remarkable composure.

In the process of bailing India out of trouble, Smriti brought up her first ODI century at home, laced with 12 fours and a six, to enthrall an enthusiastic Sunday crowd. She was also well-supported by knocks from Deepti Sharma (37) and Pooja Vastrakar (31) as India crossed 250-mark.

In reply, Asha’s fine spell of 4-21, where she spun the ball well and got good zip on her deliveries, ensured South Africa were never in the hunt to chase down 269. The Proteas lost wickets at regular intervals and didn’t stitch a long partnership to be bowled out for 122 in 37.4 overs.

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Renuka Singh Thakur, Pooja Vastrakar, Deepti Sharma and Radha Yadav were also amongst the wickets and supported Asha very well as India are now 1-0 up in the three-match series. South Africa suffered a big setback in the opening over of the chase as skipper Laura Wolvaardt was castled through the gate by a big nip-backer from Renuka.

Anneke Bosch was next to depart as she was trapped lbw by a seaming in delivery from Pooja Vastrakar which kept low. A returning Tazmin Brits didn’t last long as she came down the pitch for a big shot, but was caught by point off Deepti, who was playing her 200th international match for India. Asha came in to have Marizanne Kapp as her first ODI scalp, as the experienced campaigner cuts the ball straight to cover.

Scoreboard pressure then resulted in the run-out of Annerie Dercksen and Sune Luus, despite putting up a resistance with 33, missed a sweep off Deepti to be trapped lbw. From there, the result was a foregone conclusion as Radha had Nondumiso Shangase lbw, before Asha took out remaining three wickets to make her ODI debut memorable by sealing a dominant win for India.

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Earlier, Smriti started off the proceedings with back-to-back beautiful drives off Masabata Klass, but saw Shafali Verma being lured into an expansive drive off Ayabonga Khaka and nicked behind to a diving Sinalo. Dayalan Hemalatha’s promotion to number three didn’t last long as she miscued to mid-off against Nonkululeko Mlaba.

Though Smriti nailed her pulls off debutante Annerie, India continued to lose wickets as captain Harmanpreet Kaur chipped to extra cover and give the seamer her maiden international wicket. It was followed by a returning Jemimah Rodrigues slog-sweeping to mid-wicket off Nondumiso and Richa Ghosh nicking behind off Ayabonga.

Smriti got a good applause from the crowd when she reached her fifty in 61 balls and brought up the fifty of her partnership with Deepti through a well-timed pull going for four. Deepti began nailing her sweeps off Nondumiso from the other end, followed by Smriti lofting and sweeping her for boundaries to keep India in the hunt for posting a competitive total.

But against the run of play, Deepti chopped on to her stumps off Ayabonga. Smriti, though, was undeterred, swiping and lofting to get a four and six off Masabata, before reaching the three-figure mark in 116 balls with a gentle flick going for a single.

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She hit two more boundaries off Ayabonga, before holing out to deep square leg off a slower ball from Masabata, and fall for 117, with the crowd giving her a standing ovation on scoring her seventh ton in women’s international cricket.

Apart from being the second India women’s batter to cross the landmark of 7000 international runs, Smriti also overtook Mithali Raj’s 109 against West Indies in 2011 to claim the new record for the highest ODI score by an Indian batter in women’s ODIs.

Pooja smashed three boundaries in her unbeaten knock and along with Asha hitting a four, she ensured India posted a fairly good total, which was sufficient to register a comprehensive victory.

Brief Scores: India 265/8 in 50 overs (Smriti Mandhana 117, Deepti Sharma 37; Ayabonga Khaka 3-47, Masabata Klass 2-51) beat South Africa 122 in 37.4 overs (Sune Luus 33, Sinalo Jafta 27; Asha Sobhana 4-21, Deepti Sharma 2-10) by 143 runs.

–IANS

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1st ODI: Mandhana’s 117, Sobhana’s 4-21 helps India decimate South Africa by 143 runs

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Bengaluru, June 16 (IANS) Vice-captain Smriti Mandhana slammed a fantastic 117 off 127 balls, also her sixth century in ODIs, while leg-spinner Asha Sobhana shined with a four-wicket haul on debut to setup India’s 143-run thrashing of South Africa at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and begin the multi-format series on a high note.

On a slightly sluggish pitch which offered variable bounce, seam movement and spin, India were reduced to 99/5 at one stage after electing to bat first. But Smriti stood tall, played her shots all over the park and even kept cramps at bay to keep India’s innings together with utmost discipline, control and remarkable composure.

In the process of bailing India out of trouble, Smriti brought up her first ODI century at home, laced with 12 fours and a six, to enthrall an enthusiastic Sunday crowd. She was also well-supported by knocks from Deepti Sharma (37) and Pooja Vastrakar (31) as India crossed 250-mark.

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In reply, Asha’s fine spell of 4-21, where she spun the ball well and got good zip on her deliveries, ensured South Africa were never in the hunt to chase down 269. The Proteas lost wickets at regular intervals and didn’t stitch a long partnership to be bowled out for 122 in 37.4 overs.

Renuka Singh Thakur, Pooja Vastrakar, Deepti Sharma and Radha Yadav were also amongst the wickets and supported Asha very well as India are now 1-0 up in the three-match series. South Africa suffered a big setback in the opening over of the chase as skipper Laura Wolvaardt was castled through the gate by a big nip-backer from Renuka.

Anneke Bosch was next to depart as she was trapped lbw by a seaming in delivery from Pooja Vastrakar which kept low. A returning Tazmin Brits didn’t last long as she came down the pitch for a big shot, but was caught by point off Deepti, who was playing her 200th international match for India. Asha came in to have Marizanne Kapp as her first ODI scalp, as the experienced campaigner cuts the ball straight to cover.

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Scoreboard pressure then resulted in the run-out of Annerie Dercksen and Sune Luus, despite putting up a resistance with 33, missed a sweep off Deepti to be trapped lbw. From there, the result was a foregone conclusion as Radha had Nondumiso Shangase lbw, before Asha took out remaining three wickets to make her ODI debut memorable by sealing a dominant win for India.

Brief Scores: India 265/8 in 50 overs (Smriti Mandhana 117, Deepti Sharma 37; Ayabonga Khaka 3-47, Masabata Klass 2-51) beat South Africa 122 in 37.4 overs (Sune Luus 33, Sinalo Jafta 27; Asha Sobhana 4-21, Deepti Sharma 2-10) by 143 runs

–IANS

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Police shoot man with pickaxe ahead of Netherlands vs Poland Euro 2024 match: Report

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Hamburg (Germany), June 16 (IANS) Hamburg police have shot a man with an axe who threatened security officers “with a pickaxe and an incendiary device” ahead of the Netherlands match against Poland in the Euro 2024.

The incident happened on Sunday afternoon in Hamburg’s St. Pauli district, just before the match at the neighboring Volksparkstadion.

As per police statement, a major operation is underway in St Pauli and the attacker is receiving medical treatment.

“At St Pauli there is currently a major police operation. According to initial findings, a person threatened police officers with a pickaxe and an incendiary device. The police then used their firearms. The attacker was injured and is currently receiving medical treatment,” the Hamburg Police said in a official statement as quoted by Sky Sports.

Video footage posted online, shows a man wielding an axe in front of police officers before a series of suspected gunshot sounds can be heard, the BBC reported.

The man has not been identified by the police and the authorities have not commented on what motivations they believe were behind the incident, it added.

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–IANS

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