• MALMO, Sweden: Germany beat England 4-0 to win the European Under-21 Championship on Monday night in front of a near sellout crowd at Malmo Stadium.

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    UEFA President Michel Platini (R) presents the trophy to Germany players after they defeated England to win the U21 European Championship final soccer match at Malmo New Stadium in Malmo June 29, 2009. Germany won the match 4-0.

    Gonzalo Castro opened the scoring in the 23rd minute and Mesut Ozil made it 2-0 three minutes into the second half with a long-range free-kick that embarrassed stand-in goalkeeper Scott Loach, who appeared wrong-footed and could only palm the ball into his own net.

    Sandro Wagner scored two late goals within a span of five minutes late in the final to seal the victory.

    Ozil set up his first, nicking the ball in midfield before marauding forward and releasing Wagner, who shot between Loach's legs.

    Wagner then added the fourth, in the 84th minute, curling the ball neatly into the far corner following a counterattack.

    Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer did not have to make a save throughout the one-sided final.

    England coach Stuart Pearce, who revealed he has signed a new two year-deal to lead the team until the next Under-21 championship, said he would take his time to analyze the team's failings.

    "It is down to me sit back and let the dust settle on this tournament and work out how to improve at this level," said Pearce.

    "Hats off to the Germans, they beat us 4-0. You have to be humble but it still hurts me."

    (Agencies)

  • SHANGHAI: An intensive warmup followed by solid strides between hurdles and characteristically cool facial expressions.

    Like he has a thousand times before, reigning men's 110m hurdles world champion and former world record holder Liu Xiang flew over the hurdles swiftly and squarely during an open training class at Xinzhuang Training Base of Shanghai.

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    Liu Xiang, China's 110m hurdles world champion and Olympic gold medal winner, rides a bike out of a training base in Shanghai to escape a media throng yesterday. Sun Haiping, Liu's coach, said during a press conference the hurdler was recovering well from his foot injury but is not yet 100 percent fit. [Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

    Except for the fact that he was not wearing spikes, it recalled to mind a healthy Liu who stormed to inspiring victories at the 2004 Athens Olympics and 2007 Osaka World Championships. But with his Achilles tendon injury on his right foot still yet to fully heal, Liu is under doctors' orders to train in sneakers.

    After being forced to withdraw from the heats at the Beijing Olympics, the 26-year-old is eager to return to the track, but according to the results from his latest physical check, is still not ready. Putting on a determined face, together with his team he is trying to convince himself and the world that he can rise to the top again.

    "Our working team and Liu himself have never given up," coach Sun declared at the media briefing after training. "Liu's training today was satisfactory, although it was only 80 to 90 percent of his previous training quantity."

    The Shanghainese did everything to please more than 100 media that swarmed to the training center in eastern Shanghai. Toward the end of the session, he even ripped off his shirt and ran topless to show how much effort he has been putting in.

    Last week, Liu advanced the date of his physical check to avoid media focus, prompting speculation he would announce an early retirement yesterday.

    But an optimistic Liu pays little heed to rumors.

    "Liu is good at self control and self adjustment, which is good for his rehabilitation," said Yang Peigang, director of Shanghai Athletics Administrative Center, who witnessed Liu's recovery at Xinzhuang Base everyday.

    "His mood in training is the same as before and he is very relaxed," Yang added.

    Liu's enormous popularity was also evident in the huge contingent of fans - including several from overseas - who rushed to the Xinzhuan center to watch their hero.

    Juliette Bourque, a French student studying business at East China Normal University in Shanghai, learnt of the open session while visiting his parents and went to watch her Chinese idol in person.

    "He is the first Chinese to win the Olympic gold medal (in the event). I thought it's interesting, since normally it is always black guys that win. So I started to follow him. He is very young and there is so much pressure on his shoulders. So, all his stories are very interesting," said Bourque, who learnt of Liu two years ago during an internship in the nearby city of Hangzhou.

    To escape the media after training, Liu rode away on a bicycle without saying a word, prefering to give victory symbol.

    Although Bourque didn't get an opportunity to get close to him, a 40-minute one-man show was enough. "I'm happy that I saw him, although it is a little sad (that I didn't meet with him)," she said. "I won't come again since I don't want to bother him. I will give him my blessings."

    Liu also received good wishes from former Olympic champion Edwin Moses.

    "It's possible (for Liu to comeback and reach the same height as before)," the two-time Olympic 400m hurdles champion told China Daily earlier.

    "The first thing he has to do is to get healthy again. And then, I think secondly, sometimes, athletes have some psychological problems that go along with the injury. That can hold you back. You have to overcome that as well."

    Coach Sun already has a plan to ease his fellow hurdler back into the rigors of racing.

    "If Liu's physical condition allows, we will enter Liu in some small events to help him first get back the feeling of competition," Sun said.

    (China Daily)

  • Reports that a severe foot injury will end NBA all-star center Yao Ming's career have been quickly dismissed by his agent.

    "I heard some reports say Yao's career might be over due to the worsening injury," said Zhang Mingji, who goes by the name of Eric Zhang in the United States. "I don't think it's the right time to say that.

    "I can assure you the (Houston) Rockets have never come to a conclusion concerning Yao's career."

    Zhang, however, did admit that the previous treatment on the superstar's broken left foot did not work as hoped.

    "Obviously, the treatment on Yao's injury was not effective. The team is considering adopting new treatments. But it's yet to be determined."

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    Houston Rockets center Yao Ming's broken left foot could be a "career-threatening" injury. Dr Tom Clanton, the Rockets' team physician, told the Houston Chronicle on Monday that Yao's injury "has the potential for him to miss next season and could be career-threatening".

    The China Basketball Administrative Center said it's been informed of the news but a chief official assumed it would not rule Yao out of the World Championships next year.

    "We have got the news from Team Yao that his injury is not recovering well," said Hu Jiashi, deputy director of the sport's governing body. "But they did not say if Yao will miss the NBA season, not to mention the possibility of missing the World Championships next year."

    On Monday, Houston Rockets team physician Tom Clanton told the Houston Chronicle that the Chinese superstar's broken left foot could cause the popular sports figure to miss all of next season and could be a "career-threatening" injury. Clanton pointed out that the injury in Yao's left foot has worsened.

    "One of the things we are trying to get is a consensus opinion on that, to make certain there is no option we are overlooking at that would provide an earlier return or would be an option for treatment that (Yao) would prefer rather than doing additional surgery," Clanton said.

    Yahoo! Sports first reported that the Rockets as well as Yao's representatives were concerned that the 7-foot-6 giant would never play again. Yahoo! Sports quoted "multiple league executives, officials close to Yao and two doctors with knowledge of the diagnoses".

    The hairline fracture was discovered following the Rockets' May 8 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals. The original treatment plan called for Yao to cease all physical training and to wear a walking boot to immobilize the foot.

    Lingering injury

    Less than two weeks ago, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said the team was committed to building around Yao.

    "Yao is the cornerstone of our franchise now and in the future," Morey said before the latest test results.

    Yao played in 77 regular-season games in 2008-09, his most injury-free year since 2004-05, when he played in 80. Before last season, Yao missed portions of the previous three seasons with leg and foot injuries.

    He missed 21 games in 2005-06 after surgery to heal an infection to his left big toe, but then broke a bone in his left foot with four games left in the regular season.

    In 2006-07, Yao missed 32 games after breaking his right leg and suffered a stress fracture in his left foot in 2007-08. He then underwent surgery and sat out 26 games.

    Yao recovered from that foot injury to represent China in the Beijing Games. He made it through the Rockets' season and the first round of the playoffs before breaking his left foot late in the Rockets' 108-94 loss to the Lakers in Game 3 of the second round at the Toyota Center.

    Two days after the playoff loss, Yao said he didn't believe the injury was as serious as any of his previous ones. The Rockets said he would miss only 8-12 weeks.

    (China Daily)

  • MADRID: Kaka was officially presented as a Real Madrid player in a Hollywood-style show to around 50,000 fans at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.

    Director general Jorge Valdano had promised president Florentino Perez's second spell at the helm would be a "super-production" and they did not disappoint with the presentation of their first signing.

    "It is a very special day for me. I hope I can write my name in the club's history books with victories and conquests," a slightly overawed Kaka said from a stage on the pitch.

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    Real Madrid's new Brazilian star Kaka greets the crowd during his presentation at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, June 30, 2009.

    The doors of the stadium had been thrown open to the public who packed the stands around a stage decorated with the club's nine European Cups.

    Perez was up first, greeted with chants from the fans as he thanked Kaka for choosing Real Madrid before the Brazilian was given a pop star welcome as he emerged to roars from the crowd.

    The Brazilian playmaker was presented with the number eight shirt and had to be protected by bodyguards as he walked around the pitch to greet fans.

    Some of them jumped over the barriers and tried to touch the former AC Milan player who cost Real 67 million euros.

    Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo, who was signed for a world record fee of 80 million pounds ($132.7 million) last week, will be presented on Monday in another event covered live on television and internet websites across the world.

    But Kaka said he was not worried that another big name signing would create tensions within the squad.

    "It will be a privilege to play alongside him," Kaka told a news conference.

    "There won't be any rivalry with Cristiano. We are compatible on and off the pitch. We are experienced players and there is no room for jealousy."

    He went on warn against the euphoria generated by the talk of a second Galactico era at Real Madrid.

    "From my experience I have learned that talent alone is not enough. There are many talented players who have won nothing and others with less ability who have been successful," he said.

    "It is good to have talented players but they have to sacrifice themselves for the team."

    Spain defender Raul Albiol, who joined Real for a reported fee of 15 million euros from Valencia, is expected to be presented later this week.

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    A cameraman takes video of a "transformer" ice sculpture displayed in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, June 24, 2009. The sculpture, made of 400 kilograms of ice, is on display on Wednesday, to meet the movie "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" world premiere.

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    Jounalists take video and photos of a transformer ice sculpture displayed in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, June 24, 2009.

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    Photo taken on June 24, 2009 shows an ice sculpture of "transformer" displayed in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province.

  • LONDON: The only way to ensure tennis never becomes a victim of match-fixing is to hand out lengthy bans to anyone caught up in it, Roger Federer said on Wednesday.

    British media reported that tennis authorities were investigating suspicious betting patterns in Juergen Melzer's first-round victory over Wayne Odesnik at Wimbledon on Tuesday after some bookmakers suspended their markets.

    "It has no place in tennis those kind of things," world No 2 Federer told reporters after his second-round win over Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Wednesday.

    "But it's hard to control. I'm sure the (tennis governing bodies) ATP and the ITF, we're trying our best to catch those guys if there are any out there.

    "I think we should have massive bans on those who get caught so they get really scared of doing it," he added.

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    Roger Federer of Switzerland returns the ball to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain during their match at the Wimbledon tennis championships, in London June 24, 2009.

    The Tennis Integrity Unit, set up by the sport's governing bodies to investigate allegations of match-fixing, was alerted by several betting operators who had noted suspicious activity around Tuesday's match.

    Media reports said one high street betting firm withdrew its odds after thousands of pounds in cash were staked at several London shops on a straight sets win for Melzer.

    The Austrian won 6-1 6-4 6-2. Both Melzer and American Odesnik deny any wrongdoing.

    Online betting exchange Betfair reported that odds on a three-set victory for the 26th seeded-Melzer had tumbled from their pre-match level of evens to 1-5.

    According to media reports, all but 1,000 pounds ($1,657) of the 255,000 staked on Betfair's correct-score market came down on a Melzer win in straight sets.

    "Those (incidents of match-fixing) are things definitely we're trying to fight," said Federer.

    "We have a good set up, so we can't avoid that there are some funny results sometimes here and there.

    "That doesn't mean it's really happening. I never knew it existed until a few years ago when all of a sudden I heard about it. So I've been shocked to hear it.

    "We always hope that the players also want the best for the sport. That's what it comes down to," added the Swiss.

    Corruption in tennis came under the spotlight in 2007 when a match in Poland between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vasallo Arguello was reported for irregular betting patterns. Both players were cleared of any wrongdoing.

    Since then a number of players have been fined and banned for betting on matches they were not involved in dating back several years but no one has been found guilty of match-fixing in tennis.

  •  

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    In this Jan. 31, 1993 file picture, Michael Jackson performs during the halftime show at the Super Bowl XXVII in Pasadena, Calif.

    LOS ANGELES: Michael Jackson, the child star turned King of Pop who set the world dancing to exuberant rhythms for decades, died on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times said. He was 50.

    "Pop star Michael Jackson was pronounced dead by doctors this afternoon after arriving at a hospital in a deep coma, city and law enforcement sources told The Times," the newspaper reported on its website.

    Jackson had been taken ill at his home and found not breathing by paramedics who rushed him to a hospital, the paper said.

    The paper's report followed news of Jackson's death first reported by the TMZ entertainment website, which said that the singer suffered a cardiac arrest. There was no immediate comment from spokespersons for Jackson.

    Known as the "King of Pop," for hits that included "Thriller" and "Billie Jean," Jackson's dramatic stage presence and innovative dance moves were imitated by legions of fans around the world.

    His one-gloved eccentric style also earned him plenty of critics and another nickname, "Wacko Jacko."

    Jackson, who had lived as a virtual recluse since his acquittal in 2005 on charges of child molestation, had been scheduled to launch a comeback tour from London next month.

    TMZ said on its website that Jackson suffered a cardiac arrest on Thursday afternoon at his Holmby Hills home and paramedics were unable to revive him. "We're told when paramedics arrived Jackson had no pulse and they never got a pulse back," the site said.

    Earlier, the Los Angeles Times said the singer had been rushed to a Los Angeles-area hospital by fire department paramedics. The newspaper said paramedics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation at the singer's home before taking him to the UCLA Medical Center hospital.

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    US pop star Michael Jackson gestures during a news conference at the O2 Arena in London March 5, 2009 file photograph.

    [Agencies]

  • BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa: Spain warned on Sunday there are plenty more victories left in them after setting a new world record by beating South Africa 2-0 for their 15th consecutive win.

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    Spain's Diego Lopez (left) is challenged by South Africa's Kagisho Dikgacoi during their Confederations Cup soccer match at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday. Spain won 2-0.

    Goals from David Villa and Fernando Llorente were enough to tame the Confederations Cup hosts late Saturday and ensure the European champions top their group.

    Real Madrid target Villa broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute and Athletic Bilbao's Llorente sealed the game with 18 minutes left.

    They now play the runner-up in Group B, likely Italy or Egypt, in the semifinals in Bloemfontein next Wednesday.

    The win meant Spain have posted 15 victories in a row, surpassing the old record of 14 held by Australia, Brazil and France.

    They also matched the 35-match unbeaten streak held by Brazil between 1993 and 1996, with Spain's run stretching back to November 2006 when they lost to Romania.

    "Winning 15 matches in a row is a huge success by this team and we want to go on like this," said coach Vicente del Bosque.

    "We've played a very good first part of this competition and we are now heading to the semis. We don't know yet who we will meet but we will certainly have an opponent with huge potential."

    Barcelona midfielder Xavi, the man-of-the-match, paid tribute to Del Bosque, who has won all 13 matches since he took over.

    "Of course we are very happy with the way the team is playing and Vicente doing a tremendous job," he said.

    "The idea is to continue this run and try and make it better."

    Despite losing, South Africa still make the last four and a potential clash with Brazil after Iraq failed to beat New Zealand in the other group game being played simultaneously.

    South Africa coach Joel Santana said his team staying in the competition was good for the country which hosts the World Cup next year.

    "Against Spain, the team was not good but Bafana Bafana have qualified. It's good for the people, good for the players and good for our preparations for the World Cup," he said.

    "This team has been together for two or three years and it is one of the best we have ever had."

    With their semifinal berth assured before the game even started, Del Bosque rested seven players.

    He gave Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina a start and brought back Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, but retained the formidable Fernando Torres and Villa up front.

    Liverpool midfielder Albert Reira nearly got them off to a flyer with a 40-yard freekick spectacularly turned around the post by goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune in the fourth minute.

    Valencia striker Villa sent a header just over the bar a minute later as Spain made their intentions clear.

    They were keeping possession well and creating opportunities with South Africa on the back foot. It was not until the 18th minute that the hosts had their first sniff of goal when Teko Modise blasted a freekick over the bar.

    Spain kept up the pressure and Matthew Booth was forced to clear off the line before South Africa wasted a glorious chance when Everton's Steven Pienaar put Bernard Parker in the clear only for the striker to send his shot wide.

    (China Daily)

  • A table tennis competition between foreign diplomats living in China was held at the Beijing Gymnasium last Saturday.

    Some 100 foreign diplomats from 37 embassies and international organizations, including Australia, Pakistan, Venezuela and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), participated in the contest, which was organized by the Maldives embassy in China.

    "We are organizing this event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China," Ahmed Latheef, the Maldives Ambassador to China, told chinadaily.com.cn.

    Mr. Latheef said that as the national sport of China, ping-pong is "the best choice" for foreign diplomats to commemorate the 60th anniversary.

    "It is an important milestone which we thought, as diplomats, will celebrate jointly with the people of China to mark this important occasion." said Mr. Latheef.

    As a table tennis player himself, Mr Latheef represented Maldives in table tennis in 1973 at the AAA Friendship Invitational Tournament and in 1990 at the Asian Games.

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    Foreign diplomats and organizers pose for a photo before the "2009 Diplomats' Table Tennis Tournament" at the Beijing Gymnasium in Beijing, June 20, 2009.

    Being the second of its kind, this year's "Diplomats' Table Tennis Tournament" marked 60th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China".

    The first tournament, initiated and also organized by the Maldives embassy in China, was held last year to observe the 50-day countdown to the 2008 Olympic Games.

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    The Maldives Ambassador to China, Ahmed Latheef (2nd L, front), who won Men's Singles during last year's Tournament, plays an exhibition match at the opening ceremony of the "2009 Diplomats' Table Tennis Tournament" at the Beijing Gymnasium, June 20, 2009.

    The Russian embassy became the biggest winner in the end, claiming the team champion, and both the champion and the second place in the men's singles.

    The contest included team matches, singles for men and women, as well as a friendly match between the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs team and one made up of foreign diplomats, as in the previous tournament.

    "Today's competition is fantastic," said Mr. Ser Sim, Project Manager from the Australian embassy, during a rest session. "It's my second time here and the event is much better organized. I really enjoyed it."

    Dr. Bernard Coquelin, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative, readily concurs. But he says there is much more than competition.

    "The purpose is the friendship and also partnership among all the diplomats," he explained, "And I think that is a more important message we should really put forward for all the international communities."

    He said that he will definitely return if the tournament continues next year.

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    Chekunkov O.(2nd L) and Primak Vadim (L) from the Russian embassy play with Bambang (R) and Firdous from the Indonesian embassy during team's finals of the "2009 Diplomats' Table Tennis Tournament" at the Beijing Gymnasium, June 20, 2009.

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    Dr. Bernard Coquelin, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative, returns a shot during men's singles of the "2009 Diplomats' Table Tennis Tournament" at the Beijing Gymnasium, June 20, 2009.

    (chinadaily.com.cn)

  • WIMBLEDON, England - The new roof wasn't tested. Roger Federer was - briefly.

    The retractable roof stayed open Monday at Wimbledon, and Federer fell behind early in the opening match on Center Court before charging past Yen-hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.

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    Roger Federer of Switzerland serves to Chinese Taipei's Lu Yen-hsun during their Wimbledon tennis championships in London, June 22, 2009.

    In his first match since winning the French Open, Federer failed to convert his first four break-point chances, then lost serve to trail 3-2. But he immediately broke back, broke again in the final game of the opening set and dominated from there.

    "I'm very happy with my first round," Federer said. "I thought it was a very solid performance."

    Seeking his sixth Wimbledon title, Federer won for the 41st time in his past 42 matches at the All England Club. The lone loss came in last year's final to Rafael Nadal, a match hailed by some as the sport's best ever.

    The tournament began in cloudy but dry weather. When it rains, the translucent roof on the 87-year-old stadium will be closed so play can continue.

    "I guess the moment will come that I'll play indoors here," Federer said. "But you don't really hope for it during the match."

    The No 2-seeded Federer is a strong favorite to win his 15th major title, which would break the record he shares with Pete Sampras.

    Advancing on the women's side were 2002-03 champion Serena Williams and 2004 winner Maria Sharapova. No 17 James Blake was the first seeded player eliminated, but fellow Americans Mardy Fish and Vince Spadea advanced. No 4-seeded Novak Djokovic also won.

    Federer made his entrance sporting a sleek new white warmup outfit with gold trim that included a jacket with a turned-up collar, a vest, slacks and two-toned shoes. The crowd roared when he appeared, and he responded with a wave and smile.

    There were more cheers - and a few whistles of approval - when he removed his jacket to reveal the vest.

    "Kind of a little bit more modern look - a bit more military jacket this time, but obviously staying true to Wimbledon with the white colors," Federer said. "I hope people like it."

    By the time the match started, Federer had stripped down to shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. He was assigned to play the first match on Centre Court after defending champion Nadal withdrew Friday because of sore knees.

    "Rafa deserves it obviously more than I do this year," Federer said. "But somebody had to do it, so I'm very happy that they chose me. It gets your heart beating, that's for sure."

    After being broken early, Federer held every service game. He finished with 10 unforced errors and hit 42 winners from all over the court.

    One winner was a running backhand from several steps beyond the sideline, which he ripped up the line into the corner to win the point. It was a spectacular shot even by Federer's standards, and the stoic Swiss celebrated with a raised fist as the crowd roared.

    (Agencies)