• PRETORIA: Brazil whipped up a storm against a hapless US team on Thursday, turning on the full samba style as they sauntered to a 3-0 victory with goals from Felipe Melo, Robinho and Maicon.

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    Brazil's Maicon (C) scores during their Confederations Cup soccer match against the US at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria June 18, 2009.

    As storm clouds moved in during the second half of the Confederations Cup Group B game, the Americans knew they had failed to weather it, finishing with 10 men after midfielder Sacha Kljestan was sent off in the 56th minute.

    Brazil, so lucky to beat Egypt 4-3 with a controversial late penalty in their first match, were back to their spectacular best, scoring two absolutely sublime goals.

    Having opened the scoring as early as the seventh minute when Felipe Melo, the midfielder who is rapidly emerging as one of the key men in the team, rose at the far post to head home a Maicon free kick, Brazil took total charge.

    Their second in the 20th should be shown over and again as the ultimate in breakaway perfection.

    DaMarcus Beasley failed to control a Landon Donovan corner in the Brazilian penalty area. The ball was pushed forward to Kaka, who turned and touched to Ramires as the Brazilians hared upfield.

    Ramires strode forward powerfully, drawing the lone American defender Jonathan Spector towards him, then slipped it through Spector's legs to Robinho who calmly stroked it home past helpless American keeper Tim Howard.

    It was a breathtaking goal, surpassed only by their third in the 62nd minute. Maicon, Ramires and Felipe Melo combined in an intricate passing movement down the right before Kaka threaded the ball back to Maicon who chipped a delicate right-foot shot over Howard from an acute angle.

    Like the second, it sent the Loftus Versfeld Stadium crowd into delirium.

    The Americans had their share of bad luck though. Kljestan was harshly judged for a relatively mild foul on Ramires, reducing his team to 10 men for the second successive game.

    In the final eight minutes substitutes Benny Feilhaber and Conor Casey both struck the bar as they searched for a consolation goal.

    In the later match, the African champions Egypt stunned the world champions Italy with a 1-0 win, which means the three teams - Brazil, Italy and Egypt - all have chance to advance to the semifinals.

    The United States, still without a point after losing their opening game 3-1 to Italy, face almost certain elimination.

    (Agencies)

  • Houston Rockets' center Yao Ming has spoken for the first time about his highly anticipated move to the Cleveland Cavaliers as an "x-factor" after Chinese businessman Huang Jianhua's purchase of a minority stake in the franchise last month sparked the rumors.

    "It's (joining Cavaliers) still unknown," said the NBA all-star giant of his potential partnership with 2009 NBA MVP Lebron James during an interview with Shanghai TV. "Whether he is Chinese (Huang Jianhua) or foreign (Rockets boss Leslie Alexander), they are just bosses.Image and video hosting by TinyPic"

    Yao is maintaining his faith in the Rockets, who for the first time in six years advanced to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs before losing to eventual champions Lakers in the conference semis.

    "I have a strong feeling for the Rockets. I had a very successful season with the team and it has given me hope (to win the championship).

    The 28-year-old giant's contract is worth $75 million over 5 years and expires in 2011.

    A get-out clause for the last season means Yao can opt out after the next NBA playoffs in 2010.

    According to NBA rules, if Houston want to extend the contract, they have the privilege to renew it beyond 2011 with him this summer. But once Yao decides to get out of the contract in 2010, the Rockets have to compete with other teams for his services.

    So far the Rockets have shown no sign they would like to let him go.

    Huang told Chinese media last week that Yao would be chased by every team in the NBA if he chose to move on.

    Huang, also a good friend of Rockets boss Alexander, has played a key role in the sponsorship deals between the Rockets and several Chinese companies.

    Yao has never been beyond the Western Conference semifinals in six years with the Texan club, and admitted he was envious of compatriot Sun Yue, the LA guard who won a championship ring with the Kobe Bryant-spearheaded Lakers earlier this week.

    "I am a bit jealous, it would be heartless to stay indifferent," he said.

    Yao, who said last year the Beijing Games would be his last Olympics, will not play for China at this August's Asian Championships because of a foot injury.

    Although ruled out, Yao is still concerned with the national team's development and has called for an infusion of new blood to ensure the side can cope when he retires.

    "One day I will retire," he told Shanghai TV. "A team that wants to continue and improve has to have fresh blood."

    Yao said Chinese basketball should be less concerned with fielding the strongest possible team for every tournament than giving young players more court time to increase their experience.

    China Daily/Reuters

  • JOHANNESBURG - Brazil and Italy will join Spain in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup if they both maintain their 100 percent records in Group B on Thursday.

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    Spain's David Villa celebrates after scoring the match's only goal against Iraq during the Confederations Cup at the Free State stadium in Bloemfontein, June 17, 2009.

    Although both made shaky starts in their opening matches on Monday, Brazil should beat the United States and Italy should overcome Egypt which would give them both six points and mean they cannot be caught at the top of the group.

    World champions Italy meet African champions Egypt at Ellis Park in Johannesburg while Brazil, the South American champions, meet the CONCACAF champions United States at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria in the day's first match.

    Brazil needed a last-minute penalty to overcome Egypt 4-3 in a thriller in Bloemfontein on Monday, a narrow escape their coach Dunga blamed on fatigue.

    Italy, who had to overcome a halftime deficit before they beat the Americans 3-1 in Pretoria on Monday, could have Fabio Cannavaro back in the side after injury following his return to fulltime training.

    Although the 2006 World Cup winners dominated the second half against the US, Italy coach Marcello Lippi highlighted several concerns as he looked ahead to the match against Egypt.

    "I was surprised by the tension in our game early on but we finally managed to get the ball moving, though the ball possession was not as much as I would have liked," he told reporters.

    Spain secured their place in the last four on Wednesday after they beat Iraq 1-0 in Bloemfontein. South Africa beat New Zealand 2-0 in the day's other Group A match.

    (Agencies)

  • RUSTENBURG, South Africa - FIFA president Sepp Blatter stood by South Africa's beloved vuvuzela trumpets on Wednesday and said that the relentless noise would be a trademark of next year's World Cup.

    "When we go to South Africa, we go to Africa," Blatter said after the colorful plastic trumpets got their global premiere during the Confederations Cup. "It is noisy. It is something else than in the rest of world."

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    A fan blows a vuvuzela with a South African flag before the start of the Confederations Cup soccer match between Spain and New Zealand at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg June 14, 2009. Players and European broadcasters become increasely concerned about the noise of the horn.

    The vuvuzelas have been a trademark of South African football for years, just like the crazy and colorful miner's helmets stitched together from recycled materials. The vuvuzelas make a lot more noise, though.

    "It is energy," Blatter added as he was often interrupted because of the sound of fans blowing their vuvuzelas outside in the stadium where South Africa was to play New Zealand.

    But because of complaints of European broadcasters that their listeners could hardly hear them above the din of the trumpets, Blatter said he would take it up with local organizers ahead of the World Cup.

    "We are aware of it and we will discuss with the local organizing committee," Blatter said, indicating that a ban would be out of the question.

    Stadiums need only to be half full for the trumpets to exceed the noise level in many a European venue. It usually starts as soon as the first fans enter the stadium and continues throughout the game, turning into a monotonous blare as if produced by a million bees.

    Italy coach Marcello Lippi isn't a fan of them, however.

    "They are disturbing," Lippi said. "But it's a local custom and in the end it's not really a problem."

    Danny Jordaan, the head of the local World Cup organizing committee, said that the local Bafana Bafana fans start celebrating before the match "in case they cannot celebrate after the match."

    Jordaan relished the thought of hearing 94,000 fans in the Soccer City Stadium, where the World Cup final will be played.

    "It will be the noisiest World Cup ever," Jordaan said at the start of the Confederations Cup.

    (Agencies)

  • Move over, Supergirls. Legendary German footballer Oliver Kahn will launch his own Chinese reality television show Thursday night, tapping into the nation's passion for the world game.

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    Never Give Up! - The Kahn Principle aims to discover China's best young goalkeeper and the winner will be enrolled at the German Football Association (DFB)'s elite training academy Berger Feld Schule in preparation for a professional career.

    Although Kahn doesn't expect to pull Supergirls' 280 million viewers, he does hope his 10-part TV series can pass on to local football fans his "never-say-die" attitude, which thrice helped him earn the title of the world's best goalkeeper of the year.

    The 40-year-old who retired from Bayern Munich only last year, plans to show young Asians the power of motivation and how they can make their dreams come true.

    And unlike Donald Trump in The Apprentice, he promises to be nice.

    "We don't want to do an empty and meaningless, mindless casting show. And I don't want to be the one who 'talks big' and disses or offends the young candidates when they don't succeed.

    The group of young goalkeepers, aged between 17 and 24 and including two women, will be shown the importance of the goalkeeper in the game.

    Kahn has designed his show to reflect the "importance of individuality and personality but most of all, how the contestants handle defeat".

    Kahn knows the pain of being beaten.

    He was voted the best player at the 2002 World Cup, a feat never achieved by a goalkeeper before but in the final, he made a serious mistake, spilling a shot to Brazilian player Ronaldo, who pounced on it and won the game.

    "Finally, I have become much more stronger from this defeat," he says.

    "The crises in my life have always been a danger, of course, because there is always the potential that you'll be destroyed. But on the other hand, crises always include an opportunity to learn, to adjust and to re-emerge much stronger."

    Kahn says Chinese viewers will see how his principles can be adapted to everyday life and how they can be a "roadmap to success".

    The show airs on Heilongjiang Satellite TV tonight at 22:50.

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    Nick Jonas has graduated from high school.

    The 16-year-old Disney pop star announced the news on the Jonas Brothers' Twitter blog.

    He wrote: "I'm happy to announce I have graduated! Class of '09! Congrats to everyone else who has also graduated this year! Mr. President (Nick)."

    Nick - who along with his bandmate brothers Kevin and Joe was home schooled - finished two years earlier than the average US high school student.

    The youngest of the three brothers, he is last to finish his schooling.

    Nick is said to have celebrated in Madrid, Spain, last weekend where he was on a promotional tour.

    The musical trio were urged to play an impromptu show outside Britain's Radio One studios in London, attracting hundreds of teenage fans yesterday (15.06.09).

    The group performed their song 'Paranoid' as well as a version of Katy Perry song 'Thinking Of You'.

    The Jonas Brothers will soon return to the US where they will start a world tour on Friday (19.06.09).

    (Agencies)

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    SEOUL  – Lawyers and agents for South Korean star singer and actor Rain have settled a lawsuit over his cancelled concert in Honolulu in 2007, a report said.

    In March, a US court ordered Rain and his agency JYP Entertainment to pay more than eight million dollars for breaching a contract with Hawaiian promoter Click Entertainment to perform a concert, AFP reported.

    An agreement was reached on June 10 to settle the case and avoid an appeal, Yonhap news agency said. It said details of compensation and other conditions were not disclosed due to court orders.

    Rain's concert was cancelled a few days before its scheduled date of June 15, 2007 at Aloha Stadium, the first stop on his US tour. The tickets cost a maximum 300 dollars each.

    Click Entertainment said the cancellation cost it more than 1.5 million dollars and its business reputation was damaged.

    The 26-year-old singer argued that the concert stage was not properly set up for him. He also said he was unable to use his name in the United States because of a copyright challenge from a US Beatles tribute band also called Rain.

  • Exactly when China's star hurdler Liu Xiang will return to competition remains a mystery as his injured right foot is still not yet ready for the wear and tear of sprinting.

    "Liu will go for another check at the end of this month and if his foot is not completely cured, we won't let him train in spiked shoes and his return will be postponed," Liu's coach Sun Haiping, who said the injury was about 90 percent better, told China Daily.

    "All of our efforts are to get Liu back to normal, so we won't push him hard to take part in competition," he added.

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    In this May 11, 2009 file photo, Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang shows quake zone pupils how to hurdle at a primary school in Beichuan county, southwest China's Sichuan province

    The right foot injury forced the reigning world champion and former Olympic champion to withdraw from the Olympic Games men's 110m hurdles last August.

    He had calcium deposits removed from his right Achilles' tendon last December before returning to China in March for further rehabilitation and preparation for competition.

    Sun said he still did not know how long it would take for Liu to fully recover from the injury.

    "Liu's recovery is well under way after the surgery and we are getting closer to his return step by step," Sun said. "The doctors are optimistic about his injury fully healing, but as a world-class athlete, he is different from other patients.

    "According to the check on April 30, there is still a little hole in Liu's right heel, which was left after the removal of the spur.

    "As a hurdler, when he does some special movements like hurdling, his heel still could not endure the heavy pressure right now. We still have to wait," Sun said.

    Liu will train with spiked shoes and make his comeback to competition in September if his heel has recovered by the end of this month

    "We hope Liu can run at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in September before taking part in his third National Games in October. No matter what kind of result he could achieve, we can show that Liu is back," Sun said.

    "Liu has defended his titles in several competitions, such as the Grand Prix in Lausanne, Eugene and Osaka. He also expects to defend his National Games title for the third time in October.

    "If he can achieve a time of 13.20 to 13.30 seconds, he will win the National Games. Such a result is not beyond him."

    In 2006, Liu set a world record of 12.88 seconds at the super grand prix meeting in Lausanne.

    The record was shaved by a hundredth of a second by Dayron Robles of Cuba two months before the Beijing Olympics.

    "We expect to take part in the competition in September and are working toward it, although we cannot control how the recovery will develop," Sun added.

    (China Daily)

  • ORLANDO, Fla. – Kobe Bryant has the NBA title he needed most - the one without Shaq.

    Bryant's seven-year chase of a coveted championship is over. He's got his fourth, and Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson his record 10th, a ring for each finger. One year after failing in the finals, Bryant and the Lakers have redemption, and all the rewards that go with it.

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    Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant holds up the Bill Russell MVP Award (R) and the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship trophy as he signals his four Championship wins after the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (24) goes up to score past Orlando Magic Courtney Lee (2nd L) and Hedo Turkoglu (L) as Magic Rashard Lewis, Lakers Andrew Bynum and Magic Dwight Howard (C-R) watch during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball game in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

    They earned their 15th title on Sunday night as Bryant scored 30 points and Pau Gasol added 14 and 15 rebounds in a 99-86 win in Game 5 over the Orlando Magic, who ran out of comebacks.

    It took longer than Bryant expected, but he has stepped out of former teammate Shaquille O'Neal's enormous shadow - at last. His fourth championship secured a strong case can be made for Bryant being the league's best player since Michael Jordan hung up his sneakers.

    His coach stands alone.

    Jackson, the chilled-out, bow-legged Zen Master who won six league titles in the 1990s with Jordan in Chicago, now has won No. 4 with Los Angeles and broke a tie with legendary Boston coach Red Auerbach as the winningest coach in finals history.

    "I'll smoke the cigar tonight in memory of Red," Jackson said. "He was a great guy."

    Bryant and Jackson, whose relationship strained and briefly snapped under the weight of success, are again at the top of their games.

    Together.

    Nothing was going to stop Bryant, who spent the postseason scowling, snarling, baring his teeth and all but breathing fire at anything in his path. For weeks, the All-Star has worn his game face, and only when the victory was his in the final seconds did the finals MVP allow himself to smile.

    After the final horn, he leaped into the air and was quickly engulfed by his teammates, who bounced around the floor of Amway Arena. Bryant then gave a long, heartfelt hug and shared a few words with Jackson before sweeping up his daughters, both wearing gold Lakers dresses, into his arms.

    Bryant had come up short twice in the finals before, in 2004 with O'Neal against Detroit, and again last season against the Celtics in the renewal of the league's best rivalry. The Lakers were beaten in six games, losing the finale in Boston by 39 points, a humiliating beatdown that Bryant and his teammates had trouble shaking.

    They went to training camp with one goal in mind. This was going to be their season, and except for a few minor missteps, it was.

    After beating Utah in the first round, Los Angeles was forced to go seven games against Houston, which lost center Yao Ming to an injury. The Lakers then took care of Denver in six games, setting up a matchup with the shoot-from-their-hips Magic, who made their first visit to the finals since O'Neal took them there in 1995.

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    Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (24) drives to the basket past Orlando Magic's Marcin Gortat (13) of Poland during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball game in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant celebrates their NBA Championship win after defeating the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball game in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant brings the ball up court against the Orlando Magic during the second quarter of Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (3rd L) goes to the basket as Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard (3rd R) tries to block the shot in the third quarter during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009. Watching the play are Magic's Rashard Lewis (L), Courtney Lee (2nd L), Hedo Turkoglu (2nd R) and Lakers' Pau Gasol (R).

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    Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom (7) goes to the basket past Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard in the third quarter during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series in Orlando, Florida June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (R) celebrates a basket against the Orlando Magic with teammate Pau Gasol in the second quarter during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series in Orlando, Florida June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers Pau Gasol holds the Larry O'Brien Trophy after they defeated the Orlando Magic to win the NBA basketball championship in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant drives to the net between Orlando Magic Hedo Turkoglu (15) of Turkey and Marcin Gortat (13) of Poland as Lakers Pau Gasol (L) of Spain looks on during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball game in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard (12) grabs a rebound ahead of Los Angeles Lakers' (L-R) Lamar Odom, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Jordan Farmar during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard walks off after being called for a foul in the third quarter during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series against the Los Angeles Lakers in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

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    Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy yells from the bench in the second quarter during Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Orlando, Florida June 14, 2009.

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    Tennis player Serena Williams smiles as she sits courtside during Game 5 of the NBA Finals basketball game between the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2009.

    [Agencies]

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    Pop star Madonna holds the child named Mercy in this undated publicity photo taken in Malawi and released to Reuters April 13, 2009. [Agencies]

    BLANTYRE- U.S. pop star Madonna was allowed on Friday to adopt a second child from Malawi, although the father of the 4-year-old girl said he wants her back, a plea likely to stir fresh controversy for the singer.

    Malawi's Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling in April which said Madonna could not adopt Mercy James because she was not a resident of the southern African country.

    Rights groups have accused the government of giving Madonna special treatment and said the case would encourage foreigners to think they can adopt Malawian children at will.

    Mercy's father said Madonna, one of the music industry's most successful singers, should not be allowed to adopt Mercy.

    "No one wants to listen to me, I have protested this all along ... I want my child back but I don't know what to do now," James Kabewa told Reuters by telephone from his poor township.

    "Madonna cannot take her away."

    There is little he can do. The Supreme Court ruling cannot be challenged. Kabewa said he quit his job as a security guard to fight the adoption and was being supported by his aunt.

    According to tradition in southern Malawi, where Kabewa lives, a grandmother has more say in a child's future than the father. When Mercy's mother died Kabewa was powerless to stop his daughter being sent to an orphanage when she was 3-days-old.

    An AIDS epidemic in Malawi has orphaned more than one million children and Madonna has set up a children's charity.

    Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo said the singer had shown an interest in helping Malawi orphans and that Mercy would have a better life with her. He said a lower court had erred in turning down the adoption request:

    "Madonna has shown that she is bold, and compassionate enough to come forward to adopt Chifundo (Mercy) James,"

    In a statement Madonna said: "I am ecstatic...My family and I look forward to sharing our lives with her."

    Malawi's government came under fire in 2006 after Madonna adopted a 13-month-old child, David Banda, with critics accusing it of giving her special treatment by skirting laws that ban non-residents from adopting children.

    "Of course we are disappointed with the ruling because we know that adoption should only be granted as the last resort," said Maxwell Matewele, executive director of the Eye on Child non-governmental organization.

    Madonna has entertained millions around the world with hits like "Material Girl" and "Papa Don't Preach," creating a fair amount of controversy along the way.

    The star, who was divorced last year from British film director Guy Ritchie, had enjoyed album sales of more than 200 million.