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Shuttler Srikanth in Australia Open semis; Sindhu, Saina crash out

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Srikanth

Sydney, June 23 : Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth entered the men’s singles semi-finals while the star duo of P.V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal crashed out of the women’s singles quarter-finals at the $750,000 Australia Open Superseries badminton tournament here on Friday.

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Continuing his fine run, recently-crowned Indonesia Open champion Srikanth defeated fellow Indian shuttler B. Sai Praneeth in the men’s singles quarter-finals.

Srikanth, who was in his third quarter-finals in the last five tournaments that he has participated in, made it to the semi-finals with a 25-23, 21-17 win in a match that lasted for 43 minutes.

Later in the day, P.V. Sindhu lost her quarter-finals match to World No.1 Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei.

Sindhu won the first game before Tai staged a strong comeback to register a 10-21, 22-20, 21-16 verdict in the women’s singles clash which lasted for about an hour.

Saina Nehwal went down to sixth-seeded Sun Yu of China after another tough three-game battle.

The Chinese shuttler beat Saina 21-17, 10-21, 21-17 in a match that lasted for an hour and 19 minutes.

Praneeth, who defeated Srikanth in the Singapore Open final in April, started Friday’s first game on a strong note, opening up a healthy lead of 9-6.

But Srikanth fought back to make it 10-10 and went into the break with a slight advantage of 11-10.

The two were neck-and-neck from there but at 13-13, before Praneeth took three straight points to make it 16-13 but Srikanth turned his A game right then to win five straight points to make it 18-16.

Srikanth then raced to 20-17 but Praneeth clawed back to win four points on the trot to make it 21-20. From there, an intense battle started as both the Indians saved two game points each, which saw Srikanth pocketing the game 25-23.

In the second game, Srikanth maintained a strong lead making it 9-6 before Praneeth managed three points in a row to equalise at 9-9. However, he could not hold the higher-ranked player as Srikanth extended his lead to 11-9 at the break.

Srikanth then went on to extend his lead to 16-12 before Praneeth came from behind and made it 16-16. Towards the end, Srikanth used all his experience to comfortably win the tie 21-17.

Srikanth will play the winner of the second quarter-final match between Shi Yuqi of China and Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus.

In the women’s singles, Sindhu gave a good account of herself agaiunst the World No.1 from Chinese Taipei. The top seeded Tai improved her head to head record against the World No.4 Sindhu to 7-3.

In the opening game, Tai had no response to Sindhu’s smashes as the Rio Olympics silver medallist dominated the proceedings to pocket it easily.

Tai, however, made a strong comeback in the second game, taking a 4-1 lead, before Sindhu clawed her way back to 8-8.

It was a neck and neck battle at that time, and Sindhu then took a 13-10 lead, before Tai won four points on the trot to take a 14-13 lead which she extended further to 18-14.

Sindhu made a critical error at that stage where she allowed Tai to save the match point, and take the game into the decider with a 22-20 win.

The final game was again a close contest with both players trying to outwit each other. While Sindhu raced to a 14-10 lead, Tai kept her nerves to stage a comeback and make it 15-15.

Towards the end, the Chinese Taipei shuttler dominated proceeding before pocketing the third game 21-16.

Later, Sindhu’s compatriot Saina’s also lost crashed out of the quarter-finals following a loss to Sun Yu of China.

Sun Yu dominated the opening game, taking a 8-4 lead before extending it further to 11-9 at the break. Saina, however, made a strong comeback after the break and went ahead 15-13 before Sun Yu gained eight straight points to pocket the game.

In the second game, Saina surged ahead taking six straight points to lead 7-3 and went to the break at 11-4. Coming back, the Hyderabadi never allowed the Chinese to settle and extended her lead to 18-10 and easily winning it 21-10.

The decider witnessed fierce battle between the two shuttlers splitting at 4-4 and then going neck and neck till 9-9 before Saina took the lead at 11-9.

Post the break, Sun Yu took three points in a row to make it 12-12 and then went ahead with six straight points to make it 19-15. She kept her nerves and didn’t allow the Indian free her arms to run away with the match 21-17.

Sun Yu will now take on Nozomi Okuhara, who beat fellow Japanese Sayaka Takahashi in another quarter-final tie.

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World Cup 2018: Germany face must-win against Sweden

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Sochi, June 23: Holders Germany will have to beat Sweden in order to avoid an early exit from the FIFA World Cup when the two sides meet in a crunch Group F clash at the Fisht Stadium here on Saturday.

Blessed with a strong squad brimming with talented players, Germany were hot contenders to become the first team in 56 years to retain the World Cup.

But after a shock 0-1 defeat to Mexico, the jolted four-time winners will have their task cut out against Sweden. A reversal will all but end their campaign.

“Everyone is aware that this is our first ‘final’, it’s annoying that it comes so early, but it’s self-inflicted,” team director Oliver Bierhoff was quoted as saying.

Germany were all over the place in the first half against Mexico and their heroics in Brazil four years ago seemed distant.

After the defeat, there have been catcalls to drop under-performing players like Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira.

Sweden, meanwhile, will believe they can cause another upset after their confidence lifting 1-0 win over Korea Republic. This was their first win in the competition since hosting the tournament in 1958.

The Swedes are no strangers to upsetting the odds, beating France during qualification and getting past Italy in the play-offs, so an under-performing German side will hold no fears for Janne Anderson’s men.

IANS

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FIFA WC 2018: Confident Mexico up against under-pressure Koreans

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Rostov-on-Don (Russia), June 23: A confident Mexico will be eyeing their second win to seal a pre-quarterfinal berth when they take on South Korea in a Group F match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Rostov Arena here on Saturday.

The South Americans were impressive during their 1-0 win over defending champions Germany in their campaign opener where they put on one of the best team performances.

Meanwhile, the Asian side will be under pressure after going down 0-1 to Sweden on Monday and are facing the prospect of being eliminated at the group stage in a second consecutive World Cup.

Korea head coach Shin Tae-yong will certainly be wanting something special from his side to keep themselves alive in the mega event.

The Koreans played well in their first match, but found the going tough against the tall, physically strong Swedes.

While the Koreans did well in the midfield, the well-organised Sweden defence coupled with the Europeans’ physical advantage proved too much for them.

While most of the Mexican players do not have too much of a physical presence, their superior skills and tactical ability will present a different sort of challenge for the Koreans.

Mexico head coach Juan Carlos Osorio will be hoping for a repeat show from his side and despite being known for reshuffling his lineup, he is not expected to make much changes against the Koreans.

Hirving Lozano, star for Mexico against Germany, scored the only game of the match and will be eager to go against South Korea to find the back of the net again.

However, despite having a great start to their campaign and being favourites in Saturday’s clash, Mexico midfielder Marco Fabian believes his side has to still do a lot.

“We reached our first target and have beaten Germany, but we can’t sit back,” Fabian told the media.

“Some consider us to be group favourites now, and that’s a compliment – but it’s one we shouldn’t believe. There are no favourites in this World Cup,” he added.

On the other hand, Koreans after suffering a defeat by Sweden, would have to reconsider their 4-3-3 formation which handed space to their opponents in the first game.

South Korea midfielder Koo Ja-cheol said his teammates were preparing to tackle Mexico and had found striker Javier Hernandezas as one of the major threat.

“Of course we are not ready to give up. Everyone put in so much effort to get here,” Koo said.

“What we want is to turn fans’ disappointment into joy,” he added.

Overall, it will be a herculean task for the Asian outfit to pull off a victory against the Mexicans on Saturday.

IANS

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FIFA WC 2018: Belgium aim to defeat Tunisia to seal knockout spot

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FIFA Belgium vs Tunisia
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Moscow, June 23: Belgium will aim to register a second consecutive win and book their spot in the knockout rounds when they take on Tunisia in a Group G match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Spartak Stadium here on Saturday.

The talented Belgium squad are the favourites in the group and they gave ample glimpses of their class in a comfortable 3-0 win over Panama in their campaign opener.

Star centre-forward Romelu Lukaku scored twice in that game and his height and physical presence should be useful against the physically strong Tunisia defence.

The Belgians boast a number of stars in their line-up including the likes of star Chelsea winger Eden Hazard and Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.

However, it will not be easy going for Belgium against Tunisia, who have a strong defence and are well organised in midfield.

The north Africans gave England a tough time in their first match. The English line-up, studded with Premier League stars, was effectively blunted by the Tunisia defence.

The Tunisian midfield also did well, consistently winning the 50-50 balls and doing well when in posession. However, they fell short in the final third due to the poor quality of the final pass.

Despite their shortcomings upfront, Tunisia seemed good eonugh to come away with a point. It was the silly conceeding of a corner in second half injury time and some poor marking of England’s star striker Harry Kane at the far post that kept them from what would have been a well-deserved draw.

Tunisia will be keen to avoid such mistakes against the higher rated Belgians. They will however miss goalkeeper Mouez Hassen, who has returned home to undergo surgery on an injured shoulder.

Despite his team’s dominant performance in the first match, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez is not ready to take Tunisia lightly.

“They have a lot of bravery and they’re very dynamic,” he said of Tunisia.

“The players have a good understanding between each other and they can bring energy and intensity on counterattacks. They play direct, efficient football,” Martinez told FIFA.com.

IANS

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