Suarez and Atletico Madrid vindicated by La Liga title win - The Daily Guardian
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Suarez and Atletico Madrid vindicated by La Liga title win

The title came Atletico’s way after seven long years. Real Madrid with 84 points finished second.

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What has usually been a routine two-horse race in the Spanish La Liga, was broken when Luis Suarez netted the winning goal to help Atletico Madrid win the Spanish League Title.

Suarez was in tears at the end of the final whistle as the title proved his vindication of the disrespect and exit from Barcelona. The Uruguayan forward revealed that he was reduced to tears by the treatment meted out to him in his final weeks at the Catalan club, wherein he was not allowed to be part of even training matches. It was certainly without doubt that Barcelona’s loss served to be Atletico’s gain.

The title came Atletico’s way after seven long years. Since arriving at Atletico Madrid at the start of 2012, Diego Simeone has now led Los Rojiblancos to eight trophies and this is only the second time in the last 17 seasons that anyone other than Madrid or Barcelona has won LaLiga. Atletico’s last title triumph came in 2014.

Real Madrid with 84 points finished second, just two points behind their city rivals while Barcelona finished third and Sevilla fourth.

Football pundits had always complained that the Spanish League was turning out to be non-competitive as year after year the divide between both Real Madrid and Barcelona and the rest of the 18 teams was only widening – and that the rest were only competing for spots below third place. But what went wrong for Barca and Real Madrid to miss the title this year?

The Pandemic stricken season could be one reason why both these teams could have suffered. The clubs have the most fans in the world and when it comes to in-stadia attendance. In football. it is rare to find anything as exciting as an El Classico. A stadium filled with supporters surely adds to the thrill, fandom and euphoria that sets the turf ablaze. These big stage players ride heavily on such passion and the absence of the fans could be a reason why a more focused and determined Atletico Madrid reaped the success this year.

There is no doubt that Atletico’s determination and self-belief is what got Diego Simeone’s team across the finish line and in the first place. Atletico had three of their strikers among the top 20 scorers in the Spanish League this season. Luis Suárez certainly had a point to prove and his 21 goals and 3 assists found form in Marcos Llorente’s 12 goals and 11 assists. The 26-year-old Spaniard who plays predominantly in the midfield, doubled up as a second striker to help win crucial games for Simeone. Argentine winger Ángel Correa joined the party up front for Atletico and contributed with 9 goals and 8 assists to make a big dent in the opposition defense.

While Messi too scored in the Spanish League, firing in 30 goals for Barca, he could not find support from his other teammates to get onto the scoring charts. The story of their firepower is evident as Antonie Griezmann for the Catalans only 13 times this season. When Barca showed Suarez the exit doors, it left Messi with little help up front. For the mighty Real Madrid, Karim Benzema was the best finisher with a tally of 22 goals to his credit. There was no other Madrid player amongst the top 20 scorers in the La Liga table this season. A string of injury woes starting from skipper Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Dani Carvajal, Federal Mendy and Federico Valverde have not helped Zidane field a full squad most of this season. The fact that Real Madrid suffered 50 injuries and 7 Covid cases and still finished in second place, is a creditable finish for the Los Blancos.

Surely Atletico Madrid celebrates the season with the Spanish Crown, but the big question that still stares us in the face is that will the next year witness the return of the Kings or will teams like Sevilla, Real Sociedad, Real Betis or Villarreal stake their claim of Spain’s Big Prize?

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Rani and team to dedicate their performance to Covid-19 warriors

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NEW DELHI: In 2020 when India was grappling with a nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian women’s hockey team took up a unique challenge which was to raise funds in order to help feed more than 1000 families from economically underprivileged backgrounds. They raised over Rs 20 lakh through a 21-day online fitness challenge.

In 2021, ahead of the Olympic Games 2020, the women’s team has yet again taken up a challenge and this time they have vowed to dedicate their performance in Tokyo to the COVID warriors and frontline workers of India. In a video message released by Hockey India on Tuesday, skipper Rani Rampal said, “This Olympics is unlike any other in the past. Our country has been through a lot, and we are proud of our doctors and frontline workers who have selflessly worked to save lives. As we work hard towards securing a medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, we pledge to dedicate our efforts and hopefully our victory to these covid warriors. We are all here and safe thanks to them. Thank you, Jai Hind.”

Rani further stated that this unanimous decision will further fuel the team’s aspiration to finish on the podium in Tokyo. She said: “When we take up a vow like this, there is an added onus on us to do exceedingly well. Winning for India is always a goal but winning for our countrymen and women who have made many sacrifices in order to save lives during this pandemic will make it a truly special outing in Tokyo for the team.”

Rani further stated that the team feels inspired by the duty-bound doctors, nurses and several other paramedics who have tirelessly worked without a break since the pandemic first broke out in India last year.

“We draw a lot of inspiration from these great people who have risked their own lives to save others. We have come across numerous such stories of sacrifice and humanity. As players, the only thing we can give in return for their great efforts is by achieving something historic and dedicate it to them and that’s what we have decided to do,” Rani said.

With less than 40 days remaining for the Tokyo Olympic Games, the members of the women’s hockey Olympic core group continue to give their best and are leaving no stone unturned in their training at SAI Centre, Bengaluru.

Rani stated that she and her teammates are making each and every training session count.

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DRAVID TO COACHING INDIAN TEAM IN SRI LANKA

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NEW DELHI: The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Secretary Jay Shah has confirmed that former India skipper Rahul Dravid will coach the team for the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka. The Shikhar Dhawan-led team will play three ODIs and three T20Is at the R Premadasa International Cricket Stadium in Colombo. “Rahul will be coaching the team for the Sri Lanka series,” the BCCI Secretary told ANI.

The team assembled on Monday and is undergoing seven days of hard quarantine and will then undergo seven days of soft quarantine with indoor training.

ANI had reported on May 20 that NCA head Dravid will coach the team as the trio of Ravi Shastri, Bharat Arun and Vikram Rathour are in England with the Test team. This will be Dravid’s second stint with the Indian team after working with the boys as batting consultant during the England tour in 2014.

The team leaves for Colombo on June 28 and will undergo 3 days of hard quarantine before training in quarantine till July 4. After that, they will be allowed to train normally before the series gets underway on July 13 in Colombo.

The team will play three intra-squad games in Colombo as preparation for the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka.

Prithvi Shaw has earned a call-up into the white-ball squad. Opening batters Devdutt Padikkal and Ruturaj Gaikwad have also been named in the squad. Varun Chakravarthy, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham have been chosen as the spinners while the young speedster Chetan Sakariya, who impressed everyone in the Indian Premier League (IPL), has also earned a place in the squad.

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Virat Kohli is capable enough to find his way against Kiwis, says Sachin Tendulkar

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DUBAI: India will face New Zealand in the final of the inaugural edition of the World Test Championship from Friday and legend Sachin Tendulkar is thrilled to see Virat Kohli and boys playing for ultimate glory.

Speaking to ANI, Tendulkar revealed that for him, it was the series win in Australia which was testimony to the fighting spirit of this Indian unit. He also threw light on how he expects Rohit Sharma to start cautiously before pressing on the accelerator and how he is confident of skipper Kohli taking the Kiwi bowlers by surprise. “I am thrilled. This is the World Test Championship and to be able to get there in the top two, speaks volumes about how the team has performed. It is simply outstanding and the icing on the cake has to be the Australian trip. There were so many injuries, there were like 10-11 players missing on that tour and in spite of that we were able to deliver the knockout punch which was incredible,” he smiled.

Skipper Kohli will once again hold the fort in the middle-order and it is no secret that it was Tendulkar who helped Kohli adjust his game after a torrid tour of England in 2014.

Asked if he still sees slight issues outside the off in the fourth or fifth wicket region? Tendulkar doesn’t and said it was an area that bothers almost all batsmen.

“I think outside the off-stump or whatever that is, all batters get out from there. So, I won’t look at whatever shot he is playing. What is the percentage that Kohli is getting the shots right and how many times he has been dismissed? If we compare that, then the player has to assess and plan that these are the areas I need to tighten up. But I wouldn’t worry too much about all those things, it has been fine, to be honest.

Asked if Kohli can do a Tendulkar and cut out the drive as the Master Blaster had against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 2004, the maestro said such calls need to be taken at the crease and cannot be planned beforehand.

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PRAVEEN RANA REVEALS WHEN SUSHIL KUMAR AND HIS ‘GANG’ BEAT HIS BROTHER

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Wrestler Praveen Rana regrets the fact that no action has been taken on the FIR lodged against Sushil’s supporters in an incident about three-and-a-half years ago. A fight broke out between two groups during the trials for Commonwealth Games in 2018. Sushil Kumar had just defeated Praveen Rana in a bout after which a brawl broke out between their supporters. Praveen Rana revealed at his wrestling center in Narela that the group that assaulted his brother was led by a person named Ajay who had eloped with Sushil in the recent past, and had a reward of Rs 50,000 on him.

Praveen Rana alleges that Ajay attacked his brother with a rod and chair. Rana said that 50 to 60 supporters had come along with Sushil to witness the trial held at KD Jadhav Hall at the Indira Gandhi Stadium complex.

During the trials for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Parveen and his elder brother Naveen Rana were thrashed allegedly by supporters of Sushil Kumar at the Indira Gandhi Indoor (IGI) stadium in the Capital “for daring to take the ring” against Kumar.

“Some people had nothing to do with wrestling. These people were constantly putting pressure on the referee. My mind was completely disturbed by that whole sequence of events,” Rana reveals.

After losing the match, Rana was watching the final wrestling bout between Sushil and Jitendra.

Rana had left his kit bag in the warm-up area. When he went to pick it up, about 20 Sushil’s supporters were present there, Rana says. Rana’s brother Naveen asked him to go away.

“Little did I know that he was saving me,” Rana said. And at the same time Ajay ‘attacked’ his brother with a rod and a chair, Rana revealed.

Praveen Rana first complained about this matter to the Wrestling Federation of India and then an FIR was lodged in the IP Extension police station.

Praveen said he is wondering as to why no action has been taken on that FIR, even almost three and a half years have passed. Even the charge sheet was not issued in this case, Rana said.

“I made several calls to the respective police station,” he said.

“I even visited the police station physically, but they would always say that they would look into the matter and that they would call me in case they needed to,” Rana added.

Praveen said that a call had come from the police station recently.

“They said that they need me to come. I hope something churns out. But, we have lost faith in things now,” Rana said.

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India announce 15-men squad for WTC final

Virat Kohli to lead the squad; no place for K.L. Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Shardul Thakur for the WTC final in Southampton against New Zealand from 18 June.

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On Tuesday, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced the 15-member squad for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand. Mohammed Siraj has been included in India’s 15-member squad for the upcoming World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand, starting on Friday.

Mayank Agarwal has been left out and this means Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma will be opening the batting for the Virat Kohli-led side. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been chosen as the spinners, while Wriddhiman Saha has also been named in the squad along with Rishabh Pant. The Kiwis have already entered the bio-bubble for the summit clash having defeated England in the two-match Test series.

Prior to the WTC final, the Indian team played an intra-squad game where the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Rishabh Pant impressed with the bat in hand. At the Hampshire Bowl, the players were tested again before commencing a period of managed isolation. Regular tests will be conducted during the period of isolation.

Prior to departing for England, India head coach Ravi Shastri had said that going ahead, the International Cricket Council (ICC) should look to make the final of the WTC a best-of-three contest and it could be played like a three-match series.

Meanwhile, India top-order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, on Tuesday, said that playing in the finals of the World Test Championship (WTC) final means a lot to him.

“Personally, it means a lot to me This is the first time we are in a WTC final. We have worked hard over a period of time. It’s just like playing in a 50-over or T20 World Cup final. Test cricket needs to survive, and a WTC format helps where every Test, every series is important. If we win, then many youngsters would want to play the Test format and be part of the final when the next cycle comes around,” said Pujara.

The batsman also said that not playing warm-up matches is a bit of disadvantage, but his side will be up for the challenge against New Zealand.

“It is a disadvantage, but this is something we can’t control. These are challenging times in the world because of the pandemic, and you cannot have the luxury for extra preparation time. But the most important part is the game is still going on and that we’re playing a final. Yes, preparation time is a bit of a disadvantage maybe, but if you’re ready for the challenge, even if circumstances aren’t favourable, you’d do well. We’re confident as a team. Maybe a few extra days of preparation would’ve helped, but we can’t complain. We’re ready,” said Pujara.

While many cricket pundits feel the contest is evenly balanced, Australia Test skipper Tim Paine reckons India will “pretty comfortably” win the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final.

“My prediction is, India will win pretty comfortably if they play anywhere near their best,” stuff.co.nz quoted Paine as saying.

In January, India had defeated Paine-led Australia by three wickets against all odds in the final Test at The Gabba to take the series 2-1.

Meanwhile, England lost the two-match Test series against New Zealand 0-1 after facing a defeat at the hands of the Kiwis in the second Test by eight wickets at Edgbaston on Sunday.

Paine praised the Kiwis but didn’t shy away from admitting that it was not the English side that usually takes the field against Australia in Ashes.

“I think New Zealand are a good team, for one, and secondly if we’re being realistic I think it’s a really different team that we saw England out on the field to what we’re probably going to see in the Ashes… keeping it in perspective it certainly wasn’t England’s strongest team,” he said.

Meanwhile, New Zealand on Tuesday confirmed their 15-man squad for the inaugural WTC final. Ajaz Patel has been included as the specialist spinner in the New Zealand squad.

India squad for WTC final: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj.

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WE WON’T PLAY FOR A DRAW AGAINST AFGHANISTAN, SAYS STIMAC

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A day before India’s last match against Afghanistan in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha, head coach Igor Stimac has dismissed apprehensions that his side may play out for a draw.

India is currently placed on six points after seven matches in comparison to Afghanistan being on five points from seven games. “I need to say that I don’t know any coach or any team who would come out playing for a draw. Even that might seem to be a situation when you are facing much better sides. Then, you need to drop and defend for your life and wait for one, two or three chances to counter-attack like against Qatar. But, we are not going out to play for a draw. Rather, we will go out to win it,” the official website of All India Football Federation (AIFF) quoted Stimac as saying. “That’s what we are aiming to do. We need to start doing it from the kick-off. I know and am very confident that all our boys are ready and fit. They need to enjoy the game,” he added.Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu added: “I think it’s important for us to stay fresh and face this new challenge against a very good side. Afghanistan has good quality players who can manipulate the ball and convert if given the chance. So, we need to make sure that as players, we stick to the plan and that we make life difficult for the other team and try to finish with a smile.”

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