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Canada enters men’s World Cup on a high after last-second win over Japan in final tune-up match

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In soccer, experience tells. Japan is about to play in its seventh consecutive Men’s World Cup. Canada is about to play its first in 36 years. Good teams, good players, have a nose for insecurity, for uncertainty, for weakness.

Japan needed nine minutes to find it in Canada.

The Canadians took the rest of the game to show that they have strengths, too.

Thursday’s 2-1 win for Canada—one last tune-up for both teams before they embark on their World Cup campaigns in Qatar—didn’t exactly take place in a cauldron. There were maybe a thousand fans in Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai. The evening air was warm and still rather than electric.

Even absent nerves or pressure, the countless tiny gulfs that exist between Canada’s best players and the best in the world began to open.

WATCH | Lucas Cavallini scores winner on penalty kick:

 

Cavallini’s late penalty kick earns Canada a win in final friendly before World Cup

 

Richie Laryea drew a penalty in stoppage time, and Lucas Cavallini’s “Panenka” penalty kick gave Canada a 2-1 win in their international friendly over Japan in Dubai. Canada’s next match will be November 23 against Belgium in the FIFA World Cup.

Milan Borjan, the goalkeeper who guided Canada through its epic qualifying run with his stellar saves and charismatic leadership, has a fundamental flaw. He is not good with his feet.

Before the Canadians really had chance to find their rhythm, he shanked a clearance, failing to kick it to half. Head coach John Herdman, pacing the touchline, stopped his perpetual motion to tell Borjan to settle down.

The Japanese had already mounted their precision counter. They sliced down the middle of the field, and Yuki Soma neatly handled a long through ball and slotted it home.

Japan’s Yuki Soma celebrates after scoring past Canadian goaltender Milan Borjan in a friendly match on Thursday. (Christopher Pike/Associated Press)

That’s how the game works at this level. It is designed to expose everything about you.

On this night, it also happened to reveal the size of Canadian hearts. After a quick regroup, they responded to their early faltering in the 21st minute. Steven Vitoria directed home a corner kick that went uncharacteristically uncleared by the Japanese.

Everyone makes mistakes.

And in the dying moments of the second half, deep into added time, the Japanese made one more. A streaking Richie Laryea was brought down in the box, and the Canadians were awarded a last-minute penalty that would decide the game.

Lucas Cavallini fought to take it. He wasn’t the obvious choice. Jonathan David, who has been scoring virtually at will in Ligue 1, was standing beside him. Cavallini—El Tanque to his teammates—still ended up with the ball. Herdman looked at the rest of his team, now having joined him on the touchline.

“If he tries a Panenka, I’ll kill him,” he said.

 

 

Host Andi Petrillo gets you caught up on the biggest news from the Canadian men’s and women’s national teams.

Cavallini did, in fact, take a Panenka, hitting a light, spinning chip down the middle. The Japanese goalkeeper fell just enough for Cavallini’s ill-advised mischief, diving to his left before reaching back vainly to his right, the ball spinning off his glove and dropping into the net.

“I don’t know,” Herdman said after, putting his hands to his face, able to laugh about his premonition only because the ball went in. “Just put it in the corner. I don’t know why we need to do that stuff. All I can say is, it’s the new Canada swagger, eh?”

Canadian head coach John Herdman shouts during a friendly soccer match between Canada and Japan in Dubai, Thursday. (Christopher Pike/Associated Press)

It was an improbable, happy end to a chaotic, revealing match—and the result shouldn’t mask this team’s faults. There is a difference between good and great, between upstart and veteran. It is real, and it exists.

But sometimes in life, and for this team especially, some perfect combination of grit and luck momentarily makes up the gap.

It’s unlikely Canada’s magical run will continue beyond next week. Herdman knows that. He understands better than most that you can ignore reality for only so long. A win is a win, and he will take Thursday’s triumph, along with every other moment in the sun his team is about to enjoy.

“Then you sober up,” he said. “And it’s clear. The second-best team in the world awaits us.”

He was talking about Belgium, the first of Canada’s daunting opponents. Then comes Croatia—two teams that are supposed to beat Canada. They are better in every respect. They will almost certainly finish what Japan could not, and send Canada home.

If they do, that’s okay. That’s the natural and proper order of things. The only tragedy will be if the Canadians fail to take the one opportunity that they know they will be given in Qatar: to stand alongside the greatest players on Earth for the first time in 36 years, and to resolve that the next time they meet, they will rely less on good fortune, and more on themselves.


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Malaika Mihambo and Dennis Schröder Lead Germany’s Diverse Olympic Team to Paris 2024

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“The goals have definitely not changed,” Malaika Mihambo declared in a recent television interview, reaffirming her determination to compete in the 2024 Olympic Games despite a recent setback from a coronavirus infection. The 30-year-old long jumper aims to defend her Olympic gold medal, which she won in Tokyo in 2021.

While Mihambo is a seasoned Olympian, Paris 2024 will mark a special debut for Dennis Schröder, the captain of Germany’s 2023 world champion basketball team. “It has always been a goal of mine to be at the Olympic Games,” said the 30-year-old Brooklyn Nets player.

Mihambo and Schröder are among the stars of the German Olympic team, which showcases remarkable diversity with around 450 top athletes. This team includes individual talents such as tennis stars Angelique Kerber, the silver medallist at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and Alexander Zverev, the 2021 Olympic champion in Tokyo. Notable teams include the men’s basketball team led by Schröder, the women’s football team, and the men’s handball team.

Among the experienced Olympic stars is table tennis player Timo Boll, who has won several team medals and is immensely popular in China and beyond. Dressage rider Isabell Werth, with seven Olympic gold medals, aims to match the all-time record of nine gold medals held by Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina.

Some German athletes, though not yet household names, have garnered attention with impressive performances leading up to the Games. In athletics, the women’s 4×100 meter relay team, decathlete Leo Neugebauer, and marathon runner Amanal Petros stand out. Trend sports also feature promising talents like surfers Camilla Kemp and Tim Elter, and 17-year-old skateboarder Lilly Stoephasius, who will compete in her second Olympic Games.

Swimmer Angelina Köhler has recently emerged as a star, winning gold in the 100 meter butterfly at the 2024 World Championships. Köhler, who has openly discussed her ADHD diagnosis, described participating in the Olympics as fulfilling “a very, very big childhood dream.”

As Germany heads to Paris, this diverse and dynamic team aims to leave a significant mark on the 2024 Olympic Games.

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Thomas Müller: The End of an Era for Germany’s Iconic #13

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It is difficult to write something about Thomas Müller that hasn’t been written before, yet at the same time, it is difficult to capture his essence in mere words. That alone is an indicator of his distinctive nature as a person and brilliance as a footballer.

It is said commonly, there will never be another Thomas Müller. And that rings true today more than ever, for Germany, for football.

Germany has dominated world football so often throughout history, each era marked by superstars in their own right. And even then, Thomas Müller remains unique, apart from the rest. The idea of a dominant die Mannschaft in the ‘modern era’ of football immediately prompts the mental image of an overjoyed Müller wearing any variation of the iconic white-black German kits, busy shouting in celebration amidst the euphoria of scoring yet another goal for his country on the biggest of stages.

Efficient, unorthodox, enigmatic – yet somehow simple. Everywhere he needed to be on the pitch, yet he left the greatest of defenders oblivious, unable to predict his next move. A goalscorer and creator simultaneously and equally brilliant at doing both. Unapologetically himself – both on and off the pitch.

You’d never be mesmerized by Müller’s touch, flair, or skills. But you’d be mesmerized nonetheless. Unpredictable off-the-ball movement, a surprise element with the ball, and a shot from such unbelievable angles that you’d never believe how it found the net. And even then what forever remained stuck in the minds of fans and opponents alike was the scene that followed after his heroics in the opposition box — a group of elated Germans heralding around Müller as the scoreboard reads a scoreline just as memorable.

A little boy from the south of Bavaria had a dream and had the entire world watch as he lived it to the fullest. Müller represented his country a total of 131 times and somehow every single time he was a pleasure to watch and a menace to face. The lights were bright, but he shone brighter.

His football was messy but incredibly effective. Tall, scrawny, and the furthest thing from muscular, but it worked to his advantage. He was never the “typical footballer” — concerning both his personality and playstyle. He was so good at everything going forward that the orthodox football terms didn’t apply. No problem for Müller – “Ich bin ein Raumdeuter,” said the star clearing things up about his position and inventing a role in football no one other than himself has or ever will truly master.

Germany’s first game at the 2010 World Cup saw Müller walk onto the pitch with the number 13 on his back. The same number was coincidentally also worn by legendary German striker Gerd Müller at the ‘76 finals. Thomas scored that night — it was the first of 45 goals he would go on to score for his nation. The fans (and notably Gerd himself) were overjoyed to see a German named Müller, squad number #13, scoring for Germany again after so many decades.

Speaking postgame about his first international goal, Müller said while laughing: “I was just trying to boost the sales of the Müller replica shirts!” – the first of many playful Müller interviews after a masterclass for Germany. 14 years and 44 goals later, Thomas has made that jersey number his as much as it was Gerd’s.

Thomas Müller — forever Germany’s beloved #13.

What once was a need to prove himself and do everything in his power to lead his country to victory turned into a feeling of grounded pride for what he’s greatly helped achieve, but the desire to win never died. Müller, even after everything, still put in the same effort he did on day one.

There was never a dull moment watching Müller play for his country. Not everything has changed — over all these years, Müller has had the same playfulness, the same laugh, the same witty statements that never failed to make fans smile. He is just as loveable as a person as he is as a footballer. “I don’t have any muscles – how can I get hurt?”, or “I already have one Golden Boot, what will I do with another?” Müller captivated audiences with both his football and his words.

Müller playing for Germany is what made myself (and so many others) a fan of the beautiful game – because the game was only beautiful when Müller had the ball. A mesmerized young boy and a superstar footballer formed an unlikely, one-sided bond over the television screen a decade ago, and that bond only strengthened over the years.

As Müller announces his international retirement today, it is difficult to fathom that we might never see such an icon play for Germany ever again. We might never see him celebrate or joke around in the Germany shirt. We might never see someone represent everything German football stood for as well as Müller did. We might never see him film a challenge video with Mats Hummels at the German camp. And we might never forget the heartbreak of his last game for Germany.

Yet we as fans can look back on one of the greatest international careers of all time. His antics on the world stage are some of the best highlights of a career filled with highlights. There is no need to mention his countless achievements for his country – he is the most decorated German player of all time after all. Even then, Müller, who has always had impeccable timing knew exactly when it was his time to depart. He didn’t want to push it or ever make things about himself.

Müller’s iconic moments turned into unforgettable games. Those unforgettable games made legendary tournaments. And those legendary tournaments? They are the crown jewels of an illustrious career.

So here is a thank you, from the bottom of our hearts – thank you for showing us what football is really about. Thank you for some of the greatest memories a football fan could ask for. Thank you for always giving everything on the pitch, and finally – thank you for being yourself. We will never forget Thomas Müller in the iconic German white. Danke, Thomas.

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Missed Opportunities Plague Yankees in 6-4 Loss to Rays

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NEW YORK — The New York Yankees fell to the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 on Sunday afternoon, continuing a troubling trend of failing to capitalize on scoring opportunities. The loss came despite Aaron Judge’s efforts, including his MLB-leading 35th home run of the season.

The Yankees’ inability to hit with runners in scoring position (RISP) was the primary issue. In the first inning, hits from Juan Soto and Aaron Judge loaded the bases, but Gleyber Torres and Alex Verdugo couldn’t drive in any runs. Soto then grounded into a double play to end the second inning with the bases loaded.

Aaron Judge hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning, his 35th of the season, bringing the Yankees within two runs. However, his contribution was not enough to overcome the deficit. Marcus Stroman pitched 5.1 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits, including two home runs. He struck out five and did not walk any batters. Despite his solid performance, he received minimal run support.

Gleyber Torres made a critical error in the fourth inning, leading to a run. His 0-for-4 performance at the plate dropped his batting average to .229, adding to the Yankees’ woes. Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected after disputing a strike call on Alex Verdugo. This marked his 38th career ejection and fifth of the season.

Soto’s ninth-inning RBI double provided some hope, but it was too little, too late. The Rays’ Jose Caballero homered in the ninth, extending their lead and sealing the victory.

The Yankees began the series with a 6-1 win on Friday but faltered with a 9-1 loss on Saturday, followed by Sunday’s 6-4 defeat. This inconsistency has been a recurring issue for the team. Despite the loss, the Yankees (59-42) remain two games behind the Baltimore Orioles (60-39) for first place in the AL East, as the Orioles also lost 3-2 to the Texas Rangers.

Aaron Judge commented, “No weight. I’ve got good guys behind me. It’s baseball. You’re going to go through some ups and downs, and you’re going to click for a little bit, but there’s months where other guys are going to carry this team and there’s months where I’ve got to pick it up and carry the team, and it’s all part of it.”

Marcus Stroman reflected, “It’s hard to be incredible for 162. I think we have a lot of confidence … how good (Soto has) been — all year, him and Judge — I think we’re kind of losing sight of how incredible those two guys have been. So they can’t do everything, each and every single time. We can’t put all the pressure on them.”

Aaron Boone added, “This game’s hard for us right now, and we’ve got to find a way. We know we’re better than this, and we’ve got to come ready and salvage a series tomorrow.”

The Yankees will aim to split the series against the Rays in the final game on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET. With their recent struggles in key situations, the team must find a way to improve their performance with runners in scoring position to turn their season around.

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