ZURICH — European champion Italy and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal were drawn in the same World Cup qualifying playoffs bracket Friday, meaning at least one of them will miss next year’s tournament in Qatar.
Italy will face North Macedonia at home in a playoff semifinal next March, and the winner will play away at either Portugal or Turkey for a spot in the World Cup.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) November 26, 2021
Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup — losing in the playoffs to Sweden — and now will likely have to beat Ronaldo and Portugal to avoid missing the tournament for a second straight time. Portugal has always qualified during Ronaldo’s career. He first played at the 2006 World Cup.
Also in the 12-team draw, Scotland will face Ukraine at home, and the winner will play at Wales or Austria in the final of their bracket.
Russia will host Poland for the right to face Sweden or the Czech Republic in their bracket final. Russia or Poland will host the final.
The six playoff semifinals will be played as single-leg elimination games March 24. The three finals are played five days later.
The three winners will complete Europe’s entry of 13 nations in the 32-team lineup in Qatar.
FIFA will make the tournament draw on April 1 in Doha.
The playoffs feature the 10 teams who finished second in their qualifying groups along with two teams — Austria and the Czechs — who won Nations League groups last year.
Soccer-Brazil to stop unvaccinated footballers playing in top leagues
The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said on Friday players must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to take part in this year’s league championship,
The CBF said it was in constant contact with health bodies and had sent an updated list of requirements to member clubs.
“One of these is the obligation to present a full vaccination certificate against COVID-19 to the CBF’s Medical Commission,” it said in a statement.
The top four national divisions kick off in the second week of April.
Brazil coach Tite has said he was not selecting Atletico Madrid defender Renan Lodi for his squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers because he was not fully vaccinated.
The issue of athletes’ stance on vaccines has dominated sports headlines recently after tennis player Novak Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, was deported ahead of the Australian Open.
(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
Olympics-Canadian snowboarder Parrot eyes Beijing gold after cancer battle
Canadian snowboarder Max Parrot said on Friday that the mental toughness he gained during his battle with cancer carried over to the slopes where the slopestyle Pyeongchang silver medallist now hopes to go one better and win gold at the Beijing Olympics.
Parrot’s career was put on hold when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in December 2018. Two months after being declared cancer free in mid-2019, Parrot won an X Games big air gold medal in his return to competition.
Showing no signs of rust, Parrot also won a World Cup gold later that year and started off 2020 with another big air gold at the X Games in Aspen.
“Every year I become better and better physically and mentally, and especially going through such a big challenge as cancer you get really more mentally tough,” Parrot told a virtual news conference.
“If you look back at my season right after my cancer … It was pretty much my best year ever.”
Parrot finished fifth in his Olympic debut at the 2014 Sochi Games before a runner-up showing at Pyeongchang.
The 27-year-old Canadian pre-qualified for the slopestyle/big air team headed to Beijing based on his results from the 2020-21 winter season and is not shy about his intentions.
“Of course my goal is to go for the gold, that’s for sure,” said Parrot, whose cancer battle is chronicled in a documentary called “MAX – Life as a Gold Medal” that was released this week on his website.
“But I am really happy as well that if I don’t get the gold I won’t have any regrets because I did everything in my power over the past couple months and that was something important for me as well, just to not have any regrets.”
While there were some days during Parrot’s cancer battle where he wondered if he would ever return to the sport he loves, he said he never let those thoughts take over.
“When I had cancer it was ‘OK, I’m going to do treatments, I am going to do them as best as possible’ and even if I didn’t know if the treatments would work or not, in my mind cancer had no chance against me,” said Parrot.
“I had a lot of determination and motivation and the whole time I just wanted to get back to my passion as soon as possible. But never getting back to it was not really an option in my head.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
Canada's Denis Shapovalov is on to the fourth round of the Australian Open – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, January 21, 2022 7:28AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 21, 2022 6:40PM EST
MELBOURNE, Australia — Canada’s Denis Shapovalov has a spot in the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time in his career.
He beat Reilly Opelka 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Friday to set up a showdown with third-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany.
The Canadian has been pushed hard at Melbourne Park, averaging three hours 37 minutes of court time per win so far.
“I’ve gotten very familiar with the ice baths the last week,” Shapovalov said with a smile in an on-court interview. “We’ve become very good friends.”
At six foot 11 and 225 pounds, Opelka is an imposing force on the court. He had a 17-10 edge in aces on the 14th-seeded Shapovalov but made 46 unforced errors.
“Early on I actually found a rhythm on his serve,” Shapovalov said. “I was able to chip quite a lot back, so I was happy with that. I think I did a really good of just taking the chances today.
“Obviously it’s really tough to get the rhythm against a guy like that so I’m super happy.”
It was the first career meeting between Shapovalov and the 23rd-seeded American. Zverev, meanwhile, has a 4-2 edge in head-to-head matchups against the Canadian.
“Hopefully I can win,” Zverev said. “It’s going to be a great match.”
Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., previously reached the third round at Melbourne Park in 2019 and 2021. The 22-year-old’s best Grand Slam performance was a semifinal showing last year at Wimbledon.
Zverev defeated Maldova’s Radu Albot 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in third-round play.
“Radu is in great form right now … 1/8I’m 3/8 happy to be through in three sets,” Zverev said.
Ninth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal was scheduled to play Britain’s Daniel Evans in third-round play Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.
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