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'Pretty much impossible' for Canada to fill the Greig gap – TSN

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William Nylander


TSN SportsCentre Reporter Mark Masters reports on the 2022 World Juniors. Team Canada practised in Edmonton on Thursday afternoon ahead of Friday afternoon’s semifinal game versus Czechia.


Ridly Greig missed practice after sustaining an injury during Team Canada’s 6-3 quarterfinal win over Switzerland on Wednesday night. There was no definitive update on the centre’s status, but most teammates seemed resigned to playing without Greig in the medal round. 

“He brought so much and left it all on the table for our team,” said defenceman Donovan Sebrango. “It’s definitely a sad moment when we lose him.”

Greig faced off against the top line on other teams. The Ottawa Senators prospect also logged important minutes on the power play and penalty kill.

“He’s been probably our most consistent player right from the start of the tournament,” said head coach Dave Cameron. “Played in all situations.”

How do you replace him? 

“It’s pretty much impossible,” captain Mason McTavish said. “It will be really hard.” 

On Thursday, McTavish skated in Greig’s usual spot between Joshua Roy and William Dufour. Nathan Gaucher, who started the quarterfinal as the 13th forward, moved up to take McTavish’s spot between Will Cuylle and Connor Bedard. 

“We all know Bedard’s a great player,” said Gaucher. “I’ll try to complement him and create space and pass him the puck so he can shoot.”

Riley Kidney projects to draw in as the 13th forward. The Montreal Canadiens prospect played four minutes and 26 seconds in the opening game, but has been a healthy scratch since then. 

Cameron has faith in the team’s depth. 

“They didn’t win a trip here,” Cameron said. “They’re not here because they won a trip to Edmonton. They’re not here because we drew their names out of hats. They’re here because they’re real good players.” 

Despite being a plus player in every game so far, McTavish isn’t happy with how he’s been playing in his own end. 

“It’s been OK,” he said. “I kind of expect more from myself, honestly, in the defensive zone. I don’t think I’ve been that great. I’ll definitely look to improve that.”

The McTavish line has gotten hemmed in its own zone a few times in recent games, which led Cameron to move Cuylle up to that unit against the Swiss. He felt the big left winger would provide a presence on the wall and stop the cycle quicker. 

What does McTavish want to improve moving forward? 

“Just details and staying focused and not kind of drifting away,” he said. “Just really dialing it in, because it happens so fast. Players make mistakes, it happens, but it’s trying to limit those mistakes.”

Roy and Dufour have excelled alongside Greig in the matchup role. 

“They’ve played the right way,” said Cameron. “They went head to head with Finland’s top line and had a real good game. Their background is goal scoring and generally if your background is goal scoring there is a tendency to cheat. We asked everybody in this tournament to turn their skill over to the team and there’s two prime examples.” 

Gaucher didn’t expect to be invited to join this Team Canada squad. 

“I got chills when I got the call,” he said.

The Quebec Remparts centre had been focused on the 2023 World Juniors, but now projects to play an important role in Edmonton. He’s only averaged nine minutes and 31 seconds of ice time per game, but will see more playing time with Greig out. 

“The high pace here is incredible,” the 18-year-old from Chambly, Que., said. “I’ve been able to learn from great players here, a great coaching staff and getting more ice time you get better. So, I think I’ll be better in the semifinals.”

What stands out to Bedard? 

“His size [6-foot-3, 207 pounds] and his tenacity,” the Regina Pats phenom said. “He’s always going to go get the puck. He’s a first-round pick for a reason. I’m excited to build chemistry with him and Cuylle.” 

Gaucher is the only player selected in the 2022 National Hockey League draft to make Team Canada. He went 22nd overall to the Anaheim Ducks and it was actually McTavish who called his name in Montreal. 

“It was pretty cool announcing the pick,” said McTavish. “I wasn’t sure I was going to do that. I was a little caught off guard and nervous for sure.”

Gaucher and McTavish, the third overall pick in 2021, didn’t really get a chance to talk, though. 

“It was brief,” McTavish recalled. “They take the picks right into media for a while which I didn’t even know because mine was virtual. So, it was cool to see that. He’s a great player and plays hard and has a lot of skill too.” 

Canada’s final practice of the World Juniors featured work on defensive-zone coverage and break outs. 

“I don’t think we executed quick enough,” Cameron said of the performance against Switzerland. “We were bringing pucks back rather than going north, which is what led to our success against the other teams … We have to play north. We can’t be bringing pucks back. We can’t be fancy. We have to stay connected where we have five guys all in the same zone at the same time. When we don’t do that it becomes a little bit more unpredictable and more of a challenge.” 

With the United States getting knocked out on Wednesday, Canada is the last undefeated team in Edmonton. And, if you factor in a pre-tournament win over Sweden, Cameron’s crew has beaten all the remaining teams in the tournament. 

“It’s about us,” the coach said. “We have to make sure we play our system and we don’t beat ourselves and we’ll see what happens if we do that.”

How does Cameron define Canada’s game? 

“Fast,” he said. “Be a real good forecheck team. Be connected. Stay out of the penalty box.”

When is Canada at its best? 

“When we’re getting pucks behind their D and possessing the puck in the O-zone,” Bedard said. “We got a big team and skilled team so if we can keep it in the O-zone and cycle low to high and stuff like that, that’s when we’re at our best.”

Bedard was held off the scoresheet for the first time at this World Juniors during Wednesday’s win over Switzerland. He was credited with just one shot on net.

“Pretty good,” Bedard said of his game. “Obviously, a couple chances there should go in, but hopefully they do later in the tournament. I thought our line had some good and bad shifts like every game.”

He felt like he was able to generate some chemistry with Cuylle. 

“He’s super big and he can go get pucks,” Bedard noted. “He’s tough to get out of the front of the net and super skilled, too. He brings a lot.”

— 

After posting one goal and three assists in four preliminary-round games, Logan Stankoven led the way for Canada in the quarterfinals. The Kamloops Blazers centre scored twice and added an assist en route to being named Canada’s top player.

“It’s harder than I thought, that’s for sure,” Stankoven admitted when asked about scoring at this level. “It’s kind of my first real taste and the goals haven’t come easy. I’ve had the chances, but not as many as I would’ve liked. I was able to create a few more chances and the puck was going in the net. It was a good feeling.”

What was different? 

“I thought I had more jump and more confidence in my game,” Stankoven said. “I feel like when I’m hanging onto pucks more and not getting rid of the puck right away – that’s when I’m at my best.”

“A classic Stanks game,” said goalie Dylan Garand, who plays with Stankoven in Kamloops. “I’ve seen lots of those games.”

“He was just a little fireball,” observed Everett defenceman Ronan Seeley. “It’s what you see in the [Western Hockey League] and it came out of him and it couldn’t come out at a better time.” 

Stankoven is the reigning Canadian Hockey League player of the year. He produced 104 points in 59 games last season.

Stankoven excels despite standing just 5-foot-8. 

“His heart’s definitely bigger than his height,” said Cuylle. “He plays really hard and with lots of passion.” 

Stankoven’s size may actually be an advantage on faceoffs. He’s winning 68.8 per cent of his draws to lead the tournament. 

“I’m lower to the ice so a lower centre of gravity,” he said. “I try to get low on the faceoffs. Credit to my wingers, too.”

“He’s really strong for his size,” noted McTavish. “He’s low to the ground, which helps. I’m sure he does a lot of research before the games about the other guys.”

—  

Garand stopped 23 of 26 shots in the win over Switzerland. 

“I felt OK,” he said. “It was a bit of a struggle at times. A tough third goal. It was a miscommunication there. After that I did a good job of sticking with it and playing my game and working hard. I felt really good about my third period.”

Garand admits the Swiss caught him, and many of his teammates, off guard. 

“They played really well,” he said. “We definitely didn’t want to take these guys lightly, but they played really strong and caught us by surprise a little bit … They played really quick, especially in the offensive zone. They would move the puck around and hemmed us in there a couple times.” 

Czechia goalie Tomas Suchanek (.921) will enter the semifinal showdown with a better save percentage than Garand (.918). 

“What I like the most is he didn’t play the first two games and then he stepped in and was ready to go,” said Czechia goalie coach Ondrej Pavelec. “It wasn’t easy against Canada. They were coming hard and had a lot of shots. We expect that tomorrow as well. It’s a challenge for him and I think he’s ready for it.” 

Suchanek’s rise up the depth chart started against Canada in the preliminary round when he stopped 52 of 57 shots. 

“A lot of shots and it was really fun,” he recalled. “A lot of people came and I hope that will be [the case] again.”

Suchanek plays for the Tri-City Americans in the WHL and models his game after Montreal’s Carey Price. 

My game is really close to his game with how I’m moving in the net,” he said. “And he played in Tri-City, too. I have him on my mask.”

Lines at Thursday’s practice: 

Roy – McTavish – Dufour 

Johnson – Stankoven – Foerster 

Cuylle – Gaucher – Bedard 

Othmann – Ostapchuk – Desnoyers 

Kidney 

Sebrango -Zellweger 

Del Mastro – Cormier

Seely – Thompson 

O’Rourke – Lambos 

Garand 

Cossa 

Brochu

Injured: Greig 

Power-play units at Thursday’s practice: 

QB: Zellweger

Flanks: Johnson, Stankoven 

Middle: Bedard 

Net front: McTavish 

QB: Cormier 

Flanks: Roy, Seeley/Thompson 

Middle: Foerster 

Net front: Othmann/Cuylle 

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Canada look World Cup-ready in commanding win over Qatar | MLSSoccer.com – MLSsoccer.com

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Late letdown drops Blue Jays into tie with Rays for top spot in wild-card race – Sportsnet.ca

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – No matter how this series at the Toronto Blue Jays’ perennial hell-spot of Tropicana Field plays out, the wild-card picture won’t be any less muddled heading into the final week and a half of the regular season. The gap is simply too tight between them, the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners to rule out any scenarios for the time being, ensuring there’ll at minimum be some drama around who’s playing where, if not who’s getting in.

All of which makes holding tiebreakers so important, something the Blue Jays surrendered after a frustrating 10-6 loss Friday night left them 7-10 against the Rays this season and unable to catch up with only two more head-to-head meetings remaining.

A back-and-forth game was settled in the eighth when David Peralta lifted a fly ball to shallow right field and pinch-runner Taylor Walls charged home beneath a high and wide throw from Teoscar Hernandez to break a 6-6 tie. A Bo Bichette error on a Harold Ramirez grounder later in the inning led to another run before Randy Arozarena’s two-run single padded the edge.

Pete Fairbanks mopped up in the ninth as the Rays (84-67) tied the Blue Jays (84-67), losers of three straight, for top spot in the wild-card race, but they are essentially ahead by holding the tiebreaker. The Seattle Mariners (82-68), 5-1 losers at Kansas City, remain 1.5 games back.

“It’s weird here. Whenever things kind of don’t go great or perfectly, it seems to unravel,” said interim manager John Schneider, adding later: “Tonight was a perfect example of how you kind of play into their strengths. You can’t walk guys and expect good things to happen. You want to let them beat you with their bats and tonight we didn’t do that and didn’t take care of the ball particularly well.”

Under new rules this year, ties in the standings between two teams are broken by head-to-head play rather than a single-game, winner-takes-all contest. A three-team tiebreaker is decided by which team has the best combined winning percentage against the other two clubs.

The Rays are in the driver’s seat on both fronts, holding the edge over the Blue Jays and the Mariners (5-2) in two-team-tie scenarios, as well as holding the best cumulative mark if there’s a three-way deadlock. Seattle beat Toronto 5-2 and is locked into second under such a scenario.

Hence, the Blue Jays must be at least a game better than both rivals from here on out to secure home-field advantage, without the margin for error a tiebreaker provides.

That’s been compounded by a rough week that began with a blown save against the Baltimore Orioles last Sunday, followed by a messy 18-11 win Tuesday at Philadelphia before another missed chance against the Phillies in a 4-3, 10-inning loss Wednesday and a blowout loss Thursday to the Rays.

During that span the Blue Jays have gone from thinking about a possible run at the New York Yankees atop the AL East to maintaining homefield for the wild-card round.

Schneider talked about “putting each game in a vacuum one-by-one at this point,” something third baseman Matt Chapman, no stranger to the high-leverage tightrope, said is easier said than done.

“It’s hard every day to try not to dwell too much on what happened, what you could have done better,” Chapman explained. “At this time of year, everybody’s burnt a little bit. Everybody’s been grinding for a long time. To be the best player and best teammate you can be tomorrow is just to flush it and let it go. Everybody’s tired and it’s not going to do you any good trying to figure out why this happened or why you got pitched a certain way or why you didn’t make a play you should have made.

“Obviously, there are a couple of plays tonight that I wish I would have made and I’m pretty good at kicking myself for that,” he continued. “But I know that it doesn’t matter anymore and as much as I wish I did it differently, it’s like, hey, tomorrow, I’m going to get another opportunity to make a play for this team and help us win a game. That’s what I’m focused on and I know the guys are, too.”

The Blue Jays would have had to win three straight against the Rays to give themselves the tiebreaker beginning with a Friday game that featured the usual array of miseries that tend to plague them at the Trop.

Mitch White, recalled from triple-A Buffalo to start, got bled for a pair of runs in the first, with Wander Franco dropping a 77.3-m.p.h. double just inside the left-field line to set up a run-scoring groundout by Arozarena before a Manuel Margot bunt single plated a second run.

Christian Bethancourt’s RBI double in the fourth made it 3-0 but back-to-back doubles by Teoscar Hernandez and Raimel Tapia to open the fifth cut into the lead. Tapia then took third on a Whit Merrifield fly out to deep centre, Danny Jansen walked and after George Springer struck out, Bichette ripped an RBI single. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. then tied the game with a bouncer up the middle and Alejandro Kirk, under instructions to pick his spots running after missing time last week with left hip tightness, booted it up the line to beat out an errant Isaac Paredes throw to put the Blue Jays up 4-3.

Needing a shutdown inning in the bottom half, the Blue Jays pulled White for Tim Mayza, who struck out Jonathan Aranda before Harold Ramirez singled and Wander Franco walked. In came Anthony Bass and he got up 1-2 on Arozarena, who then slashed the fourth straight slider he saw over the wall in right field to put the Rays back up 6-4.

The Blue Jays tied it in the sixth on a Jansen RBI single and Springer sacrifice fly but Guerrero struck out with two on to end the frame and things stood there until the game unravelled on Yimi Garcia in the eighth, just as it did Wednesday in Philadelphia.

A Ji-Man Choi walk to open the inning started the trouble before Miles Mastrobuoni followed with a base hit that sent pinch-runner Walls to third. The shallow fly by Peralta followed and the Rays poured it on from there.

“I thought (Garcia) made great pitches to Choi,” said Schneider. “Really close 3-2 pitch, really close 2-2 pitch and you trust that you want the players to have the result of the outcome of the game in their hands. That happens sometimes.”

More than sometimes for the Blue Jays at the Trop, the baseball stadium with a warehouse-shopping-mall vibe Chapman diplomatically said is “an interesting place to play.”

“A little bit different – just different in every way,” he continued. “It’s kind of hard to put your finger on why it is different. I’ve obviously only come once a year until this year. But definitely it takes some adjusting, definitely takes some getting used to. But it’s a good team we are playing. They play well at their home field just like we do. When you’re on the road here, you know that you’re in for a tough game and you’ve got to find alternate ways to just win.”

Mantra for the moment for the Blue Jays.

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Roger Federer bids farewell, drops final match of career alongside Nadal at Laver Cup – CBC Sports

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This day, this match, had to come, of course, for Roger Federer, and for tennis, just as it inevitably must for every athlete in every sport.

Federer bid adieu Friday night with one last contest before he heads into retirement at age 41 after a superlative career that spanned nearly a quarter-century and included 20 Grand Slam titles and a statesman’s role. He wrapped up his days as a professional player with a loss in doubles alongside his longtime rival Rafael Nadal for Team Europe in the Laver Cup against Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock of Team World.

The truth is that the victors, the statistics and the score (OK, for the record it was 4-6, 7-6 (2), 11-9) did not matter, and were all so entirely beside the point. The occasion was, after all, about the farewell itself. Or, better, the farewells, plural: Federer’s to tennis, to the fans, to his competitors and colleagues. And, naturally, each of those entities’ farewells to Federer.

“It’s been a perfect journey,” Federer said. “I would do it all over again.”

When the match and, with it, his time in professional tennis ended, Federer hugged Nadal, then Tiafoe and Sock. And then Federer began crying. There were plenty of tears to go around; Nadal wiped his own away, too.

WATCH | Federer plays final point of career:

Roger Federer plays his final point of illustrious tennis career

4 hours ago

Duration 2:41

Roger Federer and doubles partner Rafael Nadal fell to Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 7-6(2), 11-2 in Laver Cup play, concluding Federer’s legendary career.

“When Roger leaves the tour, an important part of my life is leaving, too,” said Nadal, 36, who used the words “sad” and “unforgettable” to describe the occasion.

As cascades of clapping and yells of affection came from the stands, Federer put his hands on his hips, his chest heaving. Then he mouthed, “Thank you,” while applauding right back toward the spectators who had chanted, “Let’s go, Roger! Let’s go!” during the concluding moments of a match that lasted more than two hours and ended at about 12:30 a.m.

His wife, Mirka, their four children — twin girls and twin boys — and Federer’s parents joined him on the court afterward for embraces and, yes, more bawling. Members of both teams joined together to hoist Federer up in the air.

“It’s been a wonderful day. I told the guys I’m happy; I’m not sad,” Federer said. “I enjoyed tying my shoes one more time. Everything was the last time.”

Roger Federer is lifted by fellow players after playing the final match of his legendary tennis career on Friday. (Kin Cheung/The Associated Press)

The Swiss star announced last week that the three-day team event, which was founded by his management company, would be his final event before retirement, then made clear the doubles outing would be the last match. His surgically repaired right knee — the last of three operations came shortly after a loss in the Wimbledon quarter-finals in July 2021, which will go down as his official exit in singles — is in no shape to allow him to continue.

“For me, just personally, [it was] sad in the first moment, when I came to the conclusion it’s the best decision,” Federer said in an interview with The Associated Press this week about his emotions when realizing it was time to go. “I kind of held it in at first, then fought it off. But I could feel the pain.”

He had said he wanted this to feel more like a party than a funeral, and the crowd obliged, rising for a loud and lengthy standing ovation when Federer and Nadal — each wearing a white bandanna, blue shirt and white shorts — emerged together from a tunnel leading out to the black court for the last match on Day 1 at the O2 Arena. They remained on their feet for nearly 10 minutes, through the pre-match warmup, holding aloft phone cameras to capture the moment.

They came ready to roar for him, some with Swiss flags, some with homemade signs (“Idol Forever” read one), and they made themselves heard with a wall of sound when Federer delivered a forehand volley winner on the match’s second point. Similar reactions arrived merely at the chair umpire’s announcement before the third game of “Roger Federer to serve,” and again when he closed that game with a 117 mph service winner.

“Obviously had 99.9% of the crowd against us. But it was super fun to just be a part of that match. I think we are going to be forever grateful to be a part of the GOAT’s final match,” Sock said, using the acronym for “Greatest of All-Time.”

Doubles requires far less movement and court coverage, of course, so the stress on Federer’s knee was limited Friday.

“Honestly,” he said, acknowledging that leading into the match there were the sorts of nerves he’d get before a Grand Slam final, “I was so surprised how well I was able to play tonight.”

He showed touches of his old flair, to be sure, and of rust, as to be expected.

There were a couple of early forehands that sailed several feet too long. There also was a forehand that slid right between Sock and Tiafoe and seemed too good to be true — and, it turned out, was: The ball traveled through a gap below the net tape and so the point was taken away from Federer and Nadal.

Although this match amounted to, essentially, a glorified exhibition, all four doubles participants played as if they wanted to win. That was clear when Sock, a three-time major champion in doubles who is 29, leaped and screamed after one particularly terrific volley or when Tiafoe, 24, sent a couple of shots right at Federer and Nadal.

There were moments of levity.

Federer and Nadal were able to laugh after a bit of confusion over which should go for a ball on a point they lost. After Nadal somehow flicked one back-to-the-net shot around the post, only for it to land barely wide, Tiafoe, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open, crossed over to extend a hand with congratulations for the effort.

Roger Federer, left, and Rafael Nadal of Team Europe interact during their doubles match on Friday. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

In the first set, the older duo couldn’t quite hear each other between points, so Federer trotted from the net back to the baseline to consult with Nadal, then pointed to his ear to signal what the issue was.

Before Federer began winning Grand Slam titles in 2003, the men’s mark for most major tennis championships was 14 by Pete Sampras. Federer blew past that, accumulating eight at Wimbledon, six at the Australian Open, five at the U.S. Open and one at the French Open, setting a new standard that Nadal, now with 22, and Novak Djokovic, with 21, equaled, then surpassed, as part of a golden era for the sport.

Surely, there are those who would have found it particularly apt to see Federer finish across the net from Nadal, often an on-court nemesis but eventually an off-court friend. Maybe it could have taken place about 15 miles away at Centre Court of the All England Club, say, or in Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros, or Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park, or even Arthur Ashe Stadium, the centrepiece of the U.S. Open, the lone Grand Slam tournament at which they never faced off, somehow.

Perhaps they could have provided everyone with one final installment of a head-to-head matchup as memorable as any in the long history of their sport — or, indeed, any other.

Roger vs. Rafa — just one name apiece required — belongs up there with McEnroe vs. Borg (as it happens, the two Laver Cup team captains, John and Bjorn), Evert vs. Navratilova, Sampras vs. Agassi, Ali vs. Frazier, Magic vs. Bird, Brady vs. Manning, and so on.

Over the years, Federer and Nadal showed off individual greatness and compelling contrasts across their 40 matches, 14 at Grand Slam tournaments, nine in major finals: righty vs. lefty, attacker vs. grinder, seeming effortlessness vs. relentless intensity.

And yet, there was an unmistakable element of poetry with these two men who challenged each other and elevated each other performing as partners, slapping palms and sharing smiles.

This goodbye follows that of Serena Williams, the owner of 23 major singles championships, at the U.S. Open three weeks ago after a third-round loss. It leaves questions about the future of a game he and she dominated, and transcended, for decades.

One key difference: Each time Williams took the court in New York, the looming question was how long her stay would endure — a “win or this is it” prospect.

Friday WAS it for Federer, no matter the result.

“All the players will miss him,” said Casper Ruud, who beat Sock in singles 6-4, 5-7, 10-7.

The day’s other results, which left Team Europe and Team World tied at 2-2: Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-1 in a match interrupted briefly when an environmental protester lit a portion of the court and his own arm on fire, and Alex de Minaur got past Andy Murray 5-7, 6-3, 10-7.

Due to begin playing shortly after the end of Murray’s loss, Federer and Nadal first provided him with some coaching tips, then watched part of that one on TV together in a room at the arena, waiting for their turn. When Federer and Nadal were in action, it was Djokovic’s turn to suggest strategy.

The last hurrah came after a total of 103 career singles trophies and 1,251 wins in singles matches for Federer, both second only to Jimmy Connors in the Open era, which began in 1968.

At the height of his powers, Federer appeared in a record 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals, winning eight, from 2005-07. Extend that to 2010, and he reached 18 of 19 major finals.

More than those numbers, folks will remember the powerful forehand, the one-handed backhand, the flawless footwork, the spectacularly effective serve and eagerness to get to the net, the willingness to reinvent aspects of his game and — the part of which he’s proudest — the unusual longevity. Beyond the elegance and effectiveness while wielding a racket, Federer’s persona made him an ambassador for tennis, someone whose immense popularity helped attract fans.

“This is not the end-end, you know. Life goes on. I’m healthy, I’m happy, everything’s great,” Federer said, “and this is just a moment in time.”

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