Brazil touch down in Russia
SOCHI: A confident Brazil squad arrived in Russia in the early hours of Monday morning as they set their sights on winning the World Cup for the sixth time. Neymar and the rest of the team touched down in Sochi, the Black Sea resort city where they will be based during the tournament, just before 3am local time on a flight from Vienna. They left the Austrian capital on Sunday evening after beating their hosts 3-0 in their final friendly ahead of the World Cup, with Neymar among the scorers. The world's most expensive player netted on, while Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho scored the other goals against an Austrian side who failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Robbie to perform at opening
LONDON: British pop star Robbie Williams will perform at the World Cup opening ceremony in Moscow on Thursday, the world football governing body FIFA and the singer's representatives said. The award-winning singer formerly in the band Take That, who is best known for his hit single "Angels", will sing alongside Russian soprano Aida Garifullina shortly before Russia and Saudi Arabia kick off the World Cup at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. The 44-year-old said in a statement on Monday that performing at the World Cup was "a boyhood dream" and it would be "an unforgettable show". Former Brazil striker Ronaldo — known as "O Fenomeno" — will also be taking part in the opening ceremony, FIFA said.
'Future depends on wc'
BRONNITSY: Argentina captain Lionel Messi said his international future will be determined by his country's performance at the World Cup in Russia. "It will depend on how far we go, how we're going to finish" at the finals, Messi said in an interview with Spanish daily Sport. "We've just lost three finals in a row, which has led to us going through some difficult moments with the press," added the Barcelona forward. Messi, who will turn 31 during the World Cup, believes Spain, Brazil, Germany, France and Belgium are the leading contenders for the title. "There are lots of teams who arrive with lots of confidence, with both a team game and individual talents," said the five-time world player of the year.
'No chance!' says Troussier
TOKYO: Crisis-hit Japan would struggle to avoid an early World Cup exit even under Jose Mourinho - that's the stinging assessment of former coach Philippe Troussier. The Blue Samurai controversially axed Vahid Halilhodzic in April and replaced him with former Japan Football Association (JFA) technical director Akira Nishino - a high-risk move that had a feel of Russian roulette about it. But Troussier said that a Japan side bereft of confidence had "no chance" of reaching the knockout stage in Russia, where they face Colombia, Senegal and Poland. "Even if they play with Mourinho or Arsene Wenger, it would be so difficult for Japan to get to the last 16," said the Frenchman, who steered the former Asian champions to the second round as co-hosts of the 2002 World Cup.
‘Ronaldo not worried ‘
KRATOVO: Portugal midfielder Manuel Fernandes said Cristiano Ronaldo "doesn't look at all worried about his future" as the Real Madrid superstar contemplates a possible exit from the Spanish giants this summer. There has been intense speculation over Ronaldo's future after the 33-year-old suggested he could have played his last game for Real following their 3-1 victory over Liverpool in last month's Champions League final. Speaking on Monday at Portugal's World Cup team base camp on the outskirts of Moscow, Fernandes said: "I have nothing negative to say about Cristiano, he looks focused and doesn't look at all worried about his future."
Suarez seeking redemption
MONTEVIDEO: Uruguay's priority will be keeping Luiz Suarez tamed at this World Cup. After the striker was expelled from the 2014 tournament in disgrace for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini, Uruguay was eliminated by Colombia in the round of 16. Suarez promises he is a reformed character and will be better behaved in Russia than in Brazil, where he scored twice before being banned. "It was my mistake," Suarez said. "So I have a debt to repay to myself and Uruguay, to try to show a good image." Things were already starting to look brighter for two-time World Cup champion Uruguay, based on qualifying at least.
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