Tag Archives: lengthy

Canadian midfielder Desiree Scott itching to play after lengthy soccer hiatus

Desiree Scott has been waiting a long time for her next game.

The 33-year-old midfielder from Winnipeg didn’t play in the NWSL’s Challenge Cup last summer due to family commitments and opted out of the league’s Fall Series. Her last match with Canada was March 10, 2020 — a 2-2 tie with Brazil at a tournament in France.

Next week’s SheBelieves Cup can’t come soon enough.

“It’s really been a long time coming to get on a field with other people,” Scott told reporters Friday from Florida. “So the first [Canada] team meeting, we walked in and I just got teary-eyed because I’ve really missed being in the environment and in that team aspect of things.”

Scott, a tenacious ball-winner who has earned 157 caps, and the eighth-ranked Canadians open play next Thursday against the top-ranked U.S. at the four-country tournament in Orlando.

The Canadian women then play Brazil, tied for eighth in the world rankings, on Feb. 21 and No. 31 Argentina on Feb. 24.

‘What a way to start the year off’

Playing the powerful Americans is always a big ask. Doing it 345 days after your last outing only raises the degree of difficulty.

Canada’s record against the U.S. is 3-50-7. The Americans are riding a 34-game unbeaten streak and have scored two or more goals in 30 of those games. They are also unbeaten in their last 50 home matches (45-0-5) during which they have outscored their opponents 179-27.

The U.S. is coming off a pair of lopsided wins over Colombia last month.

Scott is unfazed, despite a personal 0-10-3 record against the Americans.

“What a way to start the year off after not being together for a year,” she said. “We can come into this camp and make a ton of excuses and look at it that way. But for us, it’s about the opportunity that we have ahead of us.

“You’re playing the No. 1 team. Any time we play them, it’s always a gritty battle. So we’re just looking forward to using that as a measuring stick to gauge where we’re at after not being together for a year. But also just looking at it as an opportunity to shine, see where we’re at, show what we’ve got and really build on that through the rest of the tournament.”

Scott paid tribute to Canadian strength and conditioning coach Cesar Meylan for helping her stay in shape during her time in Winnipeg.

“He’s given me a program that has adapted to the snow, being on my own in my basement. I invested in a treadmill and dumbbells and he’s kind of just adapted my program to that. I’ll work off a wall in my basement.

“I was a bit nervous coming into camp to see where I’m at. Nothing can replicate being on the field. But I’ve been good so far. I’m still standing.”

New era under Priestman

The tournament marks the first outing for new coach Bev Priestman, who spent 2013 to 2018 with Canada Soccer as an assistant coach with the senior side and youth head coach before returning to her native England to take up a similar role with the Lionesses.

Scott says Priestman has her own style and is building off her experience both in England and Canada.

“I don’t think she’s going to come in and overhaul everything. But she just given us new ways to think about some of the small tactical things that we’ve already been doing. Allowing us to get a lot of more competitiveness within training sessions. Nothing is given. You’ve got to earn that and I think she’s really pushing that aspect in training.”

The 34-year-old Priestman took over the Canadian team in November after Kenneth Heiner-Moller accepted a coaching job in his native Denmark.

Scott started her NWSL career in Kansas City and will be back there this season as a member of the expansion Kansas City NWSL side after time with the now-defunct Utah Royals.

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Messi faces lengthy suspension for ‘excessive force’ against Athletic Bilbao opponent

After losing the Spanish Super Cup final, Barcelona is also in danger of losing Lionel Messi for an extended period after he hit an opponent toward the end of the match.

Messi could be suspended for up to 12 games for the red card he received in the final minutes of his team’s 3-2 loss to Athletic Bilbao in Seville on Sunday.

After passing the ball out to the left flank, Messi swung his right arm toward the head of Athletic forward Asier Villalibre as they ran forward toward the box. Villalibre immediately fell to the ground and Messi was given his first red card in 753 appearances for Barcelona.

Referee Gil Manzano said in his match report that Messi hit his opponent with “excessive force” while the ball was not near him.

The Spanish soccer federation’s competitions committee will decide on the charges against Messi, and the player’s eventual suspension could range from one to three matches or from four to 12 matches, depending on how severe the federation considers the incident.

Barcelona was already preparing its defence regardless of the charges that would be presented by the federation against its player.

If found guilty, Messi will be suspended for matches in the Spanish league or the Copa del Rey. Barcelona is in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey and trails Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the league.

Title drought

Messi was visibly frustrated as the match went on and Barcelona struggled to recover from its deficit against Athletic. The Catalan club twice relinquished leads, including conceding a 90th-minute equalizer scored by Villalibre. Antoine Griezmann scored both Barcelona goals, with Messi assisting in the first one.

The defeat cost Barcelona a chance to end a title drought that has lingered from last season, the club’s first without a title since 2007-08.

While it was Messi’s first red card for his club, he has been sent off twice while playing for Argentina’s national team, including a few seconds into his debut in a friendly against Hungary in 2005. The other time was in the 2019 Copa America in a match against Chile. He was also sent off once while playing for Barcelona’s “B” team.

Messi, who asked to leave the club in the off-season but had his request denied, is having an average season compared to previous years, having scored 14 goals in 22 matches with Barcelona. He was far from his best on Sunday despite helping set up the team’s first goal.

Messi had been doubtful to play in the final because of an unspecified fitness issue that had caused coach Ronald Koeman to leave him out of the semifinal against Real Sociedad on Wednesday, when Barcelona prevailed in a penalty shootout.

Barcelona’s next match is on Thursday at Cornella in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey.

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Lengthy delays, violence mar Congo's presidential election

As polls were slated to officially close in Congo's election Sunday, lengthy voting delays were reported across the country, along with at least two deaths, marring a presidential vote the country hoped would be its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since 1960.

Observers reported multiple issues with the election, which will decide the successor to President Joseph Kabila, who has led the Central African country for the last 17 years. The election had been delayed since late 2016, prompting the opposition to accuse Kabila of trying to stay on past his mandate.

A police officer and civilian were killed in eastern Congo on Sunday in a dispute over alleged voting fraud, police said.

Vital Kamerhe, a politician from South Kivu province, and a witness, who wished to remain anonymous, said an altercation broke out at a polling place in the town of Walungu. A police officer shot and killed a young man involved in the melee and the crowd then beat the officer to death, they said.

Many polls closed in the evening, but others stayed open to allow those waiting in line to cast their ballots, and at least one polling station was just preparing to open due to issues related to electronic voting machines. Other polling stations had closed and ballot counting had begun.

Among some 21 candidates, top opposition leaders Martin Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi are challenging Kabila's preferred successor, former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who is under European Union sanctions for overseeing a crackdown on people protesting delays to the election.

After casting his ballot, Tshisekedi said some polling stations in the capital, Kinshasa, had not even opened six hours after voting began. He accused Congo's government of deliberately creating an election day mess to spark a court challenge that could allow Kabila to extend his time in power.

Voters look for their names outside a polling station in Kinshasa. (Olivia Acland/Reuters)

"I deplore all the disorder that we hear about," said Tshisikedi, who said Kabila's government is "responsible for this mess."

The voting machines that Congo was using for the first time posed a special problem. The opposition has warned that the machines could be used to manipulate the vote. Many of the country's 40 million voters have never used a computer, and electricity is limited.

Earlier this month, thousands of the machines were also torched in a warehouse fire in Kinshasa, with both the ruling coalition and opposition candidates trading blame in the destruction's immediate aftermath.

The Catholic Church's election observer mission in Congo said it had received 544 reports of malfunctioning voting machines. It also reported 115 cases of election observers being kicked out of polling centres or not being allowed access, and 44 cases of vote-buying or corruption.

'We wanted to vote!'

Nearly 50 polling stations in the capital of Kinshasa were idle for hours because lists of registered voters had not been delivered, said electoral commission chief Corneille Nangaa. The sprawling city is an opposition stronghold.

Nangaa brought some of the lists to polling stations himself, amid angry shouts of "We wanted to vote!" from people waiting in long lines.

Voters waiting for hours outside the St. Raphael school in the Limete district of Kinshasa finally stormed the polling station inside. (Jerome Delay/Associated Press)

Another observer group reported a multitude of problems, including the movement of polling stations to new locations at the last minute, said Luc Lutala, a spokesperson for the Symotel civic group, which deployed 19,000 observers.

"We knew there would be issues, but this is way beyond what we expected," Lutala said.

At stake is a country rich in minerals, including those crucial to the world's smartphones and electric cars, and yet Congo remains desperately underdeveloped with widespread corruption and insecurity.

Ebola outbreak

Election unrest had been feared after a last-minute decision to bar an estimated one million people from voting because of a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in the country's east. The decision has been widely criticized as threatening the credibility of the election and putting health workers in danger as people protest.

Voting in the Ebola-affected cities of Beni and Butembo was delayed until March, long after Congo's new leader will be inaugurated in January.

On Sunday, well over 10,000 people lined up in Beni to stage their own election, vowing to deliver the results to the electoral commission. People cast paper ballots and many sang in Swahili: "Voting is our right and nobody can stop us."

They washed their hands before voting as a protection against Ebola, which is spread via infected bodily fluids. "We do not have Ebola. Kabila is worse than Ebola," said Jacob Salamu, 24, who said he was voting for the first time.

Election day in the capital began with a heavy rainstorm that flooded some streets. Kabila and Shadary voted together.

Protesters waiting to cast their ballot demonstrate outside a polling station in Kinshasa, Congo on Sunday. (Luis Tato/AFP/Getty Images)

"My message today to my compatriots is to come and vote for their candidates and brave the rain," Kabila said. Shadary called for "peace and calm," adding that "I am very confident in victory."

Fayulu, considered the leading candidate, later voted at the same polling station.

"Today we are writing the end of Kabila, the end of misery for Congolese people," he said. "Congo will stop being the laughing stock of the world."

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