United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann described his team's World Cup draw as "the worst of the worst" after it was pooled with Germany, Portugal and Ghana in one of two "Groups of Death."
Klinsmann could scarcely believe his ill fortune after the draw was made in Bahia, Brazil, with the Americans lumped into Group G and a situation that immediately installed them as long shots to reach the last 16.
To add to his discomfort, Klinsmann's side also will have to battle a grueling travel schedule, including a visit to the Amazonian jungle city of Manaus with its extreme humidity and hostile weather environment.
"It is one of the most difficult groups of the whole draw," Klinsmann said. "It couldn't get any more difficult or any bigger but that is what the World Cup is all about.
"We are looking forward to the challenge and we don't see ourselves as any kind of outsiders. If you want to get into the top 10 or 12 teams in the world you have to beat these guys.
"We discussed before the draw that there could be some difficult schedules and we hit the worst of the worst. Every coach said, 'Anything but Manaus' and we got Manaus."
Germany is one of the strongest teams in the tournament and reached the semifinal in 2010, while Portugal will be led by Cristiano Ronaldo, currently the world's best and most dominant player.
Supposedly the weakest opponent, Ghana, eliminated the U.S. at the round of 16 stage four years ago. The Ghanaians also ended the Americans' 2006 World Cup with a victory in the teams' final group game.
"After two losses, it's about time to beat them, I guess," Klinsmann said.
The Ghana matchup will be the first for the U.S. and is scheduled for Natal on June 16. Portugal follows in Manaus six days later before group action ends against Germany in Recife on June 26.
"I kind of had a feeling in my stomach that we were going to get Germany," said Klinsmann, who starred for the West Germany national team as it won the 1990 World Cup and later led the German side to the 2006 semifinals on home soil.
The "other" Group of Death is Group B where 2010 finalists Spain and the Netherlands square off in the opening match. Host nation Brazil kicks off the tournament against Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12.
Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Texans relieved Gary Kubiak of his duties as head coach on Friday, less than 24 hours after the team was dealt its 11th consecutive loss with a 27-20 setback at Jacksonville.
Kubiak, who had guided the Texans to consecutive AFC South titles over the previous two seasons, compiled a 61-64 overall record in eight years in Houston.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will serve as interim head coach for the Texans' final three regular-season games.
Robinson Cano, the most sought-after free agent in a thin class, has agreed to a 10-year, $240-million contract with the Seattle Mariners, sources confirmed Friday, snubbing the New York Yankees after months of negotiations and posturing.
While they'd hoped to re-sign their valuable second baseman, the Yankees were unwilling to invest more than about $175 million over seven years. Already this winter they'd signed outfielderJacoby Ellsbury for $153 million, catcher Brian McCann for $85 million and on Friday were nearing a one-year deal with right-hander Hiroki Kuroda for $16 million. They are likely to use money earmarked for Cano to sign at least one more player – outfielders Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz are possibilities – and they still need pitching.
Cano's commitment to Seattle and the Mariners, and theirs to him, comes as a major upset in baseball's winter, and at a time the Mariners are seeking to re-establish a foothold in their city and the American League West. The Mariners are counting on Cano to be their best position player since Ken Griffey Jr., and to lead their return to relevance after failing to reach the postseason for a dozen years. With Cano in the fold, the Mariners are expected to attempt to lure other players, including a possible play for Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price.
Represented by rap artist and nascent sports agent Jay Z, Cano leaves the organization that signed him at 18 out of the Dominican Republic and helped develop him into one of baseball's most productive and consistent players.
Cano, 31, will be 41 when the contract expires. The Yankees make a habit of such contracts, which often end when their players are long past their primes while still carrying traces of their earlier star power. They did in this case restrain themselves; Cano's side initially sought more than $300 million over 10 years. In a market that did not initially appear to develop much past the Yankees, team officials repeatedly said they would not commit those kinds of dollars or years to Cano. The Mariners stepped into that opening, and so will benefit for at least the next few years from the Cano capable of 25 home runs and deft right-side defense. Cano, a left-handed hitter, could find Seattle's Safeco Field a bit more of a challenge than the friendly right-field porch at Yankee Stadium, however. In 40 games at Safeco, Cano batted .309, but with only four home runs in 152 at-bats. Many of those games would have been played before the team drew in the fences.
It also leaves the Yankees in the position of replacing their best player.
The Yankees began the winter with an aging, 85-win team that failed to reach the postseason for the second time since 1994, a manager who was a free agent, and with an ownership directive to trim payroll for luxury tax purposes, and as the hated Boston Red Sox won their third World Series title in a decade, all to a soundtrack of the Alex Rodriguez appeal.
They signed manager Joe Girardi to a four-year extension, and signed McCann and Ellsbury, but needed to rebuild parts of a pitching staff that was mediocre and lost icons Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera to retirement. Kuroda, their most reliable starter, was a free agent. On the bright side, so was Phil Hughes, who signed with the Minnesota Twins. They'd also intended to sign Cano, but not, apparently, at all cost.
The Yankees still didn't know who would play third base, however, or if Mark Teixeira, at 33, would sufficiently recover from wrist surgery to be a force again, or if they could acquire another outfield bat, or what they had anymore in shortstop Derek Jeter or ace CC Sabathia. Then they would fail to re-sign Cano, a five-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner and frequent MVP candidate who had played at least 159 games in seven consecutive seasons.
The competition for Cano had appeared soft. The Detroit Tigers traded for Ian Kinsler. The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Cuban Alexander Guerrero. The Los Angeles Angels did not have the stomach for another mega-contract, and prioritized pitching anyway. Still, early reports had the Yankees and Cano $150 million apart in negotiations. By early December, the gap had shrunk to $100 million. On Friday, it was at least $65 million.
Meanwhile, team president Randy Levine was telling reporters that the days of legacy contracts in the Bronx were either over or did not apply to Cano.
"We have no interest in doing any 10-year deals and no interest in paying $300 million to any player," he said. "Until he gets a little more realistic, we have nothing to talk about."
Cano's side responded that it hadn't asked for that much, but those were numbers that would have kept Cano from testing free agency, details that neither side was able to overcome. The sense that Cano preferred to stay in New York, and that it was one of the reasons he'd hired Jay Z, was forgotten by Friday, with the news he intended to leave New York. So the Yankees would move on with their money, and their luxury tax strategy, and their various problems, but without their cornerstone second baseman.
Sports can be a diversion. Sports can be a hobby. And, for a fortunate few, sports can change the world.
Nelson Mandela, the legendary South African activist and politician who died Thursday at 95, stands as one of the 20th century's most notable figures for his efforts to end apartheid. And while he used a combination of methods to dismantle South Africa's system of institutionalized racism, sports ranked high on the list. Mandela realized the transformative and unifying power of sports, and used that power to make changes that protests and diplomacy could not.
Mandela was a driven athlete, an amateur boxer who ran two hours every morning as a young man. He kept himself in excellent shape during his 27 years in prison. But it was a sport to which he had little attachment which would change his life and cement his legacy.
The key moment in Mandela's sporting life, as John Carlin of Sports Illustrated noted, was the 1995 Rugby World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mandela had been sworn in as president of South Africa only the year before, the nation's first black president, and there were plenty of heavily armed whites who were none too pleased with the tides that had changed their entire existence. The possibility of rioting, or worse, loomed large over the match between South Africa and New Zealand. As Mandela would say later, it was the most nervous he'd ever been in his life, even more so than the morning in 1962 where a captured Mandela would be sentenced to either life in prison or death by hanging.
Mandela had threaded a needle in the dark. In 1992, South Africa had been awarded the Rugby World Cup, and Mandela allowed the competition to proceed, even though rugby was a decidedly white-leaning sport. The South African national team, the Springboks, had only one nonwhite player, and blacks hated the team for many reasons, seeing their green jerseys as symbols of apartheid repression.
But Mandela convinced the nation to pull together as one and root for the Springboks, in part because of one astonishingly brave gesture: before a crowd of 65,000 that was almost completely white, Mandela strode onto the field wearing a Springboks jersey. The crowd, silent at first, began chanting "Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!"
South Africa would go on to win the game, and South Africans both black and white celebrated the victory. Mandela had not just passed a test, he'd rewritten it ... and in so doing, created a new, more hopeful future for his nation.
“Sport has the power to change the world,” Mandela said. “It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”
(Tallahassee, FL) -- Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is not being charged with sexual assault. The State Attorney's Office said this afternoon the results of its investigation didn't turn up enough evidence to move forward with the case. A 19-year-old woman told police Winston raped her last December. A felony charge would have resulted in Winston's immediate suspension from the team. Winston is considered the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, and FSU is number one in the BCS standings.
(NEWSER) – At this rate, it might be another 16 years before the NBA decides to have a game in Mexico: Last night's game between the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves was called off after smoke filled the Mexico City arena before fans arrived, reports the AP. A generator malfunction caused smoke to pour into the arena, taking over the whole court and forcing players to retreat from their locker rooms to their buses. The game, which would have been the first regular-season one played in Mexico since 1997, will be played in Minnesota at a later date.