World Sports Brief: May 27, 2023

Soccer: Brazil to play African nations in anti-racism campaign to support Vinicius Jr

Brazil will play friendlies against two African nations as part of an anti-racism campaign in support of their Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr, who has been racially abused in Spanish League games this season, the Brazilian FA (CBF) said on Friday (May 26).
Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior gestures towards a fan after witnessing abuse as Valencia's Jose Gaya and Cenk Ozkacar attempt to restrain him - LaLiga - Valencia v Real Madrid - Mestalla, Valencia, Spain - May 21, 2023. (Photo: Reuters)
Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior gestures towards a fan after witnessing abuse as Valencia's Jose Gaya and Cenk Ozkacar attempt to restrain him - LaLiga - Valencia v Real Madrid - Mestalla, Valencia, Spain - May 21, 2023. (Photo: Reuters)

The five-time world champions will face Guinea in Barcelona on June 17 and Senegal in Lisbon three days later. The CBF has also launched a national campaign against racism in Brazilian league matches starting this weekend following the racist insults 22-year-old Vinicius Jr suffered in a LaLiga match at Valencia on Sunday, the 10th such episode against the player that LaLiga has reported to prosecutors this season.

* Cologne's one-year transfer ban imposed by FIFA was provisionally suspended on Friday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as it considers an appeal lodged by the club, the Bundesliga outfit said in a statement. Cologne were banned from signing players for next season after the world governing body accused the club of encouraging Slovenian 17-year-old Jaka Cuber Potocnik to break his contract with Olimpija Ljubljana and join them in January 2022.

French teenager Arthur Fils advanced to his first ATP final by holding on for a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (5) victory over eighth-seeded Brandon Nakashima at the Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes in Lyon, France. Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov advanced to the final at Geneva, Switzerland, with a 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (2) victory over No. 2 seed Taylor Fritz.

* Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Friday the city planned to ban single-use plastic when it holds the 2024 Olympic Games as part of efforts to tackle a global plastic pollution crisis. Visitors to temporary Olympics competition sites in the French capital will be admitted only without plastic bottles.

* Britain's WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury said on Friday that a contract had been sent to compatriot Anthony Joshua for a Wembley Stadium showdown in September. Fury, 34, has not fought since retaining his title with a 10th-round stoppage of fellow Briton Derek Chisora in December.

* Germany has been selected to host the 2027 Ice Hockey World Championship, triumphing over the competing bid from Kazakhstan, the International Ice Hockey Federation said on Friday. The PSD Bank Dome in Duesseldorf and the SAP Arena in Mannheim will be the two official venues for the annual event that will return to Germany after 10 years.

* Michael Block missed the cut in his first start since taking the PGA Championship by storm although the physically drained club professional is happy to return home after a whirlwind journey during which he became an overnight sensation. Block carded a four-over-par 74 on Friday, which was a seven-shot improvement on his opening round of the PGA Tour event but still left him in last place when he left Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

* Elina Svitolina will be looking for her first title since returning from maternity leave after rallying for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over France's Clara Burel in Friday's semifinal at the Internationaux de Strasbourg in France. Italy's Lucia Bronzetti committed just eight unforced errors while rolling to a 6-1, 6-1 upset of second-seeded Sloane Stephens in the semifinals at Rabat, Morocco.

* AZ Alkmaar said on Friday they had taken significant measures including multiple bans on fans plus enhanced stadium security after the trouble that followed their Europa Conference League semi-final, second leg at home to West Ham United last week. The visitors won 1-0 on Thursday to claim a place in the June 7 final against Fiorentina with a 3-1 aggregate victory but the match was overshadowed by family and friends of the West Ham squad being set upon after the whistle while celebrating.

* The largest number of US tennis players in almost 30 years will set their sights on a French Open singles crown when the claycourt grand slam event gets underway on Sunday. A total of 35 Americans (19 women and 16 men) are set to compete in the singles main draws at Roland Garros – the most since 1995 when 39 started the opening day.

* American Rose Zhang, who has earned virtually every women's amateur golf accomplishment so far in her decorated career, announced on Friday that she is turning professional. The 20-year-old Stanford sophomore, who leaves the amateur ranks having held top spot in the women's world amateur golf ranking for a record 141 consecutive weeks, will make her pro debut at the LPGA's June 1-4 Mizuho Americas Open in New Jersey.

* Red Bull's Formula One leader Max Verstappen kept Ferrari's home hero Charles Leclerc off the top of the timesheets, while Carlos Sainz crashed, in a sunny second practice for the Monaco Grand Prix on Friday. Double world champion Verstappen's best effort of one minute 12.462 seconds was just 0.065 quicker than Leclerc's fastest around the treacherous city streets and came after the Dutch driver had struggled with the car's set-up.

* Jadon Sancho needs to build on the momentum at Manchester United next season after making progress, manager Erik ten Hag said on Friday, as the 23-year-old England forward continues to find his feet in the Premier League. Sancho, who joined United from Borussia Dortmund in July 2021, returned to training in January for the first time since October and has struggled for form.

* Britain's Geraint Thomas took a big step towards winning his first Giro d'Italia as he avoided any significant time losses to Maglia Rosa rival Primoz Roglic in a brutal Queen Stage high in the Dolomites on Friday. Colombia's Santiago Buitrago (Team Bahrain Victorious) crossed the Stage 19 finish line at Tre Cime Di Lavaredo in first place while behind him the battle for the overall lead raged on the fifth and final climb of the day.

* Leicester City manager Dean Smith urged his players to focus on their final game of the season against West Ham United and ignore the fact that Premier League survival is out of their hands. Leicester, who won the league title in 2016, must beat West Ham on Sunday and hope Everton drop points against Bournemouth to avoid relegation to the Championship for the first time in nine seasons.

* Tottenham Hotspur need to hire a new head coach as soon as possible and re-establish a style of play, according to interim manager Ryan Mason ahead of their final game of the season. It has been a wretched season for Tottenham who go into Sunday's clash at Leeds United in eighth place and in danger of missing out on European qualification.

* Arsenal must make smart decisions in the close-season transfer window so they can once again compete for the Premier League next season, manager Mikel Arteta said on Friday. Arsenal topped the table for much of this season, but collapsed in the last two months as Manchester City won the title with three games to spare after an incredible run.

* The final Premier League game is a do-or-die situation for relegation-threatened Leeds United, manager Sam Allardyce said on Friday as his side bids to retain their top-flight status. With Southampton relegated from the league, three teams - Leeds United (19th), Leicester City (18th) and Everton (17th) - remain in danger.

* American teenager Coco Gauff hopes a return to Paris will help her rediscover the spark that has so far been missing during what has been a disappointing claycourt season. Gauff, still only 19, reached the French Open final last year, losing to Iga Swiatek, and will be seeded sixth for this year's tournament which begins on Sunday.

* Wigan Athletic have been given a second four-point deduction and will start the next League One season on minus eight points after the club were unable to deposit funds to cover their wage bill, the English Football League (EFL) said on Friday. Wigan were handed an initial four-point deduction last Friday after the club failed to pay player salaries this month.

* Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday said his split with coach Mark Philippoussis ahead of the French Open was motivated by a desire to simplify the feedback he was receiving from his box. Former Australian tennis player Philippoussis, who joined Tsitsipas's coaching team last season and helped guide the world number five to the Australian Open final in January, confirmed the split on Instagram earlier this week.

* Royal Antwerp and Union Saint Gilloise are looking to end a lengthy Belgian title drought as they face off at the weekend in a clash that could decide the destiny of this season’s championship and end decades of frustration for one of them. The two clubs, who play each other on Sunday, are level on 75 points heading into the final two games of the season, with Genk three behind.