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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Crazy day in Qatar: Japan, Morocco win; Germany, Belgium out
2. World Cup: Belgian, Mexican coaches out; 15.5 million watch USA-Iran
3. USATF’s Siegel strongly defends $3.8 million pay for 2021
4. Shooting federation selects new Sec-Gen, apologizes for no election results
5. Ledecky and Costa take second wins at U.S. Open
The 2022 World Cup took a decided turn away from European domination on Thursday as Belgium and Germany were ousted in the group stage and Groups E and F were won by upstarts Japan and Morocco. As a result of the outcomes over the past couple of days, the coaches for Belgium and Mexico both announced that they were done with their roles. Additional broadcast data showed that some 15.5 million Americans watched the U.S. vs. Iran match in English (FOX) and Spanish (Telemundo) combined, better than just about everything else on TV these days except the NFL. USA Track & Field chief executive Max Siegel strongly defended his $3.8 million compensation in 2021 in an interview, but his comments raise questions as well. The International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) was silent for a full day after incumbent Vladimir Lisin of Russia was defeated for the presidency by Italy’s Luciano Rossi, but woke up on Thursday and also announced that a new Secretary General has been appointed to replace Lisin ally Alexander Ratner. At the U.S. Open swimming championships in North Carolina, U.S. superstar Katie Ledecky and Brazil’s Guilherme Costa added the 400 m Free to their 800 m Free wins on Wednesday.
Crazy day in Qatar: Japan, Morocco win; Germany, Belgium out
European supremacy in football was seriously eroded over the past two days, as defending World Cup champion France, and highly-regarded Denmark and Poland all lost on Wednesday, and bluebloods Spain, Germany and Belgium came up short on Thursday.
In the final matches in Group E, Japan stunned Spain, 2-1, with two goals early in the second half and won the group with a 2-1 record and six points. The Spanish (1-1-1) ended up second and advanced, but only on goal differential – +6 vs. +2 – over Germany, which defeated Costa Rica, 4-2, and also had a 1-1-1 mark (four points).
Belgium was considered a tournament co-favorite coming in, but once again was unable to showcase the firepower its players had previously shown, finishing with a 0-0 tie against 2018 runner-ups Croatia. The Belgians ended up scoring one goal in their three matches and left with a 1-1-1 record and four points. Morocco, on the other hands, tied Croatia (0-0), beat the Belgians by 2-0 and beat Canada (2-1) to top the group with seven points, with Croatia second (1-0-2: 5).
The final group matches come on Friday, with Serbia (0-1-1: 1 point) against the Swiss (1-1: 3) and already-qualified Brazil (2-0: 6) against Cameroon (0-1-1: 1) in Group F, and Ghana (1-1: 3) vs. Uruguay (0-1-1: 1) and already-advanced Portugal (2-0: 6) facing South Korea (0-1-1: 1).
Most of the Round of 16 has been set now:
● 3 December: Netherlands vs. U.S. and Argentina vs. Australia
● 5 December: Japan vs. Croatia and Brazil vs. Group H no. 2
● 4 December: England vs. Senegal and France vs. Poland
● 6 December: Morocco vs. Spain and Portugal vs. Group G no. 2
The quarterfinals will be held on the 9th and 10th.
World Cup: Belgian, Mexican coaches out; 15.5 million watch USA-Iran
The Telemundo Spanish-language audience for the U.S.-Iran match was reported at 3.5 million (television and streaming), so the game drew more than 15.513 million fans on the 29th, second only to the 20.091 million for the U.S vs. England game on the 25th, a holiday Friday for many people.
Thus, for the three American matches at the World Cup so far, the average audience for English and Spanish telecasts combined has averaged 15.588 million, easily better than nearly everything else in sports in the U.S., excepting NFL games.
As teams fall out of the World Cup, so do coaches. Two high-profile team leaders already leaving their teams are Belgium manager Roberto Martinez (ESP) and Mexican manager Gerardo Martino (ARG).
Martinez said: “My situation is very clear. This is the end for me.
“Whatever the result of this tournament, I took the decision before the World Cup. It’s all about long term. Since 2018, I could have taken many jobs. I don’t resign, it’s just ending like this.”
The Royal Belgian Football Association said in a statement:
“We are extremely disappointed after the early exit of our national team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar because we have failed and thereby let down the people of Belgium who supported our team all the way through.”
Martino said after Mexico’s exit from the tournament:
“I am the first responsible for this terrible disappointment and frustration that we have. As the person in charge, it causes a lot of sadness, I fully assume responsibility for this great failure.
“My contract ended as soon as the referee blew the final whistle and there is nothing more to be done.”
Mexican national teams director Jaime Ordiales said in a Thursday news conference:
“We’re embarrassed and we have to apologize. It’s necessary to face this failure and this makes us responsible to have to show the professional embarrassment that we have.”
More embarrassment as FIFA opened a second inquiry into anti-gay chants from Mexican fans during Mexico’s 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia:
“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has opened proceedings against the Mexican Football Federation due to chants by Mexican supporters during the Saudi Arabia v. Mexico FIFA World Cup match played on 30 November.”
A prior investigation was announced for the same issue after Mexico’s 0-0 draw with Poland in its opening match on 22 November. FIFA has previously sanctioned the Mexican federation (FMF) with a fan ban for a World Cup qualifying match in 2021.
USATF’s Siegel strongly defends $3.8 million pay for 2021
Brilliant interview by Ken Stone of the Times of San Diego, asking USA Track & Field chief executive Max Siegel about his $3,819,264 pay for 2021 as disclosed on the federation’s IRS Form 990 tax return.
Siegel spoke to Stone on Tuesday, saying “This frankly is the worst week of my life,” referring to the criticism he has received. But he also strongly defended his compensation, saying “Have you seen one gold medalist in there that’s been critical of me?”
He responded to the allegation that the landmark deal from Nike that began in 2014 was brought in without his help, saying:
“That’s simply not true. And I don’t care what people say. … Nike was not going to stick around” and added, “As I’ve said to everyone before, if they want to go back to $16 million a year and have 100% of nothing – yeah, go ahead.
“The eight years before I got here, the organization’s actual revenue was about $129 million. Since I’ve been here [it’s been] $359 million. Those are just facts. That’s not my hyperbole, right?”
He also said he expects his employment agreement with USATF to be extended to the end of 2024, when he will be 60. He is attending the USATF Annual Meeting in Florida which closes on the 4th.
Observed: An evaluation of Siegel’s resolute defense of his compensation requires some perspective.
● First, what Siegel is paid is up to the USATF Board of Directors and that’s where the complaints should go. There is a significant issue with the “independent” members of the Board, since they are not elected, but are chosen by the existing Board, a clear conflict of interest.
● Second, his figures on revenues since he was appointed in 2012 and the eight years prior are not exactly right, but still better than before. Using USATF financial statements for the seven years prior to his tenure and a quoted figure for the eighth, USATF had $125.41 million in revenues from 2004-2011 combined. Revenues in 2010, under Doug Logan – who also negotiated a deal with Nike – were $19.34 million and in 2011, with Mike McNees as interim CEO, $19.08 million.
In Siegel’s first eight years – the same time frame as prior to his arrival for comparison – USATF revenues rose to $289.22 million combined, so more than double.
But it is worthwhile to note that revenues in Siegel’s first two years were $23.41 million in 2012 (an Olympic year) and then back to $19.59 million in 2013, before the Nike deal kicked in in 2014, with a $15 million signing bonus that raised USATF’s revenues to $35.05 million.
Since 2014, USATF revenues have not reached the $35 million level except in the Olympic years of 2016 and 2020 and were down to $34.63 million for 2021.
● Third, Siegel’s deferred compensation that was tied to the Nike deal is only part of the story. The USATF financial statements for 2014 note a “sponsorship negotiation commission” expense – related to the Nike deal – to an outside entity for more than $22 million, to be paid into 2039.
If Siegel’s role was so crucial to Nike’s sponsorship, why is the “separate third party” receiving more than $22 million in commissions over the life of that deal?
Shooting federation selects new Sec-Gen, apologizes for no election results
The International Shooting Sports Federation held a Congress on 30 November and elected Italy’s Luciano Rossi as President, 136-127, over Russian Vladimir Lisin.
Nothing was posted on the ISSF Web site.
On Thursday (1st), a notice was posted that started with:
“We apologize that no information from yesterday’s election for the new president could be found on the website.
“The ISSF executive committee has a new president: Luciano Rossi.”
Now back to work, the results of the other positions were also posted Thursday, with Germany’s Willi Grilli “confirmed” as the new Secretary General of the federation, replacing Alexander Ratner, a former Russian and now German citizen, who was closely aligned with Lisin and sent a controversial letter lobbying for Lisin’s re-election the week prior to the vote.
Among the nine other members of the Executive Committee, in addition to Rossi, are four Vice Presidents, including six-time Olympic medal winner Kim Rhode of the U.S.
Ledecky and Costa take second wins at U.S. Open
The second night of the U.S. Open in Greensboro, North Carolina, saw a re-match of the women’s 400 m Freestyle final with American star Katie Ledecky again out-dueling Canadian teen Summer McIntosh, 3:59.71 to 3:59.79.
McIntosh, 16, actually had the lead going into the final turn, but Ledecky came on stronger to the touch, in the no. 7 and equal-8th performances of the year in the event. McIntosh had beaten Ledecky in the 400 m Free in the short-course FINA World Cup in Toronto in October, but Ledecky added the win to the first-night 800 m Free title.
Brazil’s Guilherme Costa, the 2022 Worlds 400 m Free bronze medalist, also completed the 400-800 m Free double, winning in 3:48.13.
U.S. stars Chase Kalisz and Regan Smith won the men’s and women’s 200 m Medleys in 1:56.52 and 2:10.40, respectively, a lifetime best for backstroke star Smith, now no. 18 for 2022. The 50 m Free sprints went to David Curtiss in 21.92 and Gabi Albiero in 25.06.
The meet continues through Saturday.
≡ FIFA WORLD CUP ≡
● Group E: Japan 2, Spain 1 ● Spain started the day on top of the group, but needed at least a tie to advance. And the Spanish got on top early with their patented passing game. Off a blocked shot, defender Cesar Azpilicueta sent a perfect lead into the box that was headed in by striker Alvaro Morata in the 11th minute for a 1-0 lead.
Spain completed 526 passes in the half and had 83% of possession, but only a 5-2 edge in shots as Japan kept the score to 1-0.
Then, everything changed, as substitute striker Ritsu Doan took a header from midfielder Junya Ito on the right side and sent a left footed strike whistling off keeper Unai Simon in the 48th to tie the match.
Then it happened again, as Doan got possession in the box, and sent a right-footed shot past the left side of the goal that appeared to be out, but was kicked back into the field of play by Kaoru Mitoma and then kneed into the goal by a charging Ao Tanaka. The goal went to video review and was ruled good for a 2-1 Japanese lead in the 51st minute. Essentially a replay of the early-second-half comeback by the Japanese against Germany in their opening win, also in the Khalifa International Stadium eight days earlier!
Japan stayed aggressive, but never exposed its back line to danger, marking Spain closely. The Spanish pressed hard and had chances, but failed to score; if they had tied the game, Japan would have ended up third in the group and Spain and Germany would have advanced.
Spain controlled the ball for 82% of the game and had a 12-6 edge on shots, but lost the game. They will advance as the second-place team in the group, with Japan beating Germany and Spain – who picked that? – to win Group E.
● Group E: Germany 4, Costa Rica 2 ● Germany had to win and needed help from Spain to advance. Controlling almost all of the possession early, the Germans took an early lead with a goal from forward Serge Gnabry in the 10th minute on a header off of a cross right to the front of the goal from defender David Raum.
The Germans has a 71-29% edge in possession in the half and out-shot Costa Rica, 12-1, but that meant nothing when Yeltsin Tejada scored in the 58th from right in front of the goal.
Then midfielder Joel Campbell hit a long free kick from the left side to the far right side of the box, headed forward by defender Kendall Watson and hit defender Niklas Sule, falling to Juan Pablo Vargas in front of goal, who got enough of a touch on it to roll past German keeper Manuel Neuer in the 70th for a 2-1 lead!
But the Germans came right back, applying pressure and defender Joshua Kimmich heading the ball to midfielder Niclas Fullkrug in the box, who forwarded it to substitute striker Kai Havertz for a 2-2 tie in the 73rd.
Havertz scored again in the 85th with Gnabry sending a cross from the right side to Havertz’s foot and he finished for a 3-2 lead. In the 89th, Kimmich sent a ball into the box that came down to Leroy Sane, who chested it to Fullkrug for the finish and a 4-2 final.
Germany ended with 68% of possession and a 32-7 edge on shots (!), but its 1-1-1 record was worth four points and third place on goal differential to Spain, +6 vs. +1. It’s the second straight World Cup in which the Germans failed to get out of the group stage.
● Group F: Croatia 0, Belgium 0 ● No. 2-ranked Belgium flamed out of the 2022 World Cup with a goalless performance against a tough Croatia team that will move on as the runner-ups in Group F.
After a 1-0 win over Canada and a 2-0 loss to Morocco, Belgium had to win, but ended up scoring only one goal in the tournament and missed multiple chances in Thursday’s game.
Neither side was credited with a shot on goal during the first half, but both had chances that were blocked or went wide. Croatia was awarded a penalty that was reversed for offsides after a video review.
Star striker Romelu Lukaku came in for the second half and had an immediate impact, but could not score, hitting the right goalpost with an open net in front of him on a rebound in the 60th minute, sent a header over the bar in the 63rd and had a tap-in saved in the 90th minute by Croatian keeper Dominik Livakovic.
Meanwhile, the Croatians were repeatedly challenging Belgian keeper Thibaut Cortois, but he refused to be beaten. But with the tie, Croatia advanced to the elimination round and Belgium, which was eliminated in the Euro 2020 quarterfinals last year, leaves the tournament after reaching the quarterfinals in 2014 and finishing third in 2018.
The Belgians had 52% of possession and a 16-11 edge on shots.
● Group F: Morocco 2, Canada 1 ● Morocco remained in dreamland in Qatar with a 2-1 win over Canada that won the group for the North Africans, moving into the elimination round for the second time ever and first time since 1986.
They got on top of the game right away, with forward Hakim Ziyech getting a unbelievable goal in the fourth minute with a left-footed chip from about 40 yards out that floated over the head of Canadian keeper Milan Borjan who had come out to the box of the box for a failed clearance.
In the 23rd, striker Youssef En-Nesyri took a long lead pass down the right side from defender Achraf Hakimi, split two defenders and then rifled a shot from the right side of goal just inside the post and under Borjan for a 2-0 lead that looked insurmountable.
Canada got one back in the 40th minute on an own goal by defender Nayef Aguerd, as Canada’s sent a hard cross into the box from the left side that caromed off the defender and into the Morocco goal and the half ended, 2-1.
A Moroccan goal in the 48th was called back for offsides and Canada almost got an equalizer in the 72nd as a header by midfielder Atiba Hutchinson hit the crossbar and just missed landing behind the goal line. But there was no second-half scoring and the game ended, 2-1.
The Canadians had 59% of the possession and Morocco led in shots, 6-5, but Canada’s mistakes were the difference.
Canada was in the World Cup for only the second time, after losing all three games in 1986. They scored two goals in total (none in 1986), but the attacking style seen in winning the CONCACAF qualifying tournament appeared only rarely in Qatar.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● International Olympic Committee ● The Olympic Golden Rings Awards honor the best in broadcasting and the Beijing 2022 recipients were honored on Wednesday (30th) in Lausanne.
Among the honorees was NBC, which earned a Best Athlete Profile Silver (on cross-country skier Jessie Diggins), a gold for Best Example of Inclusion and Equality for its profile on bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor, a silver for Best Feature and Documentary (“The Ride of Their Lives”), a silver for Best Social Media and Fan Engagement and a gold in Best On-Air Promotion for its “Superfan” promo.
U.S.-based Warner Bros. Discovery, which held the European rights, won a bronze for Best Olympic Programme for its record audience totals; a gold for Best Innovation and Set Design and a bronze for Best Social Media and Fan Engagement.
● U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee ● The USOPC announced its inaugural Team USA Collegiate Impact Awards, recognizing the universities who contributed the most athletes to the American teams for Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022.
For Tokyo 2020, 475 American Olympians and 122 Paralympians competed collegiately, at a total of 223 schools. The top producers:
● Olympic Gold Award: Stanford (35 U.S. Olympians and 19 medalists)
● Olympic Silver Award: UCLA (21 U.S. Olympians and 14 medalists)
● Olympic Bronze Award: Florida (14 U.S. Olympians and 10 medalists)
● Paralympic Gold Award: Illinois (20 U.S. Paralympians and nine medalists)
For Beijing 2022, 85 Olympians and 17 Paralympians competed for 54 schools; the top producers:
● Olympic Gold Award: Minnesota (12 U.S. Olympians and eight medalists)
● Olympic Silver Award: Wisconsin (five U.S. Olympians and five medalists)
● Olympic Bronze Award: Boston College (five U.S. Olympians and three medalists)
● Paralympic Gold Award: New Hampshire (four U.S. Paralympians and four medalists)
Additional Collegiate Impact Awards were given for support in eight specific sports, including Diving (University of Texas), Fencing (Notre Dame), Ski & Snowboard (Utah), Softball (UCLA), Swimming (Georgia), Track & Field (Oregon), Water Polo (Stanford) and Wrestling (Penn State).
● Figure Skating ● A special honor for Maia and Alex Shibutani, the brother-sister Ice Dance stars who won 2018 Olympic bronzes in Ice Dance and the Team Event, and World Championships medals for Ice Dance in 2011 (bronze), 2016 (silver) and 2017 (bronze): election to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, in the Class of 2023.
They will be inducted, along with longtime head of the U.S. Figure Skating Foundation, George Taylor, on 28 January 2023 during the U.S. nationals in San Jose.
● Football ● In the aftermath of the player abuse scandal at the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League, owner Merritt Paulson announced Thursday that he would sell his ownership interest in the Thorns, but not in the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer, of which he is also the owner. He said in a statement:
“I regret the role our organization played in the failures identified by the investigations. Despite these challenges, the Portland Thorns have a bright future ahead and a lot left to accomplish.
“To fully realize that potential, I believe it is in best interest of the Thorns to have a new owner so that the Club can operate at the league level with a fresh voice to be a driving force for the NWSL. This has been a difficult decision for me, but I believe this is the best way to position the Thorns for continued success during this next chapter of the NWSL and the sport.”
U.S. Women’s National Team coach Jill Ellis, who led two Americans teams to the FIFA Women’s World Cup title, in 2015 and 2019, was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
She was elected in the “Builders” category, which includes referees, coaches, and owners and administrators; only coaches were eligible in this selection. Ellis will be inducted in the Class of 2023 ceremony on May 6.
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