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Saudis apologize after minute’s silence snub in Australia

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ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has apologized for “any offense caused” after its players declined to participate in a minute’s silence in memory of last weekend’s deadly attacks in London before the start of a World Cup qualifying match against Australia.

When the stadium announcer called for a minute’s silence Thursday night to honor the eight victims, including two Australians, the 11 Australian players on the field lined up near the center circle with arms on their teammates’ shoulders.

[ MORE: USMNT-T&T recap | 3 things ]

Their opponents from Saudi Arabia stayed on the other side, most seemingly ignoring the gesture, which sparked an immediate backlash. Video appeared to show one Saudi player bending down to tie his shoe lace during the minute of silence.

The Saudi federation statement said it “deeply regrets and unreservedly apologizes for any offense caused.”

“The players did not intend any disrespect to the memories of the victims or to cause upset to their families, friends or any individual affect by the atrocity,” the statement said. “The Saudi Arabian Football Federation condemns all acts of terrorism and extremism and extends its sincerest condolences to the families of all the victims.”

Australia won the match 3-2 to move level on points with Saudi Arabia and Japan atop the qualifying group with two games remaining.

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Football Federation Australia said the Saudi team management knew about the plan to hold a minute’s silence before the match and had indicated that the players wouldn’t participate.

“Both the (Asian Football Confederation) and the Saudi team agreed that the minute of silence could be held,” the FFA said in a statement. “The FFA was further advised by Saudi team officials that this tradition was not in keeping with Saudi culture and they would move to their side of the field and respect our custom whilst taking their own positions on the field.”

Typically, representative of soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, meet with officials from both teams and the referee a day before a World Cup qualifier to discuss game-related protocol, including plans for reflections such as the minute’s silence.

There was no immediate response from FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked early Friday about the incident but said while the matter had been raised with him, he had not seen video.

“The whole world, the whole free world is united in condemnation of that terrorist attack and terrorism generally,” Turnbull said, without directly referencing the match. “Everybody, everyone should be united in condemnation with the terrorists and love, and sympathy and respect for the victims and their families.”

Senior Australian Labor politician Anthony Albanese described it as “a disgraceful lack of respect.”

“There is no excuse here. This isn’t about culture,” he said. “This is about a lack of respect.”

After the match, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Japan all had 16 points in qualifying Group B, although Japan had a game in hand.

Tomi Juric scored two goals and Tom Rogic added the third for Australia in Adelaide.

Salem Al Dawsari and Mohammed Al Sahlawi scored for the Saudis, who are led by former Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk.

Australia plays at Japan on Aug. 31 and hosts Thailand on Sept. 5 in its remaining matches. In between, the Australians will play at the Confederations Cup in Russia.

The top two countries in the six-team group qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia, with the third-place country advancing to a playoff.

VIDEO: A sneak peek of Everton’s Europa League journey – Part 2

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In Part 2 of Everton Unseen, European football returns to Goodison Park as Everton host MFK Ruzomberok in the qualifying round of the Europa League.

Click play on the video below to get a feel for how Goodison Park will be in the second leg of the Europa League in Part 2 of this videos series.

[ MORE: Live Europa League scores

[ WATCH: Part 1 of Everton Unseen ] 

http://www.nbcsports.com/video/everton-unseen-part-2-everton-host-mfk-ruzomberok-europa-league

FIFA to send in emergency team to run Cameroon football

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says it is sending in an emergency management team to run the troubled Cameroon football federation.

The panel to be appointed by FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) will oversee elections by next March to replace disputed polls in 2015 for the Cameroon federation board.

FIFA’s intervention comes amid speculation Cameroon could be stripped of hosting the next African Cup of Nations in June-July 2019.

CAF President Ahmad this month cast doubt on Cameroon’s ability to prepare for the expanded 24-team tournament.

FIFA says Wednesday it acted after “recent failed attempts … to reconcile the football stakeholders in Cameroon and overcome the current impasse.”

Transfer Roundup: Tottenham complete signing of Sanchez, Clucas joins Swansea

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Tottenham reportedly broke the bank for its first transfer of the summer.

The North London club confirmed that it had completed a transfer with Ajax for defender Davinson Sanchez after the Colombian international passed a medical. According to The Telegraph, the deal is worth around $54 million, a club record. The deal is subject to acquisition of Sanchez’s work permit but given the transfer fee and him being in Colombia’s squad, it’s likely a mere formality at this point.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The 21-year-old defender brings speed and strength to Tottenham’s backline as well as a year of seasoning in the Eredivisie, which features plenty of attacking talent. Sanchez will battle with Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen for a place in Spurs’ three-man backline.

It’s a risk moving to a new club a year ahead of the World Cup, but Sanchez is hoping that with appearances in the UEFA Champions League and Premier League up for grabs, he can do well enough to keep his place in the Colombia National Team squad.

Here’s some more transfer news from across England:

(more…)

Liverpool bombard Hoffenheim with three-goal first half

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Liverpool got off to a flying start in the second leg of its UEFA Champions League tie with Hoffenheim.

With the loyal Anfield crowd behind the team, the Reds scored three goals in the first 21 minutes, two of them from Emre Can to put Liverpool well in control of the tie.

Can’s opener was followed by a goal from Mo Salah before the German international scored a wide-open goal at the back post to make it 3-0 and 5-1 on aggregate. Sadio Mane played a big role in both of Can’s goals.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann went to the bench right after the third goal and brought on Mark Uth, who promptly scored to bright a little hope back to the German club.

Here’s a look at the flying first half of goals for Liverpool.

Emre Can 10′

Mohamed Salah 18′

Emre Can 21′

Mark Uth 28′