Death toll from Port Said tragedy rises after today’s verdicts

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Another ugly chapter in the Port Said tragedy is playing out in Egypt today with at least 30 dead and more than 200 injured after courts sentenced 21 to death in connection with last February’s stadium disaster.

Looking back on the week leading up to the verdict, it appeared some spark of violence was inevitable. Supporters of Cario-based club Al Ahly, who saw many of their supporters killed in the Feb. 1, 2011 tragedy, looked to judge Sobhy Abdel Maguid’s verdict as an opportunity for justice, threatening their own reaction should judgment not be harsh enough. Fans of Port Said club Al-Masry, however, had been wary of a possibly politically motivated court placing disproportionate blame on their fans.

Violence started soon after the court’s verdict was read, with Egyptian state television reporting gunshots were heard near a Port Said prison were suspects were being detained. Tear gas was also fired in the area of supporters gathered near the facility in support of the accused.

Last February, 79 people were killed after violence at the end of an Al-Masry-Al Ahly match. A panic that started after Al-Masry fans attacked rival supporters led to over 1,000 injuries, the casualties caused by the post-match crush as well as weaponry Al-Masry fans had brought to the match.

Amid security concerns, the rest of the Egyptian Premier League season was subsequently cancelled. The league is scheduled to re-start play on February 2.

Today’s violence reflects Egypt’s still tenuous political state, with Al-Masry supporters having always suspected last year’s tragedy presented an opportunity for the country’s post-Honsi Mubarak government to crack down on a known liberal group. Yet had the verdicts failed to come down hard on those involved in the tragedy, the violence could have been in Cairo. Al Ahly fans would have acted against the perceived lenient sentences on a group of suspects they see as responsible for last year’s deaths. Either way, we would have seen a display of one group’s lack of faith in Egypt’s justice system.

For soccer fans, it’s another example of the game serving as a crude tool for others’ politics, whether that use was intended last February or not. Regardless, after today’s verdict and violent response, the death toll from last year’s disaster is set to rise to 112, should the court’s sentences be carried out.

After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.

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VIDEO: Mertens scores wonderstrike for Belgium

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After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.

Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.

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