Eduardo

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Copa America: Guests Japan, Qatar still alive ahead of group finales

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PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) Both Copa America guests are still alive as the last round of group stage matches begins, a feature that doesn’t seem to please some of their South American opponents.

Qatar and Japan, who this year played in the Asian Cup final, are in third place in their groups. The top two in each group and the two best third-place finishers advance to the quarterfinals.

If Argentina is prematurely eliminated, it will be because of Qataris with little international experience who are preparing for the 2022 World Cup.

Japan sent to Brazil an under-23 team that is being groomed for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Asian champion Qatar has so far drawn with Paraguay 2-2 and lost to Colombia 1-0.

“We have come to compete, not to take pictures, even if we admire the players of the teams we are facing,” Qatar’s Spanish coach Felix Sanchez said on Saturday. “Our main goal is to evaluate ourselves in a tournament of this caliber, so demanding.”

After winning the Asian Cup, Sanchez’s contract was extended until the end of the next World Cup. On Sunday, his team will have the chance to upset Lionel Messi.

“It would be beautiful to qualify no matter if it is against a monster like Argentina,” Sanchez said. “It will be a great step, even though we know they are also trying to advance to the next stage.”

The Qataris have already been invited to return to next year’s Copa, split between Colombia and Argentina. Australia will be a guest side in 2020.

Japan was thrashed by Chile 4-0 but held favorite Uruguay to 2-2 after leading twice. On Monday the young Japanese can eliminate Ecuador to advance and, depending on other results, possibly face host Brazil in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Venezuela coach Rafael Dudamel is particularly upset with Japan’s decision to bring its Olympic team.

“I do not agree that a guest like Japan gives due importance to its participation by coming with players that are mostly under 23,” Dudamel said Saturday after Venezuela beat Bolivia 3-1 and qualified to the quarterfinals of Copa America.

“I raise my voice and say Copa America needs to be only for South American teams,” he added. “We have not seen South American teams be invited to the African Cup of Nations, tournaments in Europe… We have to respect the hierarchy that we have historically built.”

The list of Copa America guests in past editions is long: Mexico, Costa Rica, United States, Jamaica, Honduras, Panama, Canada and Japan. Mexico had the best result among those, reaching the final in 1993 and in 2001.

Paraguay coach Eduardo Berizzo said he doesn’t like the idea of teams outside of the Americas such as Qatar and Japan playing the Copa America.

“Playing among all American teams, that is logic,” Berizzo said after drawing Qatar. “We should think of a Copa America with Central and North Americas integrated. I never saw any European cup with South American teams. I strongly believe that Copa America needs to be played by American teams.”

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said business was the main reason to invite teams to the Copa America.

“We are few countries in South America to organize a tournament with 10 teams, even more so with four phases like in a World Cup,” Tabarez said.

WATCH LIVE: Chile takes on Ecuador in Copa America

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Chile looks to continue its hot start as the defending Copa America champions meet Ecuador in Salvador.

[ WATCH LIVE: Chile vs. Ecuador ]

The tournament favorites topped Japan 4-0 in their opener four days ago and now have the chance to snatch sole possession of first place in Group C after Uruguay’s slip against Japan last night.

Eduardo Vargas scored a double against Japan and he leads the lines again tonight supported by Alexis Sanchez and Jose Fuenzalida. Chile boss Reinaldo Rueda makes no changes to the side that won its opener in convincing fashion, looking for the blistering start to continue.

For Ecuador, they hope for a stark turnaround after being blitzed by Uruguay 4-0 in the opening match. Head coach Hernan Dario Gomez has made heavy changes to the starting lineup, most notably benching Antonio Valencia and bringing Sebastian Mendez off the bench into the midfield. He has also brought Sao Paulo center-back Robert Arboleda into the side in place of Arturo Mina who had an own-goal in the loss to Uruguay.

Ecuador has gone five matches without a win, and Gomez received a vote of confidencee from the head of the Ecuadorian federation. “We are not understanding the reality of our football and that is not the fault of one or two people,” FEF president Francisco Egas told Ecuadorian radio station La Radio Redonda on Thursday. “If we believe that the crisis of the national team is the product of one person, we make a mistake already.  Today, we are paying for things that have not been done well for several years.”

Nonetheless, a shock victory over Chile would right the ship in a heartbeat and set Ecuador up for a shot at a knockout stage slot.

Real Madrid secure $650 million loan to fund stadium renovations

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Real Madrid can begin renovations on its 71-year-old Santiago Bernabeu stadium this summer after securing approval for the project’s funding.

[READ: JPW’s Premier League picks]

The Spanish giants announced in a press release that the Real Madrid board of directors approved a $650 million loan to finance a massive renovation project to the club’s home stadium in the heart of Madrid. It’s unclear in the press release when the renovations will be completed.

Starting in 2023 until 2049, Real Madrid will pay $33.4 million in debt payments to pay back the loan with a very low, 2.5 percent interest rate. The low interest rate was part of the reason why Real Madrid president Florentino Perez pushed for this deal, Perez remarked in the past. In addition, Real Madrid projects the new renovations will bring in an additional $170 million in revenue, which would more than cover the debt costs.

Originally announced publicly in September 2018, the renovations will add a new steel facade around the stadium, a retractable roof over the field plus a permanent roof over the fans in the seats, as well as other technological upgrades. The club will also be able to expand its club shop and club museum.

Part of Real Madrid’s motivation to complete the renovations was likely, along with good financial conditions, the fact that Barcelona is undergoing its own renovations at the Camp Nou which will also bring that stadium into the 21st century. In addition, Atletico Madrid just opened across town the brand-new Wanda Metropolitana Stadium.

Sevilla coach says he has leukemia, will stay with team

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MADRID (AP) Sevilla coach Joaquin Caparros says he has leukemia but will stay on the job with the Spanish club.

Caparros made the announcement after Sevilla’s 2-0 win at Valladolid in the Spanish league on Sunday.

“I have chronic leukemia but it won’t keep me from doing my job,” the 63-year-old Caparros said in the post-match news conference. “I’m living a normal life. I won’t talk about the subject anymore but I wanted everyone to know that everything is OK.”

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

Sevilla has won three of its four matches since Caparros, a former sports director for the club, took over from the fired Pablo Machin last month.

Caparros was also in charge for the final stretch of last season after Italian coach Vincenzo Montella was fired.

Sevilla is fifth in the league, one point behind fourth-placed Getafe in the fight for the final Champions League spot, with seven rounds left.

In 2017, then Sevilla coach Eduardo “Toto” Berizzo stayed on the job after undergoing surgery to treat prostate cancer.

Athletic Bilbao draws 0-0 at Alaves, remains in drop zone

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MADRID (AP) — Athletic Bilbao remained in the relegation zone of the Spanish league after being held at Alaves to 0-0 on Monday.

Bilbao is in 18th place of the 20-team league and level on points with Villarreal, which is the last team in safety.

Bilbao generated the few scoring chances of the regional Basque Country derby, but goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco saved shots by Raul Garcia and Inigo Cordoba in each half.

“We wanted to win, of course, but these types of physical, hard-fought matches are good to boost the team’s morale,” Bilbao defender Inigo Martinez said. “We have to keep our heads up.”

Bilbao won its previous two matches under new coach Gaizka Garitano, who replaced the fired Eduardo Berizzo two weeks ago.

Bilbao, which only has players from the northern Basque Country or neighboring areas, has never been relegated to the second division.

Alaves stayed in sixth place and unbeaten through all eight home matches in the league.