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Eleven South African cabinet members have quit in the wake of President Thabo Mbeki's resignation, prompting fears of instability and the ruling ANC leader to downplay any panic.

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The cabinet members stepped down shortly after parliament voted 299 to 10 to approve Mbeki's exit from office, ending the nine-year administration of the man who succeeded anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

The African National Congress (ANC) has picked its deputy chief, Kgalema Motlanthe, to replace Mbeki until April elections.

Lawmakers will vote on Motlanthe's nomination on Thursday.

“The (cabinet) resignations do not pose a crisis and there is no need to panic,” said ANC chief Jacob Zuma during a speech in Secunda, in the northeast province of Mpumalanga.

“The situation will be managed carefully to avoid any disruption of services,” added Zuma, considered likely to be voted president in next year's elections.

Finance Minister steps down

The country's widely-respected Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel, seen by investors as vital to the country's stable economy and impressive growth, was among the 11 ministers of the 31-member cabinet who handed their resignations.

Manuel's spokesman made it clear that he was ready to serve the new administration, but his announcement led to market jitters with the rand slipping from 7.98 to 8.16 to the US dollar.

The president's office said the ministers' resignations would also take effect on Thursday.

The ministers resigning include Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who spearheaded a turnaround of the country's AIDS policies, and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi, a key negotiator in the Zimbabwe crisis.

Resignation scare

Opposition parties expressed concern about the resignations, with Inkatha Freedom Party Chief Whip Koos van der Merwe telling parliament it was an “unmitigated disaster” and a “watershed moment in history.”

The main opposition Democratic Alliance's Sandra Botha said events showed “the division (in the ANC) is not a crack, it is a canyon.”

Mbeki is believed to have asked cabinet members to stay put in the interests of stability, and analysts have said the country would not face a crisis if the transition was well managed and government ministers did not bail out en masse.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the exodus was not a crisis, as only six of them had indicated they would not serve in a new government.

“The rest of the ministers have confirmed that they (are stepping) down to allow the new president to make his own appointments,” Mantashe told reporters.

Political scores

The resignations came after Mbeki bowed to pressure from the ANC to stand down in what the opposition described as a settling of political scores.

Zuma said the decision to recall Mbeki had been “one of the most painful and difficult decisions” taken in the party's history.

The outgoing president had been increasingly at loggerheads with his party, which split into two camps behind him and Zuma, after deciding to run for a third term as party president at a crunch ANC conference in December last year.

Mbeki, 66, who succeeded Mandela in June 1999, becomes the country's first democratically-elected president to be forced out of office before the end of his term.

Mbeki attempted to salvage his reputation in the Constitutional Court on Monday, as he challenged a court ruling which he says cost him his job as president.

In a September 12 ruling, Judge Chris Nicholson dismissed a corruption case against Zuma, hinting that Mbeki had interfered in the decision to prosecute his foe.

“It is unfair and unjust for me to be judged and condemned on the basis of the findings in the Zuma matter,” said Mbeki in his application.

“The interests of justice, in my respectful submission would demand that the matter be rectified.

“These adverse findings have led to my being recalled by my political party, the ANC — a request I have acceded to as a committed and loyal member of the ANC for the past 52 years,” Mbeki said.Read More →

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On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light sweet crude for December tumbled $US3.

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08 lower to close at $US59.33.

Earlier the New York futures contract hit a low of $US58.32, a level last seen on March 21, 2007.

In London, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in December dropped $US3.37 to settle at $US55.71 on the InterContinental Exchange. In intraday trade it had plunged to $US54.92 per barrel – a level last seen on January 30, 2007.

Prices more than halved

Prices have shed about 60 per cent since scaling historic highs above $US147 in July on mounting evidence of slowing global economic growth and energy demand.

The market extended earlier losses in line with Wall Street's dive into negative territory, with investor fearing a collapse of General Motors and digesting more grim corporate news amid the credit crisis.

European stock markets closed sharply lower as corporate problems highlighted concerns about the spreading damage from the global credit crunch to the underlying world economy.

“The short-term focus continues to be on weak demand,” Barclays Capital analysts wrote in a research note to clients on Tuesday.

China slowdown

Crude oil prices closed almost two dollars higher on Monday, with sentiment boosted by hopes that China's huge economic stimulus package would lift demand for energy.

But traders banked profits on Tuesday as poor data from the US – the world's biggest energy consumer — reignited fears about recession.

“It eventually had to dawn on market participants that any Chinese economic stimulus would take time to work through an economy whose maladies are more immediate. Focus on these problems has been restored with the obvious result: prices are lower,” said John Kilduff, analyst at MF Global.

The oil market was also undermined by the strengthening US dollar which tends to dampen demand because dollar-priced crude becomes more expensive for buyers holding weaker currencies.

OPEC president Chakib Khelil indicated over the weekend the cartel may cut production again if oil prices remain below its preferred range of $US70 to $US90.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which pumps more than 40 per cent of the world's crude, announced in October that its daily output would be cut by 1.5 million barrels per day to 27.3 million barrels per day from November.

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The Sky application allows users to view and navigate through 100 million stars in far away galaxies, all depicted in high-resolution images.

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The application labels which stars make up the constellations, shows users what they might be able to see from their own backyards with the naked eye or small telescopes and includes images from the Hubble space telescope.

It also displays the phases of the moon, the positions of the planets for now and up to two months in the future, offers virtual tours through different galaxies and details the different stages of a star's life cycle.

"Sky is a very cool new feature for anyone who has ever looked up at the sky and wanted to know more," said Sally Ride, a former astronaut. "I think this is a great tool for satisfying that curiosity."

Carol Christian of the Space Telescope Science Institute, who helped develop the application, said she hoped the new program would encourage more people to learn about space.

"Never before has a roadmap of the entire sky been made so readily available," she said.

"Anyone interested in exploring the wonders of our universe can quickly see where the stunning objects photographed by Hubble actually dwell in the heavens," she added

"Sky in Google Earth will foster and initiate new understanding of the universe by bringing it to everyone's home computer."

The interface and navigation of the new feature are similar to those on the current Google Earth function, which allows users to drag, zoom and search their way around the planet.

To access the new feature, users need to download the latest version of Earth, available on the website from today.

The application was created by Google engineers stitching together images from sources such as the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Google launched its Earth application in 2005, allowing people to zoom in on satellite images of almost any point around the world.

The program has since been downloaded more than 200 million times.

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Kaka has been plagued by injuries over the last few years, including one to his left knee shortly after the 2010 World Cup.

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He made only 82 league appearances during his time at Real after his 65 million euro ($85.71 million) move in 2009 and rarely played anything more than a supporting role.

Milan said that Kaka, full name Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, had signed a two-year contract for his return to San Siro.

The announcement of his return came two days after midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng was surprisingly sold to Bundesliga club Schalke 04.

Milan said that Kaka, who won a World Cup winner’s medal with Brazil in 2002, would arrive later on Monday on a private jet along with chief executive Adriano Galliani, almost exactly 10 years after he first set foot at the club as a fresh-faced youngster from Sao Paulo.

During his first six-year spell at the club, Kaka made an immediate impact, scoring 10 goals in his first season as he helped them land the Serie A title.

He became one of the world’s top players with his remarkable burst of speed, vision and ability to shoot from distance with either foot.

He helped Milan win the Champions League in 2007 and was voted the World Player of the Year the same year.

His Brazil career virtually ended after the 2010 World Cup, when he was a central figure in the team even though he was not fully fit after previous injuries.

He was called up for a pair of friendlies last year and performed promisingly but has not been selected since a 1-1 draw against Russia in March, when he clearly failed to impress new coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Clare Fallon/John O’Brien)

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Valcke told reporters he was expressing a personal opinion which had not yet been discussed with the president of the world governing body Sepp Blatter.

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But he said it was a lesson he has learned during the complicated organisation of the 2014 tournament in Brazil during which FIFA has often found itself in opposition to the Brazilian government.

The Brazilian government and FIFA were at loggerheads over several issues such as the sale of beer at stadiums, which is banned in Brazil but was a commitment the country conceded to FIFA whose sponsors include a major brewery.

FIFA was also targeted in mass anti-government protests across the country’s major cities during the Confederations Cup in June over the huge costs of staging next year’s tournament.

“Before Brazil’s proposal (to stage the finals) was sent to FIFA, they could have voted (on it) in congress and that might be done in the future,” Valcke told reporters.

“It would be national support rather than just a bid sent by a federation with government guarantees.

“You would have at least the official approval from a majority of the political parties which are the representatives of the country’s population.”

Valcke added that if such a method was introduced it would only come into effect for the 2026 tournament since Russia has already been awarded the 2018 finals and Qatar those in 2022.

Brazil, through the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), was chosen to organise the 2014 finals in 2007 when it was South America’s sole candidate at a time when the tournament was rotated around FIFA’s continental confederations, a system that has ended.

Valcke said he did not believe there was a lack of popular support for the tournament and that the protesters in June had used the Confederations Cup, a World Cup dress rehearsal, as a platform for their demonstrations.

He said record numbers of fans attending Confederations Cup matches was evidence of such support.

“Brazil loves football and support football,” Valcke said.

“If I’m asked if there will be protests, I think there will. What I do know is that the World Cup is a platform for demonstrations, but the majority of Brazilians will gather at the fan fests and public exhibition events.

“If we have the same success of the Confederations Cup multiplied by what a World Cup represents, it will be a great World Cup.”

(Writing by Rex Gowar in London; Editing by John Mehaffey)

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“No, it was not a mistake because by the rotation it was time to go to the Arabic world,” Blatter told Reuters on the sidelines of an International Olympic Committee meeting in the Argentina capital.

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“And now here we are in the Arab world. It is not a very big country, but it is a very important one. So the decision was absolutely in the context of the politics of FIFA and especially in the context of the politics of this president.”

Blatter said the decision to play the tournament in the middle of the year was the mistake, not the selection of Qatar as hosts.

“I am of the opinion, and this will be discussed by the (FIFA) Executive Board, now that to play in summer time in Qatar is not the right thing to do,” he said.

“We can play also in winter time and this is also a question of solidarity. If you never play in winter time the World Cup, you will be in the situation where all the countries around the equator and southern hemisphere… can never play in the winter.

“(Football) is a sport that is played not only in Europe but all around the world.”

Staging the tournament in the Middle East has sparked widespread consternation because, if it is held over its traditional dates in the middle of the year, players will have to contend with 50 degrees Celsius heat.

Calls to move the World Cup to later in the year, during the European winter, have also proved unpopular as it would disrupt domestic league competitions in countries such as Spain, England, Italy, Germany and France.

Also on Tuesday, European soccer clubs said they wanted to be involved in discussions over any possible switch of dates.

The European Clubs Association (ECA), which has more than 200 members, said it wanted to be consulted before any decision was made.

Another organisation, representing the European leagues, set out obstacles to the move as it also urged FIFA not to rush a decision.

“I personally believe there is no hurry and I don’t understand why FIFA would like to make an early decision at the next executive committee meeting in October,” ECA president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told a news conference.

“I think that nine years is more than enough to do this very sensibly and prudently, in the best interests of football.

“We have to be very sensible to find the best solution which will be accepted by all stakeholders in the football family, because it affects our business,” added the former West Germany, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan forward, who is also Bayern Munich chairman.

“If there is a change, the clubs, the leagues, the associations and the players have the right to be heard and to discuss the best solution with FIFA concerning a change for the World Cup.”

English Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has argued that a winter World Cup could disrupt the European soccer calendar for up to three seasons because of the knock-on effects of having to stop and start a campaign.

(Additional reporting by Vincent Fribault in Buenos Aires, Brian Homewood in Geneva, and Keith Weir in London; Editing by John Mehaffey)

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The hosts, chasing 227, were 21 runs short of their target when bad light forced the players off the field with four overs remaining, depriving a packed crowd of a thrilling finish and leaving England to settle for a 3-0 series win.

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Captain Michael Clarke had declared Australia’s second innings on 111 for six and set England a challenging target in a bid to force a consolation victory but it was the hosts who went close to sealing their first 4-0 win in a home Ashes series.

“We wanted to entertain,” Pietersen told reporters.

“We lost a day’s play and we like to entertain. I was in my own bubble – I was just trying to get through stages. I had flashbacks of 2005 but the way we played today puts us in good stead for the winter.”

England, criticised for their ultra-cautious batting in the first innings on Friday, started their run chase positively and Alastair Cook hit two fours in the first over bowled by Ryan Harris.

Joe Root, on 11, edged Harris to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin before Cook and Jonathan Trott shared a fluent second-wicket partnership of 64 to lay a solid platform.

Cook was trapped lbw by James Faulkner for 34 and Pietersen strode to the middle in a perfect situation to display his attacking talents.

The tall right-hander struck his first boundary off his fourth ball and immediately injected urgency into the run chase, creaming Peter Siddle through the covers for four and flicking him to fine leg for another.

Pietersen and Trott posted their 50 partnership off 48 balls and Pietersen got to his own half-century from just 36 deliveries, including nine fours.

With the crowd sensing a famous victory, Trott also passed 50 before Pietersen fell with the score on 163, well caught by David Warner running round the long-on boundary off Harris.

Trott was snared lbw by Faulkner for 59 but Ian Bell and Chris Woakes kept the momentum going and England needed 36 from the last six overs.

UNEXPECTED FINALE

Bell was run out for 17 by Starc’s direct hit and, with four overs remaining and England on 206 for five, the umpires ordered the players off the field to a chorus of boos.

The result was confirmed shortly afterwards and the awards ceremony took place in rapidly fading light.

It was an unexpected finale to the match after Saturday was washed out by rain, England starting the final day on 247 for four and needing 46 runs to avoid the follow-on.

Woakes, on 25, soon edged a good-length ball from Harris straight to Clarke at second slip but Matt Prior played positively from the start, clipping Siddle through mid-wicket for two to take England to the follow-on target of 293.

Bell, continuing his rich vein of form to reach an assured 45, was unlucky to be out when he flicked Faulkner down the leg-side and was well caught by Haddin.

Starc uprooted Stuart Broad’s middle stump but Graeme Swann immediately went on the offensive, dancing down the pitch to hit off-spinner Nathan Lyon straight for six and lift England to 350 for seven at lunch.

Prior, on 47, skied Faulkner to mid-on where Starc ran round to take a fine diving catch and James Anderson edged the same bowler to Haddin who took a record-equalling 28th catch of the series.

Swann’s breezy innings ended on 34 when he was bowled by Faulkner who completed figures of four for 51 in his first test as England were dismissed for 377.

Australia shuffled their order in a bid to make quick runs but the move back-fired.

David Warner was out for 12, Shane Watson 26, Haddin for a first-ball duck and Faulkner for 22 as Australia stumbled to 67 for four.

Broad then dismissed Steve Smith and Harris before Clarke, who made 28 not out, and Starc, 13 not out, batted through to tea when the captain declared.

“It was an exciting finish and the light came to save us I suppose,” said Watson who was named man of the match for his superb knock of 176 in the first innings.

“After losing a day to rain we knew we had to try and win the game and that was by setting a total that England would chase.

“It didn’t work out for us, but the crowd had a good day and that’s what we are here for.”

(Editing by John Mehaffey)

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“He’s such a great player, so I was trying to focus on my things that I’ve been doing well this week,” said Melzer.

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“I was trying to be aggressive and go to the net as much as I could.

“The game before he retired he was serving really slowly and I missed a lot of returns because I knew if I broke him it could be the end and you get a little tight.”

Monfils has been plagued by injuries all year and needed medical treatment for a strained left abdomen during his semi-final the previous day.

“After about 50 minutes, I tried to serve at full speed, and that was it,” said the former world number seven.

“I felt like something snapped a little bit and it was really painful. It was tough to continue.

“I will try to get an x-ray tonight and see what’s going on.”

Melzer’s victory provided him with his fifth ATP career title and his first since he won at Memphis last year but he sympathised with Monfils.

“Nobody wants to win a final like that,” said Melzer. “You want to be out there competing but at the end of the day you take the title.”

The win also provided the 32-year-old with a timely confidence boost ahead of the U.S. Open, starting on Monday, and vindicated his decision to hire Galo Blanco as his new coach.

“He started working with me in a tough moment of my career,” Melzer said.

“I hadn’t played any matches after Wimbledon. I took four weeks off with a shoulder issue and I played terrible in Cincinnati….to come back a week later and win a trophy (is great).”

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina)

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World number one Tiger Woods lurked three strokes back, with the opening event of the FedExCup playoffs stalled for more than six hours by heavy lightning and two rain delays.

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Some 63 players, including British Open winner Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Adam Scott, were unable to complete their rounds and face an early start on Friday and another long day.

The 33-year-old Stadler, winless on the PGA Tour, made the most of his chances, however, registering seven birdies in a bogey-free round at Liberty National where bright sunshine eventually replaced the dark, stormy skies across the harbour from downtown Manhattan.

Tied for second on six-under were Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, Colombia’s Camilo Villegas and American Ryan Palmer, with Australian Jason Day and another American in Matt Kuchar a further shot adrift.

Woods, who began his long day at the 10th hole, reached four-under by adding a birdie at the par-three fourth after his run of three straight birdies was interrupted by the second weather delay.

The playoffs points leader, who has already won five tournaments this season, parred his last five holes for 67 and was satisfied after a gruelling day.

“I’m actually tired,” Woods told reporters. “I got up at four this morning and I think it took us, from start to finish just under 11 hours for the day. Long day.

“I’m only three back. We have a long way to go.”

Stadler was thrilled with his showing given his lacklustre season, the American posting just two top-10 finishes with a tie for third at Pebble Beach his best result.

“I’ve had kind of a pretty lousy summer, result-wise,” said Stadler, the son of 13-time PGA tour winner Craig Stadler.

“But I really started hitting the ball a lot better a couple of weeks ago.

“Felt like I was heading in the right direction even though the results were not showing it and finally got something out of it today.”

In contrast, Stenson has been on a roll. Runner-up at the British Open, tied for second at the WGC-Bridgestone and third at the PGA Championship in his last three events, the 37-year-old Swede continued his impressive form at Liberty National.

Stenson made nine birdies along with three bogeys, the last of which came on his penultimate hole and dropped him from a share of the lead.

“To be honest, I came in from Europe on Monday night, so I’m a bit jet-lagged and I only saw the course once,” said Stenson. “I’m very pleased with the way I played out there.”

Villegas shot to eight-under when he posted his fourth birdie in a row at the par-three 11th, but back-to-back bogeys from the 14th saw him ease off the pace.

“Three breakfasts, three warm-ups, two lunches and a bunch of birdies which is good,” said Villegas, describing his day.

Among the late starters, American Harris English was four- under through six holes and Australian Marc Leishman was three-under through eight.

Americans Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson, who had both played six holes, were among a large group at two-under par.

Mickelson was one-under after six, one stroke better than Scott, who had also played six holes by the time the horn sounded due to darkness.

The late finishers can expect an arduous test on Friday when they finish the first round and head right out for the second round.

Thursday’s early starters will get their second rounds started later on Friday and will have to complete them on Saturday morning.

(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

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The Springboks have won just one of their last nine matches in Australia, and never tasted victory in seven contests at this arena, but go into the game on Saturday (12:05 p.

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m.) full of confidence.

The South Africans have risen to number two in the world and are riding an eight-game winning streak that included two victories over Argentina in this year’s Rugby Championship.

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer has described the new-look Wallabies back line as one of the best his side has ever faced, but de Villiers said that while Folau possesses immense talent he has had just one Super Rugby season at fullback with the Waratahs.

“He’s great under the high ball, he really contests well with the league and the AFL background,” de Villiers said of Folau, who played rugby league and Australian Rules before switching codes to union.

“He’s got fantastic pace, he’s such a balanced runner. He’s a big threat. He’s obviously not the perfect player yet. He’s still learning the game in a way and we’ll try to expose that.

“We’ve got our plans that we made for this one.”

While positivity has surrounded Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie’s team selection, there has been negativity towards the Springboks’ inclusion of Zane Kirchner.

His selection at fullback pushes the popular Willie le Roux to the right wing and Bryan Habana across to the left, with Bjorn Basson missing out.

De Villiers said Kirchner, who makes his 25th international appearance but first since November 2012, deserves his place and has the backing of the whole team.

“Zane deserves it,” he said. “There’s been a lot of negative talk about him but I’m really happy that he’s in my side.

“Zane is no different from any other guy who is selected for the game. You need to prove again and again you’re good enough.

“I’m sure he’ll have a great game. He’ll have our backing.”

Kirchner is one of three changes to the Springboks starting lineup with hooker Bismarck du Plessis and lock Flip van der Merwe coming in for Adriaan Strauss and Juandre Kruger, who both drop to the replacements bench in moves Meyer described as “purely rotational”.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Cesc Fabregas has impressed for Barcelona during the opening weeks of the La Liga season and could make the difference for the world and European champions as they seek to maintain their grip on top spot ahead of France and take a step closer to securing an automatic berth at next year’s tournament in Brazil.

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The 26-year-old former Arsenal captain has made five assists in his three league appearances this term, already half as many as the whole of last season, and Del Bosque will look to him to help unlock Finland’s stubborn defence.

Spain struggled in their qualifier against them in Gijon in March, taking a 1-0 lead through centre back Sergio Ramos before conceding a late equaliser to draw 1-1.

Del Bosque has often deployed Fabregas, who has played 83 times for Spain, as a so-called “false nine”, foregoing a traditional striker and using him in a roving forward role that is tricky to defend against.

At Barca he typically plays further back in midfield and had an excellent game there at Valencia on Sunday when he twice set up World Player of the Year Lionel Messi to score.

“We are not going to be over-confident against a team like Finland, not at all,” sports daily Marca quoted Fabregas as saying on Wednesday.

“We already experienced the match in Gijon and those are things that you learn from.”

Del Bosque’s main concern is the absence of midfield stalwarts Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso, who are injured along with Javi Martinez.

Javi Garcia and Mario Suarez are in the squad as cover and could get the chance to impress their coach and improve their chances of selection for next year’s finals.

“The coach has tried various options (in training) but if I play or not I am here to contribute, to give things to the team,” Suarez, who plays at Atletico Madrid, told a news conference on Wednesday.

With Gerard Pique suspended, Raul Albiol will probably partner Ramos in central defence, or Del Bosque may opt to give 23-year-old Ignacio Fernandez, who plays with Ramos at Real, his first cap for the senior side.

Playmaker Isco, who has been on fine form for Real in recent weeks, is a doubt after injuring an ankle in training on Tuesday and sitting out Wednesday’s session.

DAVID, GOLIATH

Finland, ranked 65 in the world and bidding to qualify for the finals of a World Cup for the first time, are third in the group, four points behind the French, who play minnows Georgia in Tbilisi on Friday.

“Spain know we are able to make it very difficult for them, we can dull their attacks,” Finland coach Mixu Paatelainen told a news conference last week.

“But this is of course a David and Goliath situation, what happened in Gijon is in the past now.”

The task facing Paatelainen’s young squad has been made even harder due to the absence of Chievo Verona midfielder Perparim Hetemaj through suspension.

However, Paatelainen is not throwing in the towel and believes Finland can steal a place in the playoffs.

“The group will be decided in the next few games and we will be a difficult opponent,” he said. “Everything is still open.”

Tight defending will be vital if Finland are to avoid defeat, according to left back Jukka Raitala.

“We know they will hit back hard if they are given too much space,” he said on the team’s website (www.palloliitto.fi).

“But we will not aim at 0-0,” he added. “Surely we must look to score as we are playing at home.

“We have a great chance to show what we can do and again snatch something like the miracle in Gijon.”

(Additional reporting by Jussi Rosendahl in Helsinki; Editing by Sonia Oxley)

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Despite riding a wave of optimism into last week’s Rugby Championship opener, Australia were belted 47-29 by the All Blacks at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium, prompting newspaper editors on both sides of the Tasman Sea to write “New coach, same old Wallabies” in their headlines.

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Leali’ifano, with only four test caps to his credit, was among a raft of inexperienced Wallabies facing the might of the All Blacks for the first time on Saturday. Three days later, he was still struggling to process what happened.

“We were right in that game for 50-odd minutes but it takes a complete 80-minute performance to beat the All Blacks,” the 25-year-old told Reuters in Melbourne, where the Wallabies have trained in preparation for Wellington’s winter chill.

“They really turned it on. It’s pretty hard to explain. Whether it’s going to be bad for us… It’s a massive learning (experience) for this group.

“We’re obviously a whole new group that are trying to learn how to play for each other, and building our culture. And I think there’s a bright future for us. We’ve just got to keep believing in it.”

Improving team culture has been a mantra coming out of the Wallabies camp in the wake of a string of embarrassing discipline lapses during the British and Irish Lions series in June and July.

McKenzie’s predecessor Robbie Deans was criticised roundly by local media for tolerating slack standards and indulging a number of repeat offenders in his squad.

Leali’ifano said none of the players were feeling comfortable about their positions under McKenzie, who upon his appointment declared that reputations counted for little in his squad.

“You’ve got to keep working hard to improve and he’s big on that,” Leali’ifano said.

“He’s big on us consistently performing well and if you’re not then you’re going to get punted. I guess that kind of pressure is on you and that’s what I enjoy.

“I enjoy that kind of pressure to improve and that trying to kind of find that consistency.

“The more you build a great culture, the more you play for each other and I think we’re doing a fantastic job but there’s still plenty to do.

“There’s a long season ahead and I think this group is going to be very tight and we’ve got a massive future ahead.”

PERFECT KICKING

Having had his long-awaited promotion into the Wallabies squad delayed by injuries last year, Leali’ifano is well-versed in the pitfalls of taking things for granted.

The New Zealand-born back had his test debut last less than a minute when he was knocked unconscious in the opening match of the British and Irish Lions series.

He has since packed a lot into his short Wallabies career, kicking the winning penalty goal in the second Lions test in Melbourne before tasting huge disappointment in the series decider, when Australia were smashed in Sydney.

Although Leali’ifano denied the All Blacks had given the Wallabies a reality check at the weekend, he suffered an unpleasant jolt in the first half when his clearing kick was charged down by flyhalf Aaron Cruden, who swooped on the loose ball and scored a try to put the visitors in front.

Despite that howler, Leali’ifano’s boot has been one of the few bright spots for the Wallabies, the versatile back slotting all 19 of his place kicks to date in tests.

The Wallabies have struggled to nail down a decent kicker for a number of years, with the role being raffled between flyhalf Quade Cooper and a succession of backs including James O’Connor, Berrick Barnes and Kurtley Beale.

Damien Hill, a travelling kicking consultant who works with Australia’s top-flight rugby league teams, had helped Leali’ifano put his best foot forward, driving four-five hours from his home base in the coastal city of Newcastle to Canberra to work with the Brumbies’ kickers.

“Working with him, he never changed my style. He just found something, an approach that I found worked for me and I just really trusted in that,” he added.

“All other kicking coaches that I’ve had have tried to change my style so he just looked at the way I kicked and found a way to make it work.

“All year it’s something that I’ve worked on but it’s never good to be happy you’re kicking well and you’re still losing. You want to be kicking well and the team’s winning.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)

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The research also offered limited assurance that doping was unlikely to pose a major heart health risk, at least in the short term, since any major adverse impact would have skewed the results.

南宁桑拿

Illicit use of the blood-boosting drug EPO, or erythropoietin, has been rampant in competitive cycling since the 1990s.

The study presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress on Tuesday examined all 786 French competitors in the gruelling bicycle race from 1947 to 2012, and found their death rate was 41 percent lower than average for French males as of last September.

Dr. Xavier Jouven of the European Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris, who led the analysis, said the mortality reduction was “huge” and the result suggested that doctors should be more assertive in championing vigorous exercise.

“We should encourage people to exert themselves,” he said. “If there was a real danger in doing high-level exercise then we should have observed it in this study.”

Riders in the Tour de France – which has been compared to running a marathon several days a week for nearly three weeks – actually had a 33 percent lower risk for death from heart attacks or strokes than the general population.

Indeed, they suffered lower rates of death from all causes, including cancer, with the one exception of traumatic injury, which Jouven said reflected the frequency of road accidents.

Worries about high-intensity exercise like cycling and marathon-running have been fuelled by some previous small studies using advanced imaging techniques that suggested possible heart abnormalities, such as heart arrhythmias.

Alfred Bove of Temple University Medical Centre and a former president of the American College of Cardiology, who was not involved in the latest study, said such imaging data could be misleading.

The long-term analysis of Tour de France riders offered a unique insight that clearly vindicated the value of extensive exercise, Bove said.

“The message is clear – even the level of intensity involved in the Tour de France is not going to shorten your life,” he said.

The study did not adjust for different smoking rates among cyclists, but Bove argued this was “essentially irrelevant”.

“If exercise and a commitment to that kind of lifestyle makes you stop smoking, then that is an additional benefit,” he said.

The French cyclists studied took part in a median 2.5 Tour de France races and their median age at the first race was 25 years.

(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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