Malta gets plum fixture in Euro2024 qualifiers
Malta was drawn against England and Italy – notably the two teams most favouritie with Maltese football fans – in the qualifying Group C of the 2024 European Championships. Also in the same group is Ukraine and North Macedonia. The draws were made Sunday. The qualifying matches will be held from March to November 2023.
MFA President Bjon Vassallo described the draw as “interesting” and “historic”, adding that it would not be easy for Malta.
The qaualifying groups:
Group A – Spain, Scotland, Norway, Georgia, Cyprus;
Group B – Netherlands, France, Ireland, Greece, Gibraltar;
Group C – Italy, England, Ukraine, North Macedonia, Malta;
Group D – Croatia, Wales, Armenia, Turkey, Latvia;
Group E – Poland, Czech Republic, Albania, Faroe Islands, Moldova;
Group F – Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Estonia;
Group G – Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Lithuania;
Group H – Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland, San Marino;
Group I – Switzerland, Israel, Romania, Kosovo, Belarus, Andorra;
Group J – Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Liechtenstein.
Italy coach Roberto Mancini was not surprised that his team was drawn with England in yet another rematch of last year’s European Championship final won by the Azzurri. Italy were crowned kings of Europe by beating England on penalties at Wembley in July last year and again got the better of Gareth Southgate’s team in this year’s Nations League. Italy made it through to the final four of the Nations League and sent England down to League B, which led to the two teams being drawn in Group C alongside Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta. England’s relegation put them in Pot 2 for Sunday’s draw in Frankfurt while Italy were among the top seeds for qualifying for the tournament in Germany. “I knew that we’d get either England or France, but that’s OK. It’s a decent five-team group, no easy matches but all ones we can have a go at,” Mancini told RAI Sport. He will have the chance to gain some sort of revenge on North Macedonia, who threw the newly-minted European champions into a national crisis in March by dumping them out of next month’s World Cup in the qualifying playoffs. The defeat to the minnows in Palermo meant Italy will miss out on their second straight World Cup after also losing in the qualifying playoffs for the 2018 tournament. “It’s one of those matches that you get every now and again, and, as we saw in Palermo, we have to take every match seriously, even those that seem the simplest,” added Mancini. “The World Cup is a cut that will bleed right to the end, we can only heal it by winning the next one.”
England’s Gareth Southgate said it was “ironic when you’ve had a fixture like we’ve had, and then played them again so recently, that you seem to have these sort of things. We seemed to be playing Croatia every five minutes not so long ago and now its seems we have got that situation with Italy.” England also played Ukraine at Euro 2020 when Southgate’s side earned a 4-0 quarter-final win in Rome. “We don’t know what that [games against Ukraine] will look like politically and venuewise,” added Southgate. “They will be difficult games.” Russia were not part of the draw after they were banned from Euro 2024 qualification by Uefa following their invasion of Ukraine.
‘China-Taiwan armed confrontation is not an option’ – Tsai
According to Taipei President Tsai Ing-wen, the armed confrontation between Taiwan and China “is absolutely not an option” and “there is no room for compromise on freedom and democracy”. Speaking on the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China, Tsai pledged to strengthen the island’s defenses, however clarifying that “armed confrontation is by no means an option for our two sides. Only by respecting the commitment of the Taiwanese people to our sovereignty, democracy and freedom can there is a basis for resuming constructive interaction across the Taiwan Strait.”
Stromboli lava flow reaches the sea
The volcano on the Italian island of Stromboli, off the southern Italian coast near Sicily, erupted on Sunday, unleashing a lava flow that reached to the sea. The partial collapse of a crater terrace and lava flow triggered a three-minute seismic signal. Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology video showed huge plumes of smoke as the lava ripped down the side of the volcano.
The population on the island have been invited to stay at home.
Nigeria boat tragedy death toll rises to 76
At least 76 people are now confirmed dead from a boat capsising on Friday. The vessel sank during heavy flooding in the Ogbaru region. Officials had been scrambling to rescue anyone aboard, with just 15 surviving so far. Witnesses said the boat’s engine failed, becoming overwhelmed by strong waves shortly thereafter.
22 dead, 50 missing in Venezuela landslide
A landslide in central Venezuela left at least 22 people dead and more than 50 missing after a river overflowed, officials said Sunday, in the latest deadly disaster caused by heavy rains to hit the country. Houses and businesses were destroyed and felled trees littered the town’s streets, which were covered with mud and debris, including splintered wood, household items and mangled cars. “The village is lost. Las Tejerias is lost,” 55-year-old resident told AFP.
‘Kiev behind Crimean bridge attack’ – NYT
After finger-pointing between Moscow and Kiev on those responsible for the explosion on the Crimean Kerch bridge that connects Crimea to Russia, the ‘New York Times’ reveals that “Behind the attack are the Ukrainian intelligence services”. Russian news reports say President Putin has labelled the weekend blast of Ukraine’s only bridge to Russia from Crimea an “act of terrorism”, and accused Ukraine’s special services of carrying out the attack on “civilian infrastructure”. It was the only supply route from Russia to its invading forces in southern Ukraine not within range of Kyiv’s artillery. Now Russian fuel, ammunition and new conscripts will have to reach the front under constant threat of Ukrainian armaments. President Putin has announced a meeting of Russian Security Council for today to discuss the situation.
Weinstein on trial in Los Angeles
Five years after the first explosive accusations that overwhelmed his career as a film mogul, Harvey Weinstein returns to the stand, this time in Los Angeles. The trial, that opens with jury selection, sees the former Miramax boss facing accusations of five women who claim to have been raped or sexually harassed between 2003 and 2014 by the then-powerful producer. For Weinstein it is the second trial after the one that, in 2020 in New York, sentenced him to 23 years. Last year the producer of films like ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love’ was extradited to California to answer 11 more charges. Weinstein predictably will spend the rest of his years in prison, But Jamie White, a lawyer who represented the victims of another serial offender, US gymnastics coach Larry Nasser, said it’s important that all victims receive justice.
US policeman fired as he shoots boy eating in parking lot
A San Antonio police officer was fired for shooting a 17-year-old eating in a McDonald’s parking lot in violation of police rules and procedures. The victim is still in hospital. The policeman was in the parking lot to answer an emergency call when he noticed the car with the boy in it and mistook it for a car that had escaped the police the day before. He approached the car and opened fire as soon as the boy, taken by surprise, had started it.
Motorsport: Verstappen retains F1 title
Max Verstappen was declared Formula One world champion on Sunday after winning a dramatic rain-shortened Japanese Grand Prix. Red Bull’s Verstappen crossed the line first and he was then awarded the title when second-place finisher Charles Leclerc was given a five-second penalty, dropping him to third.