Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Thailand and Malaysia ready to serve up a semi-final thriller

Three-time winners Thailand and defending champions Malaysia clash for a prized spot in the AFF Suzuki Cup final at Bangkok’s Supachalasai Stadium on Thursday with both coaches predicting an attacking affair with goals.
Thailand eked out a 1-1 draw against Malaysia in the first leg of the semi-final in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday but coach Winfried Schafer has dismissed talk of his team playing for the 0-0 draw that would see them safely into their sixth final in nine editions of the Asean Football Championship on the away goal rule.
Schafer has shaped a team that plays a fast, exciting brand of football and he does not want to sacrifice those principles on the altar of success at any cost.
“Tomorrow we go on the field for three points (a win), we will not play for 0-0. We have to play for a goal, it is very important. We cannot sit back and defend for 90 minutes and hope to keep a clean sheet,” said Schafer, who won the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations with Cameroon.
Schafer will not be on the bench for the match after being sent to the stands by the referee during the first leg and while admitting that would cause a few headaches, he said that similar situations in the past had worked out well.
“We have a problem but I think my team don’t need me on the bench tomorrow,” he said. “We have a good spirit and good teamwork and I think we have a good chance to win.
“My second coach (Mano Polking) has all the instructions for tomorrow and the players know what they have to do. I will find a good place to watch the match. I have never lost a match when I was in the stands, I have won all matches.”
Thailand came under a lot of pressure in the first half in Kuala Lumpur, with Malaysia striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha feeding off long balls, and Schafer said that his side would have to cut off that supply line.
“All long balls from the keeper and defenders into our area were difficult,” he said. “We have to stop balls being hit 50-60 metres (down the park).”
Razor-sharp Teerasil Dangda, whose equaliser with a bullet header took him joint top of the goalscoring charts with Singapore’s Shahril Ishak on four strikes, did not take part in training on Tuesday but Schafer dispelled any injury fears.
“It was just a case of rest and regeneration,” he said. “He has been training hard so it was decided to give him a rest.”
Malaysia coach K. Rajagobal, who led the team to their first AFF Suzuki Cup title two years ago, said that beating Thailand in their own backyard was not a mission impossible and a lot would depend on how badly the players wanted a victory.
“It is going to be a tough match but nothing is impossible and if players want to do it, want it badly (then we can do it)," he said. "It is now on the players, the players know they have to play their very best and raise the level from the first match and go enjoy the game. We will see what happens tomorrow.”
He added that there would be no “fear factor” as Malaysia try to reverse a trend that has seen them lose their previous three AFF Suzuki Cup encounters with Thailand in Bangkok and Phuket.
“We are optimistic, also we have nothing to lose - I do not think my players will have any fear (of playing Thailand in Bangkok), we have had experience playing them in a friendly match here (recently),” he said.
Safee Sali, who has been troubled by a hamstring injury, came on as a substitute after 75 minutes of the first leg and should be fit enough to start on Thursday if Rajagobal reverts to a two-man strike force.
Midfielder Khyril Muhymeen Zambri is also training again after sitting out Sunday’s game with a groin strain.
Rajagobal felt that Malaysia should have won the match in Kuala Lumpur, pointing to late chances for Safee and Norshahrul, and has tried to instill a sense of belief in the players that they can reach the final for a second consecutive time.
“(They need to take the field) wanting to go to the final, wanting to win the match. The players have to feel it, they have to have that kind of positive thinking,” he said.

Vidic is back for the game against Sunderland says Sir Alex

Manchester United’s captain, who was perhaps going through the worst portion of his career, has recovered from his injury. Since picking up an injury last season, Nemanja Vidic returned for action when the season began. However, soon, he was injury-struck again and was sidelined.
He underwent a knee surgery after making his last appearance against Galatasaray in United’s 1 – 0 victory over them.  He will now be returning to face Sunderland this weekend.
Vidic was rumoured to be starting ahead of schedule against Manchester City on Sunday but Sir Alex Ferguson was not wishing to rush him back. He denied such rumours before kick-off, the other day.
“No. definitely not,” the boss said. “To put him in at City for h is first game back would be crazy but I think the Sunderland game definitely.”

Jonny Evans had picked up a hamstring injury against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. He is very doubtful to start on Saturday and will most probably be replaced by Nemanja Vidic.
“Evans had a hamstring problem,” Sir Alex explained after the match. “He got it in the first half in a challenge from Balotelli but he played on while I had Chris Smalling warming up.
“It’s okay if you get through the first half but if you try to start again in the second half after cooling down, it can be a problem. So I knew he’d have to come off.”
For United, injury troubles are always coming in.

Singapore 1 Philippines 0

Singapore – Khairul Amri fired home the only goal of a tight contest as three-time champions Singapore booked their place in the AFF Suzuki Cup final with a 1-0 victory over the Philippines at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday.
The striker, who netted the winner for the Lions in their 2007 final triumph against Thailand, emerged as the hero once again when he was left unmarked on a quickly-taken free-kick by Shahdan Sulaiman in the 19th minute and fired home his second goal of the competition to give his side a 1-0 aggregate win.
The Lions dominated the opening half but the Philippines improved after the break although they rarely threatened to find an equaliser against the well-drilled Singapore defence.
Singapore will now meet either three-time champions Thailand or 2010 winners Malaysia in the AFF Suzuki Cup final with the first leg at Jalan Besar on December 19 and the second leg in Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur on December 22.
The other semi-final is still finely poised after a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Kuala Lumpur last Sunday with the return game at Bangkok’s Supachalasai Stadium on Thursday.
It will be a third appearance in the final for coach Radojko Avramovic, who guided Singapore to victory in the Asean regional competition in 2004 and 2007.
“It’s absolutely great to get to the final and it is very nice that we have got there again,” said the Serbian, who has been in charge of the Lions since 2003.
“I think that over the two games, we were probably the better side and we deserved to be in the final. But Malaysia and Thailand are both good teams so it should be an excellent final.”
Singapore’s starting line-up was unchanged from the goalless draw in the first leg in Manila last Saturday with Isa Halim coming in once again to play in central midfield in the absence of Shi Jiayi, who had travelled to Shanghai to deal with a family emergency.
Meanwhile, the Philippines sported only one change from the first leg as Jerry Lucena, who missed his team’s last two matches to return to his Danish club Esbjerg, replaced Jason De Jong in central midfield.
After a cautious start by both sides, Singapore gradually took control of the contest with Shaiful Esah firing just wide from 20 metres with the first real effort on goal in the 11th minute.
The Lions went close again in the 16th minute as Shaiful’s corner from the left was flicked on to Safuwan Baharuddin at the far post who failed to get a solid enough header to put the ball on target.
But the home side broke the deadlock just three minutes later after Shahdan’s quickly-taken free-kick from the left flank completely caught out the Filipino defence.
He found Amri completely unattended 25 metres from goal and the striker had plenty of time and space to measure up his effort before he fired an unerring right-footed shot past a static Eduard Sacapano into the right hand corner of the net.
With the Azkal defence rocking, Singapore pressed forward in search of a second and they went close in the 21st minute when Shaiful’s shot from 20 metres flew just over the crossbar and again seven minutes later when Shahdan’s in-swinging free-kick was met by Baihakki Khaizan, whose header towards goal forced Sacapano into a save.
The Filipino goalkeeper was called into action again in the 32nd minute as he came off his line to stop a through ball getting to Shahril Ishak and then scrambled back to his goalmouth to make a diving stop after Amri had gathered the clearance and driven the ball back on target.
Shortly after that the home side launched a quick counter-attack with Shahdan setting up Aleksandar Duric, whose shot from the left edge of the box was kept out by another good save by Sacapano.
The Philippines were unable to carve out a real opportunity until the 42nd minute when Phil Younghusband’s low drive was comfortably covered by goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud.
In stoppage time just before the interval, a long ball to James Younghusband on the right flank caught out the Singapore backline but Izwan was alert and he came out to the top corner of his box to get to the ball just ahead of the winger.
Fahruddin Mustafic was highly influential during the opening half but an injury forced the central midfielder off at half-time to be replaced by Fazrul Nawaz, while the Azkals brought in Emelio Caligdong for Patrick Reichelt in a bid to fire up their attack.
The Philippines came out in a more assertive fashion at the start of the second half but they could not find a way through the tightly marshalled Singapore defence.
There was little real danger at either end until the 71st minute when Sacapano made a sprawling save to deny Fazrul Nawaz’s angled shot from the right. The ball rebounded to Shahdan but he miskicked and allowed the Azkal defence to clear.
The Philippines launched a quick counter and Phil Younghusband went close with a shot on the run that was turned around the left upright by Izwan.
However, it was a rare moment of concern for the Lions who safely kept the visitors at bay in the remaining minutes to book their place in the Asean Football Championship final for a fourth time.
After the game, Philippines coach Michael Weiss lamented the loss of concentration that resulted in the goal.
“Their goal was a gift on our side because we have focussed on set pieces for the last 10 days and yet we conceded on a set piece,” said the German, who guided the Azkals to the last four for only the second time.
“It was a nice shot by Khairul Amri but our defence should not have allowed it to happen.
“It was still a good achievement for us to reach the semi-finals and hopefully we can learn from this and come back stronger in the future.
“Singapore’s extra portion of experience and coolness under pressure helped them today and overall, they are deserved winners over the two games.”

Messi still plays like a teenager, Vilanova says

MADRID (Reuters) – One of Lionel Messi’s key strengths is that his approach to the game is the same now as it was when he was a teenager, his Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova said of the record-breaking Argentine on Tuesday.
Now aged 25 and voted World Player of the Year the past three years, Messi set a record for the most goals scored in a calendar year of 86 on Sunday, surpassing the previous best of 85 set by German Gerd Mueller in 1972.
Barcelona's coach Tito Vilanova speaks during a news conference at Joan Gamper training camp, near Barcelona, December 4, 2012. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino
Barcelona's coach Tito Vilanova speaks during a news conference at Joan Gamper training camp, near Barcelona, December 4, 2012. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino
"Messi’s great virtue is that he is still playing now as a professional the same way he did as a youth player," Vilanova, who coached Messi when he was in Barca’s academy, told a news conference previewing Wednesday’s King’s Cup last-16 first leg game at second division Cordoba.
"His career, what he has achieved, nobody could have predicted it," Vilanova added.
"I loved and enjoyed watching him play back then and now at this age too. I hope it continues for a good deal longer."
Messi can add to his 2012 goals tally in the Cup game at Cordoba and Barca have another two La Liga games, at home to Atletico Madrid and away at Real Valladolid, before the end of the year.
He is likely to smash plenty more scoring records before the end of his career and with 192 goals is already Barca’s all-time leading scorer in La Liga and ninth overall behind top marksman and former Athletic Bilbao forward Telmo Zarra on 251.
Top scorer in the Champions League the past four seasons, Messi has 56 goals in Europe’s elite club competition, joint-second with former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and 15 behind former Real Madrid forward Raul.
He also has Gabriel Batistuta’s record haul of 56 goals for Argentina in his sights, having already scored 31 for his country.

Ibrahimovic treble helps PSG thrash Valenciennes

Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued his devastating run of scoring form when he netted his maiden Ligue 1 hat-trick to inspire Paris St Germain to a clinical 4-0 win at Valenciennes on Tuesday.
Ibrahimovic, who has now netted 17 goals in 14 league appearances, helped second-placed Paris St Germain cut Olympique Lyon’s lead to two points before the seven-times French champions travel to basement side Nancy on Wednesday.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris St Germain (C) celebrates his goal during their French Ligue 1 soccer match at the Hainaut Stadium in Valenciennes December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris St Germain (C) celebrates his goal during their French Ligue 1 soccer match at the Hainaut Stadium in Valenciennes December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
PSG have 32 points from 17 games and lead third-placed Olympique Marseille, who play at Bastia on Wednesday, by three points.
Valenciennes, who were unbeaten at home, remain fifth on 26 points after the beating they suffered in the Stade du Hainaut.
"Our confidence has been growing," PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi told Canal Plus. "We beat a team who were unbeaten at home, and in style."
PSG, who had suffered a run of three defeats in five league games, have now won their last three matches in all competitions, scoring 10 goals and conceding one.
They next face Lyon in a top-of-the-table clash at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.
"We’re confident. It is surely going to be a spectacular match," said Matuidi.
Valenciennes had the first chance after nine minutes when Matthieu Dossevi’s sweet low shot went just wide.
PSG keeper Salvatore Sirigu then did well to punch away Nicolas Isimat-Mirin’s header as the visitors struggled to contain Valenciennes.
However, PSG went ahead against the run of play after 29 minutes through Ibrahimovic and never looked back.
Pastore found Jeremy Menez with a clever back heel and the France forward’s shot was deflected into the path of Ezequiel Lavezzi, whose attempt was steered past goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau by PSG’s Sweden striker.
The visitors’ Dutch centre back Alex was replaced by Mamadou Sakho on the stroke of halftime after picking up an injury.
Ibrahimovic doubled his tally five minutes into the second half when he poked the ball home after Penneteau parried Pastore’s volley into his path.
Ibrahimovic, who had already scored five doubles in the league this season, completed his treble four minutes later, tapping in Menez’s cross from the left.
Lavezzi, who has been approaching the form that made him a fans’ favourite at Napoli, rounded off the victory in the 83rd at the end of a solo run after being nicely set up by Marco Verratti’s through ball.
Nice beat nine-man Stade Rennes 1-0 thanks to a 66th-minute Dario Cvitanitch penalty after Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik and Yassine Jebbour were sent off in the 52nd and 64th minutes respectively.
Later on Tuesday (2000 GMT), Lille, who are 11th, take on 10th-placed Toulouse.

Bradford bask in glory of Arsenal upset

Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson hailed his penalty-kick kings after they dumped Arsenal out of the League Cup quarter-finals with their ninth straight shoot-out success.
Bradford, playing in the fourth tier of English football, went through to the last four on Tuesday after beating the Premier League side 3-2 on penalties at a packed Valley Parade after the sides had finished 1-1 after extra time.
Bradford City's players celebrate after winning a penalty shootout against Arsenal during their English League Cup soccer match in Bradford, northern England December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis
Bradford City's players celebrate after winning a penalty shootout against Arsenal during their English League Cup soccer match in Bradford, northern England December 11, 2012. 
Arsenal had needed an 88th minute equaliser from Thomas Vermaelen to force extra time but despite putting Bradford under immense pressure they could not finish their numerous chances to kill the hosts off.
Bradford, who last played in the English top flight from 1999 to 2001, had won their last eight shoot-outs and made it nine in a row when Vermaelen missed Arsenal’s final spot-kick.
"To be only three minutes away from beating a team of Arsenal’s calibre says it all," Parkinson told the club’s official website.
"The talk after the game might be about the penalty shoot-out win and our run of penalty victories, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the lads’ performance."
Without a trophy since winning the FA Cup in 2005, Arsenal put out a strong team that included Gervinho, Aaron Ramsey and Lukas Podolski but were caught cold when Garry Thompson put Bradford ahead with a side-foot finish in the 16th minute.
Arsenal took their time to get to grips with the buzzing hosts but almost made it 1-1 when Francis Coquelin hit the woodwork in the 38th minute before Gervinho squandered a glorious chance to equalise with the goal gaping.
Arsene Wenger’s side were on top throughout the second half and the pressure paid off in the 88th minute when defender Vermaelen nodded home.
After a scoreless extra period, Santi Cazorla and Marouane Chamakh missed with the visitors’ first two spot kicks and Bradford’s Ritchie Jones and Stephen Darby also failed to score before Vermaelen hit the post.
"This result means everything to us, that’s the players, management and staff," added Parkinson. "We want to try and put Bradford back on the map for the right things, and nights like tonight will certainly help do that.
"The people of this city have been superb with the club, their support tonight was magnificent, and they deserve a team they can be proud of. I believe we are getting there with that one."
Also on Tuesday, Aston Villa booked a place in the last four by coming from behind to beat Norwich City 4-1 away.
In the other quarter-finals, Swansea host Middlesbrough later on Wednesday while Leeds United will have to wait until December 19 to host Chelsea due to the Blues’ Club World Cup commitments in Japan.

Corinthians taking European style to Club World Cup

The Corinthians side that will feature in the Club World Cup in Tokyo on Wednesday has the ammunition to ambush European champions Chelsea if the two teams get through to Sunday’s final as expected.
The Brazilians won South America’s version of the Champions League at a relative canter in July, going unbeaten for 14 Libertadores Cup games and conceding just four goals.
Corinthians play a dour but effective European-style pressing game and their biggest plus is the club’s long-held mantra of putting teamwork and hard graft ahead of individual brilliance.
"It’s one of the real strengths of this team," coach Tite told ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final against Egypt’s Al-Ahly. "If you have a group of players that only look out for themselves, that’s the first step towards failure.
"But playing as a team doesn’t mean that players won’t stand out. They understand that by all pulling together they’ll create a winning team that’ll give everyone a chance to shine."
Chelsea’s expensive collection of international players meet Monterrey of Mexico in the other semi-final on Thursday.
The laconic Tite has strengthened his Corinthians squad since leading them to their first Libertadores title.
The coach lost Leandro Castan to AS Roma and Alex to Al-Gharafa of Qatar but made up for that by signing Peruvian Jose Paulo Guerrero from Hamburg SV, Jose Manuel Martinez from Argentines Velez Sarsfield and midfielder Guilherme from hometown rivals Portuguesa.
Young striker Romarinho has established himself as a regular while Paulinho and Ralf have been commanding enough in midfield to win regular berths with Brazil.
Goalkeeper Cassio and full back Fabio Santos have also earned callups to the national team.
In addition Corinthians can count on the return of Emerson Sheik. The much-travelled striker was inspirational in the Libertadores Cup, scoring three of their five goals in the semi-finals and final.
He has missed most of the season through injury and suspension but is now fully fit and should start against Al-Ahly.
While Chelsea have just hired Rafael Benitez on an interim basis, the London club’s third coach in nine months, Corinthians are a relative ocean of stability.
The Brazilians have had the same coach for two years, an unusually long time in a nation where volatility and fireworks are not limited to the terraces.
"(Corinthians) have been more European than the English," said Luiz Fernando Gomes, columnist with Brazilian sports newspaper Lance. "Organisation on and off the pitch is the order of the day."
The Brazilians are treating the Club World Cup seriously, with an estimated 15,000 fans seeing them off at the airport last week and a similar number likely to travel to roar on their side in Japan.
If Corinthians win the competition it will be the 10th time a Brazilian side has lifted the trophy since it was first played in 1960.
Teams from Argentina, Brazil and Italy have each won the tournament nine times.

Russia criticises U.S. recognition of Syrian opposition group

MOSCOW - Russia expressed surprise on Wednesday over U.S. recognition of a Syrian opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and said it contradicted efforts to seek political transition in the Middle Eastern nation.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Washington's recognition of the Syrian National Coalition suggested the United States has "placed all bets on the armed victory" of the coalition over the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Big powers to recognise Syrian opposition

MARRAKECH, Morocco - Major powers are set to give Syria's opposition full political recognition on Wednesday but not the weapons that rebel fighters need to counter President Bashar al-Assad's superior firepower as they gain ground across the country.
Buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are pictured in Daraya, near Damascus December 10, 2012. REUTERS/Kenan Al-Derani/Shaam News Network/Handout
Buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are pictured in Daraya, near Damascus December 10, 2012.

The "Friends of Syria," a loose forum of governments opposed to Assad, will meet in the Moroccan city of Marrakech as the rebels intensify their push on Damascus and signs grow that the 20-month uprising may be nearing a tipping point.
President Barack Obama announced on U.S. television on the eve of the Marrakech talks that Washington would now recognise the newly formed coalition of opposition groups as Syria's legitimate representative, which could intensify the pressure for Assad to relinquish power.
"We've made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population, that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime," Obama said in an interview with ABC News.
However, his announcement stopped short of authorizing the United States to supply weapons to Syria's opposition - something Obama has steadfastly refused to do.
A diplomatic source in the Middle East gave Reuters a draft text agreed on Tuesday night by the Friends of Syria. It said the participants "acknowledged the National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people."
The source said discussion also cantered on reference to the right to self defence, which was argued by "a Gulf country but other states were not in favour."
He said a compromise was found stating that the group "recognized the legitimate need of the Syrian People to defend itself against the violent and brutal regime of Bashar Al Assad's."
Fighting is moving closer to Assad's residence in the centre of Damascus and early on Wednesday, government forces fired artillery and rockets at southwestern suburbs of the capital adjacent to the Mezzeh military airport, activists said.
The mainly Sunni Muslim rebels have scored a string of victories against Assad's forces, many of them from his Alawite religious minority. There is little evidence that the government is regaining control, residents say.
The Syrian army is using warplanes and heavy artillery to try to halt further advances by rebels, many of them die-hard Islamists. Opposition leaders say they need heavy weapons to sustain the momentum and change the military equation in a conflict which has killed 40,000 people since March 2011.
The two sides battled near Damascus airport, about 25 km (15 miles) southeast of the palace. The rebels now hold a near continuous arc of territory from the east to the southwest of his power base.
Damascus residents are facing power cuts and food shortages as they try to prepare for winter. In central Syria an attack on a village killed or injured as many as 200 members of Assad's Alawite minority sect, activists said, but it was unclear who was behind the assault.
Assad's political and armed opponents, dogged by splits and rivalries throughout their battle to end his family's 42-year rule, have established a more unified political opposition and military command, hoping to win international support.
France, Britain, Turkey and the Gulf states have already granted the formal recognition. The European Union, in a meeting on Monday, moved a step closer towards recognition. Russia restated its opposition on Wednesday.
The opposition says what it really needs is weapons.
"We are telling the international community that we don't want their military intervention but we want them to supply us with developed anti-aircraft defence systems," Seif said. "The Syrian people can finish off the battle within weeks if we get this support."
Little in the way of direct military or financial support is expected to be channelled to the coalition at the Morocco meeting, partly because it lacks the ability to act as a provisional government and because Western powers are still wary of backing Islamist fighters in the rebel ranks.
A diplomat attending the meeting said there had been much "jockeying for position within the coalition without addressing the main political issues," including making arrangements to work with Syria's Alawite, Kurdish and Christian minorities and creating a framework for transitional justice.
As delegates arrived in Marrakech, the United States announced it had designated the radical Islamist rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra - which has claimed responsibility for dozens of car bombs and fights alongside other rebel Syrian brigades - as a terrorist organisation.
Farouk Tayfour, deputy leader of the Syrian Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, said Washington had made a "very wrong and hasty decision".
The fighting has driven hundreds of thousands of Syrians into neighbouring countries and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees said more than half a million were either registered or awaiting registration in the region.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will miss the Marrakech meeting but is sending her deputy William Burns to accelerate the process of helping the opposition.
While U.S. arms for the rebels remain off the table for now, legitimising the disparate forces may make it easier for other countries to act.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are already arming and financing the Muslim Brotherhood and other militant groups while Iran is bankrolling Assad.
"Diplomatic recognition is not enough. We need military support. A transitional phase has started and we need the means to defend the liberated parts of Syria from regime strikes," coalition member Abdelbasset Sida told Reuters.
"We are nearing the end. Battles in Damascus are drawing very near to the inner sanctum of the regime and I do not expect Bashar to last for long," he said.
Syrian opposition campaigner Walid al-Bunni said that after many meetings, the "Friends of Syria" had to show willingness to depose Assad and end the bloody conflict.
"Every week of delay means the destruction of villages and parts of cities and towns and the killing of an average of 1,000 people," said Bunni, one of a few members of the coalition not allied with the Brotherhood.
"Recognition of the coalition will help but it will not end the crisis. There needs to be real international will to stand by the Syrian people and get rid them of this dictatorship."

U.S. military to increase presence in Philippines

MANILA (Reuters) - U.S. and Philippine officials are expected to agree on an increase in the number of U.S. military ships, aircraft and troops rotating through the Philippines, Filipino officials said, as tensions simmer with China over its maritime claims.
Senior U.S. and Philippine officials met on Wednesday in Manila to discuss strengthening security and economic ties at a time of growing tension over China's aggressive sovereignty claims over vast stretches of the disputed South China Sea.
Philippine defence and diplomatic officials said they expected to see more U.S. ships, aircraft and troops for training exercises and disaster and relief operations.
"What we are discussing right now is increasing the rotational presence of U.S. forces," Carlos Sorreta, the foreign ministry's Assistant Secretary for American Affairs, told reporters. A five-year joint U.S.-Philippine military exercise plan would be approved this week, he added.
The size of the increase in the U.S. military assets in the Philippines, a former U.S. colony, was unclear.
But it comes as the Philippines, Australia and other parts of the region have seen a resurgence of U.S. warships, planes and personnel under Washington's so-called "pivot" in foreign, economic and security policy towards Asia announced last year.
U.S. and Philippine officials say there is no plan to revive permanent U.S. military bases in the Philippines - the last ones were closed in 1992 - and that the increased presence would help provide relief during disasters such as a typhoon last week that killed more than 700 people.
"The increase rotation presence is in areas where we have been traditionally exercising," said Sorreta. "There are other areas for example where we have been experiencing more disasters. So we might be expanding exercises there."
Wary of Washington's intentions, China is building up its own military. Its claims over most of the South China Sea have set it directly against U.S. allies Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also claim parts of the mineral-rich waters.
One U.S. official said Washington was not ready to wade directly into the territorial dispute in the South China Sea and instead would focus on strengthening security ties with long-standing allies such as the Philippines.
"I don't think you'll see any real movement on the South China Sea," the U.S. official said.
"I'm sure it will come up, but we aren't trying to step in and 'solve' that issue. We really want the solution to be done by the claimants themselves and are hoping the Code of Conduct discussions move forward," said the official, referring to a Code of Conduct aimed at easing the risk of naval flashpoints.
Sorreta told Reuters the Philippines also favoured an increased deployment of U.S. aircraft and ships "so we can make use of them when the need arises", citing last week's typhoon. He said they would also welcome more U.S. humanitarian supplies.

Samsung Msia targets double-digit growth in 2013-14

KUALA LUMPUR: Samsung Malaysia Electronics is targeting more than double-digit growth in revenue from SME segment in Malaysia for the next couple of years.
According to its business-to-business (B2B) unit vice president Varinderjit Singh, Samsung Malaysia targets to be the market leader in providing solutions based for the enterprise customers.
"Currently, Malaysia holds 30% to 40% SME sector, this will be the main growth area. We will see more innovation coming in from the sector due to the size of the companies," he said at the Samsung B2B solutions launch today.
"Our main goal is not to compete, but to co-exist to provide best solutions to our customers," he added.

    Microsoft ups Surface production to compete with iPad

    SEATTLE: Microsoft Corp has stepped up manufacturing of the Surface tablet, its new device designed to counter Apple Inc's iPad, and will introduce it to third-party retailers this week.
    The moves suggest Microsoft is seeing some demand for its first own-brand computer in the crucial holiday shopping season, although it has yet to divulge any sales figures.
    "The public reaction to Surface has been exciting to see," said Panos Panay, general manager of Microsoft's Surface project, which forms part of the company's Windows unit.
    "We've increased production and are expanding the ways in which customers can interact with, experience and purchase Surface," said Panay, but gave no details of how many extra units were being produced.
    Panay did not mention names of retailers that will sell the Surface, but separately office equipment retailer Staples Inc said it would stock the tablet from Wednesday.
    He said the Surface would also be on sale at retailers in Australia from mid-December, with more countries to follow in the next few months.
    Since launch in late October, the Surface has only been sold by Microsoft itself, in its own brick and mortar stores in the United States and Canada and online in Australia, China, France, the UK and Germany.
    The only Surface model available now - officially called Surface with Windows RT - runs a version of Windows created to work on the low-power chips designed by ARM Holdings, which dominate smartphones and tablets but are incompatible with old Windows applications.
    It starts at $499 for the 32 gigabyte version plus $120 for a thin cover that doubles as a keyboard.
    A larger, heavier tablet - called Surface with Windows 8 Pro - will be introduced in January, running on an Intel Corp chip that works with all Microsoft's Windows and Office applications. Microsoft plans to price the new Surface from $899 for a 64 gigabyte version.
    The world's largest software company also said it would keep its chain of 'pop-up' holiday stores open into the new year and will convert them into permanent retail outlets or what it called "specialty store locations".
    Microsoft's recent push into physical retail - following Apple's great success - has resulted in 31 permanent stores plus 34 holiday 'pop-up' stores in the U.S. and Canada.
    If Microsoft converted each of the temporary stores into permanent outlets it would have 65 stores, still well below Apple with almost 400 worldwide. 

    Facebook helps FBI bust cybercriminals who infected 11 million computers

    SAN FRANCISCO: Investigators led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and aided by Facebook Inc, have busted an international criminal ring that infected 11 million computers around the world and caused more than $850 million in total losses in one of the largest cybercrime hauls in history.
    The FBI, working in concert with the world's largest social network and several international law enforcement agencies, arrested 10 people it says infected computers with "Yahos" malicious software, then stole credit card, bank and other personal information.
    Facebook's security team assisted the FBI after "Yahos" targeted its users from 2010 to October 2012, the U.S. federal agency said in a statement on its website. The social network helped identify the criminals and spot affected accounts, it said.
    Its "security systems were able to detect affected accounts and provide tools to remove these threats," the FBI said.
    According to the agency, which worked also with the U.S. Department of Justice, the accused hackers employed the "Butterfly Botnet". Botnets are networks of compromised computers that can be used in a variety of cyberattacks on personal computers.
    The FBI said it nabbed 10 people from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, New Zealand, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States, executed numerous search warrants and conducted a raft of interviews.
    It estimated the total losses from their activities at more than $850 million, without elaborating.
    Hard data is tough to come by, but experts say cybercrime is on the rise around the world as PC and mobile computing become more prevalent and as more and more financial transactions shift online, leaving law enforcement, cybersecurity professionals and targeted corporations increasingly hard-pressed to spot and ward off attacks.

    Sydney derby set to excite

    Sydney derby set to excite
    A double victory by Sydney's two Hyundai A-League teams within hours of each other has turned Saturday night's Harbour City derby from a potential box office flop to one of the hottest tickets in town.

    There was the potential for a low turnout for the Sydney FC-Western Sydney Wanderers clash at Allianz Stadium before both clubs pulled off stunning wins on Sunday.
    The Sky Blues recorded their first triumph since October 28, upsetting in-form Wellington 2-1, before the Wanderers climbed into the top four on the back of a 1-0 victory over defending champions Brisbane just a few hours later.
    The twin wins have set the scene for a mouth-watering local derby at Allianz Stadium - the Sky Blues confident of attracting a crowd of around 25,000 after initially budgeting for about half that figure.
    Sydney FC's Rhyan Grant, who scored Sunday's winner, said his side was looking forward to continuing its mini-revival under new coach Frank Farina.
    "It's going to be good, especially coming off a win and Western Sydney won as well," he declared.
    "Both teams are looking good and are going to be confident.
    "A big crowd and a packed stadium would be great.
    "It's a very crucial game. We're only three points off the Wanderers who are in fourth, so if we can get the win we'll be right back up there."
    The Wanderers have been the surprise packet of the A-League, climbing five places to fourth after downing the Roar via a late Shinji Ono penalty.
    Tony Popovic's men went down 1-0 to the Sky Blues in the inaugural Sydney derby in October but present a much stronger case the second time around.
    "They've had a bit of a resurgence under Frank which I'm not surprised with and we've had a great win (over Brisbane) so it sets it up very nicely," Popovic said.
    "It's great (that the teams both won) but derbies are very unique and whether you're on the top or the bottom is irrelevant.
    "Form goes out the window."
    Popovic is also downplaying the Wanderers' move into fourth spot, pointing out the erratic form of most teams is responsible for the rapid rise and fall of teams on the ladder.
    He said: "Being in the six is nice but as you see in this league it changes on a week to week basis.
    "Once we finish 18 games you might start seeing a gap in certain areas (of the table) but until then I think it will change a fair bit.
    "The challenge for us is to try to become more consistent in terms of our results and (Sunday) was a good start."

    Birighitti targets Round 13 return

    Birighitti targets Round 13 return
    Newcastle Jets goalkeeper Mark Birighitti, who is returning from a fractured cheekbone, has already increased his training load since returning to the training track this week.

    The 21 year old returned to training on Sunday and was scheduled to undertake light duties this week with a hope to step it up next week.
    “It is fantastic to get back out there with the boys and I have had good sessions,” Birighitti said.
    “It is supposed to be light duties and I was still a week away from diving and contact but this morning I was diving, so I am pushing myself as much as I can.”
    Immediately following the Round 7 incident where he collected the knee of Wellington Phoenix’sJeremy Brockie, Birighitti admitted his recovery is as much physical as it is mental.
    “I thought about wearing a mask but I don’t want to wear a mask because it shows a team I am worried about the injury,” he said.
    “I have been keeping active, trying to get my mind off it and trying the best I can to forget about it.
    “At the end of my day it is my job and I will put my body on the line no matter what.
    "If it happens again, it happens again; that is my job to keep the ball out of the net and I will keep doing that.”
    Birighitti has targeted a return in Round 13 against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park.
    “If it was up to me I would be back this week, but that is up to the medical staff, and I am hoping to be back by the Victory game,” he said.
    “I feel good, the body feels good and I will definitely come back stronger.”

    Harnwell's heyday isn't over

    Harnwell's heyday isn't over
    Jamie Harnwell is in a purple patch right now, and while it’s not for the first time in his football career, this time he’s calling the shots.

    Perth football has seen its share of glory over the years. 2004 saw Harnwell’s mens team take the honours in the last NSL final against Parramatta Power - the second time Perth had lifted that trophy. After his retirement, the most recent Hyundai A-League final also featured the Glory men in full flight. The women, however, have waited a long time for accolades of their own.
    This year though, with Perth’s favourite son at the helm, the Perth Glory women are in prime position to make their mark. With just four rounds of the regular Westfield W-League season remaining, they sit in top spot - two points clear of former title holders Sydney FC who they meet again on Saturday.
    It’s in stark contrast to last season, where poor preparation showed as Perth struggled for a victory and finished the season near the foot of the table.
    This year, Harnwell has had a full pre-season with the ladies side and is understandably positive about the difference it has made.
    “We had a good preparation and were able to put together a strong side. Having Collette McCallum back in the W-League, Kate Gill returning after a year out with a knee injury and Lisa De Vanna heading back here to the west, has strengthened the side and obviously the strike force”.
    It’s not just the veteran Matildas though that are propelling this side to the top and the coach agrees that the whole team is stepping up.
    “Local girls Marianna Tabain, Ella Mastrantonio and Elisa d’Ovidio have proved themselves again this season and having Aivi Luik move over from Brisbane has been great for us as well”
    The Queensland influx has proved lucrative for the Glory, with not just Luik and De Vanna but also the emergence of Rosie Sutton, who announced herself in Round 5 when the Sky Blues came to town. With both sides missing their internationals Sutton slotted a hat-trick, more than justifying her selection in the side.
    “Rosie has been fantastic, she got herself over here for a try out and showed some real raw talent, she applies herself in training and now is reaping the rewards”.
    It’s been a fast learning curve for Harnwell. After hanging up his boots in 2010, he went to work for Football West at the National Training Centre. When Nicola Williams departed, he was offered the reins for the Glory Women and grasped the opportunity with relish.
    “To be offered a job as Head Coach in a national competition just six months after retiring as a player, it was too good to turn down”.
    “In my first season, I was a bit na├»ve. I think perhaps I underestimated the rest of the league and had to get my head around dealing with 20 players. When you are a player yourself, it’s pretty much all about your own contribution and performance but as a coach you have to consider everyone as a whole”.
    His coaching career almost came to an abrupt end when the Hyundai A-League club talked of jettisoning the women’s side to cut costs.
    Fortunately state federation Football West stepped into the breach and thus far, Harnwell has repaid the faith. It’s a fact not lost on the man who served Perth Glory well for over a decade.
    “Football West have been so supportive of us and it’s wonderful to be able to show them that this team is worth it”.
    The table is congested though and there is no chicken counting going on.
    “It can be a bit of a lottery, we play well for two weeks and then if we take our foot off the pedal the points are gone and they may prove the
    difference. Two more victories should see us safely into the play offs”.
    The coming weeks aren’t going to be easy, a third away trip on the trot sees the Glory travel to Sydney FC, before welcoming reigning champions Canberra to Intiga Stadium before the Christmas break.
    They finish the regular season though, with matches against Newcastle and Adelaide who sit at the opposite end of the table, so there is a sense that Jamie Harnwell’s side may earn an inaugural finals appearance and bring more glory to Perth.

    All Stars v Man United - second phase allocation exhausted

    All Stars v Man United - second phase allocation exhausted
    Football Federation Australia (FFA) today announced that the second phase allocation of tickets for the A-League All Stars v Manchester United match in Sydney next year has been exhausted.

    At 9am today, general public sale opened with the immense demand seeing all allocated tickets sold.
    Fans can now register on the waitlist for the third phase allocation in April next year. Click here to access the waitlist
    Corporate Entertaining Options are available for the match. Call 1300 13 40 10 or
    Manchester United v A-League All Stars
    ANZ Stadium, Sydney
    Saturday 20 July 2013 (7.30pm kick off)

    All Stars game a massive opportunity, says Butt

    All Stars game a massive opportunity, says Butt
    Manchester United legend Nicky Butt - now involved in coaching the reserves at Old Trafford - believes next year's All-Stars match in Sydney presents a golden opportunity for Hyundai A-League players to catch the eye of the world's biggest club.

    Butt, who scored a goal at the MCG the last time the Red Devils toured Australia 13 years ago, has told that the club's worldwide scouting system has grown dramatically in the intervening years, and the annual pre-season tours provide a genuine shop window for foreign players to impress. In recent years, Manchester United have toured Malaysia, China, South Africa and the US, and the club's second team now incorporates at least eight different nationalities.
    ''We have scouts all over the world now, whereas in years gone by you didn't, so players were difficult to get hold of,'' Butt says.
    ''Now we have coaches all over the world looking at junior football. Even in our reserves, where I'm working at the minute, we have players from Chile, Mexico, all over the world. We've broadened our horizons because we realise there's a lot of talent out there.''
    So could the All-Stars match in Sydney on July 20 potentially unearth a rough diamond?
    ''Who knows?'' Butt says. ''The most famous one was the pre-season game against Sporting Lisbon, and a lad by the name of (Cristiano) Ronaldo signed for us four hours later. So it's a good chance for the boys to show how good they are and get the next step into European football, which is where everyone wants to be.''
    Butt, who is back at the famous Carrington training ground eight years after leaving to finish his career at Newcastle United, believes playing standards across the world have improved significantly since he broke into the Manchester United first team alongside the golden generation of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, the Neville brothers and Paul Scholes.
    Despite the enduring quality of the Manchester United squad, Butt admits the annual pre-season tours have become more of a challenge, and he's expecting the All-Stars side to be decent opposition.
    ''You definitely notice the improvement,'' he says. ''How much more professional they are, how much better they are technically and physically. In my time, and maybe before my time, you go on these pre-season games and you could tell they weren't professional, they weren't fit.
    ''But even in my time you could see how fit, how professional, how committed, the guys you are playing against are becoming. It makes it harder, but equally it makes it better, because these are the games you need to get fit, and ready for the start of the season.''
    The added competitive edge now provided by teams in so-called lesser countries is something Butt embraces.
    ''It's good we get challenged in that way,'' he says. ''If we hold back in our tackles, our committment, we get shown up. We're all professionals and we've got our individual pride and we want to go out and win every game.
    Obviously it's not as important as winning in the Premier League, but these are massive game to get fit and don't get injured, basically. You walk on the line of caution and you get injured more. So we have to give our all, and I'm sure the lads will do that when they go over there next year.''
    Butt admits as a player reporting for pre-season is 'one of those things you don't always look forward to', but he remembers fondly turning up at Carrington in 1999 to be told the team was heading to Australia.
    ''When they told us we were going to Sydney, believe me we were all very happy,'' he says. ''Some places you go aren't as attractive, but when we realised we were going to that part of the world it was a great rush for us all. They're good memories, Sydney was a great place to visit - great facilities, great city, and the fans came out to support us.''
    Butt, famously praised by Pele at the World Cup in Japan three years later, ended up leaving Manchester United in 2004, and despite enjoying six fruitful seasons in Newcastle admits he still wonders whether he might have left too early.
    ''Right up until I signed the papers for Newcastle - I was flying back from America to do the contracts - even an hour before I was thinking 'are you doing the right thing','' he says. ''But at the time I wasn't playing, I was not getting any younger, I was 30-31, and you don't want to be sitting back at 37 thinking I missed five years of my career sitting on the bench. So it was something I thought I had to do to get my career back on track, and I don't regret it because Newcastle are a great club.
    ''But having said that, leaving Man United was definitely hard. I'd been there since in was 12 years old, so it was a massive thing to do.''
    Now back at the club for his second coming as a coach, Butt is often amazed how much Sir Alex Ferguson has changed the club, and the culture, during his record-breaking tenure.
    ''First and foremost we're about winning,'' says Butt. ''Before (Ferguson) came we weren't very successful for 25 years. Now he's built a team that's used to winning, a crowd that's used to winning. I'm looking at training out the window now, and I remember when I first came at 12 years of age, it's taken a massive, massive step. We've definitely moved on, and we're not finished yet.''
    So is he hoping to follow in the footsteps of Sir Alex one day?
    ''As a footballer, or a coach, you want to do the best you can, and I'm no different,'' Butt says. ''I've got my badges and I'm starting to work with the club through the reserves. You can't aim higher than that Man United as a player or a coach, so obviously I've got ambitions to go as high as I can. If that takes me here, then great, but if it's somewhere else so be it.''
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