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Friday 15 December 2017

FIFA backing Russia for World Cup 2018 despite war in Ukraine

Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery (C) is attacked by Shakhtar Donetsk's Darijo Srna (L) and Douglas Costa during their Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match in Lviv, February 17, 2015
Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery (C) is attacked by Shakhtar Donetsk's Darijo Srna (L) and Douglas Costa during their Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match in Lviv, February 17, 2015

Built with the Euro 2016 qualifiers in mind, the €350 million stadium Donbass Arena, structurally damaged from shelling last year, lies idle and Shakhtar Donetsk have relocated to Lviv, 800 miles away where they hosted Bayern Munich last night in their Champions League last 16 tie.

Even as Russian-armed rebels who've encircled Donetsk refused to observe the recently-agreed ceasefire, FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke declared satisfaction with Russia's preparations for World Cup 2018.

"We're working well together," he said. "It will be a great World Cup."

Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko added, "The World Cup is impossible without stadiums. In the case of any rise in the cost of construction works we'll need to find some extra resources."

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Tinkoff-Saxo leader Rafal Majka may have been premature in expressing delight ahead of the six-day Tour of Oman at having Roman Kreuziger on his team for this season.

Kreuziger (28) has yet to hear the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport which is considering abnormal biological passport readings relating to his time with the Astana team in 20011 and 2012.

Cleared by the Czech Olympic Committee, the case was referred to CAS by UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

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After the worst year in his career, Brandt Snedeker's Pro-Am win at Pebble Beach was notable on two counts. He broke his own scoring record and got himself back in the Masters, moving to 31 in the world.

Most golfers will take heart from learning that the vintage driver and putter Snedeker used on the weekend, a five-year-old TaylorMade Burner SuperFast and an Odyssey White Hot XG Rossie from 2005, would be expected to fetch about €30 in total if sold on the second-hand market.

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Through to the semi-final in last Saturday's Prizefighter series in Blackpool, favourite Luke Keeler did something his fans had never seen before.

He began showboating, waving his right hand in the air while picking off shots with his left. The reason was simple. The Dubliner had broken his hand in the previous bout and reveals, "I had to use it some way without hurting it."

He lost a tight contest but vows to come back stronger when his injury heals. "I learned more losing," he says. "The loss will make me work harder."

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With just a few hundred meters left to go in the Austin marathon, Kenyan runner Hyvon Ngetich collapsed.

Eventually unable to stand, she crawled on torn hands and knees to the finish line and was pipped for second place. Her time for third was 3.04:02.

Citing her bravery, organisers presented her with the same amount of prize money as the second place runner.

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Two All-Irelands, nine Leinster crowns and two National League medals is not a bad haul from senior inter-county football for retired Dub Bryan Cullen (left).

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