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Italy held by Switzerland in World Cup qualifier******
ROME, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- Italy should have sealed a win on Friday but only settled for a 1-1 tie against Switzerland in a FIFA World Cup European qualifier, as Jorginho missed a late penalty.。
It was a head-to-head for the top place of Group C as the two sides were tied in the standings with 14 points ahead of the final match-day as the Azzurri ranked first by virtue of a superior goal difference. The top finisher will advance to Qatar 2022 directly, while the second enter play-offs.。
Both sides entered the Stadio Olimpico in Rome with a long list of absentees as Italy lost Giorgio Chiellini, Ciro Immobile and Marco Verratti to injury, while Switzerland were without Granit Xhaka and Haris Seferovic.。
The away side had a more aggressive start and went ahead in the 11th minute as Noah Okafor sprinted down the left and squared for Silvan Widmer to hit in a first-time screamer out of the box.。
Italy managed to weather the early siege, and once the tempo and intensity of the opponents dropped, the game was transformed.。
The winner of the 2020 Euro Championship earned a genuine opportunity in the 22nd minute as Emerson broke into the box and pulled back for Jorginho, whose attempt was blocked and Nicolo Barella's follow-up from a close range was denied by Yann Sommer.。
Italy got back on level terms through a well-designed free kick as Lorenzo Insigne's dummy allowed his cross to find Giovanni Di Lorenzo who scored a header.。
The Azzurri was utterly dominant after the break to create a string of chances, and it won a golden opportunity in the dying minutes when Domenico Berardi was pushed down in the box. The referee Anthony Taylor waved play on before checking the VAR to award a penalty.。
Jorginho, who missed the spot-kick in the two sides' first meeting in September, stepped up again, but the Chelsea midfielder surprisingly blasted it over.。
The situation is unchanged as the two teams in the group are still separated by just two goals. Their fortunes will be decided in the final group games three days later when Italy visit Northern Ireland, and Switzerland host Bulgaria. Enditem。
Xavi looking for top marks from youngsters as Barca prepare to visit Villarreal******
by Paul Giblin。
MADRID, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez made a call for his players to be brave and to strive for excellence ahead of Saturday's difficult LaLiga game away to Villarreal.。
Xavi is unbeaten in his first two games since replacing Ronald Koeman at the Camp Nou, but those matches were a 1-0 win at home to Espanyol and a 0-0 draw with Benfica, and the fact that the goal against Espanyol was a very questionable penalty, highlights where his early problems lie, especially with Ansu Fati injured and Kun Aguero unavailable as investigations continue into a possible heart defect.。
"More than a goal, what we lack is courage in attack," commented Xavi in his press-game press conference on Friday.。
"I am happy with many aspects of our play; we are very good in the pressure after we have lost the ball, we win a lot of challenges and that is good because it is a matter of attitude and sacrifice. I'm also happy about our strategy as we have not conceded any goals, but we need to be braver in attack," explained the coach.。
The coach implied that it could be a lack of confidence for some players after a difficult first half of the season.。
"There are moments when we could look for the last pass and instead the pass goes to the wing, when it is time to attack the central defender," he pointed out.。
However, Xavi also pointed out the youth of players such as Gavi and Nico Gonzalez, who are just 17 and 19 years old: "when I was 18 it was hard for me as well, because you try to do the right thing."
"However, at Barca doing the right thing is not always enough and we have to aim for a 10 out of 10, because if you aim for 10, then you will get a 7 and that will be enough, but if you are happy with a 7, then you'll get a 5 and that isn't enough here," he warned. Enditem。
Feature: Chinese basketball player hoping for no regrets ahead of Australian debut******
CANBERRA, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- Although he arrived in Australia more than 10 days ago, basketball player Liu Chuanxing has yet to see the country where he will spend the next two years.
Currently sequestered in hotel quarantine, he has a simple daily routine: sleeping, eating and exercising.
"Australia is a new starting point for me," said Liu, who signed a two-year deal with the Brisbane Bullets of Australia's National Basketball League (NBL) in September. "I will do my best and leave no regrets in my career."
This is the first time that Liu has played for a club outside China. At 2.25 meters tall, he will be the tallest player in NBL history, according the Brisbane Bullets' website.
Dubbed "Big Liu", he previously played for the Qingdao Eagles in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) in 2018, averaging 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds. Selected to play in the 2021 CBA All-Star Game, he is also a member of the Chinese national team.
Looking into the future, however, he expects more.
"I know that I'm lacking many things in my game to play at a higher level and I want to use this season and every practise to get better and be able to help China win games in FIBA competitions."
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Liu said that the Brisbane Bullets had given him lots of help.
"They cared about my life here and the coach, the general manager and the NBL chairman all sent their regards after my arrival," he said.
Most importantly, the club sent some equipment to his quarantine hotel in Melbourne to help him continue with his training program.
Liu wakes up early in the morning, usually at 6am, and begins training.
Indoor space is limited, so he uses an elastic rope and a portable water bag for strength exercises.
While his quarantine ends on Thursday and he is eager to "breathe the air" outside, Liu has a longer-term task: learning English.
He said his English is just basic at the moment. For communication, the club has found him an interpreter, and he himself is making efforts to improve his language skill.
Discussing why he chose the NBL, Liu said that the league was generally thought of as "of high level with fierce confrontations", which was what he needed.
"I have shortcomings in terms of physical confrontation," he said. "And in terms of technique and awareness, I definitely need to improve."
"This is a very good opportunity for me," Liu added. "I will try my best to learn and transform what I learn to my advantage."
Asked if he had plans to play in the NBA, which is the dream of many basketball players, Liu appeared pragmatic.
"What I am focusing on is the present, and on working hard now in Australia," he said. "I will start with defense and rebounds, contributing as much as I can to the club."
Liu's compatriot Zhou Qi has also arrived in Australia, signing a two-year deal with South East Melbourne Phoenix, and Liu said he was looking forward to facing Zhou. "He also encouraged me to work hard." Enditem