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Rediff.com  » Sports » Sports shorts: Croatia, Switzerland seal World Cup spots

Sports shorts: Croatia, Switzerland seal World Cup spots

Last updated on: November 13, 2017 20:13 IST

A summary of sports events and sports persons, who made news on Monday

IMAGE: Croatia players celebrate after the match against Greece. Photograph: Costas Baltas/Reuters

Croatia clinched a place in next year's World Cup finals on Sunday after holding Greece to a goalless draw at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium in Athens to complete a 4-1 aggregate victory in their playoff tie.

Having done the hard work four days ago by triumphing in the first leg in Zagreb, Zlatko Dalic's team finished the job comfortably against a much-improved Greek team, who were full of attacking intent and tenacious tackling.

Despite the home side's brave efforts, however, it was Croatia who came closest to scoring with Ivan Perisic hitting the post in the first half.

The visitors held on to qualify with ease for the showpiece in Russia.

Swiss scrape into World Cup with 0-0 draw

IMAGE: Switzerland's players celebrate after the match. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

Switzerland scraped into next year's World Cup, their fourth finals in a row, after being held to a goalless draw at home by a valiant and workmanlike Northern Ireland who came desperately close to forcing extra-time on Sunday.

The Swiss qualified 1-0 on aggregate, the tie ultimately being decided by the hugely controversial penalty converted by Ricardo Rodriguez in the first leg in Belfast on Thursday.

They were again indebted to Rodriguez on Sunday when he cleared a goalbound header from Jonny Evans off the line in stoppage time as Northern Ireland pressed for an equaliser.

The Swiss, boasting a much more illustrious and talented line-up, could have done it in style as they dominated the first hour but squandered a hatful of chances. Instead, on a slippery pitch which cut up badly, they relinquished control for the final half hour and were forced onto the back foot, fraying the nerves of the home crowd.

"This is a devastating moment but also a very proud moment," said Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill, who described the manner of their defeat as "cruel".

"We've gone toe-to-toe with a very good side and it was decided by a really poor decision, a penalty that should never have been made."

First title for Paes-Raja team at Knoxville Challenger

Leander Paes and Purav Raja won their first title together after joining forces as they lifted the Knoxville Challenger trophy with a close win over James Cerretani and John-Patrick Smith.

The top-seeded Indian team battled past the US-Australian combine 7-6(4), 7-6(4) in the final of the US$75000 hard court event, on Sunday.

It was first title clash for Paes and Raja after joining forces since August, when they teamed up to compete at the ATP 250 Winston-Salem Open.

It was a fourth Challenger title of the season for Paes, having won events at Leon and Ilkley with Canadian Adil Shamasdin and Tallahassee trophy with American Scott Lipsky.

Raja, before teaming up with Paes, had won the Bordeaux Challenger with Divij Sharan and also made the final of the ATP 250 Chennai Open with the Delhi left-hander.

"It is fun. I have learnt a lot and trying to work on a system which hopefully will make us better in the coming weeks," Raja told PTI.

"It's nice to know what he (Paes) is thinking on big points and the approach to it. Also we are trying to form a system with eye formation which has enabled us to hold serve easier this week," he added.

It was the eighth tournament, including US Open, for the duo in three and a half months since uniting as a team.

"Yes, we have had some tough weeks and some good weeks." 

United States beat Belarus to win 18th Fed Cup title

IMAGE: Coco Vandeweghe and Shelby Rogers of the US celebrate after winning the doubles match. Photograph: Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters

The United States beat hosts Belarus 3-2 on Sunday to win a record-extending 18th Fed Cup title and their first in 17 years.

Shelby Rogers and Coco Vandeweghe beat Aryna Sabalenka and Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 7-6(3) in the doubles to hand the visitors the decisive point.

The US had not won the title since beating Spain 5-0 in 2000.

Belarus were without former world number one Victoria Azarenka, who missed the final due to an ongoing custody battle with her baby son's father.

Russian weightlifter Albegov suspended for suspected doping - IWF

Russian Olympic weightlifter Ruslan Albegov has been suspended for having potentially violated anti-doping rules, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) said on Monday.

The IWF said Albegov, who won bronze at the 2012 London Games in the men's +105 kg event, was provisionally suspended for "use or attempted use by an athlete of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method", without providing further detail.

Russia is one of nine countries currently on a one-year ban from international weightlifting competitions over doping at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Other banned nations include China, Turkey and Ukraine.

The IWF last year barred Russia's weightlifting team from the Rio Olympics over repeated doping offences.

Russia's participation in next year's winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, is now in limbo over investigations by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on the alleged tampering of Russian athletes' samples by laboratory and security officials at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Six Russian cross-country skiers were banned for life from the Olympics this month as part of an IOC investigation.

The IOC has said that it would decide at its executive board meeting next month on the participation of Russian competitors at Pyeongchang.

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