World Cup Viewer’s Guide: Qatar kicks off, USA ready to play
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The first World Cup in the Middle East finally began Sunday night with a flashy opening ceremony and a match between Qatar and Ecuador without any beer for sale in the stadium. Two of the best players in the world were ruled out of the tournament with injuries before it even began. France striker Karim Benzema is out after hurting his left thigh and Senegal forward Sadio Mane has a leg injury. Monday’s matches consist of the United States against Wales, England versus Iran and the Netherlands facing Senegal. Eight of the 13 team captains of European nations have planned to wear “One Love” armbands promoting inclusivity but they could face penalties for breaking rules regarding FIFA-issued uniforms.
Qatar opens the World Cup with a message of inclusion
AL KHOR, Qatar (AP) — The World Cup began in Qatar 12 years after the tiny gulf nation secured the rights. The moment was celebrated in a 30-minute, seven-act opening ceremony ahead of the match between Qatar and Ecuador. Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman and BTS vocalist Jung Kook were the slated stars of the show but the crowd was most favorable of the Middle Eastern leaders in attendance. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani drew a rousing applause when he delivered a message of inclusion in a brief speech given in Arabic. His father was also celebrated in a demonstrative autographing of an official World Cup shirt.
Irving rejoins Nets, apologizes for hurt his actions caused
NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving has returned to the Brooklyn Nets and apologized to anyone who felt threatened or hurt when he posted a link to a documentary with antisemitic material. Irving was suspended by the team on Nov. 3 hours after he refused to say he had no antisemitic beliefs when meeting with reporters at the Nets’ practice facility. He now says he should have handled that interview differently. Irving says he doesn’t stand for “anything close to hate speech or antisemitism.” He has missed eight games during his suspension. The Nets say he is available to play Sunday night against Memphis.
Top 25 Takeaways: Contenders live on edge, where TCU thrives
College Football Playoff contenders lived on the edge in Week 12, with the top four teams all teetering to varying degrees and at various points. That was before No. 5 Tennessee went down with a thud. For No. 4 TCU, it was just another Saturday. TCU and No. 3 Michigan both needed field goals in the final second to stay unbeaten. No. 1 Georgia slogged through a road game against Kentucky. No. 2 Ohio State trailed at halftime against Maryland before closing it out. Among the blue bloods vying for a spot in the CFP, the Horned Frogs may be the outliers but they are without question worthy.
No. 7 USC outlasts No. 16 UCLA to reach Pac-12 title game
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Caleb Williams passed for a career-high 470 yards, Austin Jones rushed for a season-high 120 yards and seventh-ranked Southern California clinched a spot in the Pac-12 championship game with a 48-45 victory over No. 16 UCLA. Williams also rushed for 32 yards and finished with 503 yards of total offense. The Trojans had a season-high 648 yards of total offense and took advantage of four Bruins turnovers. Dorian Thompson-Robinson accounted for all six UCLA touchdowns but also had three interceptions and a fumble. Thompson-Robinson was 23 of 38 for 309 yards and passed for four touchdowns. He rushed for 75 yards and two scores.
Where to get a beer? Bars packed amid Qatar’s alcohol limits
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The question of where to get a drink, a fixture at sporting events around the world, in the conservative country has been top of mind for many fans since Qatar banned the sale of beer in stadiums in a stunning about-face. As a result, many of Doha’s bars and nightclubs — one of the rare places fans can now get alcohol — were packed with crowds and tables fully booked on Sunday as the tournament kicked off, limiting fans’ drink options. The rush on Doha’s bars reflects the tensions tearing at the Muslim country and challenges facing the tiniest host of the world’s biggest sporting event.
AP source: Hackett hands off Broncos’ play-calling duties
DENVER (AP) — A person with knowledge of the decision says first-year Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett is relinquishing offensive play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak. The move takes effect Sunday for the Broncos’ game against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Broncos have stumbled to a 3-6 start behind Hackett and struggling quarterback Russell Wilson. They rank last in the NFL with an offense that averages fewer than 15 points per game. Last year Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni turned over play-calling duties to his offensive coordinator and Philadelphia’s offense took off.
McIlroy clinches Race to Dubai title as Rahm wins in UAE
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Rory McIlroy finished the year as Europe’s top-ranked golfer for the fourth time – and first since 2015 – despite Jon Rahm winning the DP World Tour Championship. The Spaniard’s two-shot victory over England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Sweden’s Alex Noren was his third in six years at Jumeirah Golf Estates. But McIlroy finished the season top of the DP World rankings after Matt Fitzpatrick, his only rival for the Harry Vardon Trophy, blew up around the turn.
FIFA revenue hits $7.5B for current World Cup period
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — FIFA says it has earned record revenues of $7.5 billion in the four years of commercial deals tied to the World Cup in Qatar. FIFA revealed its earnings to officials from more than 200 of its members. It is $1 billion more than income from the previous commercial cycle linked to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The extra income comes despite FIFA helping its members through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when most national team soccer was shut down.
Champion Max Verstappen ends F1 season with 15th win
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Max Verstappen has won a record-extending 15th race of the year at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to conclude one of the most dominant seasons in Formula One history. There was little drama at the Yas Marina Circuit a year after it saw Verstappen’s tense and controversial win over Lewis Hamilton to seal his first title. Verstappen stayed ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez at the start and was never seriously challenged after that on his way to the win. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc held off Perez’s challenge on old tires to finish second and clinch second place in the championship standings.