Uruguay punish Japanese blunders in bad start for Aguirre

The Sagan Tosu centreback miscontrolled a pass in the 34th minute which allowed Edinson Cavani to open the scoring, with the 23-year-old then dallying over a clearance and allowing Abel Hernandez to double the lead in the 73rd.

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“Uruguay are a very strong team so you can’t afford to make mistakes against them,” Aguirre was quoted as saying by Kyodo.

“We made two defensive mistakes and that decided the match tonight.”

Sakai was one of a number of changes that Mexican made to the Japanese line-up as he attempted to shake up a side that woefully underperformed at the World Cup in June.

Their group stage exit led to the resignation of the attack-minded Alberto Zaccheroni and the introduction of the more cautious Aguirre, who cast away a number of the World Cup strugglers.

The Mexican opted for a back four and played defender Masato Morishige in an unfamiliar defensive midfield position, with playmaker Keisuke Honda starting down the left and taking over the captaincy in the absence of Makoto Hasebe.

Another Aguirre debutant, Yusuke Minagawa, came close to giving the former Atletico Madrid coach the perfect start but the Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker could only aim his free header from eight yards out over the bar in the 17th minute.

The miss proved costly as Sakai’s heavy touch was picked up by Cavani who was then put through by Diego Rolan to finish past Eiji Kawashima after the ball deflected off the rookie Japanese defender and over the goalkeeper.

The home side were lacking some creative flair as Uruguay, without suspended striker Luis Suarez and injured coach Oscar Tabarez who stayed home after a back operation last month, kept the hosts comfortably at bay.

The visitors then profited from another mistake by Sakai as Nicolas Lodeiro’s shot was parried by Kawashima but the defender tried to take a touch instead of hook clear and the ball squirmed to Hernandez, who swiftly knocked it through the keeper’s legs.

FC Tokyo striker Yoshinori Muto came on as a late substitute and almost marked his international debut with a sensational strike but his left foot effort from distance hit the inside of the post before bouncing clear.

Aguirre will have a quick chance to rectify the issues when Japan take on Venezuela on Tuesday as they continue the build up to their Asian Cup defence in January in Australia. Venezuela lost 3-1 to South Korea on Friday.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Justin Palmer)

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Button "massively relaxed" about his F1 future

The 2009 world champion’s current contract with McLaren expires at the end of the year and the team have yet to announce their lineup for 2015, when they are starting a new partnership with Honda.

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Button, the most experienced driver on the starting grid, has been with McLaren since 2010 and this year has Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen as his team mate.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who has reportedly been making overtures to Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, recently fuelled speculation about Button by saying he was keeping an eye out for other top drivers who might become available.

Alonso has, however, said that he wants to extend his Ferrari contract beyond 2016 while Vettel is also tied to champions Red Bull for 2015 and has indicated he is not about to move.

“My situation has not changed. I am happy where I am,” Vettel told reporters at Monza. “But you never know what is happening in the future. Right now, I don’t feel the need to do something different.”

Asked ahead of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix whether he felt relaxed about 2015, Button replied emphatically: “Massively relaxed.”

The Briton played down a recent television interview in which he had appeared to acknowledge that there was a possibility he could be facing retirement.

“If I’m not racing at the end of the season, so be it. I can’t do much about that,” he grinned. “But it’s not that I’m getting ready because I definitely don’t want to retire for many years.

“But when you’re asked the question so many times you’ve got to say something different else it gets boring. Not for you guys, but for me it gets boring. I’m SO bored of answering the same questions.”

Button, who made his debut with Williams in 2000 and is now 34, said he had heard a lot of nonsense in his time when it came to the driver market.

“Initially it’s annoying, but then you’re like ‘You know what, I’ve been here before, been in this situation before, heard it before’,” he said.

“So you just get on with your job, and I love racing in Formula One. Every time I jump in a car I do the best job I can – and it doesn’t matter who it’s for or where it is – I do the best for myself, the team and the fans.”

Frenchman Romain Grosjean, who drives for Lotus but has also been linked to other teams including McLaren, suggested that Alonso held the key to opening up the driver market but Button scoffed at that.

“That surprised me, actually,” he said. “I don’t really think he’s the key to the driver market. The two McLaren drivers are probably the key to the driver market, I would say.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Shahzad may face action for religious spat

The head of Pakistan’s cricket board says batsman Ahmed Shahzad could face disciplinary action over a religious spat with Sri Lankan opener Tillakaratne Dilshan.

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Television footage showed Shahzad passing a religious remark at Dilshan after the third and final one-day international in Dambulla last week.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has set up a committee to look into the matter despite Sri Lanka Cricket and Dilshan not making an official complaint.

“Shahzad has breached the central contract in which it is clearly written that you will not involve in any religious spat with others so there can be disciplinary action against him,” PCB chief Shaharyar Khan told reporters on Friday.

After Sri Lanka notched a seven-wicket win to take the series 2-1 and the players were walking off the field, Shahzad was seen on TV footage saying to Dilshan: “If you are a non-Muslim and you turn Muslim, no matter whatever you do in your life, straight to heaven.”

Dilshan replied he doesn’t want to go there, to which Shahzad replied: “Then be ready for the fire.”

The remarks stemmed from reports that 37-year-old Dilshan was born to a Muslim father and a Buddhist mother and was originally named Tuwan Mohamed Dilshan.

The footage went viral on the Internet, prompting the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to summon Shahzad on Wednesday.

Dilshan said he didn’t even remember what was said.

“I have no issues at all. I was just quite happy with the win at the time,” Dilshan said in Colombo.

Shahzad, 22, has a history of disciplinary problems, having been fined 50 per cent of match fee after an altercation with Dilshan in the series last year.

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Rebels agree to Ukraine ceasefire

Ukraine’s Russian-backed separatists say they have agreed with Ukrainian officials on a ceasefire at peace talks in Minsk.

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“Representatives of Ukraine and Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic signed a ceasefire protocol from 6pm on Friday,” the Twitter account of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic said, without providing further details.

Officials on the ground in the Belarussian capital Minsk were not immediately available to confirm the statement.

The OSCE, which hosted the talks, said the ceasefire would begin at 1500 GMT on Friday (0100 AEST Saturday).

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said on Friday that Russia must withdraw its forces from the war-torn country for the proposed truce with rebel insurgents to hold.

“The peace plan must include a ceasefire, the withdrawal of the Russian army, bandits and terrorists, and the re-establishment of the border,” Yatsenyuk told a cabinet meeting shortly after talks on the ceasefire plan opened in the Belarussian capital Minsk.

He also called for the United States and Europe to act as guarantors to a ceasefire with pro-Moscow rebels.

“It must be supported by the United States and the EU. We will not manage with Russia on our own… we need guarantees,” Yatsenyuk told a cabinet meeting moments before rebels announced that a truce deal had been agreed at talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk.

Also shortly after the rebel announcement, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his envoy had signed a “preliminary” truce deal with pro-Russian militants aimed at halting the five months of fighting that has claimed 2600 lives.

“A preliminary protocol to the ceasefire agreement has been signed in Minsk. This protocol should enter into force on Friday,” Poroshenko wrote on his official Twitter account.

He also ordered his army commander to halt fire in Kiev’s campaign against pro-Russian insurgents at 1500 GMT on Friday (0100 AEST Saturday) under the terms of a new truce deal.

“I am ordering the head of the general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine to halt fire starting at 6 pm (1500 GMT),” Poroshenko said on his website.

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Hawks finish strongly to defeat Cats

Defending premiers Hawthorn moved a step closer to a third consecutive grand final appearance with a 36-point win in a high-pressure qualifying final against Geelong on Friday night.

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Geelong surged late in the second term to level the scores at 6.5 (41) each at halftime.

But the Hawks kicked nine goals to the Cats’ four in the second half to win 15.14 (104) to 10.8 (68) in front of a crowd of over 74,000 at the MCG.

Jordan Lewis and Jack Gunston kicked three goals each and Sam Mitchell and Bradley Hill were outstanding in midfield for the Hawks, who advance to the preliminary final in two weeks’ time.

Geelong, who were superbly led by tireless skipper Joel Selwood, will face the winner of Saturday night’s North Melbourne-Essendon elimination final next weekend in a knockout clash.

The Cats started the game full of running and kicked the first two goals of the game with Steve Johnson dominant. However playmaker Sam Mitchell had an impact for the Hawks who scored the last three goals of the first term to lead 3.4 (22) to 2.1 (13) at quarter-time.

The Cats kicked four goals in the second term including Josh Walker’s 51-metre effort after the siren to level the scores at halftime.

Gunston kicked two of Hawthorn’s four goals in the third term and the Hawks went to three-quarter time with a 14-point advantage, 10.8 (68) to 8.6 (54).

Luke Breust’s goal early in the final term put the Hawks ahead by 20 points but Mark Blicavs responded with a goal for the Cats at the 11-minute mark.

With less than eight minutes left on the clock, Jarryd Roughead weaved one through from the boundary as the Hawks went 22 points clear.

Lewis put an exclamation point on the win with two last-quarter goals, prompting a fist-pumping celebration from Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson.

Hawthorn kicked clear with a five-goal last term to Geelong’s two.

Geelong coach Chris Scott revealed star forward/midfielder Steve Johnson is in doubt for next week’s sudden-death semi-final with an ongoing foot problem.

Johnson missed the last three rounds of the home-and-away season and returned on Friday night, picking up 17 disposals including nine in the first term.

Scott said Johnson had been cleared to play by the club’s medical staff but struggled to get through the game and was now in doubt for next week.

“That foot’s going to be a problem for us,” Scott said.

“He struggled through the night with that issue … he was sore.”

Geelong skipper Selwood’s 31 disposals included a game-high nine clearances.

Hawthorn’s 2013 Norm Smith Medallist Brian Lake completed another superb shut-down role, holding Geelong’s spearhead Tom Hawkins to seven possessions and one goal.

“He was pretty good tonight. He reads the ball in flight so well off the opposition’s kick,” Clarkson said.

The Hawks dominated possession and also led the tackles 81-59.

“To put real pressure on the Geelong ball-carriers is just crucial for us,” Clarkson said.

“We were able to turn the ball over and give ourselves a chance in the middle of the ground.”

Wingman Bradley Hill (27 disposals including 18 in the first half) was one of about a dozen key contributors for the Hawks but Mitchell, with a game-high 36 touches, was a stand-out.

“We’ve got a good running group and a good balance of inside and outside players,” Clarkson said.

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