Catalan mayors disobey Spanish courts ahead of Independence vote

On September 16, 2017 more than 700 mayors from Catalonia assembled in Barcelona on Saturday to state their support for a planned independence referendum which Madrid has declared to be illegal.

The Catalan government has plans to hold a referendum for self-rule for the affluent north-eastern region on October 1, 2017. These plans have a strong opposition from the government which has challenged the vote in the Constitutional Court.

Despite warnings by Spanish prosecutors, the Catalan mayors met with Catalonia’s regional head Carles Puigdemont to show their defiance. The prosecutors had warned in the previous week that officials engaging in any preparations for the vote could be charged with abuse of office, civil disobedience and misuse of public funds.

On September 13, 2017 the Spanish prosecutors had summoned more than 700 Catalan mayors for questioning after they said that they would permit municipal spaces to be used for voting. If the mayors did not respond to the order, the police could arrest them as per the order.

Assembling in Barcelona’s downtown, the mayors gave speeches in front of hundreds of protesters waving pro-Independence flags, assuring continued support for the referendum.

Sources: Reuters, Euronews

Rank will decide fate of FIFA World Cup 2018

 FIFA adopted a simple format of global ranking for the 2018 World Cup draw. ON Thursday, the Organising Committee decided that the four pots will have teams as per their ranking instead of continent-wise.
Pot 1 will have seven topmost teams along with host Russia. Pot 2 will have next 8, and similarly, the remaining 16 countries will be divided. Draw from each pot will decide the teams that will compete in a group. Europe gets an exception in the case that no two teams from the same continent can be a part of a group.
The whole process will be based on the teams’ positions in the October rankings. Till now, Argentina, Germany and Portugal are expected to be in Pot 1 whereas Pot 2 could have France, Spain, England and Italy.
The previous world cup saw complexities with Pot 1 as per ranking, others as per continent, additional Pot X which attracted criticism.
The rankings will be out on October 16, 2017 and the draw will happen on December 1.

Barcelona terror attack: a dreadful day for Spain

Spain is mourning over the death of 13 people, who were killed in a terror attack that took place in Barcelona on Thursday, August 17. More than 100 people were severely injured in this attack.

Though ISIS has taken responsibility for this terror attack, the authorities still have to confirm it.

The fatal event began in the evening when a van rushed through the crowd on the Las Ramblas avenue, a popular tourist spot of Barcelona. The driver escaped the scene, but a police manhunt for him continues, reported the Guardian.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called this attack an act of jihadi terrorism.

Later, a second attack took place in a coastal town Cambrils which is around 120 km from Barcelona. In this six bystanders and one police officer were injured.

Post this attack, police officers shot dead five suspects, some of whom were wearing what appeared to be explosive belts. Authorities have claimed that both the attacks are linked. Police have taken two suspects into custody, although neither of them is the driver.

These attacks are also being linked to an earlier explosion that destroyed a house in Alcanar, killing one person and wounding at least one more

Sources – CNN, The Guardian 

Agony for Spain as Germany snatch U-21 Euro Cup

It was just not the day for arguably the best team in the U-21 European Championship as their German counterparts won the Euro Cup following a 1-0 win. Mitchell Weiser scored the solitary goal that gave Germany their second U-21 Euro Cup.

Spain turned down a gilt-edged opportunity to equalize and regain their hold on the match when Saul Niguez, the league’s Golden Boot winner, had his left-footed effort saved. However, Spain never truly looked to possess a significant attacking threat and their attackers Saul Niguez and Marco Asensio were kept quiet and isolated from the ball by a dominant German side. Spain were chasing their record 5th U-21 Euro Cup.

Both Niguez and Asensio had netted a hat trick earlier in the tournament.

With the National team set to face Chile in the Confederations Cup final, Germany have the opportunity to seal a trifecta of accolades- adding the U-21 Euro Cup and the Confederations Cup to their World Cup 2014 trophy.

Mariano Rajoy denied a second term by Spanish Parliament

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s bid for a second term was denied by the Spanish Parliament after more than nine hours of deliberation according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
This has put the country in jeopardy where its governance is concerned – paving the way for a possible third set of elections in just 12 months.
Rajoy had assured 170 votes, the amount of support he had managed to gather after months of mediation with opposition parties. He however failed to garner the ballot, falling six short of the required majority to qualify. His tally was 170 as opposed to 180 against.

Mariano Rajoy was elected to power in 2011 and is well known for his ability to help Spain recover from a possible economic collapse. He now faces another vote at the end of this week which he will need to win more in his favor than against. Reports say that the parties that voted against him, would continue to do so – instead of allowing a minority government to function.

Mr. Rajoy countered that his party should be in power again as he had won with an excess of 2.5 million votes. This is as opposed to the next best party – The Socialists, whose 85 lawmakers were not convinced by his arguments.

The opposition’s response was along the lines of illegal financing and graft which has damaged the reputation of Rajoy’s Popular Party, causing great damage to his assurances.

Spain has been governed by a temporary arrangement for more than eight months – this comes after the country’s people voted a divided parliament last year, following it up with a similar vote six months later.

Read more at: BBC, WSJ

Germany all the way!

Picture Courtesy - FIFA
Picture Courtesy – FIFA
Gary Linekar had once said, “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” Well, it took another 30 minutes for that result, but the Germans did pull off the result in their favour on a day when they met Argentina for the 3rd time in a World Cup final. While there was a Diego Maradona to craft the path to glory for the Latin American nation back in 1986 when they had first met in the finals, Lionel Messi could only reach being the second best.

It was an interesting cup journey in Brazil with the former champions getting knocked out of the group stages, Costa Rica topping a group having England, Italy and Uruguay, and all the group winners going into the quarters for the first time since the 32-team format was introduced.

The journey had its lows as well with Luiz Suarez proving to be a shame yet again as he bit Chiellini thus getting banned by FIFA, Neymar breaking his vertebrae in a rough challenge to get side-lined for quite few months, and few horrifying decisions by the referee that paved path to many controversies. Here is how it all unfolded for the greatest entertainment show on the planet.

Picture Courtesy - Fifa
Picture Courtesy – Fifa

Group A

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Hosts and favourites to lift the silverware this year, Brazil put up a spectacular show as they topped the group with 7 points bettering the goal difference Mexico had with Neymar scoring 4 goals to spearhead the attack. The 5 time World Champions had absolutely dominated their games with Cameroon and Croatia however were held to a goalless draw by Mexico, courtesy to an inspiring Guillermo Ochoa behind the sticks. Cameroon failed to register even a single point while Croatia ended their campaign with just three points.

Mexico conceded just one goal in their three games as they went through to the next round along with Brazil, both having seven points each.

Group B

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Horror, dismay, disbelief, massacre, well no matter how much one describes the group-opener in those terms, the way the world champions were humiliated in the hands of the Dutch were probably shocking for every Spanish fan across the globe. Leading a goal to nil courtesy a Xabi Alonso penalty, Netherlands were lethal in their comeback showing absolutely no mercy to romp in 5 goals past a helpless Iker Casillas.

The shock continued as Spain fell next to Chile 0-2 who went through along with leaders Netherlands winning 2 games, the other against Australia who failed to register a point losing all the three. Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie were in an impeccable form as they lead the charge for the Dutch who ended up with a mammoth 10 goals off their 3 games. Spain won their last game against Australia in a typical tiki-taka fashion as they perhaps bid a fitting farewell to Iker Casillas and Xabi Alonso.

Group C

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James Rodriguez proved to be the key to Colombia’s success as they topped the group bettering Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan. Rodriguez scored in all the three games and looked confident to take the burden of the Latin American through. Greece went through as well but being 5 points behind the leaders, really not being able to set a firm step in the group.

Ivory Coast were a point behind being able to win just one group game against Japan but fell to Greece in the last game and thus bowed out. Japan salvaged a single point after holding former Euro champions Greece to a goalless draw and thus joined the African nation to crash out early.

Group D

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Group of death it was indeed, but the bet was surely for a team to join Costa Rica and bow out. However, as the tales of fortune turned and being the funny game football anyway is, it was Costa Rica who topped the group and took along with them South American champions Uruguay through to the next round!

England fell to both Uruguay and Italy and were out of contention anyway before the last round of the group games shaped up, while Italy had to win with a better goal difference to send Uruguay packing. However it was a 81st minute Diego Godin spark of magic that ended all hopes for the 2006 world Champions as Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon featured for the final time in a World Cup game.

Group E

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France ensured the absence of Frank Ribery to not have a lasting impact in their world cup campaign as they went through to the next round topping their group with 7 points. The Swiss joined them to go in as the second best while Ecuador and Honduras waved good-bye.

Honduras had a dismal show to offer scoring just once and conceding 8 times in their three games while Ecuador drew their all-important game against France where victory even by just two goals would have seen them through.
With a strong back four and an impressive midfield to provide balls to clinical goal poachers such as Benzema, the
1998 World Champions looked in good shape to get things going.

Group F

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The easiest group on paper, it comprised of Argentina, Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Argentina undoubtedly topped the charts with Lionel Messi leading the charge with 4 goals in the three games. However, credit has to be given to the underdogs as none gave Argentina a walk in the cake with the Latin American nation winning all their games with just a goal better than their opponents.

Holding Iran back for a draw, winning against Bosnia and almost managing to pull an upset against Argentina, Nigeria deservedly went through to the next round as the hapless Iran joined Bosnia to head back home.

Group G

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Crisitano Ronaldo was one of the late ones to reach Brazil shrugging off an injury, but even his presence could not help Portugal resist a 0-4 humiliation to Germany in the group opener. Manuel Neuer was barely tested under the sticks apart from a piler from Ronaldo as Joachim Loew’s side registered a crushing defeat to start off their campaign.

They were held back 2-2 to Ghana who ended lying bottom of the table while the United States of America joined the Germans to go through to the next round. They were though equal on points with Portugal, but the 0-4 drubbing had done too much damage for the latter that had no option but to bow out. Thomas Muller too shared the dias with Lionel Messi and Neymar with 4 goals on to while Miroslav Klose equalled Ronaldo’s record of 15 goals in the process.

Group H

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The dark horses for this year’s world cup, all eyes were on Belgium that had an embarrassment of riches with the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin Mirallas, Maroune Fellaini, Thomas Vermaelen, Vertonghen, Kompany and many more. And indeed the crowd were not left in dismay as they went on to win all the three group games against Russia, Algeria and South Korea.

Algeria went through to the next round holding back Russia to 1-1 draw failing which the latter would have gone through. This was the best performance the Asian side had pulled off in years’ time and were the only flag bearers of the continent in the next round.

The Round of 16

Brazil survived a scare in the opening clash of this round against Chile as the game rolled into the penalty shoot-outs with Julio Cesar’s safe hands proving to be the defining factor for the fixture. With David Luiz’ initial header being cancelled out Alexis Sanchez in the 32nd minute, the game went into a standstill thus being tied even after 120 minutes of play.

James Rodriguez scored twice to send a Suarez less Uruguay packing with the underdogs dominating the game of play. The controversial striker was handed a 4 month ban alongside 9 international appearances after he had bit Italian defender Chiellini in their last group encounter.

Picture Courtesy – The Times of India

Netherlands continued their domination on pitch even against a resilient Mexico who were en course to victory
before Sneijder and Huntelaar spoiled it for them in the alst 6 minutes coming back to win the game form being a goal down to 2-1. Ochoa was brilliant once again before a Robben dive in the box cost his team a penalty which Huntelaar converted at ease paving the path for the deserved comeback.

The dream run for Costa Rica continued though they had to have their piece of happiness in a rough manner as their
game against the Greeks rolled into penalties after initially being tied at 1-1. A perfect Costa Rica converted all of their 5 spot kicks while Gekas missed the 4th shot for his country thus getting knocked out.

The African flavour came to an end as Nigeria fell 0-2 to a dominant French side with former Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba drawing first blood in the 79th minute before Yobo nailing the coffin in the 92nd. The other nation to have made this far were Algeria who too put up a brave fight against a team of Germany’s stature but failed to carry on as they lost 2-1.

Picture Courtesy – The Times of India

Ozil had added on to the lead Schurlle provided in the 92nd minute by scoring in the last minute of extra time, but the injury time added on let Algeria draw for them a late consolation. After the match, the Algerian football team promised to give up on their $9 million award money to those affected in Palestine for the on-going bombing by the Iraq forces.

Lionel Messi set up a brilliant ball for Angel di Maria in the 118th minute to settle the scores for Argentina and help them on their course for a 4th World Cup as they went past Switzerland. The goal, coming that late, robbed the World Cup of another penalty shoot-out but ensured the better team went through.

The last game of the round saw Belgium play the United States and as had been the trend till then, this game too rolled into extra time and suddenly there were three goals after a goalless 90 minutes of play. De Bruyne and Lukaku scored in the 93rd and 105th minute to give a resilient lead before the gap was bridged by Green just two minutes later ensuring the Americans fight till the end. However, it went in vain as Belgium set up a quarter-final fixture with Argentina.

Quarter Final

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Germany set up a new world record for themselves as they qualified for the 4th consecutive semi-final bettering France by a solitary goal; an early Mats Hummels header enough, to settle the scores in favour of the Germans.

Brazil continued their venture to win the cup on home soil as they defeated Colombia 2-1 with Rodriguez scoring yet again to bridge the gap. However, the night was not full of smiles for Brazil who saw their star striker Neymar being stretchered off after a tackle from behind on the spine by Juan Camilo Zuniga who did not even receive a yellow for the horror challenge. Owing to the broken vertebrae, he has now been side-lined for the next couple of months.

An early goal by Gonzalo Higuain sealed the deal for Argentina as they stopped the sensational Belgium who fought back hard to get a goal back but were denied owing to a fantastic Argentine defence line. Higuain though had an option to double the lead in the second half but his shot ricocheted off the crossbar.

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If it was Belgium who dreamy cup run was slaughtered through that one goal, it was even bitter for the Cota Rica who were stopped on penalties. The Dutch attack, that had seen them score 12 goals off the 4 games, failed to roll the ball at the back of the net after a goalless 120 minutes of play. A master stroke by van Gaal saw Tim Krul come on in as a substitute on goal and do heroics saving two while his forwards converted all to see them through 4-3 on penalties.

The Semi-finals

No Neymar and no Thiago Silva meant the heart of both the attack and defence line to be missing against a ruthless German team who were seeking revenge for their bitter taste of the Cup final in 2002. 4 goals within the span of 6 minutes had killed the spirit of the game as the rampage continued to finally settle at 7-1 with Oscar helping the Brazilians something to cheer about.

Miroslav Klose scoring his 16th goal in his world cup career, thus becoming the highest goal scorer in the World Cup history as Ronaldo witnessed Brazil’s world performance since 1920. Kroos and Schurlle scored twice while Khedira and Klose joined Klose to help their names on the scoring sheets.

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Although Brazil had squandered the chances of the perfect final between them and the Argentine, the latter kept the flag flying for the Latin Americans eventually settling the scores on penalties where the Dutch were not that lucky on a consecutive showdown. Romero saving Vlaar and Sneijder’s shots meant Argentina were to reach the finals for the first time since 1990 and interestingly to meet the same opponents!

Third place play-off

The dismay continued for the host nation Brazil who fell 3-0 to the impressive Dutch who absolutely dominated the midfield and came stronger from every aspect of the game. The Dutch finished 3rd for the first time in the World Cup history while van Gaal’s substitution to bring on Michael Vorm in the dying stages of the match helped them to be the first team to use up all the 23 players since the format was introduced in 1998.

The Final

With the teams meeting each other in the final for the 3rd time and the first since 1990, the Germans were hell bent to replicate their success and clinch their 4th title. Gonzalo Higuain squandered the easiest chance of the game when an odd clearance had seen him get into open space but he shot wide. Moments later, Higuain did manage to get his footing right and suddenly when the blue and white brigade jumped in ecstasy, it was judged offside.

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It was a rash encounter with the referee having to reach the pocket on a number of occasions as the game rolled into extra time and when it looked all clear to head into the penalty shoot-outs a brilliant chest trap and volley by Mario Gotze ensured there was little that could avoid an Argentine defeat despite the presence of an inspiring Lionel Messi on field.

Lionel Messi went on to win the Golden Ball while Manuel Neuer received the Golden Glove award for their brilliant performances in the respective fields. French teenage sensation Paul Pogba grabbed the Young Player Award for his fantastic performance in the heart of the French midfield.

Driver accused for Spain’s worst train crash

Safety compromised for speed | Image Source: The Guardian

Earlier this week on Wednesday, Spain witnessed the worst ever train disaster in its history. The last train crash of this magnitude was in the year 1944 in the Northern Leon province. This train crash caused the death of 80 passengers, while 168 of them were injured among whom, around 30 are still fighting the battle of life and death.  Meanwhile, the police in Spain have formally accused the  52 year old driver, Francisco Jose Garzon de Amo, to be responsible for the reckless crash.  Investigations have revealed that the train was travelling at 190 kilometers per hour when it actually should have been under 80 kilometer per hour.

It has come under notice that Mr Garzon had previously boasted on Facebook page that he could drive at excess speed. The train from Madrid to Ferrol derailed just before reaching the city of Santiago de Compostela.  He had allegedly contacted the train operators before the crash admitting to have crossed the speed limit and uttering “I fucked up. I want to die”.

The authorities have uncovered the train’s “Black Box” which will shed more light on the incident.  The security footage revealed that the train careered around a bend and the cars derailed and then slammed into a bridge. Eight passenger carriages were packed with 218 passengers. One car broke into two, while another flipped in the air and flames burst out.The driver who too was injured severely is right now under police custody. He has refused answer any questions and will be interrogated by a judge. The crash in Spain brings back attention to another such accident that happened a few weeks back in France. Six people were killed when the Paris-Limoges train while passing through the suburban station at Brétigny-sur-Orge came offtrack. Disasters like these in the western world bring back the question on safety and how the need for speed is given more importance than the saftey of the unaware citizen.