Entrants battling for a spot in FIFAe Club World Cup qualifying
Favourites hit the ground running, newcomers catch the eye
First week of qualifying in review
Zones 3, 4 and 5 of FIFAe Club World Cup™ qualifying played their opening matchday on 17 and 18 December, and it was not only the top teams who impressed, with plenty of unheralded outsiders also performing well. Here is an overview of those three zones and their various conferences. Zones 1 and 2 meanwhile will kick off their FIFAe Club World Cup 2021 qualifying campaigns in January.
Saudi Arabian outfit Tuwaiq eSports Club currently top a tightly-contested conference, having emerged as the best team in the first division after the opening matchday.
In Division 2, ASMR esports were the pick of the crop, winning the opening round.
Best team from division 1
Burnley Football Club
Of the teams leading their respective first divisions, VFL Bochum, McDonald’s Riders, Team Vitality, NEO, Olympique Lyonnais and AFC Ajax are all past participants at the FIFAe Club World Cup. RBLZ and NEO meanwhile are currently yet to lose a game.
Red-hot favourites Fnatic certainly impressed in a number of their matches but ended up losing a tight one to McDonald’s Riders in the final match of Conference 2.
Record FIFAe Club World Cup winners Brondby were again front and centre, with only Team Gullit getting the better of them in Conference 5. The Danes will nevertheless be confident of making it a record four appearances at the main event.
Astralis led the way in Conference 14 with their high-quality line-up featuring past FIFAe Club World Cup winner ‘Ustun’ and 2016 FIFA World Champion August Rosenmeier – a combination of that calibre will certainly be tough to beat over the coming matchdays.
Esport newcomers Borussia Dortmund starred in the third level of Conference 2 and secured promotion to Division 2 in the process.
Best team from division 1
FC Basel 1893 eSports
FC Basel are looking to qualify for their third FIFAe Club World Cup and laid down a marker in the opening week, finishing as best team in the first division in Conference 1. Newly-created Inter eSports also showed their potential, losing just one game overall.
Both Wolves eSports and Ronaldinho’s R10 were among the favourites to begin with, but struggled to emerge from what was a tough field. Nevertheless, they picked up what will doubtless be valuable points in the quest for qualification and will be looking to up their game when the next matchdays come around in the New Year.
Best team from division 1
Reigning FIFAe Club World Cup holders Complexity Gaming have retained their title-winning line-up, but they came up short against KRU esports and then fell to Ajax esports in the loser’s bracket. Kun Aguero’s recently-formed KRU outfit on the other hand racked up the wins and were crowned as best team in the first division in Zone 6.
He will join as a third selector and will join former captains Minhajul Abedin, the panel chief, and Habibul Bashar
The Bangladesh Cricket Board has named left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak as the third senior selector, to join former captains Minhajul Abedin, the panel chief, and Habibul Bashar. Razzak, who played 200 international matches between 2004 and 2018 and, at 38, continues to be an active cricketer, will have to retire from the game to take up the new job.
“My playing experience will certainly be valuable in this regard,” Razzak told ESPNcricinfo. “I used to play cricket, and now I have to help build the national team. I have been captaining in domestic cricket for a long time and I have often helped form teams. It has usually gone well. But the stakes are higher here, and the expectations are more. But still, I believe I can manage it.
“I am pretty sure I have to (retire). I haven’t mentioned it yet since I am awaiting the appointment letter but certainly when I join this new job, I have to quit (playing).”
Razzak was the first Bangladesh bowler to pick up 200 ODI wickets – he has 207 from 153 outings – and, despite not being a frontline batsman, is the holder of the record for the fastest half-century by a Bangladeshi in ODI cricket – 21 balls, joint with Mohammad Ashraful. He also made a comeback in the Test team against Sri Lanka in 2018 after a four-year break, which turned out to be his last international outing.
Over the years, he has been a domestic giant, with 137 first-class appearances. He has taken 634 wickets in them with 41 five-fors. He is also the first Bangladeshi bowler to bag 600 first-class wickets and has won nine domestic first-class titles with Khulna Division and South Zone.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
Mizzou charges back after halftime but can’t hold on in 88-82 loss to Auburn
AUBURN, Ala. — Sharife Cooper had 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to lead Auburn to an 88-82 win over No. 12 Missouri on Tuesday night.
Cooper, a freshman point guard who missed Auburn’s first 11 contests this season, had his fourth 20-point outing in six career games. Bruce Pearl’s young Tigers, who also got 23 combined points from freshmen forwards JT Thor and Chris Moore, are now 4-2 since Cooper was ruled eligible by the NCAA.
“(Missouri is) one of the top teams in the country,” Cooper said. “It gives you confidence. We feel like we can compete with anybody.”
Auburn (10-7, 4-5 Southeastern Conference) raced out to a 14-point lead early, thanks in large part to some tenacious defense and rebounding.
However, a veteran Missouri team clawed its way back late in the first half, when Cooper was forced to sit because of foul trouble. While Missouri led by as many as seven in the second half, Auburn battled back and took the lead for good with 7:34 left on a floater from Cooper.
“He’s an alpha dog,” Pearl said of Cooper. “He’s the biggest little man out there, period. Everybody knows it.”
Missouri (10-3, 4-3) was led by seniors Jeremiah Tilmon and Dru Smith, who scored 42 of the team’s 82 points.
“It’s shot selection in timely situations… we were up by seven in the second half by getting the ball inside and moving it,” Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Then, all of a sudden, it was a quick shot here, a turnover there, a missed layup there. Those were momentum-killers.”
Missouri: Missouri’s winning streak in SEC play has come to an end at three games. Shooting woes, which were a theme in the previous SEC losses to Tennessee and Mississippi State, popped up again Tuesday. Missouri shot just 38.2 percent from the floor and 24 percent from deep for the game.
Auburn: Although Auburn has self-imposed a postseason ban, it now has a win over a ranked team that it can build on for the rest of the SEC slate. Auburn also showed it could come back and grab a victory after losing an early double-digit lead, something it failed to do last Wednesday in a road loss at Arkansas.
Missouri committed 31 fouls in the game, with Dru Smith, Mark Smith and Xavier Pinson all fouling out. Auburn shot 44 free throws as a team, with 30 of them coming after halftime.
Cooper hit 18 of 21 free-throw attempts in the second half alone.
“I’ll go back and watch film, and I’m not saying that the officials didn’t do a good job,” Martin said. “But 44 free throws is a lot when you’re trying to beat a team on the road.”
Two weeks ago, in a win over Georgia, Auburn became the first team in Division I basketball to have 14 blocks in a single game this season.
Auburn repeated the feat Tuesday night against Missouri. Sophomore center Babatunde Akingbola recorded five in just eight minutes off the bench. Thor blocked four shots. Six different Auburn players had at least one block.
“That’s just huge,” Pearl said of the 14 blocks. “We have some weaknesses, we have some warts. But we have some length.”
Missouri hosts TCU in the Big 12-SEC Challenge on Saturday, the first of three straight home games. Kentucky and Alabama will visit Mizzou Arena next week.
Auburn plays at No. 2 Baylor in the Big 12-SEC Challenge on Saturday. Pearl’s Tigers also played No. 1 Gonzaga away from home earlier this season.
Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren: YouTube star set for boxing exhibition match with former MMA champion
Boxing fans who have wanted to see Jake Paul finally face an experienced professional fighter will get their wish on Saturday, April 17 when the YouTube star takes on former Bellator MMA champion Ben Askren in an eight-round boxing match. The fight was confirmed to ESPN by Triller founder Ryan Kavanaugh on Tuesday.
Paul improved his pro record to 2-0 in November after scoring a viral knockout of former NBA star Nate Robinson on the undercard of the Triller pay-per-view for the exhibition fight between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. His prior victory was over fellow internet personality AnEsonGib. Paul followed up the Robinson win by calling out every professional fighter imaginable, with a strong focus on trying to land a fight with UFC superstar Conor McGregor.
Instead, Paul will face off with Askren, a former champion in the ONE and Bellator MMA organizations who retired from active competition in 2019 after back-to-back losses in the UFC. While Askren does check the box of being an accomplished professional fighter, he is not a professional boxer. Askren’s background is in amateur wrestling, where he was a two-time Division I champion in college, a world champion in 2009 and a competitor on the 2008 Olympic freestyle wrestling team.
Triller scored massive success with the fight between Jones and Tyson, pulling in big pay-per-view numbers for the battle between retired boxing legends. Paul has now been a part of two big cards, though the April 17 event will be the first event he has headlined.
Paul’s older brother, Logan, has been tied to a February exhibition fight with Floyd Mayweather, though there are reports that the fight may have been postponed to a later date.