Analysis – England must get defence right to have a chance in France

England manager Roy Hodgson is spoilt for choice as far as his attacking options go but the defence is a concern, though he was more angry at referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz for the goals they conceded in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Dutch at Wembley.

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Wayne Rooney, England’s record goalscorer, is likely to be fit to join Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck as attacking options for upcoming friendlies against Turkey, Australia and Portugal.

England’s opening match in the Euro 2016 tournament is against Russia in Marseille on June 11.

A 3-2 win over world champions Germany on Saturday and Tuesday’s somewhat unfortunate 2-1 defeat to a side that has not even qualified for the finals emphasised where Hodgson’s focus needs to be if England are to mount a real challenge in France.

Hodgson backed his defence after the match on Tuesday, telling reporters: “I didn’t honestly feel there were many occasions in the game when I was frightened the Dutch team were going to score a goal against us.

“I thought we controlled that quite well, but they scored two goals so perhaps I am kidding myself.”

He could well be, as the defence has been breached four times in two games.

However, one of those goals came after goalkeeper Jack Butland fractured an ankle against Germany and the Netherlands’ second arrived after Vincent Janssen clearly fouled Phil Jagielka in the build-up but the referee waved play on.

Hodgson also suggested Danny Rose was harshly punished when the ball hit his hand for the penalty that led to the Dutch equaliser.

Overall, however, the defence in both games has lacked the steel needed to win a tournament.

Hodgson has experimented with Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, John Stones and Jagielka in the centre of the defence and with three months to go, there is no obvious first-choice pairing.

He said he thought Stones gave an assured performance on Tuesday but the 21-year-old seemed to lack confidence at times, holding on to the ball too long before clearing and slipping in the move that led to the Dutch equaliser.

Hodgson made eight changes on Tuesday to the team that started against Germany, and the England side that faces Turkey in Manchester on May 22 will be made up of players going to France.

If Hodgson has his defence right by then, England could well build on Saturday’s win and put Tuesday’s defeat down to bad luck or inexperience.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

A persecuted Nigerian boy’s recovery from starving to chubby

When the image of a skeletal little Nigerian boy – who was accused of being a witch – emerged earlier this year the world mobilised to help him.

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Named ‘Hope’ by Anja Ringgren Lovén, the Danish charity worker who found him, the little boy was starving and Ms Lovén appealed for any help towards his medical bills.

Post by Anja Ringgren Lovén.

She had feared Hope would not survive, but in the months since she rescued him on January 31 he has not only survived but has thrived, putting on weight and living with other children in Ms Lovén’s orphanage, Dinnødhjælps.

“The day I carried this sweet little boy in my arms for the very first time I was so sure he would not survive,” Ms Lovén wrote on her Facebook page earlier this month.

“Every breath he took was a struggle and I did not want him to die without a name, without dignity, so I named him Hope.

“Hope to me is a special name. Not only the meaning of Hope, but what it stands for. Many years ago I got the name HOPE tattooed on my fingers because to me it means: Help One Person Everyday.”

Post by Anja Ringgren Lovén.

Ms Lovén’s plea for funds reverberated around the world, raising $1 million for the orphanage and for Hope’s care, which is still ongoing.

He will soon undergo an operation next week for an inherited condition called hypospadias, which left him with an incomplete urethra.

But Ms Lovén said on her Facebook page Hope was “really enjoying his life now having 35 new brothers and sisters who ALL take such good care of him, play with him, study with him, and make sure he is safe and is getting a lot of love”.

Norwegain man Bjørn Druglimo began a Facebook campaign called ‘One Word To One World’ to encourage people from around the world to “all send a personal message to the brave, little Nigerian boy, named Hope”.

It has gained worldwide traction with hundreds of people, including European football players, posting their personal messages to Hope.

Post by Bjørn Druglimo.

Post by Bjørn Druglimo.

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Israel passes law to cap bankers’ salaries

Israel has introduced one of the world’s toughest curbs on bank executives’ salaries to try to narrow a big gap between bosses’ and workers’ pay.

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The law was pushed through by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who, ahead of last year’s election, ran on a platform of lowering the cost of living and reforming Israel’s banks.

It was approved in parliament overnight in a 56-0 vote and will take effect in six months.

Bankers’ pay is a sensitive issue in Israel, especially since banks make large profits partly from a wide variety of fees on such things as deposits and withdrawals.

According to parliament’s finance committee, salaries at financial firms have grown substantially in recent years and a quarter of the 40 public companies in Israel with the highest pay levels are financial ones.

“There is a moral significance beyond the economic significance in this law,” Kahlon said on Tuesday. “It symbolises narrowing pay gaps, solidarity and consideration for the weak.”

Under the new law, which also applies to insurance companies, total compensation will be capped at 2.5 million shekels ($A860,016) a year, or no more than 44 times the salary of the lowest worker at the company. Anything above the ceiling will be subject to higher taxes.

Senior bankers’ compensation has risen to as much as eight million shekels a year, a big multiple of Israel’s average wage of 115,000 shekels.

In Europe, there has been resistance to any mandatory ratio of top pay to bottom ranking pay, while in the United States, under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform, financial firms have to disclose what the ratio is, but there is no binding ratio.

The European Union shareholder rights directive approved in 2015 backed a shareholder vote every three years on pay policies at listed companies, but an attempt to insert a cap on pay was defeated.

Israel’s law gained widespread support from the country’s governing coalition and opposition but banks were opposed to it.

Some commentators called it a populist measure that might lead to higher costs for the public if banks were to pass on any higher taxes.

Israel’s Association of Banks said the law could disrupt labour relations in the banking sector, while a spokesman for the group said it would likely appeal to the country’s Supreme Court.

UK dismisses UN ruling on Falklands

A UN report saying the Falkland Islands lie within Argentina’s maritime territory has reopened old wounds in Britain with British Prime Minister David Cameron dismissing the findings.

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The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) had approved a motion by Argentina to extend its waters in the South Atlantic Ocean by 35 per cent.

In a video message on Monday, Argentinian Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra welcomed the CLCS decision on what she called a “politically, economically and strategically important area”.

Malcorra called the ruling a “historic event” and a “significant move towards the drawing of Argentina’s external borders”. The new border would expand the area of Argentine sovereignty by 1.7 million square kilometres.

The British government on Tuesday dismissed the ruling as not binding.

“At this stage we have yet to receive details of that report. It is important to note that this is an advisory committee. It makes recommendations – they are not legally binding,” Cameron’s spokeswoman said, according to the Press Association.

The views of the local population had to be taken into account, she said: “What is important is what the Falkland islanders themselves think. They have been very clear that they want to remain an overseas territory of the UK, and we will continue to support their right to determine their own future.”

According to PA, the government of the Falkland Islands, known in South America as the Malvinas, was currently seeking clarification from London regarding the implications of the CLCS ruling for the islands.

In New York, Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, clarified the ruling on Tuesday, saying that the commission “did not consider and qualify those parts of the submission that were subject to dispute … in accordance with its rules and procedures”.

The Falkland Islands, around 400 kilometres off the Argentinian coast, have been a crown colony of Britain since the 19th century, but Argentina has consistently claimed sovereignty over the Malvinas.

In 1982, the two countries were embroiled in a brief war, in which around 900 people were killed.

In a 2013 referendum, the inhabitants of the archipelago voted with an overwhelming majority to remain part of Britain.

According to British media reports, the ruling could have implications for the exploitation of natural resources, including oil and gas.

Head calls on experience for ODI call up

Big-hitting Travis Head aims to draw on his Big Bash League (BBL) exploits when he joins the Australian squad for the ODI tri-series in the Caribbean in June.

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The 22-year-old Head gained a surprise call up in the 16-man squad named on Wednesday for the series against hosts West Indies and South Africa, as selectors look ahead to the 2019 World Cup title defence.

It made for a bittersweet day for the South Australian captain, coming just before his Redbacks had their Sheffield Shield drought extended when beaten by Victoria in a home final.

While Head could only muster scores of 21 and one in the Shield final, he was named the competition’s player of the year last week.

He also hit 193 runs at 42.71 in nine matches for the Adelaide Strikers in the BBL, leading to his Australian debut in two Twenty20 matches against India.

“I want to play in big games and I think when you play for Australia every game’s big,” Head said.

“Over the Big Bash I was able to (perform) in front of big crowds and it’s something I pride myself on.”

Head’s inclusion for the ODI tour came with Shaun Marsh not considered tour due to the impending birth of his first child.

“Travis has put in some match-winning performances in all three formats of the game this summer,” said chairman of selectors Rod Marsh.

“He is an exciting young batsman with a bright future and if he gets his opportunity I have no doubt he will make the most of it.”

Champion paceman Mitchell Starc will make his expected and long-awaited return to spearhead Australia’s attack in the June series after four months out following an ankle surgery.

Test offspinner Nathan Lyon, overlooked for the World T20, has been given another chance to shine in the canary yellow after being included alongside legspinner Adam Zampa.

So too has wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, who also missed the World T20.

Along with Head, skipper Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja and George Bailey were the other batsmen included in the big touring party.

Pacemen Josh Hazlewood, John Hastings and Nathan Coulter-Nile were also all picked, while automatic allrounder selections Glenn Maxwell, Mitch Marsh and James Faulkner round out the squad.

Australia’s 16-man squad: Steve Smith (capt), David Warner, George Bailey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.

Rebels bikies mourn ‘brother’ shot dead

A heavily tattooed man shot dead in the driveway of a western Sydney home had bikie connections and had survived an earlier shooting.

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Michael Davey died from his injuries in Stafford Street, Kingswood, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, despite attempts by paramedics to save him.

Mr Davey, aged in his 30s, was believed to be a member of the Rebels Outlaw Motorcycle Gang.

Superintendent Greg Peters would not confirm the bikie links but said that Mr Davey was known to police.

The Sydney chapter of the Rebels offered condolences to his family.

“You will be truly missed brother you were one of a kind. May you ride in the Forever Chapter,” a post on a Facebook page said.

It’s believed the buffed Mr Davey escaped injuries last April during a shooting at a Sydney shopping centre.

Police were scouring Stafford Street in search of the weapon used in the killing, and other clues.

A large kitchen knife was found stabbed into the ground next to a tree in a grassy area near the red-brick home where the shooting occurred, just down the road from the unit block where Mr Davey lived.

Richard Stalling only moved into the home with his partner and four children two weeks ago and they are shocked by the killing just metres from their front door.

While some neighbours reported hearing five or six shots, Mr Stalling said he was woken by the flashing police lights and the sight of a body on his driveway.

“I’d say he ran to try and hide between my car and the fence to be honest and they’ve found him then and there,” he told AAP on Wednesday.

“I could see a body lying there … the victim didn’t scream out or anything it must have happened so quickly, it makes me feel bad because I could have rendered CPR.”

Mr Davey is believed to have been shot in the head and chest.

Friends have paid tribute to the father of one, known as “Micky”, or also as “Ruthless”.

“Rip Micky. You’ve been a massive part of my life and you’ll always be in my heart we were best friends,” his partner Sarah Gerrard wrote on Facebook.

“I’ll never forget the things you’ve done for me and taught me over the years.”

Other friends gathered at the scene expressed their shock at the killing.

“He was a really good guy. I know a lot of people may not think it because of what he was involved in but he was a really genuine guy, an amazing father,” Krystal Lenkova told reporters.

“He’s lived here for a few years so it’s all of a sudden. It’s a massive shock to everybody who knew him, he has a lot of friends.”

Police believe a vehicle was seen leaving the scene a short time after the shooting.

EgyptAir passengers flown to Cairo

Egyptian authorities have defended their security measures as the passengers from an EgyptAir jet returned home after being diverted to Cyprus by a hijacker wearing a dummy explosive belt.

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The flight’s 55 passengers and 15 crew arrived back in Cairo airport on a special flight about 9.30pm (0630 AEDT Wednesday). Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail was waiting to receive them.

The hijacked airliner was flown back separately by a fresh crew after technical and security checks, sources in the airport said.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi phoned Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to thank him for his country’s efforts to resolve the hijacking.

The Egyptian interior ministry issued video of the alleged hijacker, identified as Seif al-Din Mustafa, 57, passing through security checks at Alexandria’s Borg al-Arab airport prior to boarding the Tuesday morning flight to Cairo.

Mustafa and his carry-on baggage had both been subject to full security checks, but he later assembled the fake bomb from permitted personal belongings in the bag, the ministry said.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kassoulidis earlier said the hijacker had connected several mobile phone covers with cables, which he passed off as an explosive belt.

“We were suspicious but wanted to play it safe,” Kassoulidis told journalists at Larnaca airport after the man surrendered.

Mustafa released most of the passengers and crew not long after the plane landed but held seven as hostages before giving himself up hours later.

According to Cypriot state television, he initially demanded the release of detained female Egyptian opposition activists and requested asylum in Europe for himself.

He asked to speak with his Cypriot ex-wife, in a letter dropped out of an aeroplane window, which the Cypriot police subsequently translated from Arabic, the broadcaster said.

The airport surveillance video, which appeared to be partly cut, showed a person identified by a red circle undergoing a lengthy search, apparently at the entrance to the airport’s check-in area, and being dealt with by two separate officers.

In Egyptian airports, that initial search is usually a quick frisk with more thorough checks carried out at the departure gate.

The interior ministry did not say why Mustafa was apparently searched at length.

The video then showed Mustafa undergoing a quicker search at what appeared to be the departure gate. The ministry published what it said was the X-ray image of his carry-on bag.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy praised the crew of Flight 181, saying they had dealt with the situation professionally.

Speaking while the hostage situation was ongoing, Fathy had said that it was unclear whether the hijacker’s explosive belt was real but for the sake of the passengers’ safety it was necessary to act on the basis that it was genuine.

The interior ministry said Mustafa had a criminal record for forgery and was suspected in a number of fraud, theft and narcotics cases.

The incident comes at a sensitive time for Cairo, which is seeking to persuade Russia to lift a flight ban imposed after a Russian jet returning from the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh exploded, killing all 224 people on board.

The explosion was claimed by the Islamic State extremist group and led Russia to ban all direct flights to Egypt, a critical blow to the country’s beleaguered tourism sector, which has been largely reliant on Russian customers in recent years.

Australia fast bowler Starc back for West Indies tour

Starc broke his foot during the inaugural day-night test against New Zealand in Adelaide last November and missed the rest of Australia’s summer programme.

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He also used the enforced break to have surgery on an ankle injury that had been bothering him for the past year.

The 26-year-old began running slowly at the end of last month and had been gradually building his fitness and was named in the squad for the tournament on Wednesday.

“Mitchell has progressed very well in his rehab and the medical staff are confident he will be fit to play in this series,” chairman of selectors Rod Marsh said in a statement.

“It is extremely pleasing to have a bowler of his calibre back in the side.”

South Australia batsman Travis Head has also been called into the one-day squad for the first time after an impressive domestic season, which included making his Twenty20 international debut against India in Adelaide on January.

Head scored a double century for South Australia in the domestic one-day competition, a century in the Twenty20 competition and was named the first class Player of the Year after scoring 721 runs that included three centuries.

“Travis has put in some match-winning performances in all three formats of the game this summer,” Marsh said.

“He is an exciting young batsman with a bright future and if he gets his opportunity I have no doubt he will make the most of it.”

Wicketkeeper Matthew Wade has also returned to the one-day side after he was dumped for the World Twenty20 tournament in India for test keeper Peter Nevill.

Test off-spinner Nathan Lyon has also been given an opportunity to prove his credentials in the shorter forms of the game, with the 28-year-old having played just 10 one-day internationals in four years.

Leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who impressed in the World Twenty20 in India, has also been included to exploit the expected turning wickets in the Caribbean.

South Africa will also contest the triangular tournament that runs from June 3-26.

Australia: Steve Smith (captain), David Warner (vice-captain), George Bailey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O’Brien)

Showdown like an AFL final: Port captain

Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak sees no point playing down Saturday’s AFL grudge match against Adelaide.

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Boak said Port, winners in four of the past six against the Crows, embrace the hype of the home-town clashes and have three players lining up to replace injured Matt White (pectoral).

“Showdowns have always been like finals,” Boak told reporters on Wednesday.

“And finals footy is contested footy and really tight games. And I’m thinking it will be along the same path.”

Ex-Melbourne utility Jimmy Toumpas could debut for the club in Saturday’s Adelaide Oval fixture with Karl Amon and Aaron Young also in the frame.

Port banked a 33-point season-opening win against St Kilda despite ruckman Matthew Lobbe copping a touch-up from young Saint Tom Hickey, who had 57 hitouts and 20 disposals.

Lobbe’s ability to carry Port’s rucks given the suspension of Paddy Ryder is a talking point, but Boak said the tapman wasn’t listening.

“Lobbes is a pretty strong person so he doesn’t listen to too much outside talk,” Boak said.

“He loves that added pressure and that whole responsibility of being the only ruckman and taking control in the midfield.

“And he’s one that if he is struggling he will let us know. And he’s certainly not in that space.”

Lobbe on Saturday resumes his rivalry with Adelaide’s Sam Jacobs, the Showdown medal winner in 2014 and 2012.

“He’s ready to take on the challenge,” Boak said.

“He’s more excited than ever to take on one of the best ruckmen in the league in Sammy Jacobs so we’re certainly backing him in for that.”

Virgin Australia’s ownership in spotlight

Virgin Australia’s ownership is under the spotlight after the airline’s biggest shareholder, Air New Zealand, flagged a full or partial sale of its 26 per cent stake.

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In a surprise move, Air NZ said it is considering its shareholding in Virgin as management focus on the Kiwi airline’s growth opportunities.

Air NZ chairman Tony Carter said on Wednesday the carrier doesn’t want a large minority equity position in Virgin as it focuses on its own prospects.

The airline’s 26 per cent stake in Virgin is worth around $342.5 million, based on Tuesday’s closing share price.

Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon said his company supports Virgin’s transformation from a budget carrier to a diversified airline group over the past five years under boss John Borghetti’s stewardship.

But as Virgin embarks on the next phase of optimising its balance sheet and capital structure, Air NZ will undertake a review of its investment, including possible alternative uses of capital.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership on the Tasman alliance, providing customers of both airlines with the most comprehensive trans-Tasman network,” Mr Luxon said in a statement.

As a result of Air NZ’s review, Mr Luxon is resigning from Virgin’s board, effective immediately.

Virgin acknowledged Air NZ’s announcement and said it will continue its transformation and its capital structure review, announced on March 21, aimed at improving profitability.

Last week, Virgin tapped its four biggest shareholders for a $425 million loan.

Etihad Airways is Virgin Australia’s second biggest shareholder with a 24 per cent stake. Singapore Airlines holds the third biggest stake, at 15.6 per cent, while Virgin Group has a 10 per cent shareholding.

Virgin shares dropped 3.5 cents to 34 cents, valuing the company around $1.2 billion.

The airline posted a net profit of $45.7 million in the half year to December – a major turnaround from $53.1 million net loss 12 months earlier.

The result included a $33.8 million benefit from lower oil prices, partially offset by a $19.2 million impact from the Bali volcanic flight disruptions in November.

Virgin said in February it expects to see a similar gain from further oil price falls in the second half of fiscal 2016. Mr Borghetti flagged an annual profit but stopped short of providing specific guidance.

Air NZ has retained investment banks First NZ Capital and Credit Suisse to advise on its Virgin shareholding options.