Saints fight to keep midfielder Piatti for final

Nacional host the first leg on Wednesday (0115 BST Thursday) at the Defensores del Chaco in Asuncion where Piatti has permission from his new MLS club Montreal Impact to play for the Argentine favourites.

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However, the Saints have tried but so far failed to get that permission extended for one more week for the second leg at the Nuevo Gasometro in Buenos Aires after the Impact said they wanted Piatti in Montreal on Friday, Argentine media reported.

South America’s top club competition was interrupted for two months because of the World Cup finals in Brazil. The quarter-finals were played in mid-May and the semi-finals not until mid-July.

Brazil’s woes were not confined to a disappointing World Cup for the national team. They also failed to get a team into the last four of the Libertadores Cup for the first time since 1991.

Holders Atletico Mineiro, who were the fourth Brazilian side in a row to win the competition last year, were knocked out by Colombia’s Atletico Nacional in the round of 16.

Nacional are a small Paraguayan club side who had never before progressed beyond the group phase and have only one foreign player, Argentine-born goalkeeper Ignacio Don who has spent the better part of his career across the border and taken out Paraguayan citizenship.

“We know this is an historic chance for the club and each one of us. It’s something new for us, we’re beginners, we’d never passed the group phase … and now we’re among the two best (teams),” coach Gustavo Morinigo told the Argentine sports daily Ole.

WORST RECORDS

San Lorenzo and Nacional, both first time finalists, were the two teams with the worst records in the group phase who qualified for the round of 16.

The Paraguayans then upset Argentine former winners and favourites Velez Sarsfield, while the Saints beat Brazilian sides Gremio and Cruzeiro, both twice winners of the competition, in successive ties.

“That tie (against Velez) represented a lot for us. There was a before and after. We thought they were the hardest team we’d meet,” said Morinigo, whose side then eliminated Argentina’s Arsenal in the last eight and Defensor Sporting of Uruguay in the semi-finals.

San Lorenzo have right back Julio Buffarini available again after he missed the semi-final second leg against Bolivar through suspension having scored in the 5-0 rout of the Bolivians in the first leg. The Saints won the tie 5-1 on aggregate.

Veteran playmaker Leandro Romagnoli, another player leaving San Lorenzo after the final to join Brazilian first division side Bahia, said: “This is my World Cup final.”

Coach Edgardo Bauza, who has already won the title in 2008 when in charge of Ecuador’s LDU Quito, said he was recently contacted by the Argentine FA as a prospective successor to Argentina’s World Cup coach Alejandro Sabella, but was not letting himself be distracted.

“I’m not losing any sleep over that,” Bauza said. “Right now my head is exploding as I try to make the right choices and no mistakes (for the final).

“We don’t feel we are favourites, they (Nacional) want to put that pressure on us, but the team who play better will win,” said left back Emmanuel Mas, who scored twice against Bolivar.

The trophy winners will go through to the Club World Cup in Morocco in December.

(Writing by Rex Gowar; editing by Justin Palmer)

Contending is not enough for title hungry Scott

The Australian, who lost his world number one ranking to Rory McIlroy after last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio, has triumphed just once on the 2013-14 PGA Tour while racking up eight top-10s in 12 starts.

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“My game is generally in good shape,” Scott told reporters at Valhalla Golf Club on Tuesday ahead of this week’s PGA Championship, the final major of the season.

“I wished I could have played a little better last week. I got to test my short game a little more than I would have liked, but it seemed to be up to the challenge, which is good.

“I think my swing is falling into a nice kind of rhythm here the last couple of days, so I’m excited for this week.”

Scott, who tied for eighth at Firestone Country Club on Sunday as Northern Irishman McIlroy triumphed by two shots, has been generally happy with his form this year.

“I’ve been playing really solid golf this summer and not really got the result I want, which is a win,” said the 34-year-old. “I just have to really put my head down and push through this week.

“Hopefully all aspects of my game are kind of firing, and they will need to be. A lot of the other players are playing some really great golf this summer, and ultimately it will come down to who makes the most putts.

“We’ve seen the last couple of majors, and even the last couple of events, guys really putting their foot down and shooting some good scores, and if you’re behind in a major, it’s even harder to come back. It doesn’t happen very often.”

PERENNIAL CONTENDER

Scott claimed his first major championship crown at the 2013 Masters and ever since has been a perennial contender in golf’s blue riband events, recording four top-10s in his last six starts.

However simply contending is not enough for the Australian world number two who has set his sights on piling up as many majors wins as he can while in his golfing prime.

“At some point you just have to look for wins, and that’s only what’s going to satisfy me,” said the Australian, who clinched his 11th PGA Tour title at the Crowne Plaza Invitational in May.

“I’ve had lots of good finishes in majors, but I left the (British) Open extremely disappointed.”

Scott tied for fifth in last month’s British Open at Royal Liverpool, where the in-form McIlroy completed a wire-to-wire victory.

“I felt I played really well and I finished fifth, and there are lots of good things to take from that,” said Scott.

“But I still didn’t get to lift the trophy, and that’s at the end of the day why I’m working hard and putting in so much. I would like to get the result.”

Scott, who tied for fifth in last year’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill, loves the way the par-71 layout at Valhalla has been set up for this week.

“We are spoiled every time we show up at the PGA … it’s like they have rolled the carpet out for a fairway,” he said. “It’s in great shape, and pretty conducive to good scoring this week.

“It’s generous off the tee and quite demanding into the greens. If you can hit good, solid shots in the right areas on the greens, you’re going to have a good chance at making some birdies this week, possibly some eagles out there, too.”

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)

Ryder Cup looms large for Mickelson at Valhalla

The American left-hander is not assured of a place in Tom Watson’s team to take on Europe in Gleneagles, Scotland from Sept.

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26-28 and he needs to climb into the top nine in the U.S. point standings by Sunday to earn automatic selection.

Mickelson, who occupies the 10th spot, has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2013 British Open but is confident he can ride the momentum built by his stunning final-round 62 at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

“I’m not to that point yet,” Mickelson, 44, told reporters on Tuesday when asked if he would bank on getting one of U.S. captain Watson’s three wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup. “I’ve got five more days here.

“I really do believe that after the way I played on the weekend, I’ll continue that play into this week. I’m confident that I’ll get on the team on my own and won’t require that pick.

“I want to keep that streak going of two decades that I have. I want to keep that going of making the team on my own and not needing a pick.”

The five-times major champion has played in every Ryder Cup since he made his debut for the United States in 1995, competing on winning teams in 1999, at Brookline, and in 2008, at Valhalla.

This season has been a curious one for Mickelson, who has missed three cuts on the PGA Tour in 17 starts while not recording a single top-10 finish, but his 62 on Sunday has transformed his mindset.

“It’s a really good thing for me to get that kind of momentum from one round,” said the American, who has won 42 PGA Tour events during his Hall of Fame career.

“The way the pieces fell together, I started to roll the ball well, wedge play started to get good, short irons got better and just two days prior, it was horrific. So it was an important day for me to get some momentum.”

Mickelson was wary, though, of placing too much emphasis on just one round.

“I’m interested to see how it goes Thursday, Friday but certainly my confidence level and my practice sessions are totally different,” said the Californian, who won the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol. “I don’t feel like I’m searching.

“I feel like I’m just trying to now acquire that same feel from Sunday, and I feel like I’ve found what I’m looking for. I just have to maintain it.”

The 96th PGA Championship starts on Thursday.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Ed Osmond)

Phelps and Lochte set for duel at U.S. nationals

“The 100 fly feels the best,” Phelps, who retired after the 2012 London Games, told reporters on the eve of the Aug.

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6-10 nationals. “It’s what I’ve raced the most since I came back.”

The national championships will serve as a qualifier for the Aug. 21-24 Pan Pac Championships at the Gold Coast in Australia which will be used to determine the U.S. squad for next year’s world championships in Russia.

Phelps, the all-time Olympic leader with 18 gold medals and 22 medals overall, said he had grown restless and out of shape during retirement. He eventually got in touch with longtime coach Bob Bowman and set in motion his comeback.

“Retirement was pretty boring, to be honest,” Phelps, 29, said.

Competition at the nationals should be anything but boring, as Phelps is expected to face rival Lochte, a five-time Olympic champion, in each of his events.

Lochte, also on the comeback trail after tearing ligaments in his knee last November and then re-injuring it, will be even busier as his schedule also includes the 200m freestyle and 200m backstroke.

The women’s side also features scintillating showdowns of Olympic champions and the busiest swimmer of them all in 17-year-old Katie Ledecky, who will go against gold medallists Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt.

Ledecky, who as a 15-year-old won the 800m freestyle at the London Games, has entered eight events, including every freestyle race from 50m through 1,500m.

Franklin, who burst to prominence in London with four golds and a bronze, and Schmitt will compete against Ledecky in the 100m and 200m free, while Schmitt is also entered in the 400m free.

The 19-year-old Franklin will also contest the 100m and 200m backstroke, which she swept at the London Games.

Five-time Olympic champion Lochte joked that Phelps must have grown tired of or frustrated by his infatuation with golf.

“Probably his golf isn’t going so well,” joked Lochte about Phelps ending his retirement. “Bottom line, I’m glad he’s back. It’s great for the sport.”

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)

Lands Rights discussion dominates Garma Festival

Australian politicians and Indigenous leaders gathered at Garma, in north east Arnhem Land, using the festival as a vehicle to drive change in the Land Rights system.

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The Bark Petitions calling for rights to country originated on Yolngu land, but how those rights are determined and managed is still a very live issue.

Yolngu elders such as Djawa Yunupingu are calling for greater decision making powers at the local level.

“The Abbott Government has entered this argument pushing a new system of 99 year leases which it promotes as a means to greater self-determination, with its major focus on economic development,” he said.

However the Northern Land Council opposes the Federal governments push for 99 Year Leases and any change to the Northen Territory land Rights Act, telling NITV News that land ownership and economic development is very achievable through the current act.

Garma Festival attracts close to 2000

The Garma Festival is an annual event which celebrates Yolngu culture. This year, almost 2000 people attended, spending around $2000 a ticket bringing an economic boost to the area.

Beyond the tourist dollar, the festival works to connect corporate Australia, all sides of Government and Indigenous leaders to strengthen relationships and work together to improve the state of Indigenous affairs.

The multi-million dollar event attracted top level opinion makers and community powerbrokers – including former Prime Minister Bob Hawke – for discussions covering issues such as constitutional recognition, to bi-lingual education and economic development.

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