Ventura succeeds Conte as new Italy coach

MILAN - Giampiero Ventura was officially unveiled as Italy's new manager on a two-year contract on Tuesday designed to make sure the Azzurri qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Ventura replaces Antonio Conte, who led Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 before taking over at Premier League giants Chelsea, and is now tasked with steering Italy through a qualifying Group G that notably includes Spain. A respected tactician, the 68-year-old Ventura has coached a number of clubs in Italy's top flight and comes to the post following a five-year spell with Torino. His first game in charge of Italy will be a friendly against beaten Euro 2016 finalists France in Bari on September 1. After admitting his "pride" at being appointed, Ventura pay tribute to his predecessor.–AFP



Liliya asked to repay winning money

LONDON - Disgraced Russian athlete Liliya Shobukhova will have to repay organisers of the London Marathon almost £400,000, a British court ordered Tuesday. The 38-year-old -- who is banned for life from the London Marathon despite having served her official suspension of just over three years which was reduced by seven months -- is obliged to return the appearance money she was paid for the 2010 and 2011 editions in which she won and finished second respectively. Shobukhova, who also had her three wins in the Chicago Marathon erased from record books, was caught out when in April 2014 Russian authorities detected abnormalities in her biological passport. Despite the court ruling on Tuesday the London Marathon organisers face the trickier route now of having the order enforced in Russia. AFP



Ronaldo vows to come back stronger

MADRID - Cristiano Ronaldo said Monday that he intends to come back stronger for the upcoming season despite the injury he sustained while playing for Portugal in their victorious Euro 2016 final. The Real Madrid striker, who played a key part in leading his country to a maiden major title, limped off in tears with a knee injury in the first half of the final against hosts France earlier this month. The 31-year-old has a sprained ligament in his left knee, and Spanish sports daily Marca reported that he is unlikely to return to action before Real's third game of the domestic La Liga season. "Hi everyone! I just wanted to thank all my fans," Ronaldo said on his Instagram account. "I wanted to tell them that all is well and that I will come back much stronger. Thank you, long live Portugal!"–AFP




United new-boy Ibra to miss China tour

LONDON - Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss Manchester United's pre-season tour of China as the Sweden striker takes an extended break following Euro 2016. Ibrahimovic joined Jose Mourinho's side on a free transfer after leaving Paris Saint Germain last season, but the Premier League club's legion of fans in China won't get a first glimpse of the marquee signing in a United shirt. Although United's 25-man squad for the trip includes Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford, Chris Smalling, David De Gea and Paddy McNair, who all exited Euro 2016 later than Ibrahimovic, the former Barcelona and Inter Milan forward was granted extra time off by Mourinho and is currently sunning himself in Los Angeles. Ibrahimovic's first United appearance is likely to come against Galatasaray in Gothenburg on July 30.–AFP




Kostelic eyes 2018 Winter Games farewell

ZAGREB - Croatia's veteran ski champion Ivica Kostelic, struggling with longterm knee problems, said he hoped to retire at the 2018 Winter Olympics, it was reported on Tuesday. The 36-year-old Kostelic assured the Sportske Novosti daily paper that he was "definitely" thinking about retiring at the Olympics. "One should not give up hope. If it's in any way possible I would like to ski until Pyeongchang" in South Korea, hosts of the next Winter Olympic Games, he said. Commenting on his problematic right knee, exposed to years of wear and tear on the slopes and around a dozen surgeries, Kostelic joked it was "excellent shape for 'civil life'." The Zagreb-born star has started fitness training for next season and is due to prepare on the slopes in Switzerland in August.–AFP