United States draws England for first game in World Cup
U.S. soccer players were almost giddy Friday after a favorable World Cup draw gave them hope they'll reach the second round in South Africa next June. The Americans will play England in their opener, perhaps the most-anticipated first-round match in the 32-nation tournament. After that, the U.S. faces two low-profile teams in Slovenia and Algeria.
"American fans are thinking we should advance out of the group, and I like that. I like how they're thinking," U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra said. "We feel confident as well that this is a group we can get out of."
After advancing to the quarterfinals in 2002, the best U.S. finish since the initial World Cup in 1930, there were high expectation for the Americans at the 2006 tournament in Germany. But they were eliminated in the first round with losses to the Czech Republic and Ghana around a tie with Italy.
The U.S. famously upset England 1-0 in the first round on the 1950 tournament in Brazil, still considered by many the greatest American soccer victory. The June 12 game in Rustenburg features a matchup that could pit Los Angeles Galaxy teammates David Beckham and Landon Donovan on opposite teams.
While the English are ranked ninth in the world and have stars such as Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, whose club matches are televised throughout the world, Algeria (28th) and Slovenia (33rd) both needed to win playoffs to reach the tournament and are ranked well behind the U.S. (14th).
In the other groups, France, Mexico, South Africa and Uruguay were put in Group A; Argentina, Greece, Nigeria and South Korea were put in Group B; Australia, Germany, Ghana and Serbia in Group D; Cameroon, Denmark, Japan and Netherlands in Group E; defending champion Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay and Slovakia in Group F; Brazil, Ivory Coast, North Korea and Portugal in Group G; and Chile, Honduras, Spain and Switzerland in Group H.
Jets' Sanchez injury not too serious
Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez might be able to play in New York's next game after spraining the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the Jets' 19-13 win over Buffalo on Thursday night. Coach Rex Ryan said an MRI exam Friday revealed the severity of the injury, which could have been much worse. Ryan said Sanchez will initially wear a brace to stabilize the knee, and is optimistic the rookie could be ready to go against the Buccaneers at Tampa Bay on Dec. 13.
■ Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been ruled out of Sunday's game against the Falcons with a concussion.
■ The Browns avoided a blackout for Sunday's game against San Diego by joining with a TV station and several local businesses to guarantee a sellout.
Ex-Reds GM Krivsky back with Mets
The Mets announced Friday that former Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky has been hired as a special assistant to general manager Omar Minaya. Krivsky, 55, held the same position with New York in 2008 and served as a special assistant to Orioles president Andy MacPhail last season. Krivsky, who was born in Niagara Falls, was the Reds' GM from 2006-08.
Red Sox tab Scutaro to play shortstop
After cycling through seven shortstops since the middle of the 2004 season, the Red Sox announced on Friday that they have given Marco Scutaro a two-year deal with a club option for 2012. Scutaro hit career highs with a .282 average, 12 homers and 60 RBI for Toronto last year. He has also played for the Mets and Athletics in his eight-year career.
■ Catcher Gregg Zaun and the Brewers have agreed to a $2.15 million, one-year contract. The 38-year-old split last season with Baltimore and Tampa Bay, hitting a combined .260 with eight home runs and 27 RBI in 90 games.
Pacquiao agrees to fight Mayweather
Manny Pacquiao is likely to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. on March 13 after agreeing to a proposal from promoter Bob Arum on Friday. Arum presented "what he thought was the best proposal he can bring" during a two-hour breakfast meeting with Pacquiao in Manila, said Michael Koncz, an adviser of the Philippine boxing idol. Koncz said the contract still needs "fine tuning," declining to elaborate. If the bout goes ahead, it will match two men regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighters.
Yang leads Chevron; Perry tied for second
Y.E. Yang shot a 7-under 65 for a two-shot lead going into the weekend at the Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Yang, who was at 9-under 135, is chasing the $1.35 million winner's check while trying to hold off a group that includes Padraig Harrington (68), Ian Poulter (69) and Kentuckian Kenny Perry (65), who were two shots behind.
■ The third round of PGA Tour qualifying was suspended Friday. J.P. Hayes had the lowest score (12 under) of those completing the third round. The 44-year-old Hayes earned praise last year for disqualifying himself at Q-school when he discovered he inadvertently used a ball that had not yet been approved for tournament play.
Spain one win away from Davis Cup title
Defending champion Spain took a 2-0 lead over the Czech Republic in the Davis Cup final after David Ferrer rallied for a 1-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 8-6 victory over Radek Stepanek on Friday. Earlier, Rafael Nadal relied on his usual dogged determination and timely shot-making to beat Tomas Berdych 7-5, 6-0, 6-2 in the first singles match on the clay court at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona. Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco can clinch Spain's fourth title on Saturday with a doubles win over Lukas Dlouhy and Jan Hajek in the best-of-five finals format.
Rule wins Grade III Delta Jackpot
WinStar Farm won another 2-year-old graded stakes late Friday night when Rule defeated seven others in the $750,000, Grade III Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs. WinStar Farm had already won the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and the Grade III Hollywood Prevue Stakes for 2-year-olds earlier this month. The purse money Rule won Friday virtually assures him a spot in the Kentucky Derby.
■ Herschel Walker will make his mixed martial arts debut next month. The 1982 Heisman Trophy winner will face an opponent to be announced as part of a fight card in Florida on Jan. 30. The former NFL running back holds a fifth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
■ The Philadelphia Flyers replaced coach John Stevens with Peter Laviolette on Friday after the team was shut out in consecutive games. Laviolette led the Hurricanes to their only Stanley Cup title in 2006.
■ Christen Press scored four minutes into overtime and undefeated Stanford advanced to its first NCAA Women's College Cup final with a 2-1 victory over UCLA on Friday. The Cardinal will play North Carolina, which defeated Notre Dame 1-0 in the other semifinal.
The last word
Paul Williams, one of the most avoided fighters in boxing, will take on Sergio Martinez on Saturday night in Atlantic City. George Peterson, who trains Williams, had a warning for Martinez:
"I want to thank Sergio Martinez because he is the only one that stepped up to fight Paul Williams at any weight from 147 to 160. But he's in a hell of a predicament on Saturday night."