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Kobe talks about World Cup

Even as the NBA Finals is far from settled, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant can’t wait to start tracking results in the World Cup, which starts today and ends on July 11 in South Africa.

Bryant, however, isn’t thinking soccer at the moment because basketball is the only thing on his mind. Boston hosts the Lakers in Game 4 of the title playoffs this morning (Manila time) with the Celtics looking to even the series count at two wins apiece.

“The World Cup is one of the most amazing things in sports,” said Bryant. “I love it. I love watching the games and seeing it all. I love seeing the greats and the big teams and we all want to see our country fighting hard against those big guys.”

Once the Finals are over, Bryant said he’ll be glued to his TV set and catch all the soccer action. The Lakers star is featured in Nike’s big-budget World Cup commercial with England’s Wayne Rooney and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo who are both seeing action in South Africa.

How the US, one of 32 countries that qualified to play in the eight-bracket eliminations, will fare is a big question mark although there is optimism that coach Bob Bradley’s squad won’t disappoint. The Americans, after all, upset Spain, 2-0, in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup in South Africa last year and led, 2-0, at the half before bowing to Brazil in the championship match.

The US is bracketed in Group C with England, Slovenia and Algeria and will play the Three Lions to open its campaign tomorrow. Group A is made up of Mexico, Uruguay, France and South Africa while Group B is composed of Argentina, Nigeria, Greece and South Korea. The others are Group D – Serbia, Germany, Ghana and Australia, Group E – Netherlands, Cameroon, Denmark and Japan, Group F – Italy, Slovakia, Paraguay and New Zealand, Group G – Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea and Group H – Spain, Chile, Switzerland and Honduras.

The 18th edition of the quadrennial World Cup will be staged in venues located in nine South African cities with Johannesburg hosting the finals. The four teams in each group play a round-robin in the first round with the two top finishers advancing to the round of 16 where first-placers and second-placers face off in crossovers between Groups A and C, E and G, B and D and F and H. Survivors move on to play in the quarterfinals, then the semifinals and ultimately, the finals.

Sports Illustrated picked Spain and England to reach the finals with La Furia Roja becoming only the eighth country in history to capture the World Cup since its inception in 1930. German legend Franz Beckenbauer chose Brazil and Spain to vie for the championship. Aside from the World Cup trophy, the Golden Boot is at stake – the special award for the top scorer in the tradition of Just Fontaine in 1958, Eusebio in 1966 and Gerd Muller in 1970.

Brazil has won the most titles with five in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. Italy is second with four in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006. Germany is third with three in 1954, 1974 and 1990. Argentina clinched in 1978 and 1986 while Uruguay did it in 1930 and 1950. France captured the trophy in 1998 and England, in 1966.

At the last World Cup in 2006, Italy defeated France, 5-3, in a penalty shootout in the pulsating finals that saw French captain Zinedine Zidane ejected in the last 10 minutes of overtime for head-butting the chest of Italian Marco Materazzi.

The tournament opens with two matches today – South Africa against Mexico in Johannesburg and Uruguay against France in Capetown.

Three Asian countries made it to South Africa via the two-year qualifying competitions involving over 200 countries all over the world – South Korea, North Korea and Japan. In 2002, co-host South Korea became the first Asian team to advance to the World Cup semifinals, ousting Italy and Spain in the process. Back from the 2002 team are goalkeeper Lee Woon Jae and midfielder Park Ji Sung. However, Argentina and Nigeria are expected to leave South Korea behind in the group stage. North Korea’s hopes hinge on goalkeeper Ri Myong Guk, known as the “Gatekeeper of the Iron Wall” and cerebral coach Kim Jong Hun but the Democratic People’s Republic will encounter rough sailing against groupmates Brazil and Portugal. Japanese coach Takeshi Okada is dreaming of qualifying for the semifinals but the Netherlands and Cameroon seem too tough to topple even with Asia’s footballer of the year Yasuhito Endo, five-year Celtic veteran Shunsuke Nakamura and skipper Yuji Nakazawa.

Italian Fabio Capello is at the English helm with his $6.8 million salary on the line. Rooney will be at the forefront of the attack, his credentials bolstered by 25 goals in 60 international matches. A disciplinarian, Capello has ordered his celebrity English players to leave their wives, girlfriends and millionaire lifestyles behind because they’re at war in South Africa.

Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque’s lineup is star-studded with Liverpool’s Fernando Torres, Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas, Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos and David Villa. Since 2006, Spain has lost only once in 45 outings and blanked Germany, 1-0, in the European finals two years ago. Leading the strike force are Villa, with 37 goals in 57 caps, and Torres who appears to be fit after undergoing surgery to remove torn cartilage in his right knee last April.

Then there is Brazil whose coach Dunga has left out stars like Ronaldinho, Alexandre Pato and Adriano from the roster to assemble a blue-collar, no-frills team. Brazil learned a bitter lesson in 2006 when France kicked out the flashy and showboating crowd favorites in the quarterfinals. Dunga, captain of Brazil’s World Cup championship team in 1994, will lean on his experience and the gamesmanship of Maicon, Kaka, Robinho, Gilberto Silva, Julio Cesar and Luis Fabiano in the crusade for a sixth title.

Also tipped to figure prominently in the race are Argentina, Portugal and Serbia. Argentine legend Diego Maradona is now calling the shots for the national team whose stars include FIFA Player of the Year Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Diego Milito. Portugal’s problem is it will likely encounter Spain in the crossover round of 16 but Ronaldo, the world’s highest-paid footballer, is unfazed. Serbia is a darkhorse bet to make it to the semifinals with 6-7 striker Nikola Zigic, 19, Neven Subotic, 21, Dejan Stankovic and Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic showing the way.

Jinkee at her best when she’s with Pacman

Funfare’s Big Apple correspondent Edmund Silvestre (of The Filipino Reporter) said that he now knows why Jinkee Pacquiao needs to be at her best (i.e., hair, make-up, wardrobe, accessories) every time she accompanies her husband, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, in his travels abroad.

Said Edmud, “Whether she likes it or not, Jinkee shares the limelight with Pacman wherever he goes.”

The spotlight, for sure, will get even brighter at the Philippine Congress when Rep. and Mrs. Emmanuel Pacquiao become the powerhouse couple (Hollywood-style) alongside Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres and husband Richard Gomez, Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado and husband Sen. Bong Revilla, soon-to-be former Pres. and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and husband Mike Arroyo.

Continued Edmund, “At the Boxing Writers Association of America’s (BWAA) gala last June 4 at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan where Manny was honored with twin prestigious awards — Fighter of the Year and Fighter of the Decade — we witnessed how Jinkee was also swarmed by thrilled fans seeking autographs and Kodak moments with her husband. Thank God, she’s a good sport and she seems to enjoy the adulation. Those who can’t get close to Manny like me — no thanks to his burly bodyguards and fanatic fans, hmmmp!!! — would turn to Jinkee. She would oblige with a warm smile.

“Okey lang naman, basta masaya lahat, okey lang,” Jinkee assured “Nandito naman tayo lahat to support Manny.”

Businessman and Pacman supporter Rolly Velasco (of NYC’s Your Family Auto Service Center, who paid the $200 gala ticket)) likened Jinkee to Jaclyn Jose upon seeing her walk into the ballroom like a breath of fresh air.

Consul General Cecilia Rebong, who was present at the gala, noted Jinkee’s “simple yet elegant” style.

It’s Dfish time For the Lakers!

Kobe Bryant scored 29 points and Derek Fisher added 16 to lead Los Angeles to a 91-84 victory over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday and give the Lakers a 2-1 lead in the NBA finals.

Bryant had 25 points after three quarters, but did not score for the first 10 minutes of the fourth. That’s when Fisher took over, adding four key baskets after Boston narrowed a 17-point first-half lead to one point.

The Lakers regained home-court advantage they had lost when Boston took Game 2 in Los Angeles.

Game 4 is Thursday night in Boston.

Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum had 10 rebounds each for Los Angeles.

Kevin Garnett, who had just six points in Boston’s victory Sunday, made 25 in Game 3. But Ray Allen, who had 32 points in Game 2, missed all 13 field goal attempts.

The Celtics had high hopes after splitting the opening two games in Los Angeles, but the “Beat L.A.!” chants at the TD Garden couldn’t help them overcome poor shooting.

The Lakers led by as many as 17 points in the first half, but Boston cut the deficit to four late in the third quarter and then made it 68-67 early in the fourth on consecutive drives by Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Rajon Rondo. With a chance to take the lead, Allen was called for an offensive foul away from the ball.

Fisher drove for a layup at the other end that made it a three-point game then scored four of the Lakers’ next five baskets to give them a five-point lead with about 4½ minutes left.

“We just had to be poised and understand they’re going to make a run, and we did that,” Bryant said. “They made a push but they never fully got control of the game. We made big shots when we needed it.”

Bryant said his teammate was “just Derek being Derek. He makes big plays all the time. He never ceases to amaze me.”

Allen missed all eight 3-pointers, all five 2-pointers and got to the line just twice. He was spared of matching the worst shooting performance in NBA finals history when Garnett was called for an offensive foul away from the ball in the final minute while Allen clanged another shot off the rim.

Baltimore’s Chip Reiser missed all 14 shots in a 1948 finals game against Philadelphia, and Dennis Johnson was 0 for 14 for Seattle against Washington in 1978.

Garnett, who scored only six points in 24 foul-plagued minutes in Game 2, had that many in the first 75 seconds of Game 3. Rondo had Boston’s next three baskets, and the Celtics were quickly up 12-5.

But the Lakers ran off eight straight points to go ahead, scoring 32 of the next 40 points to open a 37-20 lead with 9:10 left in the half.

Rondo, who had a triple-double in Game 3, finished with 11 points, eight assists and three rebounds.

Mayweather talks ‘retirement’ Again

MANILA, Philippines

- It’s either Floyd Mayweather was lying or he was just fooling around.

Top Rank’s head Bob Arum thinks it could be both.

“I’m used to Floyd saying a lot of things like that. Floyd says a lot of things and I chose to believe differently,” Arum told Michael Marley of The Examiner amid talks that the American fighter had once again retired.

A couple of days ago, the 33-year-old Mayweather was caught on video saying he wants “a year or two” out of boxing. If true, then it practically rules out a superfight with Manny Pacquiao in November.

“That’s the Make A Wish (charity) video,” said Arum, who’s not taking it seriously.

Of course, the 78-year-old Top Rank president has only one wish to make and that’s to make the fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather on Nov. 13, most likely in Las Vegas.

It’s a fight that could earn around $40 million each for both fighters, and it’s the fight the entire planet wants to see – regardless of all the arguments and disagreements regarding the drug-testing procedure of purse split.

What Arum wants is for both camps to continue talking and one of these days come to an agreement to stage the fight.

But first, Mayweather should set the record straight whether he has really retired or if he was just trying to fool everybody.

“It could have been just spur of the moment, him saying he was taking a year or two years off. I’m sure, if it is true, he will make that statement in the proper way which is to put out a press release,” Arum told Marley.

While Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys itching to host the superfight, following the highly-appreciated Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey contest before 51,000 fans last March, it seems that Las Vegas now has the upperhand.

“I’m sure MGM (Grand) will make a huge offer,” Arum said almost a month ago, just before boarding his fight out of General Santos City where he came to the May 10 elections and watched Pacquiao earn a congressional seat.

The Las Vegas venue must have pitched its offer, and Arum is now sounding like it’s a done deal.

Marley quoted the legendary promoter, based in Sin City, as saying something like him “not minding putting a fight where I can sleep in my own bed.”

Pia’s glowing skin revealed!

MANILA, Philippines – Pia Guanio is the new endorser of UK Derm Plant Stem Cell Skin Renewal Soap.

Made from natural plant stem cell combined with Glutathione and UV protection, the all new soap gives a new, youthful, fair and supple skin.

Miller stopped San Miguel’s winning streak

Playing his finest game in a Ginebra uniform, Willie Miller Wednesday night hit most of the baskets that hurt San Miguel in a 104-90 victory which snapped the Beermen’s nine-game winning streak in the PBA Fiesta Conference at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

The 6-foot dynamo, a winner of two MVP trophies with different teams, scored 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and had eight assists, his five-point cluster capping a telling spurt that had Ginebra wriggling out of a tight game for a 96-88 lead with 2:16 left.

Ginebra thus rose to 8-4 and into solo third spot, and improved its chances of an outright berth by keeping the second-running Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters, who have a 9-2 record, within sight.

“His teammates are urging him to score, which is not hard for him because he can do it,” coach Jong Uichico said.

The Beermen remained in the lead despite the loss, their first in close to two months and just their second in 12 outings.

“We cannot celebrate this win,” he added. “We needed a 30-point lead and their import to foul out for us to win by one (point). We haven’t won in a long time and I guess the guys have forgotten how to win.

“It’s hard to close out games. It was actually hard for us to even close out quarters,” Guiao added. “Our main objective right now is to stay alive as long as we can.”

Side A’ s tribute for Pinoy Talents

On June 12, 7:30 p.m. Side A will stage a concert  at the Quezon City Memorial Circle Disco Area billed as Independence Date

Side A’s current line-up includes Joey Generoso on lead vocals, Naldy Gonzales on keyboards, Ernie Severino on drums and Leevon Cailao and Ned Esguerra, on guitars. The show is produced by 4th of January Productions, an events company composed of friends who believe in promoting Filipino talents and named after the birthday of Capricornian partner Emie Dizon.

The concert will pay tribute to Filipino talents as the band reminisces Basil Valdez’s You, Ric Secreto’s Don’t Know What To Do, Labuyo’s Tuloy  Pa Rin, and Joey Albert’s Tell Me, including Forevermore  and  So Many Questions.

Christian making a big splash in singapore

Christian Bautista turn his first music video produced by S2S Records. Early this year Christian recorded a Mandarin version of Please Be Careful With My Heart with Singaporean pop singer Kewei. Directed by famous female director Monica Eng, the music video was shot the whole day at the Pasir Ris Park in East Singapore.

The strong attraction between Christian and Kewei develops into true love, thanks to the stray dog. Scenes include a playful romance by the beach, garden and the swimming pool where Christian goes under water.

Christian promoted Please Be Careful With My Heart in Singapore’s 938 LIVE radio program, RAZOR TV and performed live for a packed crowd at the DXO CLUB in Esplanade. The Mandarin version of Please Be Careful With My Heart has been enjoying radio airplay in local Singapore Chinese radio stations, YES 93.3FM, 100.3UFM, 88.3 JIAFM, LOVE 97.2FM, CAPITAL 95.8FM.

The Christian Bautista: Romance Revisited Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong release, is available in retail music shops like HMV Singapore and Hong Kong, Gramophone (Singapore), That CD Shop (Singapore), Eslite (Taiwan), Bookend (Taiwan), Sui Sheng (Hong Kong) and 34 other music retailers.

Pacquiao’s blood test in on the way.

Manny Pacquiao is willing to take the blood test as long as they’re not done close to the fight.The 31-year-old Filipino, who just became the first boxer in history ever to be elected to Congress. He said “Huwag lang sa day ng fight (Never on fight day),” the reigning WBO welterweight champion said Tuesday evening during a visit to President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

There are reports that according to Manny he will take the test 14 days before the fight. Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, has penciled Nov. 13 for Pacquiao’s next fight, and it could be against Mayweather or anyone else.

Pacquiao’s business manager, Michael Koncz, however, said he fears that once Pacquiao agrees to the random blood tests, the undefeated American might come up with new demands, just to keep the fight from happening.

Business manager, Michael Koncz,  said that once Manny agrees to the demands of the Mayweather, the American might come with  new delaying strategy.

Bea’s Angel

When a change that’s sweet happens and it begins to open up a world that’s more fun and exciting, we know we are on the right path.

This is the kind of change Angel Canned Milk, the trusted partner in cooking and for creaming beverage and dessert preparations, wants to bring to the table. A brand for the modern woman who enjoys whipping up delicious culinary creations with a twist in her kitchen, it starts up a new and exciting chapter set to kick-off this summer.

Last April 8, at the Felix Restaurant in Makati City, Angel launched one of its sweetest surprises yet as it formally presented before the media its newest “angel,” Bea Alonzo. Taking over another challenging new role as the ambassador for Angel Canned Milk, Bea feels fortunate to have been given the opportunity to represent a brand that encourages her to creatively express herself and explore especially when it comes to cooking which she happens to be most passionate about.

Bea’s interest in cooking began during her childhood. As a young girl, she would always watch her grandmother prepare various delectable dishes for family gatherings. This inspired her to learn the basics of cooking despite her busy schedules growing up. In fact, Bea watches a lot of cooking shows and even checks recipes on-line. She even is a big fan of renowned names in the cooking world such as Rachel Ray and Giada De Laurentiis who she describes as the ultimate creative chefs.

Now that she’s matured into a woman who is independent and open to exploring new ways in the kitchen, she knows the milk brand for her must be one which is a trusted partner; one that allows her to come up with delicious desserts and dishes that are beyond what we have been accustomed to. That for her is Angel.

Angel Canned Milk promotes creativity and innovation, the very reason why it’s perfect for those who like to put a twist to their recipes.

A fresh whole line-up of affordable milk ingredients awaits any woman who like Bea chooses to partner with Angel. There’s Angel Evaporada, the perfect creamy match for our favorite Filipino beverage and desserts.