With a vital Nations League clash with Canada on the horizon, the U.S. men’s national team’s match against Cuba feels like an appetizer. However, given everything we have seen over the past several months, the U.S. seems to be a team that cannot afford to treat any match as anything less than a full-course meal.A clash with Cuba generally has the look and feel of a good old fashioned confidence builder, and the USMNT is certainly in need of a little bit of confidence at the current moment. The last series of international matches – a 3-0 battering at the hands of rival Mexico and a 1-1 draw with a C-level Uruguay squad – seemed to bring the mood down a bit, while a series of talking points at the club level have also soured many.Christian Pulisic is still not playing, Tyler Adams still is not healthy and Sergino Dest’s future is still up in the air. The point is, the U.S. can use any sort of win they can get. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Time for another transfer? Giroud’s Chelsea spell set to end like his Arsenal career Knowing that, Gregg Berhalter faces a number of key choices. Does he field a first-choice XI, focusing solely on the task at hand while getting his key players a bit of momentum heading into that second match? Or, does he prepare for that second match by taking things a bit easy this time around, saving up for a Canada team that will have the benefit of rest heading into the clash in Toronto?Ahead of Friday’s clash, Goal has three projections for how the USMNT may look from the opening whistle against Cuba. Click back an hour before the game to see what Berhalter has decided to put on the field.Most Likely XIBerhalter and the USMNT will certainly take this game seriously, but they would benefit from not taking it too seriously. Cuba is a team that generally struggles against even the minnows of CONCACAF, so this is a chance to give key players some minutes and a chance to find their footing before, in theory, the game gets out of hand.Christian Pulisic needs to play given his recent issues against Chelsea, but one would not blame Berhalter for taking him out once the game was one. You do not want to expose your top players to the inevitable ‘CONCACAF-ing’ that will occur if this game gets out of hand, of course, but look for Pulisic to at least get a good first-half runout. The same can be said of Weston McKennie with plenty of able-bodied replacements on the bench.One of the key questions lies up top, even without Jozy Altidore in the fold, as Berhalter will have to decide between Josh Sargent and Gyasi Zardes. Conventional wisdom would say give Sargent the exposure against the overmatched Cuba team and use Zardes, if you really want to, against Canada’s more battle-tested team.However, that wisdom depends on just how far along you believe Sargent is right now. If you think he’s ready for the big games, by all means, save him for Canada and let him sink or swim in what would be a bigger test. Berhalter could also use this match as a proving ground for Sargent, who could be given the opportunity to play and train his way into that lineup against Canada.The ‘Guys, it’s Cuba’ XIThe Nations League is a real competition with real standings and somewhat-real stakes but, at the end of the day, until it’s Mexico, Canada or Costa Rica on the other side of that field, does it really matter? With that in mind, why not give younger players a chance to thrive while saving as many veterans as possible for the next match? It has not been Berhalter’s way so far as he has resisted the urge to go full-on youth movement, but if young guys are not ready to play against Cuba, are they even ready to be with the USMNT?That line of thinking could lead to some newer faces with the likes of Miles Robinson, Brenden Aaronson, Jackson Yueill and Cory Baird chucked into the mix. We have not seen these guys much, if at all, at the international level, and a home match against Cuba seems like the perfect opportunity to at least see where they fit. Use the match like a measuring stick, and then build from there.Welcome back, Yedlin!Greg Berhalter’s system has evolved a bit since he took over, although some of those evolutions have come due to the absence of Tyler Adams. Even so, there are plenty of questions surrounding DeAndre Yedlin’s place with the national team, and the Newcastle defender is finally in a position to answer some of those questions.Berhalter looks for technical, ball-playing defenders and Yedlin, admittedly, is not exactly that. His defensive ability has grown by leaps and bounds since his move to the Premier League, but he is far from prime Phillip Lahm back there. Still, at age 26, Yedlin is not quite an old dog that cannot be taught new tricks.Even if he never becomes what Berhalter needs to be, can the USMNT afford to completely move on from Yedlin? He’s one of the few USMNT players that is truly world-class at something, and that something is his pace. He is still one of the fastest players out there, and that speed erases some mistakes while creating a few others on the other side. Yedlin needs a chance to show himself, and a match where the USMNT will be on the front foot would be a good opportunity to give it to him.
Rabat – King Mohammed VI has received a cable of congratulation from French President François Hollande on the Youth Day.In the letter, the French President expressed his willingness to further strengthen the relations between Morocco and France and praised Morocco’s commitment to fighting terrorism and radicalization under the leadership of King Mohammed VI.“On this special occasion, I wish once again ensure Your Majesty of my commitment to further develop the exceptional partnership that characterizes the relationship between our two countries. I also extend to Your Majesty the renewed expression of the true friendship of France for the great Moroccan people”, the French president said in this cable. Hollande noted that France, a steadfast partner of the Kingdom, will continue to support consistently the ambitious reforms undertaken by the Sovereign in favor of political openness, freedom promotion and sustainable development of Morocco.Expressing his affection for the solidarity of HM the King following the Nice and Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray attacks, the French President said that “face the terrorist threat, which can strike at any time, we count on the close and constant cooperation of Morocco so resolutely committed to fight radicalization”.
PARIS — Fiat Chrysler’s surprise decision to withdraw a merger offer with French carmaker Renault stunned the industry, but both sides emerged with careful language Thursday that appeared to raise the possibility of re-opening talks.The merger plan, which sought to create the world’s third-largest automaker, had been viewed positively across the industry since it was announced last week. Talks collapsed suddenly overnight after the French government, Renault’s top stakeholder, asked for five more days to obtain support from Nissan, the long-time Japanese alliance partner.Fiat Chrysler cited “political conditions in France” for the withdrawal.French officials appeared taken aback. They blamed Fiat Chrysler for placing “massive pressure” to quickly take the offer or leave it. They later softened their tones, indicating there might be room for future negotiation.“We have closed no doors,” said an official at France’s Economy Ministry, responding to a question of whether an agreement could eventually be reached with Fiat Chrysler. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations.While Renault expressed disappointment over the lost opportunity, it also talked about it in the present tense, saying it “viewed the opportunity as timely, having compelling industrial logic and great financial merit, and which would result in a European-based global auto powerhouse.”In Italy, a representative of the powerful metal mechanics union expressed hope that the withdrawal was a “tough tactical position to eliminate Franco-Japanese rigidity and restart the negotiations.”“The demands of Nissan and the French grandeur have caused the French and Nissan to miss a great industrial and economic opportunity,” Claudio Chiarle of the FIM-CISL union told the ANSA news agency. He said workers in both countries would be weakened if the opportunity is lost.Auto analysts Philippe Houchois and Himanshu Agarwal at Jefferies also noted that the Fiat Chrysler statement was carefully worded in a way “to leave the door open to further discussion.”News of the plan’s failure mainly hurt Renault’s shares, which tumbled 7% to 52.45 euros. Fiat Chrysler’s share price recovered from an early dip to trade up 1% to 11.83 euros.The French government, which owns 15% stake of Renault, had placed four conditions on the deal.Those are that any merger had to be completed as part of the existing alliance between Renault and Nissan, preserve French jobs and factories, respect the governance balance between Renault and Fiat Chrysler and ensure participation in an electric battery initiative with Germany.“An agreement had been reached on three of these conditions. It remained to obtain explicit support from Nissan,” said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.Nissan had earlier expressed reservations about the deal, saying it raised questions about its alliance with Renault.Le Maire is travelling to Japan this weekend to meet with Nissan officials on a previously arranged visit.On Thursday, Nissan declined to comment on the latest developments.Fiat Chrysler said that it remained “firmly convinced of the compelling transformational rationale of a proposal,” noting it had been widely well-received in markets and in the industry and would have delivered benefits to all parties.“However it became clear that the political conditions in France do not currently exist for such a combination to proceed successfully,” the statement said. “FCA will continue to deliver on its commitments through the implementation of its independent strategy.”The Renault board had met Wednesday evening for a second round of deliberations on the proposal for a 50-50 merger, which the carmaker said would save more than 5 billion euros ($5.62 billion) per year in purchasing expenses and costs developing autonomous and electric vehicles. The combined company would have produced some 8.7 million vehicles a year, more than General Motors and trailing only Volkswagen and Toyota.The combined company would have been worth almost $40 billion. If Nissan had gone along, it would have created the world’s biggest auto company.Most analysts praised the proposed deal, saying each side bought strengths that covered up the other’s weaknesses. Now, the two companies apparently must find a new way to address any shortcomings at a time when the auto industry is in the midst of a global sales slowdown and facing enormous expenses to develop future technologies.Karl Brauer, executive publisher at Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader, said the quick failure was unfortunate, “though it’s better than having it drag on for weeks or months and then fail. FCA clearly saw too many obstacles, primarily Nissan’s reluctance.”Brauer said the merger talk was likely to have affected other boardrooms in the automotive industry, where tie-ups can lead to significant savings on investments in costly technology, especially as the industry faces the transition to electric powertrains and autonomous and semi-autonomous driving.“A reassessment of partnership opportunities was likely initiated at every major global automaker in the past 8 days, and those assessments won’t end with FCA’s withdrawal from this deal,” Brauer said.____Barry reported from Milan. Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.Colleen Barry, Lori Hinnant And Angela Charlton, The Associated Press
Gotabhaya’s call for abolition of the 13th amendment is said to be in response to the “post-war strategy” of the TNA. India has repeatedly, and successfully, sought a reiteration from Lanka of its commitment to the 13th amendment, saying it was imperative for reconciliation after the war ended in 2009. Though the 13th amendment, which guarantees devolution of power to the provinces and comprises several other major concession to the Tamils, has often been pejoratively referred to as an “imported solution”, rarely has it been subjected to such attack by parties within the ruling coalition. Indian officials here said they were “surprised” by the development, but added they would respond at the right moment. Sources confirmed that Gotabhaya will be visiting India this week, and that the issue will be taken up with him. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is expected in India this week to discuss the government position of the 13th Amendment, the Times of India reported today.The Indian media report said that ongoing one-upmanship between the Sri Lankan government and TNA, which represents a vast majority of Tamil population in the island nation, has taken a dangerous turn with many within the government, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother and defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, demanding that the 13th amendment to the Constitution, a product of the Rajiv Gandhi-Jayewardene 1987 accord, be repealed altogether. Despite raising doubts about the agenda of TNA, described by India as a credible body, President Rajapaksa had told TOI earlier this year that his government remained committed to 13th amendment. A joint statement issued by the two countries last year had said that “a devolution package, building upon the 13th amendment, would create conditions for genuine reconciliation”.Indian officials underlined how Lanka made the same commitment in the 2008 Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which looks at the human rights record of all UN member states every four years. Interestingly, Lanka’s record will be reviewed again by the UPR in early next month with India being one of the three countries that will carry it out. “This is not just a commitment made to India but to international agencies,” said an official. The reconciliation talks, which started after the war, collapsed in January with President Rajapaksa insisting that the process could be taken forward only through a Parliament Select Committee (PSC). The TNA has refused to join the PSC.While ties have suffered because of India’s vote at the UN Human Rights Council against Sri Lanka, PM Manmohan Singh did try to save the situation when he met Rajapaksa last month and assured him of New Delhi’s support at international fora in future. In the talks, though, India also conveyed to Lanka that it looked upon TNA as a credible entity with which talks must be resumed. The relations now threaten to hit an all-time low with the talk about scrapping the 13th amendment altogether. the Times of India reported.