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MADRID, June 22, 2018 (News Wires) - Catalonia's pro-independence political leaders are snubbing the Spanish king in their latest public challenge to rule from Madrid.

Catalan President Quim Torra says his regional government won't invite the monarchy to any official event, nor will it send representatives to any royal event, because King Felipe VI refuses to discuss the possibility of the wealthy northeastern region seceding from Spain.

Torra and other leading Catalan politicians are demanding that Spain's central government respect a unilateral declaration of independence passed by separatists in October.

The monarch, like the Madrid-based national government, has rejected Catalan secession.

In an announcement in the Catalan capital Barcelona on Friday, Torra said "we are not subjects, we are citizens."

Torra is due to meet with Spain's new prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, on July 9.


Gazette Staff 

CAIRO, June 19, 2018 - In order to protect the country’s soil, seas and borders, navel units from Egypt and Spain have started comprehensive drills on Tuesday, which were held off Alexandria and some Red Sea governorates.

The drills came within the framework of Egypt’s keenness on strengthening its naval ties with Spain in order to deal with emergency situations, meet challenges and defend the homeland.

These drills aim at honing the skills of the Egyptian naval troops, which will be involved in the implementation and management of fighting missions.

The drills included manoeuvres in which the highly trained Egyptian and Spanish officers used various models of speedboats, frigates and rocket launchers, as well as troop carriers.

During the exercise, the Egyptian officers and soldiers demonstrated their ability to protect Egyptian seas and skies during times of peace and war.

A flotilla of speedboats joined the drills, which naval operations aimed at intercepting enemy vessels, as well as the provision of air support to operations.

The Egyptian and Spanish commanders exhibited their ability to protect the nation’s coasts against infiltration, smuggling and terrorist operations. They also showed their ability to safeguard giant ships and tankers as they entered Egypt’s territorial waters whether by day or night.

The naval drills also incorporated a firing exercise with live ammunition during which Egyptian and Spanish speedboats destroyed moving and stationary targets.

The drills also included another challenging sea defence exercise, in which various units dealt crippling blows to a simulated group of enemy ships and submarines before entering Egyptian territorial waters.

Following the exercises, all units returned safely to base.


MOSCOW, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) – Coach Carlos Queiroz said Iran will soak up the experience of facing World Cup contenders Spain on Wednesday but warned the Lions of Persia will produce their "best game ever" as they strive to cause the shock of the tournament.

Days after celebrating only their second-ever World Cup win in five editions with a 1-0 victory over Morocco that sent them top of Group B, Iran are expected to return to earth with a bump against a Spain side oozing class.

"For us it's a privilege and an honour to be here. It's a unique opportunity for us to play against Spain, one of the candidates to win the World Cup," Queiroz told a packed and, at times, chaotic media conference in Kazan on Tuesday.

"We're in a win-win situation because it's a unique opportunity for our national team to learn more about the game and to grow as players."

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa scored twice while Real Madrid defender Nacho gave Spain a 3-2 lead before Cristiano Ronaldo snatched a 3-3 draw for Portugal with a late third in a spectacular game in Sochi last Friday.

Queiroz is under no illusions about the superiority of Fernando Hierro's side as the Spaniards look to claim their first win of the tournament.

But he says Iran are in Russia carrying the hopes of an entire nation, not just to make up the numbers.

"If there was a magic potion to stop the Spanish team, then $1 million would not be too much to buy it, even though we do have some financial troubles," said Queiroz, who was flanked by AEK Athens midfielder Masoud Shojaei.

Queiroz, a former assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, sounded a defiant message, saying Spain could boss the match technically but could not control how much Iran will fight.

"We are well aware of Spain's reputation, so we'll have to play our best game ever. In the end the football gods will decide," he said.



SOCHI, Russia, June 17, 2018 (News Wires) - Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo lit up the World Cup in his own inimitable style late Friday, curling in a late free kick to complete a remarkable hat-trick and earn his team a 3-3 draw in an enthralling clash with neighbours Spain.

In by far the best game of the tournament so far, Ronaldo twice put Portugal in front, Diego Costa replied each time, Nacho gave Spain the lead with a stunning volley and Ronaldo then had the last word with a superb free kick he won himself.

Ronaldo has a relatively poor free-kick record for Portugal and when he and Raphael Guerreiro both stepped up in the 88th minute, many of their fans might have hoped the left back would have been allowed to have a go instead of his skipper.

Instead, Ronaldo stood with his legs apart in familiar pose, rolled up his shorts and curled an exquisite effort around the Spain wall and into the net past the helpless David de Gea.

The 33-year-old, who took his tally to 84 goals in 151 games for the European champions, became the fourth player to score in four World Cups after Brazil great Pele and Germany's Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose.

He also became the first player to score in eight major tournaments in succession after hitting the target in the last four European Championship tournaments.

The goal denied Spain what would have been a morale-boosting win after a traumatic and extraordinary week which saw coach Julen Lopetegui sacked on Wednesday, barely 48 hours before kick off in the Group B game.

The Spanish federation said Lopetegui had negotiated a contract to take over at Real Madrid without their knowledge, and replaced him with Fernando Hierro who took charge on Friday.

Nacho's first goal for Spain and a blunder by their usually reliable keeper David De Gea were almost lost in the drama.

The other match in the section was pedestrian by comparison yet it was Iran who went top of the standings with three points after their 1-0 stoppage-time win over Morocco.

"I'm very happy, it is a personal best (the hat-trick), one more in my career and the most important thing is to highlight what the team has done," said Ronaldo.


The match got off to an explosive start when Ronaldo beat Nacho on the left of the box with a stepover, was tripped and emphatically converted the penalty himself.

Spain quickly got into their stride and Costa equalised in the 24th minute as he latched onto a long ball forward by Sergio Busquets, bundled off a challenge from Pepe, slipped around two defenders and slotted his shot past Rui Patricio.

The goal was confirmed after the incident was reviewed by the video assistant referee (VAR), being used at the World Cup for the first time, for a possible foul on Pepe.

Spain appeared to be on top as Isco rifled a shot against the bar, only for Ronaldo to strike again one minute before halftime with the help of De Gea's blunder as the ball hit his hand and slipped agonisingly into the net.

Costa levelled from close range 10 minutes after the break, Spain went ahead for the first time with a remarkable strike from Nacho, who met the ball on the volley at an awkward height and sent an inswinging shot in off the post.

Spain thought they had won the game but Portugal had other ideas as Ronaldo provided the perfect end to another extraordinary night in his career.

Hierro was clearly happy after his first match in charge as his team showed they should by no means be written off.

"We feel very proud of the players after the adversity of the match itself," he said. "We've come back and equalised twice, we feel great commitment and pride."

VALENCIA, June 17, 2018 (News Wires) - The Aquarius charity-run rescue ship arrived in the Spanish port of Valencia on Sunday, a week after Italy refused to let it dock with 629 migrants on board.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez offered to take the ship in, meaning it had to travel an extra 700 nautical miles after plucking the migrants from unstable boats off the coast of Libya.

There are now 106 migrants on the vessel, after two ships from Italy’s coast guard and navy shared out the passengers to make the long journey safer.

SOCHI, June 14, 2018 (News Wires) - Group B has a massive clash early on as Spain take on Euro 2016 winners Portugal.

Can Cristiano Ronaldo get his side off to the perfect start? How will Spain recover from the chaos that has enveloped them already, with Julen Lopetegui sacked before a ball has been kicked?

In 11 matches between Spain and Portugal since 1981, neither side has had the upper hand as the two teams have played to identical 3-5-3 records against each other. These two national teams will meet for the first time since 2012 today in their first match of the 2018 World Cup.

Spain is a +105 betting favorite to win this match in Sochi at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Portugal is going off at +305 to pull off an outright upset and +225 to force a draw.

The Spanish national team is the third favorite on the odds to win the World Cup paying +650 to do so. Spain looked absolutely brilliant in qualifying for the tournament, dominating the UEFA Group G with an undefeated record of 9-1-0 while outscoring its opponents 36-3.

However, in a stunning turn of events just days before the World Cup, Spain sacked manager Julen Lopetegui for accepting the manager role at Real Madrid without keeping the national team in the loop. Fernando Hierro steps into the role and will try to keep the ship sailing without issue.

Portugal has never defeated Spain in World Cup play. Spain is 4-1-0 in five all-time meetings with Portugal in the World Cup tournament.

With a 9-0-1 record in the UEFA Group B FIFA World Cup qualifiers and a goal differential of 32 for to four against, Portugal looked almost just as dominant in the qualifying round as Spain did. Cristiano Ronaldo had 15 goals in those 10 matches, bringing his total with the national team to 81. Portugal’s offensive prowess with Ronaldo at the helm is noteworthy, but this team also has a defense that has produced five clean sheets in its last six matches.

Friday’s total is set at two goals. There have been two goals or less scored in each of Portugal’s last three World Cup qualifiers.

This was already going to be one of the most highly anticipated matches of the group stage, and the sacking of Julen Lopetegui only adds to the intrigue. Both of these teams are expected to advance into the knockout stage, but this game could be the one that determines which team does so in the top spot.

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