No Ronaldo, no problem for Portugal
Sturridge returns to training
Nolito stakes his claim
Celta Vigo striker hopes to seal spot in final Spain squad after two-goal salvo
Italy counting on Pelle to live up to No. 9 shirt
Conte, struggling for sure-fire options, needs striker to live up to No. 9 shirt
(Graziano Pelle 57)
All eyes will again be on the man wearing Italy's No. 9 shirt this summer.
Graziano Pelle is unlikely to stir the senses at Euro 2016 in the same way Mario Balotelli once did.
Those mania-induced antics of shirt tearing and muscle flexing which characterised the Azzurri's run to the final four years ago, do not and are never likely to become a feature of the Southampton striker's repertoire.
But, following a 1-0 friendly win over Scotland in Malta yesterday morning (Singapore time), it is Pelle - not Balotelli - who will head to France in a fortnight's time with the hopes and dreams of a nation resting firmly on his shoulders.
The symmetry between the pair's respective rise and fall since Italy's appearance at Euro 2012 has been striking.
Outcast at Liverpool and unwanted at AC Milan, following a slight return on loan, Balotelli has remained saddled with his status as football's enfant terrible.
For all his moments of inspired brilliance, the one-time Manchester City marksman has continued to prove more maverick than he could ever be considered magnificent.
His replacement, meanwhile, has lit up Italy since his belated arrival on the international scene, just two years ago.
Back in Malta, where it all began, Pelle put Scotland to the sword yesterday morning with an emphatic fifth goal in nine outings for his country.
The 30-year-old has not always been this prolific; his lengthy goal drought for Southampton ended only in mid-March, after a spell of four months and 13 games.
Intent has remained and continuing a clinical streak for Italy could not have been better timed, with Antonio Conte currently struggling for sure-fire options ahead of the Finals in France.
The incoming Chelsea manager's ability to set up a team bristling with potency will be a sight for sore eyes for his future subjects at Stamford Bridge.
Winless in their previous four games and with a midfield decimated by injury, however, Conte will have it all to do if he is to assemble a force that can reckon with the likes of Belgium, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland in Group E next month.
Italy's lack of clinical edge remains an ongoing area of concern.
Eder's loan spell at Inter Milan was marginally more promising than Balotelli's across town but, with a solitary goal in his last 15 outings, expecting a remarkable transformation while wearing a different shade of blue was always an ambitious ask.
Emanuele Giaccherini was even more profligate; fluffing a series of gilt-edged chances that should have made the scoreline reflect the hosts' comfortable dominance.
Only three of the 14 shots amassed against Gordon Strachan's side in Malta were on target.
That Pelle's breakthrough arrived just three minutes shy of the hour mark was indicative of why Italy have failed to gather serious momentum ahead of their foray into France.
Conte could be forgiven for feeling that he will be taking a knife to the gunfight that is Euro 2016's "Group of Death".
“I am happy for the goal... but we lack sharpness after a lot of hard work in training. We can do better... we need to work really hard.”
- Italy striker Graziano Pelle
“We’re still in construction mode and we’re doing it little by little... we know there’s a lot of work to do.”
- Italy coach Antonio Conte
- ITALY: Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Antonio Candreva (Marco Parolo 62), Alessandro Florenzi, Daniele de Rossi (Jorginho 67), Emanuele Giaccherini (Giacomo Bonaventura 80), Matteo Darmian (Federico Bernadesch 60), Graziano Pelle (Simone Zaza 67), Eder (Lorenzo Insigne 60)
- SCOTLAND: David Marshall, Callum Paterson (Christophe Berra 46), Russell Martin, Grant Hanley, Charlie Mulgrew, Matt Phillips (Oliver Burke 71), Darren Fletcher, James McArthur (Craig Bryson 83), Ikechi Anya (Steven Naismith 71), Ross McCormack (Steven Fletcher 46), Matt Ritchie
Messi: I don't know what I sign
Germany coach won't blame debutants
Loew's Germany are a mess, says Neil Humphreys
Germany risk Euro disaster with tactical and defensive mayhem
(Mario Gomez 12-pen)
(Marek Hamsik 41, Michal Duris 44, Juraj Kucka 52)
At the stroke of midnight tonight, Joachim Loew risks turning into a pumpkin.
The Germany coach must finalise his 23-man squad for Euro 2016, but his defence is in disarray and his scattershot selections are baffling.
He succumbed to tactical schizophrenia yesterday morning (Singapore time), using his penultimate friendly to throw caution to the wind, along with common sense and any sort of cohesion.
Friendlies are for experimentation, but the 3-1 home loss to Slovakia was not so much a gentle tinker as it was a tournament suicide attempt.
Loew defended his surreal selections, which essentially comprised a second-string 11 apart from Jerome Boateng and Mario Goetze, but the growing discomfort with Germany's preparations back home were entirely justified.
A third defeat in four games was less significant than the world champions' inability to produce back-to-back victories in 2016, a damning indictment of a nation renowned for its industrialised consistency.
But coherence begins in the home dugout and Loew's baffling trial-and-error approach to his Euro 2016 preparations is a cause for concern.
Just 11 days before the start of the tournament, Loew picked a vital friendly against a Slovakian side doing a decent impression of dark horses to play a 3-5-1-1 formation, or maybe it was a 3-2-3-1-1, or even a 3-2-3-2.
It didn't really matter because the Germans clearly were none the wiser and the fluid farce in front of Bernd Leno's goal achieved nothing other than magnify that stubborn Achilles' heel.
Germany can no longer defend.
Watching the Teutonic tortoises fail to catch Marek Hamsik before his wonder goal or anyone in a Slovakian jersey at set-pieces, it almost seemed as if Loew's tactical mayhem was a cunning ruse.
Like a magician in a crisp white shirt and skilled in the art of misdirection, he packed his line-up with inexperienced strangers and shuffled the pack in a bid to distract from the illusion of a settled defence.
Germany's back three were a disaster. Only when Loew returned to a defensive four in the second half was a semblance of normality restored.
Loew went with three at the back presumably because he didn't have four. He scarcely had three.
Antonio Ruidger and Joshua Kimmich are bright, young centre backs, clearly benefiting from the Bundesliga's youth academy model that has revolutionised the national game.
But that doesn't mean they are equipped to handle Euro 2016.
They couldn't handle Slovakia.
A veteran in comparison, Boateng was left painfully exposed. Squeezed between the two new kids in the box, he was a picture of hesitancy, missing his usual colleagues Mats Hummels and Benedikt Howedes.
Despite the understandable emphasis on Germany's youthful attacking enterprise, their obdurate defence earned them the World Cup in Brazil.
At Euro 2016, they'll be lucky to survive the knockout stages, unless Loew settles on a system and specific personnel that minimises the risk of human error.
Slovakia's three goals were all avoidable.
Hamsik's goal was spectacular, but Boateng had already laid out the red carpet, allowing the Slovakian to progress unchallenged.
Michal Duris' glancing header somehow escaped the attention of three German watchmen, dozing at the near post.
And Marc-Andre ter Stegen did his selection prospects no good at all in allowing Juraj Kucka's weak, slippery shot to make contact with almost every one of the goalkeeper's body parts before sliding over the line.
But the damage was arguably done in the dugout.
Loew fielded Jonas Hector and Sebastian Rudy in wingback roles that were neither here nor there, not offering the wobbly back three enough protection and seldom supporting an unusually narrow line-up.
Sami Khedira, Leroy Sane and Mario Gomez hugged the German spine, which made for an anorexic attack with no width.
Obviously, Thomas Mueller, Marco Reus, Manuel Neuer and Hummels and Toni Kroos were either rested or recovering, but an uncertainty has dogged an erratic Germany for most of the calendar year.
Ahead of a final warm-up against Hungary on Saturday, Loew's preferred line-up, formation and, most importantly, defensive structure are impossible to predict.
In recent years, the coach has succeeded in ridding his country of that old stereotype. Germany are no longer mechanical grinders at international tournaments, but entertaining movers and shakers.
The difference between liberation and disorganisation, however, was easily measured against Slovakia.
The Germans were a mess.
Loew has one friendly to pull back on the endless tinkering and fix the porous defence before Euro 2016.
He lost the plot against Slovakia. If it happens again in France, he'll lose his job.
"We found it hard to get into the game, because we had a lot of respect, even a bit of fear of the world champions. The Germans were better, until we shook them with our (first) goal."
- Slovakia coach Jan Kozak
There are at least six teams, including Germany, who can win Euro 2016, Joachim Loew said in an interview with Uefa.com. He rates France, Spain, Italy, England and Belgium as the other contenders.
GERMANY 1MISSING THE MARK: Slovakia's Juraj Kucka evading a sliding tackle by German defender Jonas Hector on the wet pitch. PHOTO: AFP
Fishing in the South China Sea
Enthusiasts embark on luxury vessel to fuel fishing passion
It is not hard to see why Mr Tan Cheng Hong and his friends are willing to fork out $5,000 for a three-day fishing trip - they caught 125 fish on one such outing.
Mr Tan cottoned on to the idea of hiring a luxury fishing vessel two years ago, after traffic jams on the Causeway put paid to his regular trips by car to southern Pahang to fish.
The 22m-long vessel is manned by a six-man crew, which includes a cook. It has fully air-conditioned cabins, and two lounges with TV sets and karaoke facilities.
Fitted with 19 bunk beds, three toilets, and two open areas on its decks, it also has a seawater reverse osmosis processor, so there is no need to limit water usage. Most importantly, it has an ice-maker to keep the catch fresh.
Mr Tan told The New Paper: "This time, we managed to get 17 anglers to join, so the cost for each person was lower."
Fellow enthusiast Daniel Xue, 54, a chef, added: "These trips are very popular. Booking is sometimes filled up two years in advance."
TNP joined them on one such trip last month.
We set off from Punggol Marina Country Club at noon, and made a quick stopover at a fish farm on Pulau Ubin to buy live prawns for bait. We then sailed towards the South China Sea, stopping about 140km north-east of the Horsburgh Lighthouse.
So where is the best spot to try your luck?
Boat captain Saverianus Medi, 34, who is from Tanjung Pinang in Indonesia, admitted to having a little help, saying: "There are more than 200 fishing spots.
"I use GPS (Global Positioning System) to locate a suitable position, then I tell the anglers to drop the lines.
"Normally, we would stay for about half an hour before moving on to another spot."
FISHING FUN: A couple had help after their fishing rod snapped trying to lift a 6.3kg red snapper.
On the decks, the anglers were busy casting their lines. And once in a while, there would be cries of success.
The crew was on standby to transfer the catch - which included parrotfish, stingray, red snapper, grouper and diamond trevally - into insulated ice boxes.
Even at night, Mr Tan, and other anglers Long Chee Kiong, 52, a contract project manager, and Ye Sing Yong, 52, who works in sewage construction, continued to try their luck.
Mr Long said it was worth losingsleep over, as the fish caught at night are usually bigger. He was proven right at about 3am, when he reeled in an 18kg shovel nose shark - the biggest catch of the trip.
"It took me more than 35 minutes to pull the shark out of the water. I was really exhausted, but that's the thrill of fishing," said Mr Long.
FRESH CATCH: The crew descaling and cutting all the fish that were caught, before dividing them equally for the anglers.
Newcomers like Ms Jolie Sia and her husband Ong Zhen Yuan, who are both 36 and self-employed, had fun too.
Ms Sia, who had never been on a fishing trip, said: "On the first day, I saw how everyone was busy with the fish they had caught, but I didn't catch a single thing.
"I tried again the next morning. Within two minutes of casting my line, I pulled out a huge red snapper.
"I had a tough time reeling it in, and the rod even snapped. Luckily, Captain Medi quickly took over to help me. The fish weighed 6.3kg."
The hardest part was getting used to the rough and choppy waves. It felt like the entire boat would tip over sometimes, especially when it sailed past containers ships.
Some took pills to battle the nausea, and even the seasoned anglers were not immune.
Mr Long said: "I can't stand the waves and threw up twice on this trip."
The total catch of 125 fish was laid out for a group photo with our reporter.
The best part of each day was when we got to sample our hard work for the day.
Mr Xue taught the on-board cook how to prepare some dishes, while he prepared sushi.
On the morning of the third day, as the boat was heading back to Singapore, the crew members laid out the trip's entire catch for a group photo.
The group had a fair share policy. Regardless of how many fishone caught, everyone got an equal share.
After the crew descaled the fish, cut them into pieces, and portioned them out into bags, each passenger drew a number to determine which bag they would get.
Mr Tan Sze Wah, 43, the managing director of a petroleum company, said: "It is great way of relaxing, especially with old friends, and we're doing what we really love.
"It also helps us de-stress from the daily pressures of work."
It took me more than 35 minutes to pull the shark out of the water. I was really exhausted, but that's the thrill of fishing.
- Mr Long Chee Kiong, one of the anglers on the fishing trip
Singer Sufi Rashid's fans give him money after fire
S'porean winner of Akademi Fantasia had to shut his new KL restaurant for a month after blaze in kitchen
A fire at his restaurant showed just how loyal fans can be.
Kuala Lumpur-based Singapore singer Sufi Rashid experienced this first-hand, when a kitchen fire in his new Kuala Lumpur restaurant De'Tulang Merah on March 19, forced him to shut it for over a month.
The eatery, which he co-owns with three other Singaporean and Malaysian partners, had been open for a month when an electrical fault reduced his kitchen to soot.
It re-opened on April 25.
It was during this low point that Sufi, who soared to fame across the Causeway after becoming the first Singaporean to win popular Malaysian reality TV singing competition Akademi Fantasia last year, received unwavering - and unexpected - support from his fans.
The 25-year-old told The New Paper over the phone from Kuala Lumpur: "My fans were sad for me because it was my first business venture and they really wanted to help.
"(According to my manager), some made monetary contributions which came in envelopes, and some even passed it to my other partners.
"Others even came down to help clean up and help where they could to quicken the process."
AFTERMATH: The kitchen in Sufi Rashid's restaurant was damaged in a fire on March 19.
Even though one of Sufi's Singapore fans, Ms Azzahara Muhamad, didn't manage to assist her idol financially, she has lent her support by patronising De'Tulang Merah twice so far.
The 26-year-old told TNP: "I just pray everything will be fine once again and may he have the strength to face the challenges...
"As a fan, I will provide my neverending motivation and encouragement as we know he feels sad and is stressed. When the restaurant was up and running, I felt happy for him and recently went down."
According to Sufi, who was named Most Popular Male Artiste at the Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian awards ceremony held in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month, renovation works have totalled RM25,000 (S$8,400).
He also estimates the loss in business to have cost him a five-figure sum. On top of losing the revenue for that month, he was forced to cancel bookings for events at the restaurant.
"The whole process to get it up and running again was very hard and time-consuming, but thankfully everyone put this at the top of their list to get it done and back up within a month," said Sufi.
He also redesigned the kitchen space so as to prevent similar incidents from occurring again.
He said: "We broke the partitions and made the area more spacious. Our kitchen equipment and ingredients are also arranged in a more systematic manner as compared to before, when it was a little cramped.
"We also spread the equipment out rather than placing it all in one corner so in the event of an electrical fault, the fire won't spread so fast.
"I even did a bit of research on electrical components to familiarise myself with what could go wrong and not overload the power sources."
But despite getting back on his feet, Sufi still has lingering concerns.
He said: "Business is (picking up), but many people still think the restaurant is closed.
"Even though I've made posts on social media, it's hard to convey the message to people because Malaysia is such a big country."
My fans were sad for me because it was my first business venture and they really wanted to help.
- Kuala Lumpur-based Singapore singer Sufi Rashid