Steve Spagnuolo is the definition of a football lifer.

He's been in coaching since 1981, when he took on a job as a graduate assistant at the University of Massachusetts and, since being appointed as a defensive assistant on Andy Reid's original Philadelphia Eagles staff in 1999, he has developed a reputation as an aggressive coach who is not afraid to send the house in order to get results.

Now 24 years on, he is again on coach Reid's staff, having served as the defensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs since 2019. That description perhaps does not paint a completely accurate picture of a coach who is more versatile in his approach than he is given credit for.

Spagnuolo will indeed go on the attack. In the 2022 regular season, only four teams blitzed with six or more pass rushers more frequently than the Chiefs, who did so 6.6 per cent of the time.

But the fact his defense is set to go against the Eagles' offense in Super Bowl LVII is in part a tribute to Spagnuolo's malleability.

The Chiefs were in the top half of the NFL when it came to overall blitz rate in the regular season, but their rate of 26.9 per cent was only enough for 15th in the NFL.

Kansas City sent four pass rushers 70.8 per cent of the time when defending aerial attacks, but they still led the NFL in pressures with 299.

In other words, Spagnuolo's defense can win with the blitz, but it can also succeed frequently getting pressure with just four down linemen, which is critical for every defense in an era where two-high safety coverages that protect against explosive plays have never been more prevalent.

The Chiefs' defense finished the regular season as the eighth-best by yards per play allowed and ranked ninth by Stats Perform's Efficiency Versus Expected (EVE) metric.

It is in the postseason, though, where Spagnuolo's defenses continually come alive.

That was the case in 2007 when his New York Giants defense held the finest offense in New England Patriots history, one that propelled them to an beaten 16-0 regular-season record, to just 14 points in Super Bowl XLII.

His first season with the Chiefs ended in Super Bowl glory as they swarmed Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers late in the fourth quarter in an underrated aspect of Kansas City's 31-20 comeback win in Super Bowl LIV. In the 2020 postseason, only a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that ruined the Chiefs' hopes of a repeat at the final hurdle had more pressures than Kansas City's 55.

And this postseason the Chiefs have again risen to the challenge on defense.

The Chiefs have racked up seven sacks in the postseason, second only to the Eagles, and tallied 23 pressures of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in the AFC Championship Game, the most crucial being a sack by Chris Jones that gave the ball back to Patrick Mahomes for a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.

Spagnuolo, though, does not appear interested in taking credit for the continual joy his defenses find in the playoffs, pointing more to the impact of players like Jones than any schematic wizardry.

"I always say this, what you've done in the past or prior games doesn't mean anything going into these games, it's all about our guys stepping up and doing it again," said Spagnuolo on Thursday. 

"Chris Jones, if he's having the game he had last week [in the AFC Championship Game] that certainly helps us, we need our best players to play their best football and I think it comes back to those guys, I think that's why in the big moments we've been able to do that.

"None of that matters now, it's a whole different game and different gameplan, hopefully we can find 60 more minutes of good football."

Speak to the Chiefs' defenders, however, and they won't hesitate to wax lyrical about their coach's prowess for putting them in positions to thrive.

Rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie has enjoyed an excellent rookie season, allowing a combined open percentage across man and zone coverage of 21.54 that is tied for the fourth-best among all corners, according to Stats Perform data.

McDuffie credits Spagnuolo's paternal influence and the varied way in which he uses his defensive backs as key reasons why he has thrived in year one.

McDuffie told Stats Perform: "He's very detailed, which could be tough at times because when you make one little mistake he catches it and it's like 'man yeah I was in the wrong', but he's such a loving dude, he's become such a father figure for me at least, I don't think I could have been here without just the guidance from him and the wisdom he's given me.

"I just love the mentality that our defense is aggressive, we are going to attack the offense, if you're a defensive player knowing you have an offensive gear like 'we're going to go attack the offense', it makes the game much more fun, because you can do so much more. I'm blitzing, I'm playing zone, I'm playing man. He's allowed me to do so much in the defense."

The numbers reflect McDuffie's words. The Chiefs have predominantly dealt in the kind of two-deep safety coverages that have proliferated across the NFL because of the threat posed by their own quarterback, Patrick Mahomes.

Cover 4, Cover 6 and Cover 2 are the coverages in which they have primarily lived, however, they have also played Cover 2 man, where every coverage defender except for the two deep safeties plays man coverage, on 8.92 per cent of pass defense snaps, well above the league average of 2.7 per cent.

Kansas City's defense does often get extremely aggressive when blitzing, playing Cover 1 man, where every coverage defender plays man except for a deep safety, on 25.24 per cent of blitzes, and Cover 0 – where there are no deep defenders – on 18.57 per cent of blitzes.

But there are still a significant amount of zone blitzes mixed in. The Chiefs run quarters (Cover 4) when blitzing 19.52 per cent of the time and Cover 2 on 9.52 per cent of blitzes.

Spagnuolo does look to 'attack the offense', but he takes a multi-faceted approach to doing so, one which consistently pays off in high-leverage situations.

The Chiefs have 27 sacks in the postseason since 2019, 16 of which have come in the second half or overtime, with five in the final two minutes.

Perhaps it is therefore Spagnuolo's timing that is the foundation for the success of his playoff defenses.

Against the Eagles, picking his spots will be crucial.

Aggression will almost certainly need to be tempered given Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts' aptitude for capitalising on attack-mode defenses through his prowess running the zone-read, the read-option and the run-pass option.

It sets up a fascinating battle between arguably the NFL's most diverse and devastating offense, which consistently makes life easy on its quarterback, and a defense that is significantly more dynamic than many believe and excels at putting quarterbacks in difficult positions in the most important moments.

For Spagnuolo, the challenge is to craft a gameplan that maintains the attacking tendencies of his defense while protecting against the array of dangers Hurts presents.

"There's a lot of responsibility football when you play that kind of offense," Spagnuolo said.

"If we can be good on first and second down to get them in the long third downs, then maybe we can do that [attack], short of that you're always facing the possibility of a run or an RPO on any down and distance, and if you're doing something, you know it could be a big play for you, but it might be a really big play for them."

It's quite the dilemma for Spagnuolo to solve. Fortunately for the Chiefs, history is on the side of him succeeding.

The Houston Astros locked up World Series hero Cristian Javier on a five-year contract extension on Friday worth $66million.

First reported by Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle, securing the long-term services of their 25-year-old budding ace was one of new Astros general manager Dana Brown's "foremost objectives during his first month on the job".

After primarily operating as a relief pitcher in 2021, with only nine starts among his 36 total appearances, Javier was promoted to a full-time starter in 2022.

He made 25 starts, and his 2.54 ERA was the second-best on the team among players to pitch at least 100 innings, trailing only AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander (1.75 ERA).

The Dominican-born Javier made headlines in June when he struck out 13 batters in a combined no-hitter at Yankee Stadium, and his star went up another level in the postseason.

In Game 4 of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Javier threw six no-hit innings to set up only the second World Series no-hitter in MLB history.

From his two combined starts against the Yankees and the Phillies in the postseason, Javier pitched 11-and-a-third innings for 14 strikeouts, one hit, five walks and no runs.

According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, the new deal will pay Javier – who has never made more than $749,100 in any of his three seasons so far – $3m plus a $2m signing bonus in 2023, $7m in 2024, $10m in 2025, and $21m in both 2026 and 2027 when he would have been eligible to enter free agency.

Open Sud de France top seed Holger Rune stayed on course to make the final in Montpellier after a straight-sets defeat of Gregoire Barrere.

Last year's Paris Masters champion Rune, who is in the hunt for his first title of the season, beat the Frenchman 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-5) and is yet to drop a set in the tournament.

The 19-year-old looks sharp, but so too does Jannik Sinner. Two years Rune's senior, the Italian made light work of his good friend and compatriot Lorenzo Sonego on Friday.

Sinner took just over 90 minutes to triumph 6-4 6-2 and tee up a semi-final with history-making 18-year-old Arthur Fils.

Fils, the world number 163, beat Quentin Halys to become the youngest Frenchman to reach a tour-level semi-final since Richard Gasquet in 2004.

"I have seen him [Fils] play here at this tournament," Sinner said of Fils, as quoted by the ATP Tour's official website.

"He is very strong physically already. He understands the game very well. He started off the year very well, so it is going to be an interesting match for sure."

Sinner will be the favourite despite Fils' hot streak, while Rune will go up against Maxime Cressy in a rematch of their Australian Open second-round match.

Cressy went down 7-5 6-4 6-4 in that meeting in Melbourne last month, though has the chance for revenge after seeing off Borna Coric 7-6 (7-2) 6-4.

Tom Brady has filed his retirement letter with the NFL and National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), effectively rubber-stamping the end of his professional career, according to reports.

The veteran quarterback originally announced his retirement last year following two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, before walking back on his decision.

Following Tampa Bay's defeat in the Wild Card round to the Dallas Cowboys last month, however, the 45-year-old announced he was to quit for good.

On Friday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Brady has written to the league and the NFLPA to formally confirm his decision to retire.

The move makes the seven-time Super Bowl winner eligible for the Class of 2028 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to which he is likely to be an immediate inductee.

Across a two-decade-plus tenure following his selection by the New England Patriots, Brady became one of the NFL's undisputed greats.

During his time in New England he won six Super Bowls, before adding a seventh ring to his collection during his spell in Florida with the Buccaneers.

Brady is set to take up a role as a broadcaster with Fox Sports for their NFL coverage following his retirement, though he will not start in the role until 2024.

He is due to instead take a year out from the sport, missing the 2023 season in all capacities, before he joins the commentary booth the following year.

J.J. Watt, the former Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals defensive end who announced his retirement in December, quoted tweeted Schefter's report with the caption: "I was unaware there was paperwork... Definitely not gonna [sic] fill that out, but definitely retired."

Thiago Silva has signed a one-year extension to remain at Chelsea until the end of the 2023-24 season.

The Blues targeted youth in the January transfer window, splashing out huge sums of cash on Enzo Fernandez, Mykhaylo Mudryk and Benoit Badiashile as part of a spending spree.

Of the seven permanent first-team additions to arrive at Stamford Bridge last month, only Mudryk is aged over 21. Joao Felix, at 23, is the oldest player to have come in during Chelsea's splurge, though he signed on a loan deal from Atletico Madrid.

Experience, then, will be crucial for Graham Potter, and Chelsea on Friday confirmed they had finalised an agreement with 38-year-old Silva.

The former Milan and Paris Saint-Germain defender had been set to become a free agent at the end of the campaign, but will now stay on for another year.

"I am honestly so happy to continue my career with the Blues," Silva told Chelsea's official website.

"When I signed my first contract here, it was to just do one year. Now it is already the fourth!

"I could not have imagined that, but really it is a very special moment for me to sign and stay at Chelsea."

Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly and co-controlling owner Behdad Eghbali added: "We're delighted that Thiago has decided to continue with Chelsea.

"He's a world-class talent, as he's proven over many years for club and country, and his experience, quality and leadership skills are vital to our vision going forward.

"We're thrilled he has extended his contract with us, and we look forward to more success with him ahead."

Silva, who has played 74 Premier League games since joining Chelsea in 2020, has won the Champions League, Super Cup and Club World Cup during his time in west London.

The Blues are enduring a disappointing campaign and need a turnaround in fortunes if they are to secure European football.

Potter's team have won just two of their last 12 league games and sit ninth, 10 points adrift of the Champions League places, ahead of a trip to West Ham on Saturday.

Top seed Daria Kasatkina succumbed to a surprise quarter-final exit against Zheng Qinwen at the Abu Dhabi Open as Belinda Bencic marched into the final four.

Kasatkina was blown away in just 78 minutes by Zheng, who only dropped three games in her 6-1 6-2 upset of the world number eight.

Zheng, who defeated world number 12 Jelena Ostapenko on Wednesday, executed her serve-and-volley approach expertly throughout, with the 20-year-old claiming the third top-10 victory of her career to reach her third tour-level semi-final.

Another Russian player stands between Zheng and a place in the final after eighth seed Liudmila Samsonova dispatched compatriot Veronika Kudermetova 6-3 6-3.

Bencic found form after edging a tough first set against qualifier Shelby Rodgers, who saw her run ended by a 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 defeat.

Second seed Bencic will face Beatriz Haddad Maia in the semi-finals after the Brazilian railed to beat Elena Rybakina 3-6 6-3 6-2 less than 24 hours after beating Yulia Putintseva in a marathon three-hour encounter.

Meanwhile, top seed Maria Sakkari secured her progress to the last four at the Linz Open with a 6-3 7-6 (10-8) straight sets win over Donna Vekic.

The Greek will face off with Petra Martic next, while Anastasia Potapova faces the unseeded Marketa Vondrousova in the other semi-final.

The NBA added three players to the player pool for the All-Star Game as injury replacements on Friday.

The Minnesota Timberwolves' Anthony Edwards, the Toronto Raptors' Pascal Siakam and the Sacramento Kings' De'Aaron Fox have been given the nod.

They are replacing three huge names, with Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Zion Williamson all missing the exhibition game in Salt Lake City on February 19.

Durant, Curry and Williamson were all selected as starters. Edwards, Siakam and Fox will be reserves, with Joel Embiid, Ja Morant and Lauri Markkanen getting promoted to the starting lineups.

While starters and traditional reserves are chosen for the All-Star Game by a combination of voting by players, coaches and fans, injury replacements are made by the office of NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

Edwards and Fox have been named All-Stars for the first time in their careers, while Siakam was previously honoured in the 2019-20 game.

Fox's selection gives the Kings a second representative in the game to go along with three-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis.

The other teams with multiple players selected are the Milwaukee Bucks (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday), Boston Celtics (Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown) and Memphis Grizzlies (Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.).

Antetokounmpo and LeBron James will serve as captains for the All-Star Game and – for the first time – will pick their teams on the night of the game, shortly before tip-off.

Kylian Mbappe will go on to win the Ballon d'Or many times, according to his World Cup nemesis Emiliano Martinez.

Goalkeeper Martinez won the Golden Glove award for his performances in Qatar, as he played a key role in Argentina's triumph.

Having proved to be the shoot-out hero against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, Martinez made a crucial stop from Randal Kolo Muani in Argentina's thrilling 3-3 draw with France in the final.

The Aston Villa shot-stopper proved his mettle again in the shoot-out, though it was his celebrations in the aftermath of Argentina's victory that drew criticism from French fans.

Having made a rude gesture while in possession of the Golden Glove award, Martinez was filmed leading chants including a slant at Mbappe in Argentina's dressing room, while he also held a doll with an Mbappe mask stuck to it during the squad's celebrations in Buenos Aires.

Martinez was one of the first to comfort Mbappe, who scored a hat-trick in the final and converted his penalty in the shoot-out, after the game at Lusail Stadium, and insisted no disrespect was intended.

"I didn't mean to hurt anyone," said Martinez, who has been nominated for a FIFA Best award following his achievements in Qatar, in an interview with Ole.

"Throughout my career I've grown up with the French and I've never had the slightest problem. You can ask [former Arsenal club-mate Olivier] Giroud what kind of person I am. I really like the French culture and mentality.

"The locker room thing should never have come out. When France beat us in 2018, I remember there were songs about [Lionel] Messi. If a team beats Brazil, they will sing about Neymar. There is nothing personal against Mbappe. I respect him enormously. If we sing about him or about Neymar, it is because they are the best."

Explaining why he held the doll during Argentina's open-top bus parade through the nation's capital, Martinez said: "People threw a lot of dolls at us along the way, they threw almost a hundred at us during the journey.

"At that moment a doll with Mbappe's face fell at my feet, I picked it up because it made me laugh, I grabbed it for two seconds and threw it back, that's all. How could I make fun of Mbappe?

"He scored four goals! Four goals in the final... He must think I'm his dummy! I repeat: I have enormous respect for Mbappe. I'll even tell you one thing: he's the best French player I've ever seen."

"After the game I told him that he could be proud of himself and keep his head up because he played a great game and was one of the best players in the world.

"I also told him that it was a pleasure to play against him, that he almost won this final alone. He is a boy with immense talent. I realised facing him that he is different. When Leo leaves football, he will win many Ballons d'Or."

Martinez, who quipped his team-mates think he is "crazy in the head", also believes he is capable of not only playing in, but also winning, the Champions League.

"I'm still hungry, I want to win the Champions League," the 30-year-old said. "Obviously, I would like to do it with Villa, but it will be difficult because the club is still in its growth phase.

"I won the most beautiful title there is with the national team, and now I'm aiming for the biggest title for clubs.

"I would like to win a title with Villa, but it's complicated. You should never lose hope, we'll see what will happen. I have the feeling that I have the level to play in the Champions League and try to win it."

And what about linking up with Mbappe at club level?

"I came close to playing in Ligue 1 several times when I was younger," added Martinez, who acknowledged he almost quit football due to a lack of game time while at Arsenal.

"PSG is a great club with great players. They aim to win the Champions League every year. Who wouldn't love to play there?! Leo and Kylian are cracks! Partners that any player dreams of having."

For most teams in most NFL seasons, the offensive linemen are not superstars.

Their work of attempting to prevent men of around 300 pounds from breaking into the backfield and trying to create lanes for the ground attack is a remarkably difficult one, but it is not normally one that is conducive to receiving large amounts of attention.

It may, therefore, seem a little bemusing on first blush to see center Jason Kelce with a plethora of cameras pointed in his face ahead of Super Bowl LVII.

Kelce is, of course, playing in special circumstances as he and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce prepare to become the first brothers to go against each other in a Super Bowl.

But the attention is not limited to Kelce. Tackles Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata each gathered a crowd this week at the Eagles' media availability and, as the former heavily emphasised ahead of their clash with the Chiefs on Sunday, being out of the ordinary is a defining trait of this group.

The makeup of the Eagles' offensive line is marked by its level of contrasts. Kelce and Johnson stand as the veteran lynchpins, two perennial All-Pros who have long since set the standard at their respective positions and are destined for the Hall of Fame.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is left tackle Mailata, the Australian former South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league player who was selected in the seventh round of the 2018 draft having never played a single down of American football but blossomed so quickly that he is now the Eagles' undisputed starter at one of the most critical positions on the roster and represents the biggest success story of the NFL's International Player Pathway program.

The stark difference in the journeys of the players anchoring the middle and the right side of the O-Line from that of the unexpected star on the left side is a situation unique to the Eagles. 

But the Eagles have thrived on being unique in 2022. Their multi-faceted offense is unique in how it slows even the strongest and fastest defenses through the way in which Philadelphia utilise their dual-threat quarterback, Jalen Hurts, who has experienced a leap few envisaged in 2022.

And the joy they have experienced on offense has come in large part because the mix of All-Pro veterans, two extremely dependable guards in Landon Dickerson and Isaac Seumalo, and a left tackle who has gone from greenhorn to a foundational piece of the attack has produced a calibre of play up front that no team in the NFL can match.

Indeed, the Eagles rank first in Stats Perform's pass block win rate and second in run block win rate, dominance that can be attributed to the approach of offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, whose distinctive coaching style helps make sure his group are never ill-prepared for any eventuality they might face on gameday.

"He's unique, he makes every meeting like a gameday with his voice," Johnson said of Stoutland.

"He's very loud, he asks a lot of questions, we call those 'cold calling' questions, which is like a pop quiz, a lot of that puts you on the spot, answer questions under duress. 

"He likes to simulate a game-like meeting room, which can be uncomfortable at times but you kind of respect it and you love it."

The numbers illustrate the merits of Stoutland's unconventional brand of coaching.

Johnson ranks second in pass block win rate (89.6 per cent) among offensive linemen with at least 100 total plays, Dickerson is ninth on that same list with a win rate of 83.5 per cent.

Dickerson's pressure rate allowed of 3.9 per cent is the best among all guards, while Kelce (2.0) and Johnson (2.9) rank second in that regard among centers and tackles respectively. 

Seumalo's 7.0 per cent may be less impressive, but it is still average (7.1) for guards this season.

Both Seumalo and Dickerson have unquestionably benefited hugely from playing next to Kelce, whose aggregate win rate across pass protection and run blocking of 83.48 per cent is the second-best in the NFL behind only Laremy Tunsil of the Houston Texans.

In the mind of Seumalo, who is finally solidified as a starter and was named a Pro Bowl alternate following years of persistent injury troubles, both Kelce and Stoutland deserve tremendous credit for how the Eagles' offensive line has coalesced into the elite unit in the NFL.

"To be a good offensive line you need really good players, and then Jeff Stoutland continually puts us in positions to be successful, we stick to our bread and butter and don't try to do too much," Seumalo told Stats Perform. 

"And then on the field Jason Kelce puts us in really good spots. When you have a combination of really good players, really smart players and an offensive line coach that continually puts us in good positions, it’s going to be successful. 

"Jeff Stoutland's work ethic is unmatched in terms of scheming and then knowing how to get guys lined up a certain way and also being ready for a lot of the grey.

"Being like 'let's show them what we expect' and then again, you're always going to get what you didn't see and then being ready to see that kind of stuff too. 

"Sometimes it's going to be tougher than what it should be, the easier and simpler you can make it the better."

Mailata's progress encapsulates Stoutland's ability to make things easy on his players. While he is still far from the finished article in pass protection, giving up a pressure rate of 11 per cent, he has excelled at preventing teams from disrupting the Eagles' ultra-versatile run game.

He has allowed a run disruption rate of 6.6 per cent that is ninth among all offensive tackles to have played at least 200 snaps in 2022, conceding a disruption to a defensive player on only 27 of his 411 run-blocking snaps.

Johnson believes there is much more to come from Mailata and Dickerson, who entered the NFL with the equivalent of a football masters degree having played at Alabama under Nick Saban but has still demonstrated surprisingly quick progress in making the switch from center to guard after suffering a knee ligament injury in his final season with the Crimson Tide.

"You look at it just the size they have with Mailata, Landon, the strength they have is unique," added Johnson.

"There's a lot of boxes they’re checking, which is physically gifted, speed, the more they're playing the better they're getting, they're on their way to be consistent top of the game every year."

Mailata and Dickerson checking those boxes has allowed Hurts and the Eagles' skill position-players to torment opponents who reside in the defensive box, with linebackers consistently crippled by hesitation due to the variety of threats they must account for when reading the Eagles' quarterback at the mesh point with his running back.

Hurts would of course not be able to generate such indecision in the minds of defenders without faith in the ability of his offensive line to hold up.

However, with aggressive defensive lines who get too far upfield in their efforts to pressure Philadelphia's quarterback extremely susceptible to the run, the line's odds of keeping the pass rush at bay are improved by facing defenders who are fighting their natural instincts, with that internal conflict also enabling the Eagles to get their blockers on the front foot in the run game and create chasms for Hurts, Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell to surge through.

"The threat of Jalen, he's become a really good passer this year, his ability to run and get a lot of offense there helps our offense tremendously and then his ability to scramble and make plays for sure is helpful, helps everybody, it’s definitely an advantage," added Seumalo.

In his praise of Hurts, Johnson once again leaned on what appears to be his favourite descriptor of this Eagles' attack.

"Just a unique guy with his strengths," said Johnson. "His ability to run, he's dynamic, so [with the] gameplan, you have to be very crafty with what you do because when the play breaks down he can scramble for 30 yards. Unique player."

Johnson clearly believes Philadelphia's offense, particularly the line, is one of one. Should the Eagles keep a Chiefs defense led by All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones at bay and prevail in Glendale, then there won't be many doubting Stoutland's group deserves recognition as one of the standout offensive lines of the Super Bowl era.

Tiger Woods is set to make his return to competitive golf at next week's Genesis Invitational, in what will represent his first non-major outing on the PGA Tour for over two years.

Woods has not played competitively since missing the cut at The Open at St Andrews last July, having struggled since he suffered serious leg injuries in a car crash in early 2021.

The 15-time major winner partnered Rory McIlroy in The Match in December, but he was unwilling to commit to playing regularly this year ahead of an outing alongside son Charlie at the PNC Championship that same month.

However, Woods announced on Friday that he had committed to the Genesis Invitational, the event run by his foundation at the Riviera Country Club in California.

"I'm ready to play an ACTUAL PGA Tour event next week @thegenesisinv," Woods tweeted.

The PGA Tour's communications account followed that message by saying: "Eighty-two-time PGA Tour winner Tiger Woods is committed to next week's Genesis Invitational.

"Thursday's first round will be Woods' first round in a non-major on the PGA Tour since the final round of the 2020 ZOZO Championship on October 25, 2020 (844 days ago)."

Woods has repeatedly said he will attempt to play a limited schedule including the major championships, with the injuries he suffered in 2021 requiring multiple surgeries and continuing to hamper his ability to walk.

Kieron Pollard’s half-century was not sufficient to prevent the MI Emirates from going down to a four-wicket loss to Gulf Giants in Qualifier 2 in Sharjah on Friday.

With the win Gulf Giants booked a place in Sunday’s 2023 ILT20 final where they will face Desert Vipers.

Coming off their emphatic eight-wicket victory over Dubai Capitals on Thursday MI Emirates looked a jaded team, scoring 167-5 from their 20 overs.

Pollard scored an unbeaten 57 from 35 balls while Nicholas Pooran contributed with 29 and opener Mohammad Waseem, 31.

Chris Jordan took 2-25 and David Wiese 2-31.

In reply, James Vince played a gem of an innings, scoring unbeaten 83 including the winning runs, a four off Fazalhaq Farooqi as Gulf Giants scored 168-6 from 18.1 overs.

Farooqi took 2-27 and Rashid Khan, 2-40 in the losing cause. Dwayne Bravo took 1-27.

 

 

 

Ollie Pope is not thinking about captaining England after Stuart Broad suggested he could be a future Test skipper.

Pope has graduated to a regular presence within Ben Stokes' side over the past year, with the rich form to back up his place.

A haul of 138 runs across December's three-game series with Pakistan further underlined his presence under Brendon McCullum.

Pope captained England against a New Zealand XI in their tour warm-up earlier this week, leading Broad to praise his abilities as a potential successor.

"I think Pope is a great leader in the group, actually," Broad said. "He's grown so much in the last year, the way he operates, the confidence and responsibility he's been given.

"He speaks really well in the group, he's got a great cricket mind. There's no doubt you can see him as a future England captain."

The 25-year-old is keeping a lid on any such notions, though.

"I don't necessarily see that," he told reporters. "I'm going to keep developing my cricket brain. If that opportunity came up in the future, I'll make sure I can learn as much as possible before then.

"But at the same time, I realise I've got a big job at number three to keep doing. If I can keep impressing there who knows what the future holds.

"I'll keep learning and developing as an all-round cricketer as much as I can. If that happens [and I become England captain], great. If not, that's okay."

Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema have been shortlisted for the FIFA Best Men's Player Award.

Messi led Argentina to glory at last year's World Cup, scoring seven times, including twice in the final, and laying on three assists.

That ended a 36-year wait for a third world title for Argentina, while for many his performances in Qatar cemented Messi as the greatest of all time.

Argentina overcame France on penalties in the showdown at Lusail Stadium on December 18, though it was not for the want of trying from Mbappe, who scored a hat-trick in a thrilling 3-3 draw, and like his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Messi also converted his spot-kick in the shoot-out.

Mbappe won the competition's Golden Boot award after netting eight goals, while he set up another two.

Between August 8, 2021 and December 18, 2022 – the time period on which this year's FIFA Best awards are based – Mbappe scored 58 goals for PSG, the highest figure of any player across Europe's top five leagues.

Third on that list is Real Madrid striker Benzema, who won last year's Ballon d'Or and makes up the final shortlist. He netted 50 times for Los Blancos, helping them win LaLiga and the Champions League, though he suffered an injury on the eve of the World Cup and had to withdraw from France's squad.

FIFA also confirmed the nominations for the Puskas Award for best goal.

Richarlison's stunning effort in Brazil's World Cup opener against Serbia has made the cut, as has an audacious half-volley from Dimitri Payet in Marseille's Europa Conference League clash with PAOK last April.

Marcin Oleksy, meanwhile, scored a sublime overhead kick for Warta Poznan amputee football against Stal Rzeszow, and the Pole joins Richarlison and Payet on the final shortlist.

The Best Women's Player Award will also be handed out at the FIFA ceremony on February 27.

Beth Mead was crucial in England's success at the Women's Euros last year, winning the Golden Boot and being named as Player of the Tournament.

Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas missed the tournament through injury but the Barcelona star makes the list, along with Alex Morgan.

Daniel Levy acknowledges he has made mistakes in the transfer market with Tottenham, but believes the club are still growing financially.

The Premier League outfit saw a 22.7 per cent increase in total revenue for the year ending June 2022, as disclosed in their annual financial results.

That has not assuaged fan concerns over the club's transfer policy however, with Spurs still experiencing a silverware drought despite spending more than £500million since April 2019.

Levy, who has been the target of vocal criticism over the direction Tottenham have gone under his leadership, defended his work this week but acknowledged his gambits had not always paid off.

"Our spend levels show we have invested in the team," he said. "However, we walk a fine line between long-term investment and short-termism.

"This is why our recruitment must be first class as mistakes at this level have a financial and sporting impact for future seasons.

"We have felt, and continue to feel, the financial impact of supporting player purchases which have not worked out as planned.

"We have taken steps to improve this area of operations, and we believe the recent transfer windows reflect this.

"Our aim has always been to combine the financial stability of the club with remaining competitive on the pitch. We have to do what is right for us and sustainable in the long term."

Tottenham have bought several players in recent seasons that have failed to live up to their price tags, including Tanguy Ndombele and Moussa Sissoko.

The former broke the club's spending record in a £55.45 million deal, but is now on loan at Napoli after struggling to impress in north London.

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