2014 World Cup starts taking shape with Saturday’s qualifying draw

RIO DE JANEIRO – The 2014 World Cup begins to take shape on Saturday when FIFA hosts the qualifying draw, laying out each nation’s path to try to secure a spot in the tournament.

It will be the first major World Cup-related event in Brazil since 2007, when the South American nation was awarded the competition for the first time in 64 years.

As host, Brazil is the only nation which won’t have to qualify, but 203 other teams will have to fight for the remaining 31 spots in qualifiers that will run through November 2013.

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Defending World Cup champion Spain will find out in which of the nine Europeans groups it will play. The draw will also allocate the groups for Asia, Africa, Oceania and the North, Central America and Caribbean regions.

Canada will find out who it will be playing in the second round of CONCACAF qualifying. The 105th-ranked Canadians will be placed in a group of four and will have to win the group to advance to the third round when all the top CONCACAF teams join in.

South America will not be included in the draw because the continent’s nine teams will be placed in a single group. They will play each other twice, home and away, with the top four finishers securing a World Cup spot. The fifth-placed team will advance to an intercontinental playoff.

The 2014 World Cup will be played from June 12-July 13, and the complete match schedule will be announced in October. The schedule was expected to be made public this week, but delays with Brazil’s stadium construction, which led to indecision on which of the 12 host cities will host the opener, have apparently forced organizers to delay the announcement.

Brazilian soccer federation president Ricardo Teixeira on Friday dismissed concerns over the country’s preparations, and said that all World Cup projects have been approved. He added that the 12 host cities have the financial guarantees needed to host the monthlong event due to begin in less than three years.

“The draw will present a unique opportunity to start showing the intense transformation taking place in Brazil,” Teixeira said. “The draw’s success will serve an example of what Brazil will offer to the world in the next few years.”

The preliminary draw will be preceded by festivities and attractions staged by local artists, including singer Ivete Sangalo. More than 35 coaches and representatives from 104 national teams are expected to attend. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Pele and Michel Platini are also expected at the event, which will be held at the Marina da Gloria harbour in Rio.

Saturday’s draw will take place amid protests from some Brazilians who have criticized the World Cup. Rights groups say construction work for the soccer competition and the 2016 Rio Olympics have come at a cost to some local residents who will benefit very little from the events. Most complaints come from those who are being evicted from their homes so infrastructure projects can be put in place.

Representatives of poor communities are planning a march to promote the “People’s Cup” on Saturday, with the protest taking place near the draw venue.

“While the US$20 million party for choosing the qualifying groups for the 2014 World Cup is happening, thousands of the city’s residents are being removed from their homes in preparation for the tournament, street vendors are prevented from working and the vast majority of the population will not have enough money to pay for tickets to the World Cup,” the representatives said in a statement Friday.

There is also a protest planned against federation president Teixeira, who recently was cleared by FIFA of bribery allegations but has been constantly attacked by local media for alleged irregularities running Brazilian soccer.

The draw comes a few days after FIFA President Sepp Blatter denied suggestions he was a dictator and asked for time to clear up corruption allegations involving soccer’s scandal-ridden governing body. FIFA last week banned former presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam over allegations he tried to bribe Caribbean soccer leaders in an effort to unseat Blatter.

There will be 166 countries participating in Saturday’s draw, and their pot allocation will be based on the latest FIFA world rankings. FIFA said that it will not draw together Azerbaijan and Armenia nor Russia and Georgia because of political conflicts which could lead to fan violence during qualifying matches.

FIFA also said that Oman was included in the draw after its match against Myanmar on Thursday was halted by the referee in second-leg injury time because fans repeatedly hurled objects onto the field in Myanmar. Oman was winning 2-0 – it had also won the first leg by the same score – and FIFA confirmed the result would stand.

The qualifiers began on June 15 and will end Nov. 19, 2013, after 824 matches.

The total of 203 teams vying for a World Cup spot surpasses the 200 that participated four years ago. The only associations not to have signed up to compete this time around are Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Guam and Mauritania.

Seven nations have qualified for each of the last six World Cups – Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Spain and the United States. Germany has been the most successful team in World Cup qualifiers so far, with only two losses in 74 matches.

Long way away: Danton resumes pro career with third-tier Swedish team IFK Ore

Mike Danton’s professional hockey career is resuming a long way from the NHL.

The 30-year-old forward is joining Swedish team IFK Ore, which plays in the third tier of the country’s pro system. General manager Jens Nielsen confirmed the Danton signing to The Canadian Press on Friday, but declined further comment.

Danton spent the past two seasons with the Saint Mary’s Huskies in Canadian university hockey after serving five years in a U.S. prison for a failed murder-for-hire plot.

The former NHLer tweeted about his move on Thursday night: “Just signed my first pro contract in eight years. I’m off to Sweden for the 2011-2012 season. Thanks to everyone for their support.”

IFK Ore is based in the small village of Furudal, which is a little over 300 kilometres north of Stockholm. The team plays out of the 32-year-old Furudals Hockeycenter, which has a capacity of 796. It averaged 169 fans per game last season.

Nielsen told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that signing Danton was a “great deal” for the team and expressed hope that he’ll be a role model for the younger players. He’s not concerned about the player’s past.

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“Of course we have discussed his past, but you can’t judge someone for life,” Nielsen told Svenska Dagbladet. “What’s done is done, and now he seems eager to get away from North America and find the calm here.”

Danton’s time at Saint Mary’s was a success. He enrolled in psychology at the Halifax university a few months after getting released from prison and was named an academic all-Canadian because of a straight-A average.

Even though he didn’t dominate on the ice – Danton had three goals and five points in 28 regular-season games last season – he helped the school win its first CIS hockey championship in 2010.

All along, the allure of pro hockey remained. After Danton’s parole ended in January, he was essentially free to pursue a playing career again with restrictions lifted on his ability to travel.

“I think anybody at this level would want to play at the highest level possible for them – for me, that would be the NHL,” Danton told The Canadian Press then. “I’d like to get back to playing there. To be honest with you, yeah, it’s in my mind.

“It’s something I’d like to do.”

Danton was a fifth-round pick by New Jersey in 2000 and played 87 career NHL games for the Devils and St. Louis. He was arrested while a member of the Blues in 2004 following a playoff game in San Jose, Calif.

U.S. prosecutors said Danton’s intended target in the murder-for-hire plot was David Frost, a controversial figure who was his agent at the time. However, Danton suggested to the National Parole Board in 2009 that the target was his father, with whom he has been estranged.

The target wasn’t identified in the agreed-to facts that were part of the court record when Danton pleaded guilty.

HEALTHY PLATE: Recipe for salmon with shiitake hash is easy to cook

Though relatively high in fat – especially compared to most white fish – salmon is a great choice for a healthy diet.

That’s because salmon’s fats fall mostly in the good-for-your-heart unsaturated category. Which is a happy coincidence, because that fat happens to be key to salmon’s moist texture and rich, indulgent flavour. It also makes it a breeze to cook. The oils in salmon make it hard to overcook and dry out.

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So for a simple and healthy summer dinner, we’ve paired salmon with a mushroom hash. The earthy flavour of shiitake mushrooms mixed with shredded potatoes complements the rich fish. And a touch of soy sauce lends a pleasantly salty touch to cut through the oil.

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SALMON WITH SHIITAKE HASH

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil, divided

175 grams (6 oz) shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

2 shallots, chopped

1 small red onion, chopped

2 small red potatoes, grated

30 ml (2 tbsp) low-sodium soy sauce

Ground black pepper, to taste

Four 125-gram (4-oz) salmon fillets

1 scallion, thinly sliced

In a large saute pan over high, heat 15 ml (1 tbsp) of the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and saute until well-browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-high, then add the shallots and onion. Saute for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the onion becomes soft. Add the potatoes and continue to cook until the potatoes are tender and beginning to brown. Season with the soy sauce and black pepper.

In another large saute pan over medium-high, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the salmon fillets for 4 to 5 minutes per side, or to desired doneness. Serve each piece of salmon with the shiitake hash. Top everything with a sprinkling of scallions.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 310 calories; 130 calories from fat (41 per cent of total calories); 14 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 60 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 26 g protein; 2 g fibre; 250 mg sodium.

Recipes for buttery roasted tomato and banana-manchego bruschettas

Admittedly, bananas are an unusual choice for bruschetta. But as I stared down a heap of soon-to-be-brown bananas and considered their sometimes savoury uses elsewhere in the world, I couldn’t think of a good reason not to try them on a simple summer bruschetta.

Like potatoes, bananas are starchy, meaning they do a nice job of absorbing other flavours. The difference is the sugar content. But making that work in a savoury dish is just a matter of balance. Add some heat, some salt, some acid and it should be good to go.

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So that’s where I started. I gave some banana slices a quick splash of lime juice and olive oil, followed by a sprinkle of kosher salt and cayenne. I then set that over some arugula (the bitter greens are a nice contrast to the sweet bananas) on a slice of sourdough. A final topping of shredded manchego and my so-very-not-Italian bruschetta was ready for the oven.

The result? Oddly, unexpectedly good. Seriously. It’s the perfect open-face sandwich to accompany a salad for a summer lunch or light dinner. And it’s ready in no time.

But if you simply refuse to trust me on the bananas, substitute sliced fresh peaches or even thin slices of apple. Either alternative is quite delicious. Still not buying it? I’ve also included my favourite tomato bruschetta, which is made more delicious than normal thanks to a pat of butter added at the end.

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BANANA-MANCHEGO BRUSCHETTA

Start to finish: 10 minutes

Servings: 2

1 large ripe banana, peeled

15 ml (1 tbsp) lime juice

15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil

2 slices sourdough bread

250 ml (1 cup) arugula

Pinch cayenne

Pinch kosher salt

125 ml (1/2 cup) grated manchego cheese

Heat the oven to 230 C (450 F).

Slice the banana in half crosswise, then slice each piece in half lengthwise to create a total of 4 pieces. Place the banana slices in a small bowl, then drizzle with the lime juice and olive oil. Gently toss the bananas to coat, then set aside.

Top each slice of bread with half of the arugula, then set 2 bananas slices over each. Sprinkle each with a bit of cayenne and salt, then half of the cheese. Toast for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 380 calories; 140 calories from fat (37 per cent of total calories); 16 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 43 g carbohydrate; 18 g protein; 3 g fiber; 820 mg sodium.

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BUTTERY ROASTED TOMATO BRUSCHETTA

Start to finish: 25 minutes

Servings: 2

4 plum tomatoes

Olive oil

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 large slices sourdough bread

15 ml (1 tbsp) chopped fresh rosemary

45 ml (3 tbsp) butter, cut into very small pieces

Heat the oven to 260 C (500 F).

Cut each tomato in half top-to-bottom, then trim out the tough stem area at the top of each half. Use your fingers to scoop out and discard the pulpy-watery centre of each half, then place the tomatoes in a medium bowl. Drizzle the tomatoes with about 30 ml (2 tbsp) of oil, then toss to coat.

Arrange the tomatoes on a baking sheet, then season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, or until starting to brown.

Meanwhile, drizzle the bread with a bit of olive oil, then sprinkle half of the rosemary over each. During the final 5 minutes the tomatoes are roasting, add the bread to the oven to toast.

Remove the bread and tomatoes from the oven. Use a spoon to immediately arrange 4 tomato halves over each slice of bread. Sprinkle half of the butter pieces over each, then return the bruschetta to the oven for 1 minute, or until the butter just melts.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 570 calories; 410 calories from fat (73 per cent of total calories); 46 g fat (15 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 33 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 3 g fiber; 810 mg sodium.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook “High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking.” Follow him to great eats on Twitter at 杭州桑拿按摩论坛twitter杭州夜网/JM_Hirsch or email him at jhirsch(at)ap杭州夜网.

HSBC Bank Canada second-quarter profit up 7.3 per cent to $191 million

VANCOUVER – Canada’s largest foreign-owned bank, HSBC Bank Canada, reported Friday its second-quarter profit attributable to common shareholders rose 7.3 per cent to $191 million on lower loan impairment charges and higher fee income.

“Once again we focused on building on our global capabilities through the HSBC Group to meet our customer needs, and maintaining strong capital and liquidity levels,” president and CEO Lindsay Gordon said in a statement.

The bank’s return on average common equity was down slightly from a year earlier at 21.3 per cent versus 21.6 per cent. Total assets were $81.5 billion at the end of the quarter compared to $79.1 billion at the same point in 2010. Total assets under administration increased to $32.3 billion from $29.4 billion.

Loan impairment charges and other credit risk provisions fell 56.9 per cent to $31 million.

Overall profits for the quarter were $208 million, up four per cent from $200 million in the same period a year earlier.

Net interest income for the period was $390 million down from $410 million in the same period a year earlier on lower loan volumes, the bank said, “resulting from reduced commercial borrowings and consumer finance receivables, and spread compression on deposits resulting from competitive pressures.”

Net fee income for the quarter was $162 million compared with $158 million a year earlier, while net trading income dropped to $36 million from $61 million a year earlier when the bank accounted for a $21 million recovery of previously recorded losses related to asset-backed commercial paper.

HSBC Bank Canada, is a subsidiary of London-based HSBC Holdings PLC with more than 260 offices, including more than 140 bank branches in Canada.

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