SPORTS NEWS IN BRIEF
CARDIFF - Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is raring to start as coach of Cardiff City and sees Saturday's third-round FA Cup clash at Newcastle as the perfect starting point. With Premier League survival top of the Welsh club's agenda, Solsjkaer could be forgiven for looking to ease himself into life at his new club.
BARCELONA, Spain - Nearly two months after he was sidelined with a hamstring injury, Argentine superstriker Lionel Messi was back with his FC Barcelona teammates on Friday for an open practice that drew more than 13,000 people to the club's mini stadium. The four-time World Player of the Year arrived in the city on Thursday after a month spent in Argentina.
LISBON - Cristiano Ronaldo is to be granted one of Portugal's highest honours by the country's president. A presidential statement Friday said that Ronaldo deserved the recognition because he is "a worldwide symbol of Portugal, making the country better known internationally, and an example of perseverance for younger generations."
GRENOBLE, France - Fans of Formula One legend Michael Schumacher on Friday prepared to hold a silent vigil for his 45th birthday as he lay in a coma at a French hospital after a weekend skiing accident.
Ferrari, which is bussing in fans from Italy to the hospital in the southeastern French city of Grenoble, put out a message on its website saying "Forza Michael", Italian for "go Michael".
MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin polished his action-man credentials on Friday by skiing in Sochi on the first day of a visit to the host city of the Winter Olympic Games opening in a month. The leader was joined by Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev for a run close to a complex that will be used for downhill and biathlon competitions in the Olympics.
AUCKLAND, Jan 4 AAP - Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has declined the offer of a wildcard for the Heineken Open after his early exit from the Qatar Open. The Auckland tournament's final wildcard will instead go to New Zealander Rubin Statham. Murray, the world No.4, was beaten by German Florian Mayer in Doha this week in the second round of his first ATP event since a back operation
BEIJING - Chinese superstar Li Na and compatriot Peng Shuai advanced at the Shenzhen Open tennis tournament on Friday to set up an all-Chinese final. Li, Asia's highest-ranking player in tennis history and the top seed at the WTA tournament, swept aside Germany's Annika Beck, who was seeded eighth, 6-1, 6-3.
AUCKLAND - Ana Ivanovic has powered past good friend Kirsten Flipkens to set up a dream final against fellow former world No.1 Venus Williams at the WTA tournament in Auckland. Seven-time grand slam winner Williams and 2008 French Open champion Ivanovic came to Auckland as the event's two big drawcards.