Outright leads for Al-Attiyah, Sunderland, Sonik at Qatar Cross-Country Rally

Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah during the third day action Thursday in the Qatar Cross-Country Rally
Updated 20 April 2017
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Outright leads for Al-Attiyah, Sunderland, Sonik at Qatar Cross-Country Rally

LOSAIL, Qatar: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Austria’s Matthias Walkner and Poland’s Rafal Sonik claimed victories in the third stage of the Qatar Cross-Country Rally, but Al-Attiyah, Dubai-based Briton Sam Sunderland and Sonik held the overall advantages in the car, motorcycle and quad categories after a windy day’s action in the Qatar deserts.
The day’s stage of 353.02km started near Sealine, passed the Inland Sea and then meandered across to the west coast before heading north to an eventual finish at Mekaines. Al-Attiyah attacked through the early sand dunes and began to eat into Yazeed Al-Rajhi’s virtual stage lead. The Saudi had moved to the top of the rankings when overnight leader Jakub Przygonski lost time in the sand.
Al-Attiyah continued to dominate throughout the day and, when Al-Rajhi withdrew from the stage after 277km following suspension damage in a ditch, the Qatari stormed to the top of the leaderboard and now holds an advantage of 3min 23.7sec over Toyota team-mate Leeroy Poulter, the South African making his first appearance in the Middle East.
Al-Attiyah said: “The car is working very well and we do our job and our target to win the stage. Now we are leading and try to keep going like this. The wind made it not easy and we had a small mistake in the dunes and we lose around three minutes. But we came back strong.”
“We broke the front left in a ditch and tried to drive the stage slowly, step-by-step, but then we decided to (pull) out,” said Al-Rajhi, who arrived in Losail with a Mini sporting a puncture and broken front-left suspension. “It got worse and worse. We see tomorrow what our start position will be and we will push.”
Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi carded the second quickest time to move up to fifth overall behind third-placed Qatari Mohammed Abu Issa and Przygonski. Dutchman Erik van Loon was sixth in a third Toyota Hilux run by Overdrive Racing.
KTM Red Bull Factory Team rider Sunderland made a storming start from the front in the motorcycle category and stayed well ahead of his rivals through the first two checkpoints. But his pursuers managed to close in over the faster sections as the stage progressed and Austrian Matthias Walkner claimed the stage win and moved up to third overall.
Walkner said: “I realize now that I won the stage. Sure, it helps a bit when you start at the back. It was so windy out there and almost on the limits for the safety reasons. Sometimes you did not see any piste or nothing. It was really hard, but I am happy that I make up for the time loss yesterday. The dunes were okay because Sam did a great job to leave the lines to follow. But, after the refueling, it was getting really difficult with the navigation and I slow down a lot.”
Sunderland continues to lead outright by 6min 28.9sec from Monster Energy Honda team rider Paulo Gonçalves. Pablo Quintanilla of the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Team holds fourth and Honda’s Kevin Benavides is fifth. Ride to Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Balooshi holds eighth place.
Gonçalves was upbeat after his second place: ”I did another good stage. There were sand dunes at the beginning and then we arrived at the fast stony tracks. Before refueling, Sam push a lot and I cannot catch him. Then he did a mistake and I start to open the track. I am happy. The bike ran perfectly. We have two days more and a long race in front.”
Alexis Hernandez lost his quad lead when he was penalized for missing two waypoints and the Peruvian slipped to second after day three behind the day’s stage winner Rafal Sonik.
Qatar’s Adel Abdulla lost his T2 category lead in the sand dunes south of Sealine and that opened the door for Abu Dhabi Racing’s Mansour Al-Helai to claim the stage win and move ahead of Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Saeidan in the standings. The duo are 12th and 13th overall. Qatar’s Mohammed Al-Harqan is third.

“From the first 20km from the start, the temperature of the engine went up and we stopped to try and fix it,” said Adel Abdulla. “The fan had broken. Problems are chasing me from the beginning of the season. I tried my best not to miss any waypoints. You never know. There are still two long days to go.”
Saudi Arabia’s Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi finished the shorter non-FIM section on his Yamaha quad for a second day, with fellow countryman Sultan Al-Masood running behind.


Saudi Arabia call up uncapped striker in bid to increase World Cup firepower

Updated 10 min 3 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia call up uncapped striker in bid to increase World Cup firepower

DUBAI: Al Qadisiyah’s 20-year-old striker Haroun Kamara has been given an opportunity to stake an unlikely claim for a World Cup spot after being surprisingly named in Juan Antonio Pizzi’s squad for a three-week training camp in Spain.
Kamara, who was born in Jeddah to Guinean parents, has only made seven league appearances for lowly Al-Qadisiyah, scoring four goals and claiming two assists, but he has been given the chance to shine in friendlies against Algeria on May 9 and Greece six days later and book a seat on the plane to Russia.
The youngster follows in the footsteps of the likes of Somalian-British Mukhtar Ali and Egyptian Ahmed Al-Fiqi as the Saudi Football Federation look to harness the pool of players born in the Kingdom to expats and increase the depth of the Green Falcons’ squad.
Pizzi has turned to Kamara as he has struggled to find options in attack. Hazza Al-Hazza and Mujahid Al-Mania, who were both given their debuts over the past six months, failed to convince upfront, while Mohannad Assiri has one goal for his country in more than seven years. Mohammed Al-Sahlawi, who has 26 goals in 33 internationals, is favorite to lead the line but Pizzi needs more options in attack.
In goal, Yasir Al-Mosaileem, Mohammed Al-Owais and Fawaz Al-Qarni retain their place in the squad, while Al-Nassr’s Waleed Abdullah, who featured in the last squad, made way for Al-Hilal’s Abdullah Al-Mayouf. Only three goalkeepers will be selected for the final 23-man squad.
In defense, Ali Al-Bulayhi is in line for a debut, having established himself as a key player at the heart of Al-Hilal defense, while Mohammed Al-Burayk’s performances at right-back for the Blues earned him a recall to the squad for the first time under Pizzi, replacing Al-Shabab’s Hassan Muath.
The three Hawsawis, Osama, Omar and Motaz, retain their places as do full-backs Yasir Al-Shahrani, Mansour Al-Harbi and Saeed Al-Muwallad.
The backline is edging closer to taking shape as Mohammed Jahfali, who was first brought into the squad in March’s friendlies against Ukraine and Belgium, looks to have done enough to convince Pizzi to hand him a second opportunity.
There were no real surprises in midfield as the team is boosted by the recovery of two high-profile names. Nawaf Al-Abed makes his long-awaited return to the national team set-up, having suffered an injury in November’s ill-fated Portugal camp under departed coach Edgardo Bauza. Al-Abed’s Al-Hilal teammate, Salman Al-Faraj, is also back in the squad after recovering from a three-month injury lay-off.
Spain-based trio Fahad Al-Muwallad, Yahya Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari miss out due to club commitments, with Mohammed Kanno, Hattan Bahebri and Mohammed Al-Kuwaikbi taking their places.

Saudi Arabia squad for games against Algeria (May 9) and Greece (May 15)

Goalkeepers: Yasir Al-Mosaileem, Mohammed Al-Owais, Fawaz Al-Qarni, Abdullah Al-Mayouf.
Defenders: Osama Hawsawi, Motaz Hawsawi, Omar Hawsawi, Mohammed Jahfal, Ali Al-Bulayhi, Mohammed Al-Burayk, Saeed Al-Muwallad, Yasir Al-Shahrani, Mansour Al-Harbi.
Midfielders: Abdulmalik Al-Khaibari, Abdllah Al-Khaibari, Ibrahim Ghaleb, Abdullah Otayf, Taisir Al-Jassim, Hussein Al-Moqahwi, Salman Al-Faraj, Nawaf Al-Abed, Mohammad Kanno, Mohammed Al-Kuwaikbi, Hattan Bahebri.
Forwards: Mohammed Al-Sahlawi, Mohannad Assiri, Haroun Kamara