What needs to happen for the Green Falcons to soar into the World Cup?

Bert Van Marwijk issues last-minute instructions to his Saudi Arabia players. (SPA)
Updated 08 November 2017
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What needs to happen for the Green Falcons to soar into the World Cup?

Australia’s very nervy, but expected, 2-1 victory over Thailand in Melbourne now means Saudi Arabia know what they have to do when they face Japan to ensure qualification to next year’s World Cup in Russia.
The Socceroos bombarded Thailand’s goal, but it took a Mathew Leckie’s strike in the 86th minute to guarantee the Aussies all three points. Tomi Jurinc opened the scoring in the 69th minute before Pokklaw A-Nan shocked the hosts with 18 minutes left.
That has lifted Australia into second place in Group B, behind the already-qualified Japan, and has set the scene for the Green Falcons’ biggest match in over a decade.
Here’s Arab News’ lowdown on tonight’s crunch clash in Jeddah.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN FOR THE GREEN FALCONS TO FLY INTO THE WORLD CUP?
IF Saudi Arabia beat Japan, thanks to their superior goal difference, they are definitely through
IF Saudi Arabia draw Australia qualify automatically and the Green Falcons go into the fourth round where they’ll face the third-placed team — one of South Korea, Syria and Uzbekistan — from Group A.
IF Saudi Arabia lose then they could miss out altogether if they lose by five or more goals and the United Arab Emirates beat Iraq by four or more goals.

REASONS TO BE POSITIVE
1. Japan, although clearly by some distance the best team in Asia, are already through, and while there will be talk about putting in a good performance and ending qualification on a high, they’re only human and it will be only natural for them to take their foot off the gas.
2. The Samurai Blue only played five days ago, have had an 18-hour journey to Jeddah, will be jet lagged and not used to the noticeably hotter climate of the Kingdom at the moment. The hosts have had longer to prepare and will be used to the conditions.
3. Thanks to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, fans have free entry to the match. In these sort of clashes never underestimate how vital 60,000 passionate supporters could be if the match was still on a knife-edge with 15 minutes to go.

REASONS TO BE PESSIMISTIC
1. While Japan are already through and the coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, could rest some key players (Makoto Hasebe, the captain, will be missing, as will Shinji Kagawa) the fringe players will be desperate to impress the boss knowing that places to Russia are up for grabs.
2. A 2-1 defeat by the UAE last time out hinted at nerves with the finish line in sight. For a lot of these players, this is as good a chance of getting to a World Cup as they will get. Can they handle the pressure? The 60,000 fans will be desperate to see their country qualify for the first time since 2006 and can act as a 12th man. But if things don’t go the hosts’ way then nerves are all too easily transmitted from the stands to the pitch.
3. Japan have topped the group for a reason, they are far and away the best side in Asia and haven’t been beaten in qualification for over a year, a shock 2-1 home defeat by the UAE last September being the last time they tasted defeat. Whatever side they play, beating it will be no mean feat for the Green Falcons.


Ozil’s resignation sparks Germany racism storm as Ankara cheers

Updated 8 min 45 sec ago
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Ozil’s resignation sparks Germany racism storm as Ankara cheers

  • After months of silence over a controversial photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May Ozil erupted on Sunday
  • The Arsenal midfielder posted a stinging four-page statement taking aim at German Football Association (DFB) bosses sponsors and the media

BERLIN: Mesut Ozil’s decision to quit playing for Germany unleashed a racism storm in Berlin on Monday, but earned the applause of Ankara with a Turkish minister hailing “a goal against the virus of fascism.”
After months of silence over a controversial photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May, which sparked questions about his loyalty to Germany, Ozil erupted on Sunday.
The Arsenal midfielder posted a stinging four-page statement taking aim at German Football Association (DFB) bosses, sponsors and the media.
Ozil, a key member of the squad which won the 2014 World Cup, blamed the DFB management, in particular its president Reinhard Grindel, for failing to side with him against his critics.
“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Ozil wrote.
The 29-year-old said he was true to both his Turkish and German origins and insisted he did not intend to make a political statement by appearing with Erdogan just before the World Cup finals.
“I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish,” said Ozil, who was repeatedly singled out for criticism after Germany’s woeful performance at the World Cup saw them crash out after the group stages.
Ozil’s explosive statement, in three separate postings on Twitter and Instagram, was hailed by Erdogan’s government, which has championed a campaign against what Ankara sees as growing Islamophobia in Europe.
“I congratulate Mesut Ozil who by leaving the national team has scored the most beautiful goal against the virus of fascism,” Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul wrote on Twitter.
But it was met with a mix of dismay and outrage in Germany. The German Football Association (DFB) rejected claims of racism made by Mesut Ozil against their president Reinhard Grindel in an angry resignation letter.
“We reject the notion that the DFB is associated with racism,” read a statement.
“The DFB stands for diversity, from the representatives at the top to the boundless, day-to-day dedication of people at the base.”
Underlining that sports brings a lot to integration in a country, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she respects Ozil’s decision.
“The chancellor values Mesut Ozil highly. He is a great footballer who has contributed a great deal to the national team,” said Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer, adding that he has “now made a decision that must be respected.”
Justice Minister Katarina Barley wrote on Twitter that it was an “alarm bell if a great German footballer like Mesut Ozil no longer feels wanted in his country or represented by the DFB.”
Cem Ozdemir of the Greens party also voiced dismay that “young German-Turks now get the impression that they have no place in the German national team.”
At the same time, Ozdemir, who himself has Turkish roots, said Ozil “did not live up to his function of setting examples” by failing to distance himself from the hard-line Turkish leader.
Germany’s best-selling newspaper Bild led the charge of criticism against Ozil, calling his statement a “whiny resignation” and said he heaped “criticism on everyone but himself.”
Bild, which has for weeks called for Ozil to be dropped from the starting team, also rejected his claims that his Turkish origin and Erdogan photo have been used by some media to pander to the far-right.
“Ozil’s world view here is dangerously close to Erdogan and his despots,” charged the tabloid-style daily.
The photo, which was published on Turkey’s presidential website and the Twitter feed of the ruling party, came just before the June 24 polls Erdogan won to claim sweeping new powers.
Ozil has insisted that “it wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country.”
For Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, “all parties in the affair should engage in some soul-searching. I see few here who have really behaved correctly.”
Born and raised in Gelsenkirchen, Ozil has scored 23 goals and made 40 assists in 92 appearances with Die Mannschaft. He is third-generation German-Turk and counts among more than three million people of Turkish origin in Germany.
The DFB has so far stayed mum. In a first reaction from his former teammates, defender Jerome Boateng wrote on Twitter using the Turkish word for “brother“: “It was a pleasure, Abi.”
Former DFB chief Theo Zwanziger warned that the debacle was a “serious blow to the integration efforts in our country that goes beyond football.”
For Tagesspiegel daily, the entire affair was a “watershed for sports, politics and society.”
While noting that Ozil’s thinking that the Erdogan photograph could be non-political was “naive,” it said the fiasco had far reaching consequences.
“Ultimately, Ozil did not fall because of Grindel but because of a heated, populist mood in Germany,” it said.
“The danger exists because many who also have family roots in other countries or culture, can understand Ozil’s mood. And this needs to be countered quickly and decisively.
“Because more is at stake than just the future of the German national football team.”