Saudi Arabia reaches World Cup finals with dramatic win over Japan

1 / 5
ans of of Saudi Arabia cheer and chant before the start of their soccer match against Japan on Tuesday. (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)
2 / 5
Striker Fahad Al-Muwallad celebrates after scoring a goal for Saudi Arabia in the Asian World Cup qualifying match against Japan in Jeddah on Tuesday. (AN photo)
3 / 5
Nawaf Al Abed of Saudi Arabia fights for the ball with Hotaru Yamaguchi of Japan. (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)
4 / 5
Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Alsahlawi (R) and Japan's Shuji Gen (L) and his teammate Maya Yushida (C) fight for the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Saudi Arabia and Japan at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah on September 5, 2017. (AFP)
5 / 5
A bit of action of the Saudi-Japan qualifier match on Tuesday at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on Tuesday.(AN photo by Mohammed Manei)
Updated 08 November 2017
0

Saudi Arabia reaches World Cup finals with dramatic win over Japan

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 2006 with a 1-0 victory over Japan in a decisive Asian qualifying match on Tuesday at the King Abdulah Sports City Stadium on the outskirts of Jeddah.
Needing to win to qualify outright after Australia beat Thailand 2-1 earlier in Melbourne, the Green Falcons did just that before an announced full house crowd of 62,165 at the cavernous stadium.
Striker Fahad Al-Muwallad collected a pass from the right and booted in a goal to the top corner in the 63rd minute that had the home crowd erupting in jubilation.
Saudi Arabia finished the World Cup qualifiers on 19 points to advance outright to Russia 2018 as the second team from Group B with already-qualified Japan on 20 points from 10 matches.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, congratulated the Saudi national team for its win in a tweet he posted on his Twitter account.
“Congratulation to the Men of the Kingdom. Salman’s men’s qualification to 2018 World Cup. A team that deserves to represent all Arabs. Congratulation to Custodian of the Two holy Mosques and to the beloved Saudi people”.
Elsewhere, South Korea qualified from Group A alongside Iran with a goalless draw away to Uzbekistan.


FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: A classic clash, sublime New Orleans Saints and a bad break for Alex Smith

Updated 20 November 2018
0

FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: A classic clash, sublime New Orleans Saints and a bad break for Alex Smith

  • Saints once again show why they are serious Super Bowl contenders.
  • Unlucky Alex Smith suffers a horror injury.

LONDON: This is the time of year that can either make or break a team’s regular season. Are they headed for the playoffs or are they set to be on holiday in January? Here is what we learned after week 11 of the NFL.

RAMS AND CHIEFS SERVE UP A CLASSIC

Where to start analyzing Monday night’s epic in Los Angeles? It was certainly one of the best games of gridiron I have ever seen. From the first kick-off to the final seconds, both sides threw caution to the wind, with the Rams winning by three points in a 54-51 nail-biter — on the way to producing a classic clash that will still be talked about for years to come. 
American Football is often criticized for being too “stop-start,” but watching these two Super Bowl favorites go hammer and tongs for four quarters would have been enough to convert any detractor.
To put into context just how explosive both teams were, it was the first time two teams have scored more than 50 points in a match in the history of the NFL.
While many are praising the defensive qualities of a playoffs-bound Chicago, we are just glad the defensive units did not bother showing up for this one and we had the privilege of watching two blistering offenses in full flow. If either of these teams goes on to win the Super Bowl, they can pinpoint this match as one of the key moments of their season.

It was raining touchdowns in the all-time classic between the Chiefs and the Rams.



SAINTS CHANNELLING THE SPIRIT OF 2009

When the league fixtures were announced in the summer, the Saints-Eagles match-up was singled out as a test of the two team’s NFC championship credentials. Unlike the Rams and Chiefs extravaganza, though, this ended up being a damp squib of a game. 
Philadelphia just did not turn up, while the Saints — the hottest team in the league at the moment — were imperiously led by Drew Brees to a blowout 48-7 win, which now sits in the record books as worst defeat in the Eagles’ history. 
Brees threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns, meaning that the 9-1 Saints have now scored 40-plus points in three matches in a row and have become the first team in the Super Bowl era to post at least 40 points six times in the first 10 games of the season. It will take a very good team to stop this Saints side from claiming glory in Atlanta next February.

Drew Brees was once again in imperious form for the ever-improving and dangerous Saints. 



PURE ATHLETICISM TRUMPS TACTICAL PLAY-CALLS

Gridiron is an extremely technical and tactical sport, with coaches and players spending weeks perfecting certain plays. But sometimes a moment of sheer athletic prowess wins out and blows all the spreadsheets and playbook analysis out the window. Week 11 saw its fair share of brilliant moments — from Kenny Golladay’s sublime touchdown catch for the Lions against Carolina, to Juju Smith-Schuster’s unbelievable grab for the Steelers on a late, game-winning drive, not forgetting Odell Beckham’s strength to hold on in the end-zone for a Giants score against Tampa Bay. And those moments are exactly why millions of people tune in to the NFL every week.

Kenny Golladay with his moment of magic during Detriot's 20-19 win over Carolina. 



THOUGHTS WITH ALEX SMITH

Much progress has been made in preventing concussion and serious head injuries in the NFL in recent years. Rule changes and safety measures have been implemented, and we are beginning to see a reduction in the number of head and neck traumas. But in sport, horror injuries can happen — and there is little the league can do to prevent the kind of leg breaks Washington’s Alex Smith suffered during their game against the Texans. Everyone watching immediately knew the severity of the break, and it is clear Smith faces a lengthy recovery. Such injuries can end careers. Here’s hoping he makes it back.

Alex Smith being stretchered off after his horror injury suffered against the Texans.