Egypt lead the way in Brooklyn

Egypt’s Salma Hana Ibrahim in action. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2017
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Egypt lead the way in Brooklyn

LONDON: The opening day of action at the 2017 Carol Weymuller Squash Open in Brooklyn saw an Egyptian clean sweep as qualifier Mariam Metwally and the ever-improving Salma Hana Ibrahim upset the seedings and the odds to down former World No.3 Alison Waters of England and top ranked Indian Joshna Chinappa, respectively.
Having come through two tough qualification encounters just to reach the main draw, including a five-game battle with Danielle Letourneau, Metwally looked to be up against it as she took on 2014 tournament winner Waters, who sits 15 positions above her on the PSA World Rankings at No. 8.
But the 20-year-old Egyptian started strong to sneak an opening game tie-break and repeated the feat in the third to once again open up an advantage over Waters. The Englishwoman responded in style again in the fourth but it was Metwally, coming back from 6-3 down, who managed to take it to set up a quarter-final showdown with Ibrahim, who also defied the odds to record her first ever win over Chinappa.
The duo had met six times previously, with Chinappa enjoying a 100 percent winning record, and she looked to be on her way to win No. 7 as she began the first game with a 9-1 advantage.
Ibrahim, who impressed at the recent US Open to defeat Sarah-Jane Perry and record her first round one win on a World Series glass court, managed to get into a rhythm to narrow the deficit only to lose 11-9. With little to separate them the next two games went to the wire, with Ibrahim winning the fist 13-11 before Chinappa restored her lead courtesy of a 16-14 third game.
But Ibrahim managed to come back again to take the fourth and come through 12-10 in a mammoth fifth game.
“I’m so relieved,” said Ibrahim. “I wasn’t sure how my body would carry me. In the fifth game when I was 9-5 and 10-8 down, I remembered my match with Laura when I was 9-6 down and I kept believing that something might happen. She might hit the tin and I might get lucky in a few points.
“That’s what I did when Joshna was 10-8 up. My mind wasn’t thinking and I just played and kept believing I could still make and I did. I have to play Mariam next and she is my childhood compatriot from 9-years-old but I’m just glad I’m playing one more day.”
The other matches on day one saw top seed and World No. 1 Nour El-Sherbini and recent US Open Champion Nour El-Tayeb come through their first round encounters in straight-games to set up a compelling last eight battle.
“I was very nervous before this match with huge expectations after last week,” said El Tayeb, who beat Dutch player Milou van der Heijden. “I had to tell myself that it was just another match. I was very excited and nervous to play another match and I’m just trying to enjoy playing and put the results aside.”


‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

Updated 20 June 2018
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‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

  • A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
  • Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”