Saudi players could head to Europe’s big leagues

Saudi captain Osama Hawsawi has experience of playing abroad. (Reuters)
Updated 22 October 2017
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Saudi players could head to Europe’s big leagues

LONDON: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) is planning to boost its preparations for next year’s World Cup by loaning out as many members of the national team as possible to European clubs in the January transfer window to gain top-level experience, according to reports.
The General Sports Authority and the Football Federation last week signed a deal with La Liga in a bid to take football in the Kingdom to the next level. It is being reported, by Middle East website Ahdaaf, that part of the agreement aims to accelerate the transfer of top Saudi players to La Liga teams ahead of the World Cup in Russia, the first the national team has qualified for in 12 years.
Scouts from several La Liga clubs are expected to arrive in the Kingdom over the next few weeks to take a closer look at the players listed for loan by the SAFF as part of the agreement. A shortlist of players likely to be on the plane to Russia next summer has been drawn up and discussions with clubs and leagues in Europe apparently commenced last month.
The Saudi FF’s plan is targeting placing their players with mid-table Spanish and Italian clubs, but are receptive to negotiating with well-heeled clubs elsewhere on the continent.
Ittihad winger Fahad Al-Muwallad is believed to have already secured a loan move to an unnamed Spanish club while representatives of Serie A side Torino reportedly watched Al Ahli center-back Motaz Hawsawi in his side’s 3-0 victory over Jeddah rivals Ittihad at the weekend. Captain Osama Hawsawi already has experience abroad having played for Anderlecht in Belgium in 2012.
Scouts from various European clubs will also be present at the Portugal vs Saudi Arabia friendly scheduled on November 10 in the Portuguese city of Leiria to assess prospective targets ahead of the January transfer window.


Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

Updated 19 June 2018
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Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

ST. PETERSBURG: Russia scored three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half to set up a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday, moving the host nation to the brink of the World Cup’s knockout stage.
Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty for a consolation goal on his return from injury but Egypt’s first World Cup in 28 years could be over in barely five days following a second straight loss.
Ahmed Fathi poked the ball into his own net — the fifth own-goal of the tournament — to put Russia ahead in the 47th minute. Then Denis Cheryshev and Artyom Dzyuba scored in quick succession to leave Russia on course for a victory that followed up a 5-0 opening-night win over Saudi Arabia.
It was Cheryshev’s third goal of the World Cup, putting him tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring chart.
Russia’s place in the round of 16 will be assured if Uruguay wins or draws against the Saudis on Wednesday. Those two scenarios would also eliminate Egypt, which started with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
The hopes of 100 million Egyptians were raised when Salah was selected in the starting lineup, the Liverpool forward making his comeback after 3 1/2 weeks out with damaged ligaments in his left shoulder after a tangle with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final.
Salah trotted out for his pre-match warmup to roars from Egypt fans, who at times appeared to outnumber their Russian counterparts. They shouted every time Salah’s face flashed up on the big screen and when his name was announced before kickoff.
Yet from the start, it was clear that Salah was staying out of anything too physical and there was no concerted effort from his Egypt teammates to pick him out each time. He didn’t touch the ball until the seventh minute.
He did win the penalty — confirmed by the video assistant referee after Salah was pulled down by Roman Zobnin. He converted it in the 73rd minute, but it wasn’t enough. Egypt is still without a victory in six World Cup matches.
Russia is nearly assured of advancing from the group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.
Cheryshev, who entered the World Cup as a fringe player, is proving lethal in front of goal, with his latest a side-footed effort from close range from Mario Fernandes’ cross in the 59th. Dzyuba’s goal was more direct, the striker chesting down a long ball from defender Ilya Kutepov, beating his marker and curling home a low finish.