World Cup celebrations to be replaced by hard work
World Cup celebrations to be replaced by hard work
The 32 teams are now known and the coaches and officials of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia can start preparing for their stab at showpiece success.
Here Arab News takes a look at the teams who’ll be battling it out for the World Cup trophy and what the four Arab representatives are up against.
Lionel Messi knows the teams he fears most at the 2018 World Cup: Champions Germany, Brazil, France and Spain.
“I think that at the moment, they’re the strongest teams who look the best, are playing the best, with the best individuals,” Messi told TyC Sports, an Argentine TV channel.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner identified the key things that will spearhead their challenges: Strong squads, star players, a team identity and looking the part.
The five giants have won 13 of the last 16 World Cups between them. Spain and Germany both qualified without losing, while Brazil sealed first place in the South American group with four rounds to play.
France won their group but, as in the Euros last year, were alternately terrific and toothless, such as in a shocking 0-0 draw at home to Luxembourg.
Argentina sneaked through by winning their last game, away to Ecuador, and inevitably it was Messi who hit a hat-trick to save his country when staring into the abyss of elimination.
Yet form can be misleading, as Spain and Brazil’s crushing losses to the Netherlands and Germany four years ago illustrated.
England won in 1966, but since then the nation that invented the sport and boasts the richest league in the world has reached just one semifinal. Gareth Southgate, the England manager, has been blooding youngsters from the successful youth teams and there is reason for optimism in England, but 2018 will likely come too soon.
According to FIFA, Mexico has the third highest number of registered footballers — behind only Brazil and Germany — among World Cup finalists, yet in 15 finals appearances they have never gone past the last eight.
With 142 million people, Russia have the biggest population of any of the finalists, but if the hosts were to get much beyond the second round it would be a shock.
TEAMS TO FEAR
With a population of just over three million and two World Cup titles, Uruguay are again following their own successful template. They have produced enough top-end talent, led by Luis Suarez, Diego Godin and Edinson Cavani, to give them a chance of beating anyone.
Croatia have Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic, which is good, but they finished second to Iceland in their qualifying group, which is not.
Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo, but their greatest success — winning the 2016 Euros — came despite playing without the world player of the year for three-quarters of the final.
Belgium are enjoying a golden generation, but Switzerland and Denmark have only silver and bronze ones. Poland, not such a small nation in population terms, have the prolific Robert Lewandowski, the top scorer in global qualifying with 16 goals.
NOT TO BE UNDERESTIMATED
In 2002, as joint hosts, Japan and South Korea ran deep into the knockout rounds. This time, along with Australia, they lack world-class talent but bring a work ethic that makes them teams to avoid.
Colombia, Senegal and Nigeria bring skill, pace and power and a bad habit of agonizing exits caused by careless errors or bad luck.
Serbia and Morocco both qualified impressively but lack the star man who can make a difference.
That cannot be said of Egypt, who with Mohamed Salah (pictured left) in the team have the star quality and X-factor many sides lack. With him in the side the Pharaohs’ poor World Cup record should be irrelevant.
Peru, once regulars, had not qualified since 1982 until they beat New Zealand. They prepare for Russia ranked an unlikely 10th in the world.
Dour Sweden, former finalists, smothered Italy in a playoff but if the smell of glory draws Zlatan Ibrahimovic out of retirement, a blunt instrument would acquire a sharp edge.
LIKELY TO BE CLASSED AS MINNOWS
Costa Rica reached the last eight in 2014 and are ranked 22nd but alongside Iran and Tunisia will still be the teams in the third pot everyone wants to draw.
Tunisia and Saudi Arabia both won games in the first of their four finals appearances but neither has won since and their last points came when they drew 2-2 in Stuttgart in 2006.
Panama may already have used up their miracle, scoring two minutes from the end of their qualifying campaign to beat Costa Rica, eliminate the US and qualify for their first finals.
Women’s Bowling Championship 2018 wraps up in Jeddah
- Sixty-three competitors, many of them amateurs, participated in the competition which consisted of four rounds
JEDDAH: The first Women Bowling Championship in Saudi Arabia took place in October in three cities, Riyadh, Alkhobar, and Jeddah, where it finished at Ice Land Bowling Center on Saturday. Gada Nemer, 42, from Riyadh, who came first in the competition, told Arab News: “I participated in all three tournaments, in Riyadh, Alkhobar, and today in Jeddah. I won first place in Alkhobar too. “I am not a professional bowler, but I used to bowl with my kids. Two of them bowl on the national team. I am very glad to have the chance to participate in these tournaments, and look forward to future ones.”
It was the first tournament of its kind in the Kingdom, as the country is rapidly developing sporting facilities for women and increasing women’s involvement in sports by making reforms that have included allowing physical education for schoolgirls and opening female-only gyms. Sixty-three competitors, many of them amateurs, participated in the competition which consisted of four rounds. All competitors took part in the first round, 33 made it into the second round and 16 qualified for the third.
Participants were between 11 and 56 years of age. Nemer received a cash prize of SR5,000 ($1,335) and those in second and third place received SR3,000 and SR2,000 respectively.
The last round had the best three competitors competing for first place with Nemer winning first prize, followed by Meshael Alabdulwahed (second) and Wissam Al-Harbi (third).
Bowling is still a growing sport for women in Saudi Arabia. The first female bowling team officially registered in the Saudi Bowling Federation, and the Eastern Province bowling team is only seven months old, according to Dr. Razan Baker, member of the board of directors and head of media and women’s participation at the federation.
Baker told Arab News: “We were surprised by the excitement of the participants. The numbers were beyond our expectations.
“Many participants would like to become professional bowlers. With this high turnout I expect bowling centers to start supporting new female bowling teams.”
Abeer Abdulmalik, from Al-Qassim, participated in the tournament. Although she is new to bowling, she made it to the third round.
“I never bowled before in my life, and I did not prepare myself for the game. I am surprised and happy with what I scored, although I was hoping to be in the final round,” she told Arab News. “I would like to take part in future championships.”
Aminah Khan, who participated in the tournament with her two sisters, told Arab News: “I came here for fun, and to try my luck before I go to my midterm exam.”
Khan did not make it to the second round, but said she would start working to improve her skills and take bowling more seriously as a sport.
The championship was organized by the Saudi Bowling Federation, the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, and General Sports Authority, and in partnership with Arab News as the exclusive English media partner for the event.