Saudi Arabia ready for Gulf Cup

Juan Antonio Pizzi will meet with the Saudi Arabia Football Federation today to start planning for the World Cup. (AP)
Updated 11 December 2017
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Saudi Arabia ready for Gulf Cup

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE have all confirmed their participation in the on-off 2017 Gulf Cup of Nations, due to kick off in Kuwait on Dec. 22.
The three countries had refused to confirm their participation in the tournament because it was due to be staged in Qatar, and Gulf Cup Football Federation Jassim Al-Rumaihi had said the competition was, as a result, “unlikely to take place.” But the late switching of the tournament to Kuwait, following the lifting of a suspension by FIFA, has prompted a rethink.
An official announcement by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) on Saturday confirmed their participation in the 23rd edition of the tournament, following statements by Bahrain and the UAE, but spokesman Mohamed Al-Shaikh told Arab News that it is still unclear whether a full-strength KSA team will be sent to Kuwait.
The SAFF will meet with national team boss Juan Antonio Pizzi in Riyadh today to decide the best course of action, according to Al-Shaikh. The Argentinian coach was appointed by the SAFF last month and the Gulf Cup will be his first assignment as he attempts to build and shape a team for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
As Saudi Arabia had no plans of participating in the Gulf Cup, there is no break scheduled in the Saudi Pro League fixtures list, but the competitions department at the SAFF is now set to postpone gameweeks 15 and 16, which were scheduled to take place between Dec. 21 and 29, to allow international players to join Pizzi’s squad in Kuwait.
Despite not being recognized as an official regional tournament under FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation, the Gulf Cup has taken place on a biennial basis since 1970 with few interruptions, and is held in high regard by the local fans.
The competition has traditionally featured seven countries, the six Gulf Cooperation Council members alongside Iraq. In 2003, Yemen was admitted to the tournament and its format was changed to two groups of four, the top two of each group advance to the knock-out style semifinal.
Kuwait holds the record for most titles in the Gulf Cup with ten triumphs, while Saudi Arabia has won the competition three times, starting with the 1994 edition in the UAE, before lifting back-to-back trophies in 2002 on home soil and in 2003 in Kuwait.


Juventus too good for Man Utd on Ronaldo’s return

Updated 24 October 2018
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Juventus too good for Man Utd on Ronaldo’s return

  • Paulo Dybala scored the winner on 17 minutes as the Italian champions opened up a five-point lead over United at the top of Group H
  • The hosts failed to threaten until Paul Pogba’s curling shot from outside the box hit the post 15 minutes from time

MANCHESTER: Cristiano Ronaldo emerged victorious again on his second return to Old Trafford, but this time did not get on the scoresheet as Juventus outclassed Manchester United to win 1-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Instead Ronaldo played a supporting role by helping set up Paulo Dybala’s winner on 17 minutes as the Italian champions opened up a five-point lead over United at the top of Group H.
Jose Mourinho’s men were handed a break before kick-off as Valencia’s 1-1 draw away to Young Boys means United still hold a two-point lead over the Spaniards, but a fourth defeat of the season will see speculation over Mourinho’s future increase once more.
But for a series of excellent saves from David de Gea, the margin of defeat could have been far greater too as any momentum United gained from fightbacks against Newcastle and Chelsea in recent weeks in the Premier League faded away against one of the favorites to win the Champions League.
Ronaldo was given a hero’s welcome on his previous visit to Old Trafford with Real Madrid in 2013 after scoring 118 goals for United in six seasons between 2003 and 2009 to help the Red Devils win three Premier League titles and the first of his five Champions Leagues.
The Portuguese’s early days as Juventus player since making the move to Italy from Madrid this summer have been overshadowed by a rape allegation made against him in the United States.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has strongly denied the allegation and been backed by his new club, who paid 112 million euros ($129 million) for the 33-year-old in July.
But the reception he received from the United faithful this time was far more muted with only a mild cheer raised when his name in the Juventus line-up was announced.
Ronaldo scored the winner in a contentious Champions League last-16 tie for Madrid five years ago, but this time played the role of provider for Dybala to be the match-winner.
His cross intended for Juan Cuadrado ricocheted kindly off Chris Smalling into the path of Dybala to sweep the ball past De Gea for his fourth goal in two Champions League games.
As Juventus dominated the rest of the first half, only De Gea stood in their way of killing the game off before the break.
The Spaniard flew to his right to save Joao Cancelo’s fiercely-struck shot then produced a fine double save to parry Ronaldo’s free-kick and swat away Blaise Matuidi’s follow-up effort.
Top scorer in this competition for the past six seasons, Ronaldo is still searching for his first Champions League goal for Juventus having been sent off after just 30 minutes of his European debut against Valencia and subsequently banned for a 3-0 victory over Young Boys.
He couldn’t have done much more with an effort that soared toward De Gea’s top corner seven minutes into the second half only to see the United ‘keeper produce a miraculous right-handed save.
Going behind brought out the best in Mourinho’s side against Newcastle and Chelsea to help ease the pressure on the manager.
But the hosts failed to threaten until Paul Pogba’s curling shot from outside the box hit the post 15 minutes from time.
Anthony Martial also tested Wojciech Szczesny late on but Juventus held out for a deserved victory.