The next few weeks could determine Tottenham’s success for the next few years

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino is yet to win a trophy as manager, the next few games could determine whether he breaks his duck with Spurs or another club.
Updated 02 March 2018
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The next few weeks could determine Tottenham’s success for the next few years

LONDON: At the end of January, Tottenham entered a tough run of fixtures. This, it was widely agreed, was make or break. That spell, in which they faced Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Juventus in among their FA Cup fixtures, would define their season. That series of games comes to an end as they face Juventus in the Champions League at Wembley on Wednesday. Where, then, is their season going?
As it turns out, much still depends on Wednesday. Having fallen 2-0 behind inside 10 minutes in Turin, Spurs showed admirable resolve and self-belief as well as technical skill to drag the game back to 2-2, but it will all feel a little anti-climactic if they do not finish the job at Wembley.
In the league, they did all that could be expected of them, winning two and drawing one of those key games: That has propelled them into the top four and prevented them falling adrift in the race for Champions League qualification but that battle, important as it is for the club as they prepare to move into their new stadium, lacks the glamor of a European campaign.
And glamor, perhaps, is what is most necessary for Tottenham right now. With limited resources, Mauricio Pochettino has done a remarkable job but he remains haunted by the jibe that he has never won a trophy as a manager. There is a sense in which it is a meaningless complaint: The clubs he has been in charge of, after all, have been Espanyol, Southampton and Tottenham, none of whom have trophy cabinets that are exactly bulging.
Trophies, anyway, these days, tend not to buy a manager much grace. Claudio Ranieri lasted less than a year at Leicester after leading them to the league title. The three FA Cups Arsenal Wenger has won in the past four years have done little to ease the grumbling around him.
And yet at the same time there is a point lurking blow the surface of the question. What, after all, is it all for if not for silverware? What is the point of professional football if it is not about winning?
There is a disturbing answer, which is that it is for making money for shareholders, but true as that may be, there must at the very least needs to be a dream to sell to fans.
Tottenham also have to sell a dream to players. Their lack of resources is an issue not merely in terms of buying players but for keeping those who are there at the club. Kyle Walker was lured to Manchester City last summer and is reportedly making more than double what he was on at Spurs. As Danny Rose has made clear, the players are well aware of that. It would be no great surprise were he to leave this summer, while the delay over Toby Alderweireld’s contract extension must also be a concern.
Tottenham can, just about, cope with one or two players splintering off each season, but the danger is the exodus for four or five. Harry Kane is the key. At the moment, he seems committed, delighted to be playing for his local club and leading a group of young players to heights the club has not scaled in half a century. But he is still a professional footballer. He cannot reasonably be expected to resist forever the lure of, say, Real Madrid and perhaps quadrupling his salary. As soon as Tottenham wobble, those questions will become all the more pressing. And if Kane goes, it is easy to imagine a host of others following.
That is why Tottenham must always seem to be developing, always progressing toward a better future. At the moment, there is an excitement about them. They are not treading a familiar path but breaking new ground. With the new stadium there is a possibility to establish Spurs among the elite but doing that probably means keeping this squad together (the alternative it to hope the money raised by a sell-off would fund the creation of a squad that could repeat this process in five years or so). And that means Pochettino continuing to spin his magic path. With Manchester City dominant domestically, that probably demands the star dust of Champions League progress.


Saudi Arabia to face Japan in Asian Cup second round after defeat to Qatar

Updated 17 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia to face Japan in Asian Cup second round after defeat to Qatar

  • A double from Almoez Ali means Qatar top Group E.
  • Juan Antonio Pizzi's men now face Japan in second round on Monday.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia now know they will have to overcome Japan in the second round if they are to keep their hopes of a fourth Asian Cup title alive. 

A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Qatar meant Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men finished second in Group E — both sides went into the top-of-the-table clash knowing they had already secured a spot in the knockout stages. 

A brace from Almoez Ali in Abu Dhabi was enough to give Qatar the three points and leave them top of the group. 

From the kick-off the Green Falcons were the ones who looked the more likely to make the initial breakthrough —  Fahad Almuwallad slamming a right-foot shot against the post after 22 minutes.

Qatar captain Hasan Al-Haydos then missed a penalty in the 42nd minute after Ali had been clattered in the box.

But Ali, who scored four goals in Qatar's 6-0 rout of North Korea last weekend, made no mistake in first-half stoppage time.

He calmly slotted the ball past Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais to become the first player to score six goals in a single Asian Cup since South Korea's Lee Dong-gook in 2000.

Ali subsequently headed in a seventh goal of the tournament 10 minutes from time, celebrating with a jig of delight.

While the defeat was not ideal Green Falcons coach Pizzi said he was still hopeful Saudi Arabia would be able to go far in the tournament. 

"It was an intense game but we have to hide our feelings and prepare for the last 16," Pizzi said.

"We were missing quality in the final third and individual errors have cost us," he added.

"But we will bounce back. I respect every team left in the competition, including Japan, but I don't feel that we are inferior to them in any way."

Qatar, who have never gone beyond the quarterfinals, advance to face Iraq in the last 16.