Saudi Arabian-funded 100,000-seater stadium in Iraq to be built in Baghdad

The Basra Sport City stadium where Iraq beat Saudi Arabia in a friendly last week. (Wiki Commons Media)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Saudi Arabian-funded 100,000-seater stadium in Iraq to be built in Baghdad

LONDON: Iraq Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said the new football stadium to be funded by Saudi Arabia will be situated in Baghdad and be able to host 100,000 spectators.
It was announced Tuesday that King Salman had offered to pay for the construction of a new arena following a telephone call with Al-Abadi on Monday evening, but no further details were given.
Al-Abadi used his weekly press conference to expand on details of the collaboration and how it arrived on the back of the first football match on Iraqi soil between the two sides in almost 40 years.
“I have received a phone call from the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdul Aziz,” he said. “He hailed Iraqi’s victory (in the friendly match between the two sides last week) and expressed his preparedness and commitment to expanding positive relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia at different levels — economical, commercial, communal, cultural, etc.— a t all levels that are of interest for the two countries.
“He also offered Saudi Arabia’s contribution to build a main stadium in Iraq that accommodates 100,000 people. We have welcomed the initiative and it was proposed today to the Cabinet.”
Al-Abadi said he has instructed his Cabinet to set up a task force to drive the build of the biggest stadium in Iraq, eclipsing the 65,000 venue at Basra Sports City.
“The Cabinet gave its directives to form a committee consisting of a group of key ministries concerned with this project,” Al-Abadi said. “The committee will consist of the Cabinet’s secretariat, the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Higher Education, which includes the Center of Urban and Regional Planning
“It will handle developing the general framework for establishing the stadium, which will be the main stadium. 100,000 people is not a small number. We must pick a suitable location in Baghdad along with the stadium’s own additional facilities.
“The stadium will be established under the supervision and guidance of a higher Iraqi-Saudi coordinating council, which will specify the location and design in addition to following up on the project’s progress. The outcomes and progress of the committee’s work will be presented to the Cabinet.”


Tunisia take heart out of England defeat with Belgium match looming

Updated 19 June 2018
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Tunisia take heart out of England defeat with Belgium match looming

VOLGOGRAD: At the end, there was just emptiness. The Tunisian players sat hunched, contemplating a dramatic 2-1 defeat against England in their World Cup opener in Volgograd.
They had been the masters of their own downfall, defending set pieces laxly, allowing England’s star striker Harry Kane to score twice.
For Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul the result came as a big disappointment, losing both goals to set pieces was not in the script for a side that came into the tournament well organized and confident.
But Maaloul is staying calm and backing his players to learn from the setback and take that into Saturday’s all-important clash against Belgium.
“We learn every day, every day — that we are still far from the elite level,” Maaloul said. “We have to work, in particular physically. We practically did not win a duel against the English, who are known for this. The match was won on the set pieces.
“Height is very important in the game, in spite of the Spanish having revolutionized the game, but they have a lot of technical authority. They succeed in mastering every game and keeping up the pressure, but when you don’t have that same skill then you can’t compete.”
Belgium are ranked third in the world behind only defending world champions Germany and Brazil. On the evidence of Monday, it is likely the North Africans will struggle to impose their game against Roberto Martinez’s team and in the absence of the injured Youssef Msakni, Wahbi Khazri has been tasked with scoring the goals, but against England he endured an indifferent time.
The battle against Belgium is one the Eagles of Carthage cannot lose. Maleoul is all too aware of that and and is under no illusions as to the size of the task his side face.
“We have to score goals,” Maaloul said. “We no longer have a choice, we have to attack and we have to hit the net. Belgium are one of the favorites, the favorites in this group.
“We will try to take them on, with players like Mertens, Hazard and Lukaku up front, who are able to make the difference at any given moment.
“They also have Kevin De Bruyne a bit deeper and he is practically the best midfielder in the world at the moment, then you have two exceptional wing backs in Meunier and Carrasco — so they are an exceptional.
“We will try to play the game, we no longer have a choice. We will try to attack and to score, and to compete with this Belgian team.”
For the players the defeat to England was a case of what might have been. Having got back into the clash after England’s brilliant, energetic start to lose in the 90th minute to a set-piece strike was a bad blow to take.
“It was a cruel scenario,” said captain Wahbi Khazhri, who was substituted in the 85th minute for Saber Khalifa. “We sat back too deep in the second half and didn’t cause any problems for England in attack. We defended too much. We conceded from set pieces and they were dangerous in those situations.”
Previously, Morocco, Egypt and Nigeria had conceded all their goals in the World Cup from set pieces and Tunisia showed the same vulnerability as Africa’s losing streak continued in Russia. Twice, Kane was left totally unmarked in the Tunisian box and the Tottenham striker duly obliged, opening his World Cup account with a match-winning brace.
“These set pieces are things that you can correct, easily correct,” midfielder Ellyes Skhiri said. “When you concede a goal like that at the very last minute, it’s a blow, because we would have been satisfied with a draw,” said Naim Sliti, who disappointed on the night and was taken off on 73 minutes.
“We have to regroup and even try to win the next game. A World Cup is played over three games.”
On Saturday, Tunisia will have their backs against the wall against heavily fancied Belgium. At the last World Cup in Brazil, the Belgians entered the tournament as dark horses, but disappointed with a lacklustre 1-0 quarterfinal exit against Argentina and an underwhelming style of play. They opened their Russia World Cup with a comfortable 3-0 win against Panama in Sochi, with two goals from Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku.
“We have to maintain our own style against Belgium,” said Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. “It wasn’t easy against England. They played their game and we had to play the long ball, which is not our strength. In the next game we have to play our own game.”