Unimpressive Germany beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in World Cup warmup

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Saudi Arabia's foward Mohammad Al-Sahlawi missed a penalty. (AFP)
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Saudi Arabia's midfielder Taisir Al-Jassim pounced on a penalty save to score. (AFP)
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The Green Falcons would be pleased by a competitive game against the world champions Germany. (AP)
Updated 09 June 2018
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Unimpressive Germany beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in World Cup warmup

  • Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf was impressive throughout
  • Joachim Loew’s side again failed to shine

LEVERKUSEN, Germany: Defending World Cup champion Germany defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 on Friday for a timely but unimpressive win one week before its title defense begins in Russia.

Having failed to win any of its previous five friendly games since wrapping up qualification with a perfect 10 wins from 10 matches, Germany was keen to deliver a statement four days before the side leaves for its tournament base in Moscow, especially after last Saturday’s lackluster 2-1 defeat to Austria.

But Joachim Loew’s side again failed to shine and had to rely on Mats Hummels denying Mohammad Al-Sahlawi an injury-time equalizer.

Loew started his strongest available side. Mesut Ozil, who is laboring with a knee injury, was left out with Julian Draxler of Paris Saint-Germain taking the Arsenal midfielder’s place.

Timo Werner fired the home side into an early lead after Marco Reus cut the ball back. It was one-way play thereafter, though the visitors did create some chances as the home side relaxed before the break.

Just when it seemed there might be an equalizer, Werner crossed for Omar Hawsawi to turn the ball into his own net under pressure from Thomas Mueller.

Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, who was impressive throughout, denied Gundogan just minutes after he came on.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who came on for Manuel Neuer at the break, saved a late penalty from Al-Sahlawi but Taisir Al-Jassim followed up on the rebound. The result arguably does more for Saudi Arabia’s hopes than Germany.


Uruguay’s Indian cricketers searching for a permanent home

Updated 36 min 2 sec ago
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Uruguay’s Indian cricketers searching for a permanent home

  • Descendants of Indian immigrants carry banner for Uruguay in the cricket field

MONTEVIDEO: Every Sunday, close to a statue of Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, a group of Indian ex-pats take over a patch of land in Uruguay’s capital Montevideo for a game of cricket.
Tucked in between the Rio de la Plata estuary and the long promenade known as the “rambla” that stretches from one side of Montevideo to the other, Avijit Mukherjee prepares to bat, watched eagerly by his Uruguayan girlfriend.
“I played in my country but with a lot more infrastructure,” said the 28-year-old Mukherjee, whose girlfriend Veronica is the main reason he has stayed in Uruguay.
“There are stadiums and many places to play in India, whereas here we only have one.”
Although cricket was first played in Montevideo by British expat workers even before the foundation of the independent republic in 1828, its practice died out in the 1980s.
But following an influx of Indian immigrants to Uruguay at the turn of the century, cricket steadily returned to Montevideo.
First there were one-off matches. Then, the players organized their own league and even set up a Uruguayan national team.
At the end of last year, Uruguay, whose team was made up almost entirely of Indian expats, finished second in the South American championships in Colombia.
While the cricketers are now established on their little patch of land, their initial appearance was not entirely welcomed by local footballers playing on an adjacent pitch.
“We came like spiders and rebuked them,” recalls Daniel Mosco, a local resident who has been playing football in that field for 30 years.
The issue was quickly resolved, though, and the cricketers agreed to start playing only once the football matches had finished.
With no fixed cricket markings, players use flour to draw white lines.
Now, bat can be heard crashing against ball until sunset.
Even though they’ve been here for years, the shouts of “howzat!” and “wait on” still elicit glances from locals making their way along the rambla.
They make a curious spectacle for people little accustomed with either cricket or India.
Mosco, for one, was surprised that the players speak to each other in English.
And there’s another surprise in the form of 29-year-old doctor Saied Muhammad Asif Raza: he’s from Pakistan.
“Between the governments and in (professional) cricket there are always problems, but the people get on really well and within the team the are no problems whatsoever,” said Asif.
He left his home town of Multan, 10 hours from Islamabad, at 19 and moved to Cuba thanks to a Fidel Castro scholarship.
After returning home, he found he couldn’t readapt to his own culture.
“I didn’t come here to find a better life economically, I had a better life in my country because in my family we didn’t lack for anything,” said Asif.
“The thing is that when you live many years away, nowhere is home, and cricket brings me close to it.”
Although now at home on their small patch, finding something more permanent is crucial to Montevideo’s cricketers.
“We’re looking for a permanent ground,” Beerbal Maniyattukudy, the Uruguayan cricket association’s secretary, told AFP.
“We have 120 players this year. On top of that we’re starting some women’s teams and for now we have 20 people interested. We also have plans for an under-15s league.”
The solution may lie with Uruguay’s most popular football team: Penarol.
Penarol started life as the Central Uruguay Railway Cricket Club (CURCC), founded by British railway workers in 1891.
It was a multisport club — but just over 20 years later, its football section broke off and was absorbed by a newly created team, Penarol.
The original club’s cricket section disappeared as football became the main focus — but it was relaunched a week ago.
And crucially, Penarol are planning to build a cricket pitch an hour outside Montevideo.
“When we raised the idea of cricket, there wasn’t much to sort out; everyone was aware of what it meant to the history of the club, we just needed to work out how to make it happen,” said Leonardo Vinas, who is heading up the project.
While many club members signed up to be involved, very few have ever played cricket.
Vinas says the project will take time, not just to spread interest in the sport, but also for the club’s staff to get their heads around the rules of the game.
“Even now, we’re still not clear about certain rules.”