Reborn England reach World Cup semifinal

Dele Alli celebrates with his teammates after scoring the match-clinching second goal. (AFP)
Updated 07 July 2018
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Reborn England reach World Cup semifinal

  • Maguire and Alli score for Southgate's side
  • England through to first World Cup semifinal in 28 years

LONDON: England’s stunning resurgence under Gareth Southgate scaled new dizzying heights on Saturday after they charged into the World Cup semifinal for the first time since 1990.
England were rank outsiders for the tournament at the outset, given no chance on the back of their lousy record in knockout football, but they have, slowly and stealthily, gathered momentum and are now just 90 minutes away from their first World Cup final since they thrillingly won the tournament in 1966.
Harry Maguire’s magnificent header after half-an-hour and one from Dele Alli just before the hour won it with something to spare for Southgate’s remodelled and youthful side against Sweden. They now progress to the last-four clash on Wednesday with absolutely nothing to fear. In fact, other teams might start to fear them after this performance. In a World Cup full of surprises, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that England could win the whole thing. Who, after all, thought Greece would win the European Championships in 2004?
Stiffer challenges will await England in the semifinal and possibly the final, but Sweden are no mugs. Let’s be clear about that. They qualified ahead of Holland, beat South Korea and Mexico in their group and then dumped out Switzerland in the last 16. They played the tag of underdogs all week but they never really got to grips with the magnitude of the occasion in Samara and ran out of steam. The direct nature of their play was meat and drink to England’s defenders who are used to this tactic week in, week out in the Premier League.
England were a bit more sophisticated in their approach and could have scored more than the one they did, Raheem Sterling going particularly close in the first half. Sweden had their moments and it took a brilliant, flying one-handed save from Jordan Pickford to stop Marcus Berg from scoring with a header at the start of the second half and Pickford denying the same player again soon after with a save low to his right. It was world-class goalkeeping.
England were just that bit more ruthless in front of goal, Maguire powering in a header from an Ashley Young corner and then Alli planting one in from a Jesse Lingard center.
England needed extra-time and two penalties to beat Cameroon the last time they won a World Cup quarterfinal in 1990. Here they had the whole thing done and dusted after an hour. It was all too easy.


Oscar hat trick powers Shanghai into last 16

Updated 21 May 2019
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Oscar hat trick powers Shanghai into last 16

  • Saudi sides Ahli and Hilal advance
  • Urawa qualify for knockout phase

SHANGHAI: Former Chelsea star Oscar hit a hat trick, including a wonderful curling effort from outside the box, to fire Shanghai SIPG into the AFC Champions League last 16 on Tuesday.

The Chinese champions’ 5-0 home demolition of a depleted, but already qualified, Ulsan Hyundai dumped Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale out of Asia’s premier club competition.

Shanghai SIPG’s Oscar  scores a goal against Ulsan Hyundai. (AFP)

On Monday night, goals from Omar Al-Somah and Abdulrahman Ghareeb helped Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli beat Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor 2-1 to finish second behind Al-Sadd in Group D. 

Ahli needed to beat Pakhtakor to finish second behind Al Sadd and they did exactly that to make the next phase with nine points, one behind the Qataris. In Group C, Al-Hilal and Qatar’s Al Duhail played out a 2-2 draw. Both teams had already qualified for the last 16, with the Saudis assured of the top spot even before kick-off.

Kawasaki thrashed a weakened Sydney FC 4-0 away but SIPG squeezed through by a point in Group H over last year’s J-League winners. Ulsan still finished top of the group despite the thrashing and will meet Urawa Red Diamonds in the last 16 after their supersub Kazuki Nagasawa scored the opening goal and created another in a 3-0 win over Chinese Super League leaders Beijing Guoan in Saitama.

Vitor Pereira’s SIPG finished runners-up and will play Group G winners Jeonbuk, another Korean side, next month in the knockout rounds while high-flying Beijing failed to get past the group stage.

Oscar, who joined SIPG for an Asian-record €60 million from Chelsea in January 2017, said: “The (second) goal I scored was very beautiful and my favorite.”

Asked by AFP if the exquisite strike was a reminder to European football of his enduring qualities, the 27-year-old Brazilian said: “For players who come to Asia and China, their level is not going down. We keep working hard to improve our level step by step.”

SIPG made light of the absence of injured captain Hulk and were ahead after just seven minutes when Oscar played a clever one-two with fellow Brazilian Elkeson before firing first time past stand-in goalkeeper Moon Jung-in.

K-League leaders Ulsan made wholesale changes from the team that won 3-1 at Suwon Bluewings on Saturday allowing Pereira’s side to dominate at a half-empty Shanghai Stadium. Oscar’s neat first settled any nerves in the must-win game and the former international made it 2-0 on 42 minutes with his world-class strike into the top-left corner from the edge of the penalty area. Man of the match Oscar completed his hat trick on 76 minutes after striker Li Shenglong had made it 3-0 and substitute Hu Jinghang made it a five-star night. Over in Japan, Urawa had an early scare when captain Yosuke Kashiwagi was stretchered off in the 11th minute to be replaced by Nagasawa.

But they need not have worried as it was the substitute who broke the deadlock in the 34th minute as he shrugged off weak Beijing challenges at the edge of the box to fire past goalkeeper Zou Dehai.

Beijing needed at least a score draw to go through to the last 16 but their task became harder when Nagasawa turned provider seven minutes later, sliding in Yuki Muto to score. Urawa remained in control and in the 81st minute sealed their place in the knockout phase when Muto played in Shinzo Koroki to ram home.

Group winners Jeonbuk drew 0-0 with Thailand’s Buriram United in the other Group G match.