QPR hoping for 'very popular' Saudi Super Cup game at Loftus Road

Al-Hilal celebrate winning the Saudi Super Cup at Loftus Road stadium in 2015. (AFP)
Updated 06 August 2018
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QPR hoping for 'very popular' Saudi Super Cup game at Loftus Road

  • London club to host showpiece game on Aug. 18
  • 'We are ideally located for Saudi nationals who are in London for the month of August'

LONDON: English football club Queens Park Rangers hope staging the Saudi Super Cup match will deepen ties with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF).
The club’s Loftus Road ground will host the match between Al-Hilal, the winners of the Saudi Pro League, and Al-Ittihad, the winners of the King’s Cup, on Aug. 18. It is the second time in four years the match will be staged at the stadium in West London, a result of a tie-up with sports marketing agency Sela Sport.
“We are definitely keen to develop our working relationship with Sela Sport and SAFF,” said Euan Inglis, QPR’s Commercial Director. “We have worked with Sela Sport previously, so we have built a good relationship.”
Sela Sport helped export the fixture to Loftus Road in 2015 and then to Craven Cottage in Fulham in 2016. It is now back in Shepherd’s Bush.
“Sela Sport make the decision on stadium venues ... with Loftus Road Stadium being located in West London, we are ideally located for Saudi nationals who are in London for the month of August,” said Inglis. “The event has been very popular previously and ticket sales are currently going very well. There is a mix of Saudi nationals visiting London during August and who are based in London full time. Providing a good venue and experience for our guests from Saudi Arabia is our only objective.”
The match will be the first competitive fixture for Al-Hilal under their new coach Jorge Jesus. He spent most of last month getting to know his players during a training camp in Austria and integrating new signings Alberto Botia and Andre Carrillo. The Portuguese coach has also been boosted by the return of Carlos Eduardo, the Brazilian who missed the second half of last season with a knee injury. The playmaker is now fully fit and was on target in a couple of the pre-season friendlies.
One man who will know all about Eduardo is former Al-Hilal coach Ramon Diaz. Sacked by the champions in February, he is now in charge of Al-Ittihad and he will be keen to put on a good show in the game against his former employers.
Diaz has been busy in the transfer market, signing Aleksandar Pesic, a Serbian international striker, and Australia World Cup defender Matthew Jurman. Saudi Arabia international Fahad Al-Muwallad is also back after spending the second half of last season on loan in Spain.
Al-Ittihad are keen to arrest a slide down the Saudi Pro League after finishing ninth last season.


Dutch cap Europe’s World Cup dominance by ousting Japan

Updated 26 June 2019
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Dutch cap Europe’s World Cup dominance by ousting Japan

  • The reigning European champions will need to maintain that composure as they prepare for a meeting with Italy

RENNES, France: Tears were still flowing from Saki Kumagai’s eyes more than 30 minutes later.
With victorious Dutch rivals passing her on the way out of the stadium, Japan’s captain seemed to find solace in speaking about the penalty long after it cost her team a place in the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup.
With Tuesday night’s game entering the 90th minute locked at 1-1, Kumagai’s outstretched left arm blocked the shot Vivianne Miedema had aimed into the right side of the net.
“It had my hand for sure,” Kumagai said. “It’s difficult to accept but it’s also sad. I know that is football.”
Referee Melissa Borjas pointed to the penalty spot and Lieke Martens netted her second goal of the game in the 90th minute to seal a 2-1 victory that sent the Netherlands into the quarterfinals for the first time.
“We have made history,” Martens said. “I’m not usually taking the penalties but I felt really good this game. I asked Sherida Spitse if I could take it and she gave it directly to me and I felt quite relaxed about it.”
The reigning European champions will need to maintain that composure as they prepare for a meeting with Italy on Saturday after going one stage further than their Women’s World Cup debut four years ago.
“We were standing in the circle after the match and we were so happy, yelling at each other,” Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman said. “We were saying, ‘Let’s continue writing history.’“
It is journey’s end for Japan, which won the 2011 tournament and was the runner-up four years later.
The strength of the second-half display counted for nothing.
As befitting a meeting of the Asian and European champions, the game produced some of the slickest action of the World Cup. A backheel flick set up Martens to send the Dutch in front in the 17th minute and Yui Hasegawa equalized in the 43rd to complete a slick passing move.
But the post, crossbar and goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal thwarted Japan’s pursuit of a winning goal.
“I think we lacked the clinical edge,” Japan coach Asako Takakura said. “We have to accept the result, we’re defeated, we’re very disappointed and for all the players I feel very sorry for them and frustrated.”
With the last Asian team eliminated, the Women’s World Cup will have a record seven European teams in the quarterfinals. Norway and England meet in Le Havre on Thursday and France takes on the United States the following night. After the Netherlands plays Italy on Saturday, Germany and Sweden will meet.
“It’s really tough to be here,” Netherlands forward Miedema said. “Sometimes it kind of feels like a Euros.”
That is a title already won by this team, thanks to Miedema’s goals in the final two years ago on home soil.
The fans won’t have far to travel for the World Cup quarterfinal, with Valenciennes around two hours’ drive from the Netherlands.
It will be another chance for the orange-clad fans who danced and sang their way in a convoy to the stadium on Tuesday to stamp their mark on this tournament.
They were certainly given a game to savor, and an audacious opening goal.
Martens flicked in the opener after evading her marker to meet a corner and send the ball through the legs of Yuika Sugasawa into the net.
Sugasawa had a quick chance to tie, only to hit the post. But Japan did equalize by completing an intricate move.
Hina Sugita squared across the penalty area to Yuika Sugasawa, who passed back to Mana Iwabuchi on the edge of the penalty area. After holding off Jackie Groenen on the turn, Iwabuchi slipped the ball through to Hasegawa, who was free to delicately dink a shot over Van Veenendaal into the corner of the net.
It was some way to make the most of a first shot on target for a team that failed to score in two of its three group stage games.
But parity nearly didn’t last long.
Miedema received the ball from Shanice van de Sanden but with only Ayaka Yamashita to beat struck straight at the Japan goalkeeper.
Van Veenendaal came to the rescue of the Dutch in the second half by denying Emi Nakajima as Japan chased the winner.
“Japan is a world class team and you saw that today,” Miedema said. “In the second half you can see they have loads of quality on the pitch.”