Saudi Arabia under no illusions as to size of task after defeating Indonesia at Asian Games

Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Alhammad (L) controls the ball as Indonesia's Oni Sir Arianus defends during the Kingdom's 47-13 victory over the hosts. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Saudi Arabia under no illusions as to size of task after defeating Indonesia at Asian Games

  • Victory over the hosts gifts Saudi Arabia top spot in Group C.
  • Manager Muhanna Al-Qamous still targeting a place in the semifinals.

JAKARTA: Schools were closed and the Indonesia president held a special ceremony to mark 73 years of independence, but the Saudi Arabian handball team were in no mood to hand out gifts on Indonesian National Day as they beat the Asian Games hosts 47-13 at the Gor Popki Cibubur sports complex.

The victory for Muhanna Al-Qamous’ side ensured they finish the preliminary group stage undefeated and top of Group C, one position higher than they managed four years ago in Incheon. They will now progress to the main round, where they join a group consisting of Japan, Iraq and reigning champions Qatar.

“We hoped that this would be an easy game, but you can never underestimate an opponent,” Al-Qamous, the Saudi team manager, told Arab News after watching his side dominate Indonesia throughout.
“It was their national day and the atmosphere was good — everybody was excited and the players were clearly happy to be playing in front of their home support. This was their day, but we had to be professional and I think the opposition knew it would be difficult for them to achieve something here.”

Indonesia had lost their opening match against Hong Kong 40-17 while Saudi Arabia had gone on to defeat Hong Kong 42-24. With strong performances by pivot Ali Alibrahim and center-back Mahdi Al-Salem — both of whom finished the tie with 100 percent shot-conversion rates — Indonesia were unable to put up much of a fight. Saudi raced to a 21-4 lead in the first period, before adding a further 26 as the hosts tired. 

“Two games and two wins. We can be very proud, but we must not get carried away. Now we will play against Japan on Monday and that match will, for me, be crucial to our hopes of reaching the semifinals. We know them well so it will be a difficult game for both teams, but we can be confident,” said Al-Qamous, who recalled losing to the East Asians in the third-place play-off at the 2016 Asian Championships.  

Japan only squeezed through to the second phase after drawing 26-26 with South Korea in their final group game. Iraq meanwhile lost to Bahrain, bronze-medallists four years ago, but defeated Chinese Taipei and India to progress. Qatar, who won their first Asian Games title four years ago by upsetting six-time champions and hosts South Korea in the final, have continued where they left off, with resounding wins over Malaysia and Iran.

Yet with the top two teams going through to the semifinals, Al-Qamous knows victory against Japan on Monday is crucial to easing their safe passage. And having competed at the World Championships eight times, he believes pressure will not be an issue. 

“It will be a difficult group, no doubt, but we are concentrating on reaching the semifinals again” he said.
“Whoever we play, we believe we can win, but the way the group is set up, that first game against Japan will be so key in my opinion. If we can win, we will face Iraq next knowing victory will put us in the semis. Everything will appear that much easier. The Japan match will decide the order. Inshallah, our experience will see us through.”


England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

Updated 18 November 2018
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England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

  • Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from manager Southgate
  • England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead

LONDON: Harry Kane fired England into the Nations League semifinals as Gareth Southgate’s side scored twice in the last 12 minutes to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory over Croatia on Sunday.
England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead against the run of play in the second half at Wembley.
But Southgate’s vibrant young side pulled off a stirring escape act in the closing stages to gain a measure of revenge for their World Cup semifinal defeat against Croatia earlier this year.
Jesse Lingard came off the bench to poach England’s equalizer and captain Kane was on hand to turn in the winner with five minutes left.
England’s fightback took them to the top of Group A4, above Spain and relegated Croatia, and they can look forward to playing in the last four in June next year.
It was a cathartic moment for England, who have made a habit of suffering painful defeats against Croatia, with this year’s World Cup woe following the 2007 loss that cost them a place at Euro 2008.
More importantly, the performance provided further tangible proof that Southgate is building a team capable of challenging for the major prizes after years of under-achievement.
England’s appearance in the semifinals of the Nations League, which are set to be held in Portugal next June, offers another chance to reach their first major final since 1966.
Following the 3-2 Nations League win over Spain in Seville last month, this tournament has been a serious statement of intent from Southgate’s team and they will go into 2019 with great expectations.
From start to finish, England were the dominant force, although they were fortunate to escape when Ante Rebic shot over after Jordan Pickford fumbled Fabian Delph’s backpass.
Kane slipped a perfectly-weighted pass through to Raheem Sterling and the Manchester City winger’s blistering pace sent him clear of the Croatia defense.
With only Lovre Kalinic to beat, Sterling let Croatia off the hook as he directed a hesitant shot straight at the keeper.
England kept probing intelligently, with the speed of Sterling and Marcus Rashford providing their main threat.
Delph’s pass sparked a frantic sequence, forcing Kalinic to dash out of his area to head away from Sterling.
When Kalinic’s clearance fell to Kane, the England captain’s effort was headed off the line by Tin Jedvaj.
The rebound fell to Kane, but Kalinic, by now back in his goal, used his legs to foil the Tottenham striker with a last-ditch save.
It was more of the same at the start of the second half, but once again England couldn’t find the killer touch.
That profligacy looked as though it would prove fatal when Croatia snatched the lead after 56 minutes.
Kramaric was allowed time and space to turn in the area and the Hoffenheim forward took full advantage, clipping a shot that deflected off Eric Dier and looped over Pickford’s despairing dive.
Southgate responded by sending on Lingard and the change reaped an instant reward as England equalized in the 78th minute.
Joe Gomez’s long throw was flicked on by John Stones and Kane prodded past Kalinic, leaving Lingard with the simple task of tapping in from virtually on the goal-line.
England’s deserved winner arrived in the 85th minute.
Ben Chilwell curled over a teasing low free-kick and Kane timed his run to perfection, guiding his shot past Kalinic from close-range.
Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from Southgate, who leapt into the air as he punched the air on the touchline.
Kane had joked with his fiancee this week that he would cry if England ever win a trophy, but he couldn’t guarantee he would weep when they get married.
Thanks to their thrilling comeback, England could bring a tear to Kane’s eyes in the Finals next year.