Asian Games adventure over for Saudi Arabia after heartbreaking defeat to Japan

The Young Falcons will fly home on Tuesday after losing 2-1 at the Pakansari Stadium to Japan. (AFP)
Updated 27 August 2018
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Asian Games adventure over for Saudi Arabia after heartbreaking defeat to Japan

  • The Young Falcons will fly home on Tuesday after losing 2-1 to Japan at the Pakansari Stadium
  • Defeat follows U-19 heartache against Japan two years ago

WEST JAVA: Two years after losing on penalties to Japan in the final of the Under-19 Asian Championships, Saudi Arabia were vanquished once more by the Blue Samurai, this time in Monday’s Asian Games quarter-final.
The Young Falcons will fly home on Tuesday after losing 2-1 at the Pakansari Stadium, 60km south of Jakarta, after Yuto Iwasaki netted his second goal of the game 17 minutes from time to cancel out Abdullah Al-Yousif’s equalizer.
Five of Al-Shehri’s starting 11 featured in the 2016 final in Bahrain and the result had not been forgotten, with Ayman Al-Khulaif revealing pre-match that he was seeking revenge for the heartbreak. Much like his previous games at this month’s tournament, the Al-Ahli winger was central to the majority of his side’s creativity, drawing free-kicks and making runs to free up striker Haroune Camara.
“The team tried its best,” said Saad Al-Shehri, who refused to speak in English post-match despite having done so after each of his side’s previous victories. “This was a tough game for us, but we will train and try to improve. Reaching the quarter-finals at the Asian Games is a good achievement.”
Camara should have done better early on when faced with two defenders close to goal, but he failed to lift his head and pick out Nasser Al-Omran. He did not make the same mistake twice when, moments later, he played the ball wide to Abdulrahman Ghareeb, who dragged his shot past the far post.
“Our players played very well and with a strong mentality to go to the next round,” said Japan coach Hajjime Moriyasu. “It was very important for us to go aggressive at the start and fight our opponent. There was a mismatch, but our players were intelligent enough to deal with that.”
Iwasaki, who had earlier tested Mohammed Al-Yami from a similar position, opened the scoring on the half-hour when Daizen Maeda reacted quickest to a probing ball forward and laid off his teammate, who floated a right-footed curler back across the goalkeeper. Saudi felt aggrieved, thinking their opponents would put the ball out of play to allow medical treatment for Taishi Matsumoto.
Eight minutes later though, Saudi were level. A loose ball rattled around the penalty area before being snatched at and struck toward goal, hitting left-back Al-Yousif and looping up over the defense to land in the back of the net. It was a deserved equalizer and, shortly after the interval, Camara and Ghareeb combined again to work an opening, but once more, the latter fired off target.
“We conceded our goal because of poor defending, but in the second half we attacked more and had chances,” said Al-Shehri. “In the end though, Japan got stronger. We were second best ... it was a tough game.”
Japan coach Hajjime Moriyasu made early substitutions to inject more energy into his team and it paid off, with Japan dominating as the game grew on. Reo Hatate sneaked in behind the Saudi defense and knocked the ball past Al-Yami only for it to trickle wide, before the Saudi goalkeeper made an excellent acrobatic save from a Maeda header.
“We knew before the that that KSA have speed and technique and are a strong opponent so it was very important for us to control the risk,” said Kou Itakura, the Japanese captain. “We communicated well to play against them and our forward chased the ball very well, pressuring their defense. We played as a unit to win and were able to deliver the ball forward with success.”
With Abdullah Tarmin suspended, Al-Shehri had shifted the terrier-like Yousef Al-Harbi to right- back, but in the 73rd minute, Maeda was left with too much space on the flank and was able to cut in and pick out Iwasaki, who struck first time to give Japan the lead once more. It felt like a lesson in game-management — Tarmin had needlessly collected his booking while his team led 4-0 against China in the Round of 16.
“We conceded a goal, but our players played well enough to keep the rhythm and ensure we got the result,” said coach Moriyasu, who was not in charge in 2016.
“Two years ago against Saudi Arabia, most of the time we were defending and they created so many chances,” added Itakura, who started both games. “This time we held the ball and avoided too many shots. Saudi were strong before and now are even better, especially No9 [Camara], who offered them strength and speed. But Japan has also developed a lot in these two years.”
As the whistle blew, drawing an end to a memorable campaign for the Young Falcons, Al-Yami and Al-Yousif fell to the ground, inconsolable. Their adventure is over, but there are enough reasons to believe it is also just beginning.


F1 champion and aviation entrepreneur Niki Lauda dies at 70

Updated 36 min 33 sec ago
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F1 champion and aviation entrepreneur Niki Lauda dies at 70

BERLIN: Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70.
The Austria Press Agency reported that Lauda’s family said in a statement he “passed away peacefully” on Monday. Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda last year, said Tuesday: “Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that.”
Lauda won the F1 drivers’ championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren.
In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix but made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later.
Lauda remained closely involved with the Formula One circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985, and in recent years served as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team.
Born on Feb. 22, 1949 into a wealthy Vienna industrial family, Nikolaus Andreas Lauda was expected to follow his father’s footsteps into the paper-manufacturing industry, but instead concentrated his business talents and determination on his dreams of becoming a racing driver.
Lauda financed his early career with the help of a string of loans, working his way through the ranks of Formula 3 and Formula 2. He made his Formula 1 debut for the March team at the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix and picked up his first points in 1973 with a fifth-place finish for BRM in Belgium.
Lauda joined Ferrari in 1974, winning a Grand Prix for the first time that year in Spain and his first drivers’ title with five victories the following season.
Facing tough competition from McLaren’s James Hunt, he appeared on course to defend his title in 1976 when he crashed at the Nuerburgring during the German Grand Prix. Several drivers stopped to help pull him from the burning car, but the accident would scar him for life. The baseball cap Lauda almost always wore in public became a personal trademark.
“The main damage, I think to myself, was lung damage from inhaling all the flames and fumes while I was sitting in the car for about 50 seconds,” he recalled nearly a decade later. “It was something like 800 degrees.”
Lauda fell into a coma for a time. He said that “for three or four days it was touch and go.”
“Then my lungs recovered and I got my skin grafts done, then basically there was nothing left,” he added. “I was really lucky in a way that I didn’t do any (other) damage to myself. So the real question was then will I be able to drive again, because certainly it was not easy to come back after a race like that.”
Lauda made his comeback just six weeks after the crash, finishing fourth at Monza after overcoming his initial fears.
He recalled “shaking with fear” as he changed into second gear on the first day of practice and thinking, “I can’t drive.”
The next day, Lauda said he “started very slowly trying to get all the feelings back, especially the confidence that I’m capable of driving these cars again.” The result, he said, boosted his confidence and after four or five races “I had basically overcome the problem of having an accident and everything went back to normal.”
He won his second championship in 1977 before switching to Brabham and then retiring in 1979 to concentrate on setting up his airline, Lauda Air, declaring that he “didn’t want to drive around in circles any more.”
Lauda came out of retirement in 1982 after a big-money offer from McLaren, reportedly about $3 million a year.
He finished fifth his first year back and 10th in 1983, but came back to win five races and edge out teammate Alain Prost for his third title in 1984. He retired for good the following year, saying he needed more time to devote to his airline business.
Initially a charter airline, Lauda Air expanded in the 1980s to offer flights to Asia and Australia. In May 1991, a Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed during a climb, killing all 213 passengers and 10 crew.
Lauda occasionally took the controls of the airline’s jets himself over the years. In 1997, longtime rival Austrian Airlines took a minority stake and in 2000, with the company making losses, he resigned as board chairman after an external audit criticized a lack of internal financial control over business conducted in foreign currency. Austrian Airlines later took full control.
Lauda founded a new airline, Niki, in 2003. Germany’s Air Berlin took a minority stake and later full control of that airline, which Lauda bought back in early 2018 after it fell victim to its parent’s financial woes.
He partnered with budget carrier Ryanair on Niki’s successor, LaudaMotion.
On the Formula One circuit, Lauda later formed a close bond with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who joined the team in 2013. He often backed Hamilton in public and provided advice and counsel to the British driver.
Lauda also intervened as a Mercedes mediator when Hamilton and his former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg feuded, argued and traded barbs as they fought for the title between 2014-16
Lauda twice underwent kidney transplants, receiving an organ donated by his brother in 1997 and, when that stopped functioning well, a kidney donated by his girlfriend in 2005.
In August 2018, he underwent a lung transplant that the Vienna General Hospital said was made necessary by a “serious lung illness.” It didn’t give details.
Lauda is survived by his second wife, Birgit, and their twin children Max and Mia. He had two adult sons, Lukas and Mathias, from his first marriage.