Brazil to play Green Falcons as Saudi Arabia host Neymar and Co.

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Neymar and his Brazil teammates will head to Riyadh in October to face Saudi Arabia and then play fierce rivals Argentina in Jeddah. (AFP)
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Turki Al-Sheikh, the president of Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority, with the Saudi Arabia players. (SPA)
Updated 08 September 2018
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Brazil to play Green Falcons as Saudi Arabia host Neymar and Co.

  • During the next international window, the Green Falcons will face Brazil in Riyadh on October 12
  • Match is part of a four-team series being hosted in the Kingdom, which also includes Argentina

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia hosting Argentina and Brazil in a four-nation tournament in October has been hailed as the best possible preparation for for the 2019 Asian Cup in January for the Green Falcons.
During the next international window, the Green Falcons will face Brazil in Riyadh on October 12, while local fans will get a taste of one of the fiercest and biggest rivalries in world football when the Samba Boys and Argentina meet in Jeddah four days later.
“We have just signed a four-star international tournament in early October with the participation of Brazil, Argentina and the Saudi Arabian team in addition to a fourth team that will be announced soon,” Turki Al-Sheikh, the president of Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority, said on Friday.
The country’s leading sports official wants Egypt to complete the quartet. “As president of the Arab Football Federation, I hope that Egypt will be the fourth team.”
Whether the Pharaohs enter or not, the mini-tournament is good news for fans in Saudi Arabia.
“The most important part is that this gives the team the best kind of test for the Asian Cup,” an official from the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) told Arab News.
“We saw at the World Cup that we need as much quality international experience as possible and there can be nothing better than playing Brazil in front of what should be a sell-out crowd in Riyadh.”
Saudi Arabia have reasons to be optimistic ahead of the tournament. Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi is not only from Argentina but he led Chile to the 2016 Copa America title. His knowledge of South American football should provide even more of an advantage to the hosts.
“These are the kinds of games that coach Pizzi wants,” added the official. “We don’t want to arrange games against weaker teams that we can defeat comfortably, we want a real challenge.

“Not only that, but having Brazil at home gives all players in the league real incentive to try and get into the team and play against some of the best players in the world, such as Neymar. And it is also a great chance for the fans to see the same stars in the flesh.”
Brazil are happy with the arrangement. The five-time world champions had already arranged for the Saudi Arabia test but did not want to travel back to South America to take on Argentina. Staying in Saudi Arabia is also much easier for the Brazil’s European-based players, who will make up an even greater percentage of the squad than usual.
While the Brazilian federation has agreed not to call any players from the four Brazil Cup semifinalists — Flamengo, Corinthians, Palmeiras and Cruzeiro — the SAFF expects both teams to bring all their stars for the trip, though Argentine maestro Lionel Messi is currently on a break from international football.
The tournament also marks another international sporting event in the Kingdom. The GSA have recently organized the Riyadh marathon, the Italian Super Cup final, the Royal Rumble in WWE as well as motorsport events and chess championships. Football remains the most important field however.
“It is commonplace for nations seeking to build a global presence in football to establish new competitions or stage high profile matches,” Simon Chadwick, Professor Sports Enterprise at Salford University in the United Kingdom told Arab News.
“Qatar did it in the run-up to them winning the World Cup vote in 2010, and China has done it recently with a new international tournament. 

“Such initiatives raise profiles, provide an opportunity to prove one’s expertise, and engage key stakeholders in football. As such, we should therefore expect more of the same from Saudi Arabia as the country seeks to become a leading football nation.”
Abdel Ezzat, who resigned as SAFF’s president in August in order to prepare for a run at the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation next year, added: “The country is going through an important change. Football can be a catalyst for change. My country can play an important role in football.
“Football is about growth and if you don’t grow economically, socially, technically, you will not be moving,” Ezzat added. “It’s not enough for us to be in the World Cup.”
Saudi Arabia, who take on North Korea, Lebanon and Qatar at the Asian Cup in January, start preparations for the tournament with another South American test against Bolivia on Monday before traveling to Amman in November for a friendly with Jordan.


BMW’s Antonio Felix da Costa crowned champion at Saudi Arabia's Ad Diriyah E-Prix

Updated 15 December 2018
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BMW’s Antonio Felix da Costa crowned champion at Saudi Arabia's Ad Diriyah E-Prix

  • The Portuguese driver held on for victory ahead of Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Jerome d’Ambrosio in the Mahindra car
  • Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi had the best start on the grid

AD DIRIYAH, Riyadh: Antonio Felix da Costa praised his BMW garage but said there is still a lot of work for him and the team to do in this year’s Formula E season after winning the inaugural Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday.

Da Costa was on pole from the beginning of the race and led away from the line, despite lining up at the front of the grid pointing toward the outside wall at a dusty and overcast Ad Diriyah circuit.

The Portuguese driver held on for victory ahead of Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Jerome d’Ambrosio in the Mahindra car.

Da Costa told Arab News that the new “cooler and futuristic” Gen 2 car gives drivers more power, stability and grip, and that there was “a lot to take in” during the race.


“It is a new car, a new track, a new way of racing, (with) ‘Attack Mode’, and I got the ‘Fan Boost’ for the first time, so there were a lot of things to do and as a team and we executed so well, so I think that is why we won today because we were not the quickest car but we just had a perfect race.

“It is amazing, it’s been really tough and long months of work, but I am really happy with that,” da Costa added.

“We definitely have some work to do as the two Techeetah cars were really fast, and even with (Vergne’s) drive through penalty, he was right there at the end.

“But it’s a good start and we’ll keep working on that and try to keep it going,” he added.

When asked about BMW being involved in Formula E as a factory team for the first time, da Costa said: “It hasn’t been easy the last two years, but as I said it has been a lot work between Indianapolis with Andretti and Munich with BMW, it is great to see and I am so happy for everyone back in Munich.”

Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi had the best start on the grid after he blasted by Jose Maria Lopez around the outside of the first corner from third place.

The front four pulled away from the rest of the pack, before Vergne — who started the race in fifth — passed Lopez on lap one of what would become a 33-lap race, with his teammate Andre Lotterer also getting past the Geox Dragon driver.

As da Costa consolidated his lead, Vergne was closing in on Buemi, eventually passing him in a great move around the outside on lap nine. The Frenchman then set about reeling in da Costa, with the Portuguese offering fierce resistance.

Vergne was then forced to serve drive-through penalties – just after he had used his first “attack mode” – for going exceeding the permitted power while using his “re-gen,” which put paid to him getting a victory.

Reigning champion Vergne, while impressed with the venue, was philosophical after the race.

“I was really hungry for a victory today, but the qualifying in the morning did not go as planned.

“Unfortunately, it was a step down from where I wanted to be, I wanted to win this one. 

“I had a fantastic car, it was incredibly fast, but a big congratulations to the BMW guys and Antonio, it was a well-deserved victory.

“What I will take as a positive from this weekend is that we have a strong team and a very strong car and I am very motivated.

“Going forward, we just need to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes that cost us the win today, but it’s a very encouraging first race and I’m looking forward to Marrakech now.”

On his drive through penalty, he said: “Yes, I had quite a few overtakes on the outside, on the inside, but it was a fun race, I honestly had a lot of fun. 

“I’m content with P2 today, and hoping to keep this package (on the car) and hopefully get some victories.”
Meanwhile, third-placed d’Ambrosio was delighted with his finish to the race.

“I am super happy, it was a great first race with Mahindra and a great start to the championship, I am lucky to be part of such a great team with some great people.

“I have come from two difficult years, so it’s great to start this new relationship with the team in this way. We worked very hard in the past few months to be ready, I think we were very fast but at the end of the race I didn’t have the confidence in the braking.

“But it makes a great to start to the season, with the podium and banking the points, and we’ll see what happens now.”

When asked about the new “attack mode” in Formula E, he said: “It is great, I actually wasn’t supposed to use it at that point of the race (when I did), but I had a good feeling and I saw Techeetah use it and start to build a gap, so I went for it and when the safety car came in I used it again.”