‘Proud’ Son sparks Koreans to Asian Cup win as Iran fire blanks

South Korea’s forward Son Heung-Min applauds fans at the end of the AFC Asian Cup group C match between South Korea and China at Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi. (AP Photo)
Updated 16 January 2019
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‘Proud’ Son sparks Koreans to Asian Cup win as Iran fire blanks

  • Son Heung-min inspired title-chasing South Korea to a comfortable 2-0 victory over China on Wednesday to finish top of their Asian Cup group
  • Iran, joint favorites with the Koreans, also advanced as group winners despite being held to a goalless draw by bitter rivals Iraq

ABU DHABI: An effervescent Son Heung-min inspired title-chasing South Korea to a comfortable 2-0 victory over China on Wednesday to finish top of their Asian Cup group.
Iran, joint favorites with the Koreans, also advanced as group winners despite being held to a goalless draw by bitter rivals Iraq, while Kyrgyzstan squeaked through on their tournament debut.
Hwang Ui-jo and Kim Min-jae were on target as South Korea, boosted by the arrival of their talisman, ran China ragged in Abu Dhabi.
Son won the penalty converted by Hwang and fizzed in the assist for Kim to help South Korea finish top of Group C with a perfect nine points as they look to end 59 years of Asian Cup hurt.
“Of course I’m a bit tired — I didn’t expect to play for so long,” Korean captain Son told AFP after completing 87 minutes despite a punishing run of 13 games for Tottenham since the start of December.
“But it’s an honor to wear this red shirt and play for the national team. My first game of the tournament, clean sheet, 2-0 — it’s a happy afternoon!“
Marcello Lippi’s China finished as group runners-up having likewise already sealed their place in the last 16 by winning their first two matches.
Spurs forward Son, who played in the London club’s 1-0 defeat by Manchester United three days ago, showed quick feet to tempt China defender Shi Ke into a rash lunge after 12 minutes.
Hwang calmly tucked away the spot-kick to send thousands of Korean ‘Red Devils’ fans wild at the compact Al Nahyan Stadium.
South Korea, who beat Asian Cup first-timers Philippines and Kyrgyzstan 1-0 in their opening two games, went for the jugular.
A Hwang Hee-chan rocket forced China goalkeeper Yan Junling into a fingertip save before Hwang Ui-jo curled an effort against the post.
The Koreans doubled their lead six minutes after the break when Son’s corner was met by Kim’s thumping header.
Son went down clutching his ankle after a meaty challenge from China’s tattooed defender Zhang Linpeng late on.
But the 26-year-old appeared to suffer no lasting damage and was given a rousing reception when he trotted off three minutes from time.
South Korea, who famously reached the World Cup semifinals in 2002, have failed to win Asian football’s most coveted prize since winning back-to-back titles in 1956 and 1960.
But the addition of the mercurial Son has clearly energised the 2015 runners-up, who suddenly look a very different proposition.
China, Asian Cup finalists in 1984 and 2004, began the competition by edging Kyrgyzstan 2-1 and overpowering the Philippines 3-0.
But they were no match for South Korea, who are yet to learn the identity of their next opponents.
“Let’s be honest, the Korean team is much stronger than us — they’re faster, technically superior and play with greater intensity,” shrugged Lippi, whose side face Thailand in the last 16.
“We have to accept that and focus on our next challenge.”
Iran, themselves looking to end a 43-year title drought, fired blanks in Dubai but still topped Group D on goal difference from Iraq after earlier thrashing Yemen 5-0 and beating Vietnam 2-0.
“When it’s necessary for my players to play, they play,” said Iran coach Carlos Queiroz.
“When it’s necessary for them to fight, they fight. If it’s necessary for them to sing and dance, they will be ready.”
Elsewhere, a Vitalij Lux hat-trick sent Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Philippines crashing out and Kyrgyzstan through from Group C as one of the best third-placed teams after a 3-1 victory.
The Filipino “street dogs” grabbed a late consolation through Stephan Schrock — their first-ever Asian Cup goal and one celebrated with gusto by their noisy fans.
Vietnam eased past war-torn Yemen 2-0 to keep their hopes alive after a brilliant Nguyen Quang Hai free-kick and a penalty from Que Ngoc Hai.


PSG chief Al-Khelaifi charged with corruption over Qatar worlds athletics champs

Updated 23 May 2019
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PSG chief Al-Khelaifi charged with corruption over Qatar worlds athletics champs

  • BeIN Sports boss Nasser Al-Khelaifi has been under investigation since March
  • Another BeIN executive is also under investigation in France

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain chief Nasser Al-Khelaifi was on Thursday charged with corruption in connection with the bidding process for this year’s world athletics championships in Doha, judicial sources said.
Al-Khelaifi, who is also the boss of Qatari television channel BeIN Sports, has been under investigation since March in a probe of the bidding process for the 2017 and the 2019 world championships.
Doha lost out to London to stage the 2017 worlds but beat off opposition to host the 2019 event from Eugene in the United States and Barcelona.
Al-Khelaifi was informed by letter of his “mis en examen,” a French legal term that has no direct equivalent in the American or British legal systems but roughly translates as being charged.
The French term does not automatically trigger a trial but means that prosecutors believe there is strong or corroborated evidence of wrongdoing.
Al-Khelaifi was unable to attend questioning by investigators scheduled for May 16 as he was in Qatar for the domestic cup final.
French prosecutors are looking specifically at two payments of $3.5 million in 2011 by Oryx Qatar Sports Investment, a company jointly owned by Al-Khelaifi and his brother Khalid, to a sports marketing firm run by Papa Massata Diack.
Diack’s father Lamine Diack was president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) from 1999 to 2015 and a member of the International Olympic Committee.
As well as probing the world athletics championships the French investigation is also examining circumstances in which the Olympic Games were awarded to Rio de Janeiro for 2016 and Tokyo for 2020.
Prior to the decision to charge him, Al-Khelaifi had been questioned in March as “person of interest” in the case revolving around the 2011 payments by Oryx which were made at a time when Doha was seeking to host the 2017 world athletics championship and the 2020 Olympics.
Investigators were seeking to determine whether, in return for the payments, Lamine Diack used his influence to gain votes for Doha among IAAF members and also to obtain a date change for the competitions to avoid the heat of the Qatar summer.
The world championships take place at the Khalifa International Stadium between September 27 and October 6.
Al-Khelaifi’s lawyer Francis Szpiner denied all wrongdoing on the part of his client saying the Oryx payments were fully transparent and the facts of the case “do not concern him (Al-Khalaifi).”
The head of BeIN Sports “authorized no payment of any kind in relation to the allegations made,” he told AFP.
“Nasser Al-Khelaifi was neither a shareholder, nor a director of Oryx en 2011. He did not intervene either directly or indirectly in the candidature of Doha...”
Another BeIN executive, Yousef Al-Obaidly, a PSG board member and close associate of Al-Khelaifi, is also under investigation in France which claims jurisiction because the IAAF is based in Monaco.
Al-Obaidly has also denied all wrongdoing, saying the allegations were “utterly baseless and unsubstantiated.”
Lamine Diack, meanwhile, was charged with corruption in March in relation to the case while an arrest warrant has been issued for his Senegal-based son, also wanted for corruption and money laundering, according to a source close to the probe.
French prosecutors this week recommended that Diack and his son stand trial in a separate matter, for allegedly obstructing sanctions against Russia for doping in return for payments when he was IAAF president.