Al-Hilal coach Zoran Mamic cannot wait to face old club Al-Ain in AFC Champions League opener

Mamic is confident the Riyadh giants can get a result in the UAE's ~Garden City. (Reuters)
Updated 04 March 2019
0

Al-Hilal coach Zoran Mamic cannot wait to face old club Al-Ain in AFC Champions League opener

  • Croatian returns to Al-Ain barely a month after leaving club for Riyadh giants.
  • Happy he can return to club he led to much success.

LONDON: New Al-Hilal coach Zoran Mamic cannot wait to face his old club Al-Ain when the two Arab giants face each other in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
The Croatian replaced Jorge Jesus as coach of Al-Hilal last month, poached from UAE champions Al-Ain. And just weeks into his time in the dugout of the Riyadh club Mamic is set to come face-to-face with his old side.
For some that would be daunting — the extra incentive in such a big clash adding spice to an already much-anticipated clash — but Mamic is embracing what is already a huge challenge.
“I am happy to play the first match of the AFC Champions League against my former team, Al-Ain,” the 47-year-old said.
“It won’t be an easy match (but) I hope to make history by beating Al-Ain in Al-Ain.”
The Group C opener pits the runaway leaders of the Saudi Pro League against the UAE champions who made it all the way to the FIFA Club World Cup final in December. Since then, however, they have fallen eight points behind table-topping Sharjah in the Arabian Gulf League and come into the clash on the back of a 2-0 defeat to Shabab Al-Ahli.
Added to that the AFC Champions League is the one trophy Al-Hilal want to win — the Riyadh giants having splashed the cash to bring quality players such as Bafetimbi Gomis and Sebastian Giovinco to the club.
But while Al-Hilal go into the continental clash as slight favorites Mamic is taking nothing for granted.
“Regardless of their current situation Al-Ain have the ability to overcome current setbacks, they have outstanding players,” the club’s former boss said.
“They are going through difficult circumstances but everything can change in one match.”
With another Saudi Pro League title expected Mamic will be judged on how Al-Hilal perform in the AFC Champions League. Last season they feel at the first hurdle, with a early exit in the group stage, a poor start in the competition contributed to Ramon Diaz’s sacking. Keen to avoid the same fate Mamic has called on his players to get off to a great start.
“It is important to start the competition with a victory,” the Croatian said.
“We are going to go all out for the three points.”


Dutch cap Europe’s World Cup dominance by ousting Japan

Updated 26 June 2019
0

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.”