Saudi Arabia reaches World Cup finals with dramatic win over Japan

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ans of of Saudi Arabia cheer and chant before the start of their soccer match against Japan on Tuesday. (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)
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Striker Fahad Al-Muwallad celebrates after scoring a goal for Saudi Arabia in the Asian World Cup qualifying match against Japan in Jeddah on Tuesday. (AN photo)
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Nawaf Al Abed of Saudi Arabia fights for the ball with Hotaru Yamaguchi of Japan. (REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser)
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Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Alsahlawi (R) and Japan's Shuji Gen (L) and his teammate Maya Yushida (C) fight for the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Saudi Arabia and Japan at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah on September 5, 2017. (AFP)
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A bit of action of the Saudi-Japan qualifier match on Tuesday at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on Tuesday.(AN photo by Mohammed Manei)
Updated 08 November 2017

Saudi Arabia reaches World Cup finals with dramatic win over Japan

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 2006 with a 1-0 victory over Japan in a decisive Asian qualifying match on Tuesday at the King Abdulah Sports City Stadium on the outskirts of Jeddah.
Needing to win to qualify outright after Australia beat Thailand 2-1 earlier in Melbourne, the Green Falcons did just that before an announced full house crowd of 62,165 at the cavernous stadium.
Striker Fahad Al-Muwallad collected a pass from the right and booted in a goal to the top corner in the 63rd minute that had the home crowd erupting in jubilation.
Saudi Arabia finished the World Cup qualifiers on 19 points to advance outright to Russia 2018 as the second team from Group B with already-qualified Japan on 20 points from 10 matches.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, congratulated the Saudi national team for its win in a tweet he posted on his Twitter account.
“Congratulation to the Men of the Kingdom. Salman’s men’s qualification to 2018 World Cup. A team that deserves to represent all Arabs. Congratulation to Custodian of the Two holy Mosques and to the beloved Saudi people”.
Elsewhere, South Korea qualified from Group A alongside Iran with a goalless draw away to Uzbekistan.


Champion Marquez begins 2020 build-up in Japan

Repsol Honda Team rider Marc Marquez of Spain takes a corner during the second free practice session at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Motegi, Tochigi prefecture on October 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 6 min 56 sec ago

Champion Marquez begins 2020 build-up in Japan

  • Behind Marquez all riders down to Quartararo are still in with a chance of the runners up position for the 2019 season

MOTEG, JAPAN: With his sixth MotoGP world title already secured, Marc Marquez will head into this weekend’s Japanese race already planning for next season where he will aim to close in on Giacomo Agostini’s all-time record of eight elite level championships.
Spain’s Marquez claimed his sixth MotoGP crown in seven seasons last time out in Thailand, with four races to spare, and eighth overall.
A race victory on Sunday would be his 10th of the season but the 26-year-old Honda rider is already thinking of next year where another title would take him level with Valentino Rossi, who won the last of his seven world championships in 2009, one back from Agostini, whose record eighth came in 1975.
“The target now is to win the ‘Triple Crown,’” said Marquez. “The constructors championship is there but the team championship will be difficult, we’ll never give up. 2020 starts in Motegi.”
His focus on next year comes as a consequence of the pressure being applied by fast-improving French rookie Fabio Quartararo.
The Yamaha rider has suffered two narrow defeats to the world champion in recent races with victory only decided on the closing laps.
“I didn’t expect this guy,” Marqeuz said of Quartararo. “He will be a very tough contender next year for the championship.”
The 20-year-old Frenchman has had four pole positions and five podium slots so far.
“I really like this track,” Quartararo said on Thursday on the Twin Ring Motegi track which is 86 miles away from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.
“The objective at the beginning of the year was to take the ‘Rookie of the year’ title, but I’m not focussing on that any more.”
Quartararo’s rookie season has seen the Petronas Yamaha rider climb to seventh in the rankings, and in the second half of the season he has emerged as Marquez’s biggest rival.
Behind Marquez all riders down to Quartararo are still in with a chance of the runners up position for the 2019 season.
However, Ducati’s 33-year-old Andrea Dovizioso, who won in Japan in 2017, can seal second place on Sunday.
“I’m expecting to deliver a big performance, it’s a stop-start kind of course with fast acceleration key and our machine likes that even if some of the bends suit other bikes,” said Dovizioso, who was 125cc champion back in 2004 but never yet won the title in the top category.
The season wraps up with a 21st race at Valencia in mid-November after visits to Australia and Malaysia.