Unimpressive Germany beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in World Cup warmup

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Saudi Arabia's foward Mohammad Al-Sahlawi missed a penalty. (AFP)
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Saudi Arabia's midfielder Taisir Al-Jassim pounced on a penalty save to score. (AFP)
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The Green Falcons would be pleased by a competitive game against the world champions Germany. (AP)
Updated 09 June 2018

Unimpressive Germany beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in World Cup warmup

  • Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf was impressive throughout
  • Joachim Loew’s side again failed to shine

LEVERKUSEN, Germany: Defending World Cup champion Germany defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 on Friday for a timely but unimpressive win one week before its title defense begins in Russia.

Having failed to win any of its previous five friendly games since wrapping up qualification with a perfect 10 wins from 10 matches, Germany was keen to deliver a statement four days before the side leaves for its tournament base in Moscow, especially after last Saturday’s lackluster 2-1 defeat to Austria.

But Joachim Loew’s side again failed to shine and had to rely on Mats Hummels denying Mohammad Al-Sahlawi an injury-time equalizer.

Loew started his strongest available side. Mesut Ozil, who is laboring with a knee injury, was left out with Julian Draxler of Paris Saint-Germain taking the Arsenal midfielder’s place.

Timo Werner fired the home side into an early lead after Marco Reus cut the ball back. It was one-way play thereafter, though the visitors did create some chances as the home side relaxed before the break.

Just when it seemed there might be an equalizer, Werner crossed for Omar Hawsawi to turn the ball into his own net under pressure from Thomas Mueller.

Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, who was impressive throughout, denied Gundogan just minutes after he came on.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who came on for Manuel Neuer at the break, saved a late penalty from Al-Sahlawi but Taisir Al-Jassim followed up on the rebound. The result arguably does more for Saudi Arabia’s hopes than Germany.


Africa Cup switch to winter sends a chill through European leagues

Updated 21 January 2020

Africa Cup switch to winter sends a chill through European leagues

  • High-profile African players playing in England include the Arsenal duo Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang of Gabon and Nicolas Pepe of Cote d’Ivoire

CAIRO: There is little doubt that the switch by the Africa Cup of Nations from summer to winter competition will have a big impact on European competitions, with those at the top of the Premier League perhaps most affected.

The confederation confirmed that from 2021 when Cameroon will play host, the tournament will revert back to being played in January and February.

The tournament was moved to a June-July slot for last year’s edition in Egypt, which meant minimal disruption to the European domestic season. But plenty of Premier League managers will be left with problems this time next year, with several stars likely to leave for up to six weeks, including pre-tournament preparations.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp appears to face the biggest headache given that two of his star attacking players, Mohamed Salah from Egypt and Sadio Mane from Senegal, both featured in the African tournament last summer and are almost certain to be involved in the 2021 competition in some capacity.

High-profile African players playing in England include the Arsenal duo Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang of Gabon and Nicolas Pepe of Cote d’Ivoire, while Manchester City will lose Riyad Mahrez should Algeria feature.

Klopp is critical of the decision to move the tournament dates, calling it “a catastrophe.” Salah and Mane’s absence would leave huge gaps in the Liverpool side. There is also Cameroon’s Joel Matip and Guinea’s Naby Keita to worry about. Matip has become solid at the back. Keita, too, would be a loss given his recent resurgence.

The Liverpool manager is upset because last year’s tournament was moved to mid-year to end a long-standing clash between clubs and countries over the release of their players. It was felt that common sense had prevailed when the tournament, which since 1960 had always been held during winter, reverted to summer. African players in western European clubs would no longer find themselves the target of competing claims for their attention every other season, which would benefit the players and their clubs and countries, and lead to fewer squabbles.

But then Cameroon changed its mind about hosting the tournament in summer next year, changing the dates from June and July to between Jan. 6 and Feb. 6. Why? The weather. It’s simply too hot in Cameroon in summer.

Organizers said they had agreed to the change after discussions with player and coach representatives.

But didn’t Cameroon know beforehand that its summers are too hot, too humid and right in the middle of its rainy season? That the country does not enjoy ideal conditions for football in summer could not have taken its organizers by complete surprise.

The situation serves as a vivid reminder of the botch-up of the 2022 Qatar World Cup. The host and FIFA decided that the World Cup, which is forever played in summer, would be moved to winter because of Qatar’s oppressive heat — but that decision came only after Qatar won the bid. That change, again, will mean a head-on clash with international tournaments and club competitions.

A football tournament simply cannot keep changing when it will be held as often as people change their socks. This is especially true for the Africa Cup of Nations, which is played every two years.

A major sports tournament must have fixed times. And, to be sure, its organizers should understand that you can’t please everybody. A championship’s times are bound to clash with some tournament or other. The African tournament, for example, will avoid a clash with FIFA’s revamped 24-team Club World Cup to be played in China in June and July 2021. But it cannot but conflict with European leagues. The important thing is to stay the course. Once a date is picked, it should be stuck to like glue.