NFL PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Patriots, Chiefs, Saints and Rams one game away from glory

NFL PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Patriots, Chiefs, Saints and Rams one game away from glory
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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks to pass against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first quarter in an AFC Divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
NFL PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Patriots, Chiefs, Saints and Rams one game away from glory
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New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) runs off the field after defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints won 20-14. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)
NFL PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Patriots, Chiefs, Saints and Rams one game away from glory
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Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) passes against Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) in the first quarter in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. (Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)
NFL PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Patriots, Chiefs, Saints and Rams one game away from glory
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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass against Indianapolis Colts defensive end Margus Hunt (92) during the second quarter in an AFC Divisional playoff football game at Arrowhead Stadium. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 19 January 2019

NFL PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Patriots, Chiefs, Saints and Rams one game away from glory

NFL PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Patriots, Chiefs, Saints and Rams one game away from glory

LONDON: And then there were just four.

The NFL’s conference championship games kick off on Sunday, with the Patriots and Chiefs contesting the AFC side of the draw, the Saints and Rams facing off in the NFC. With just one game standing between the four sides and a shot at Super Bowl glory, Arab News examines why each team can make it to Atlanta for the Feb. 3 showdown.

AFC: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS vs NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Put simply, the Chiefs can win their match-up with the Patriots — and probably the whole thing — because of Patrick Mahomes. If he performs at the scintillating levels he has produced since the very first week, New England will find him too hot to handle.

Mahomes’ first season as a starter has been nothing short of miraculous, it was the second-best single season by a quarterback in NFL history. In a full 16-game season, he managed to complete 66 percent of his passes for 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns, with a 113.8 passer rating. He is just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards in a single season, after Peyton Manning’s heroics in 2013.

And Mahomes’ efforts were needed for this Chiefs outfit who managed a 12-4 record in the regular season, despite their defense allowing a whopping 26.3 points per game. The defensive line could be the Chiefs’ downfall, but given the brilliance of Mahomes this season, fans at the Arrowhead could well be celebrating a first Super Bowl appearance since 1970.

Meanwhile, there will come a time when preview pieces such as these will have to stop featuring Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s Patriots. But, despite not being at their metronomic best, that time is not now. The New England juggernaut just keeps rolling on. A win next month in the Big Game would be the Patriots’ sixth title since 2001, and the secret to their success in winning the previous five has been coach Belichick and quarterback Brady’s ability to outsmart any opponent. If the legendary duo can come up with a way to do the same to Andy Reid’s Chiefs, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who thought the Patriots would not go all the way.

In the final weeks of the regular season and first rounds of the playoffs, the Patriots also improved their running game immeasurably. It all clicked into place against the Chargers in the divisional game where Sony Michel looked unstoppable. Couple this with the traditionally blistering pass game of Brady-Gronkowski-Edelman, and that air of invincibility so associated with the Patriots will once again shroud the greatest team of the 21st century.

NFC: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS vs LOS ANGELES RAMS


Outside of Missouri, Boston and California, New Orleans are most people’s pick for Super Bowl glory this year. And aside from the emotional attachment many NFL fans have to the Saints, their performances on the field this year would warrant a second title in a decade. They will need to come out of blocks early, though, as their slow starts in the regular season threatened to lose them games they should have won easily. The Rams have a fantastic offensive line, and if the Saints are asleep in the opening stages, they could find themselves two scores behind in the blink of an eye.

Coach Sean Payton is renowned for taking risks — think the fake punt against Philadelphia in the division game last week — and always seems more comfortable calling plays when ahead. And while usually ruthless at killing games off, it was the Rams who almost pulled off a remarkable comeback in the Superdome earlier this year. The Saints will need that ruthless streak if they are to win it all.

It has been a breathtaking turnaround for the Rams since they appointed head coach Sean McVay— the youngest coach in modern NFL history — in 2017. After years of mediocrity in St. Louis and a poor start after returning to LA, McVay has revolutionized this franchise, which now find themselves one game away from the Super Bowl.

In Jared Goff, too, they have a superstar quarterback — protecting him from the workmanlike defense of the Saints will be key if the Rams are to upset the apple cart and overcome New Orleans. If Goff stays safe in the pocket and the Rams utilize a mixed offensive game, the Rams faithful could be traipsing east for the big one next month, knowing their team has beaten one of the best on the way to a fairytale ending to the season.


Audi to use electrically powered vehicle at Dakar Rally 2022 in Saudi Arabia

Audi to use electrically powered vehicle at Dakar Rally 2022 in Saudi Arabia
Updated 01 August 2021

Audi to use electrically powered vehicle at Dakar Rally 2022 in Saudi Arabia

Audi to use electrically powered vehicle at Dakar Rally 2022 in Saudi Arabia
  • Audi RS Q e-tron, a futuristic prototype that allows a high-voltage battery to be charged while driving, is already under testing

DUBAI: Audi Sport has started testing the new Audi RS Q e-tron, with which it will take on one of the greatest challenges there is in international racing, the Dakar Rally 2022 in Saudi Arabia next January.

Audi is set to be the first car manufacturer to use an electrified drivetrain in combination with an efficient energy converter in its rally SUVs to compete against traditional, diesel-powered vehicles in the world’s toughest rally.

“The quattro was a game-changer for the World Rally championship. Audi was the first brand to win the Le Mans 24 Hours with an electrified drivetrain. Now, we want to usher in a new era at the Dakar Rally, while testing and further developing our e-tron technology under extreme conditions,” said Julius Seebach, managing director of Audi Sport GmbH and responsible for motorsport at Audi. “Our RS Q e-tron was created on a blank sheet of paper in record time and stands for Vorsprung durch Technik.”

Less than a year after the initial concept idea, the new laboratory set up for the Dakar Rally has begun testing on the RS Q e-tron, and all eyes will be on its progress ahead of the event at the start of 2022.

“The Dakar Rally has become one of the most renowned motoring events globally for its rich history and prestige among international racing communities and we are very proud that it is hosted in the Middle East,” said Carsten Barden, Audi Middle East managing director. “We’re looking forward to being part of this flagship event where the Audi RS Q e-tron can showcase its unmatched innovation in the unique climate presented by the region.”

The conditions and terrain of the Dakar Rally present the engineers with special challenges. The marathon event lasts two weeks and the daily stages are up to 800 km in length. “That’s a very long distance,” said Andreas Roos, head of the Dakar project at Audi Sport. “What we are trying to do has never been done before. This is the ultimate challenge for an electric drivetrain.”

Because there are no charging opportunities in the desert, Audi has chosen an innovative concept: On board of the Audi RS Q e-tron there is a highly efficient engine that is part of an energy converter that charges the high-voltage battery while driving.

Visually, the Audi RS Q e-tron also differs significantly from conventionally powered Dakar prototypes. “The vehicle looks futuristic and has many design elements that are typical of Audi,” said Juan Manuel Diaz, team leader of motorsport design at Audi. “Our aim was to symbolize Vorsprung durch Technik and the future of our brand.”

The Dakar Rally entry is being run in conjunction with Q Motorsport.

“Audi has always chosen new and bold paths in racing, but I think this is one of the most complex cars that I have ever seen,” said team principal Sven Quandt. “The electric drivetrain means that a lot of different systems have to communicate with each other. Besides reliability, which is paramount in the Dakar Rally, that’s our biggest challenge in the coming months.”

Quandt compares Audi’s Dakar project to the first moon landing: “Back then, the engineers didn’t really know what was coming. It’s similar with us. If we finish the first Dakar event, that’s already a success.”

The prototype of the Audi RS Q e-tron had its first roll-out in Neuburg at the beginning of July. An intensive test program and the first test entries at cross-country rallies are on the agenda from now until the end of the year.


5 things we learned from Egypt football team’s participation at Tokyo 2020 after loss to Brazil

5 things we learned from Egypt football team’s participation at Tokyo 2020 after loss to Brazil
Updated 01 August 2021

5 things we learned from Egypt football team’s participation at Tokyo 2020 after loss to Brazil

5 things we learned from Egypt football team’s participation at Tokyo 2020 after loss to Brazil
  • Pharaohs did exceptionally well to qualify to quarterfinals from Group of Death, but lack of firepower caught up with them in the end

Arab interest in the men’s Olympic football tournament ended on Saturday as Egypt lost 1-0 to Brazil in Saitama. The South Americans progress to the last four while the North Africans head home, but there was plenty to think about on the plane back to Cairo.

Here are five things we learned from the Egypt under-23 football team’s participation at Tokyo 2020.

1. Egypt survived the Group of Death

It wasn’t the most exciting of rides, but it should not be forgotten that Egypt got out of the Group of Death. There was a hard-fought draw with Spain, a valiant 1-0 defeat against Argentina and then the all-important win over Australia. To finish second behind Spain and above the South Americans in Group C is a significant achievement, and it should give the players a huge confidence boost going forward.

Like the rest of Africa, the senior team is in qualification action for the 2022 World Cup in September and should have few problems getting past Angola, Libya and Gabon into the next round. The confidence and experience from Japan should stand those players who went to the Olympics and are also part of the senior team in good stead to ensure that they make it to Qatar next year.

2. Defense was an understandable strategy, but Egypt could have done more

In four games played, Egypt conceded just two goals but scored only two as well. That tells the story of this tournament. Coach Shawky Gharib set up the team not to concede. It may not have been pretty, but it was understandable given the absences and the quality of the opposition.

Ideally, Egypt would have done what it did in the group stage — similar to England at the Euros — and then move up a gear in the knockout rounds. It is difficult when you are facing a talented Brazil team, but had the Pharaohs attacked a little more in the three group games, then they would surely have been a little more fluid going forward in the quarterfinal, which could have made all the difference. The coach could have used attacking midfielder Nasser Maher more than he did.

3. Egypt missed Mohamed Salah

It’s an obvious point, but Egypt lacked a cutting edge in attack. Defensively, the team was solid and played to those strengths. There was criticism of these tactics from some journalists and former players who felt that the team should have attacked more, and while that is easier said than done against Spain, Argentina and Brazil, they did have a point in the Australia game.

But had Mohamed Salah been present, then not only would the team have been more dangerous in attack, but the opposition would have been warier too. The Liverpool star is perhaps the Egyptian striker who can put half-chances away on a constant basis.

Brazil may have been a little more conservative had Salah been loitering with intent, and it would have relieved some of the pressure on the backline. The whole atmosphere around the game would have been different. Richarlison caused lots of problems for Egypt, but the Everton man can’t match Salah in the English Premier League. He may not have managed it in Japan either.

4. Hegazi and El-Shenawy shine

While there is little doubt Brazil deserved to beat Egypt, there is no disgrace to lose 1-0 to the South Americans. The fact that the scoreline was so tight was, in no small part, due to the heroics of goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy.

The Al-Ahly No. 1 made many saves to keep out Richarlison and company. The main duty of overage players is to bring something to the team that the younger folk can’t do, and the 32-year-old did that and more.

Ahmed Hegazi was just as much of an influence. The Al-Ittihad defender rivals the goalkeeper for the most impressive performance in the four games. It is not just about his intelligent positioning and hard work but the leadership that helps inspire the whole team. Egypt conceded just two goals in four games against some quality opposition and attackers, and these two overage stars deserve plenty of credit for that.

5. Africa falls short on the big stage once more

The Olympics is a more democratic football tournament than the World Cup. In the quarterfinals, there were two African teams and two from Asia, with South America, Oceania, Europe and Concacaf having one each. That was a good showing from Africa, but both Egypt and the Ivory Coast failed to make the last four. All the other confederations will have one representative each in the semifinals, but not Africa.

If you take Nigeria out of the equation, then the continent’s performance in recent Olympic tournaments has not been great, with talented teams going so far but failing to stay until the end. It is the same with World Cups. The best of Africa need to start turning good tournament performances into great ones.


Egypt beats Bahrain 30-20 in handball men’s competition to qualify for quarterfinals

Egypt beats Bahrain 30-20 in handball men’s competition to qualify for quarterfinals
Updated 01 August 2021

Egypt beats Bahrain 30-20 in handball men’s competition to qualify for quarterfinals

Egypt beats Bahrain 30-20 in handball men’s competition to qualify for quarterfinals
  • The Pharaohs finished second in Group B and will now face Germany on Tuesday

Egypt defeated Bahrain 30-20 in their handball men’s preliminary round match at Yoyogi National Stadium on Sunday to finish second in Group B and progress to Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

With four wins and one loss, Egypt finished behind group winners Denmark — who beat Portugal 34-28 yesterday — and will now face Germany in their next match.

Egypt has never won a medal in the handball Olympic competition but will now have their eyes on a podium finish at Tokyo 2020.

The Pharaohs opened their Olympic campaign with a 37-31 win over Portugal on July 24, but two days later lost their second fixture 32-27 to Denmark. However, since then the Egyptian team has been faultless, beating hosts Japan 33-29 and Sweden 27-22 before this morning’s win over fellow Arab competitors Bahrain.

Egypt progressively improved throughout the first half to take a commanding lead of 15-7 by the break. Despite a spirited performance by Bahrain that saw them score 13 points in the second half, Egypt managed to double their tally for an ultimately comfortable win.

The  37-year-old veteran Ahmed El-Ahmar was once again the team’s standout performer, scoring five goals to take his overall tally to a Egyptian Olympic record of 83. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Mohamed El-Tayar had another fine game against Bahrain, saving 15 of the 35 shots that he faced.


Saudi runner Mazen Al-Yassin wins Men’s 400m heat to reach Tokyo 2020 semifinal

Saudi runner Mazen Al-Yassin wins Men’s 400m heat to reach Tokyo 2020 semifinal
Updated 01 August 2021

Saudi runner Mazen Al-Yassin wins Men’s 400m heat to reach Tokyo 2020 semifinal

Saudi runner Mazen Al-Yassin wins Men’s 400m heat to reach Tokyo 2020 semifinal
  • The 25-year-old’s result represents one of the Kingdom’s best performances at the Olympics

Runner Mazen Al-Yassin has produced one of the Saudi Arabian delegation’s best performances at Tokyo 2020 by winning his race in the Men’s 400m competition at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday morning.

A personal best time of 45.16 seconds saw him finish ahead of Kevin Borlee of Belgium and Ricky Petrucciani of Switzerland.

The 25-year-old will now be aiming for Thursday’s final when he takes part in Monday morning’s semifinals, starting from 2:05 a.m. Saudi Arabia time.

Al-Yassin received the call up to the Olympics on July 2 and headed to Tokyo after eight years of consistent participation in the 400m behind him.

He represented Saudi Arabia at the 2013 World Youth Championships in Ukraine and that same year won gold at the 4x400m relay at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Indonesia and silver at in the individual 400m at the Asian Junior Games in Taiwan.

In 2015, another silver followed in the 4x400m relay at the Asian Games in China.

In 2017, Al-Yassin’s personal best would rapidly improve, with the runner winning silver in the individual 400m race at the Arab Championships in Tunisia and bronze in the relay. The same year, he grabbed another silver at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan.


Irish boxer injures ankle celebrating win, out of Olympics

Irish boxer injures ankle celebrating win, out of Olympics
Updated 01 August 2021

Irish boxer injures ankle celebrating win, out of Olympics

Irish boxer injures ankle celebrating win, out of Olympics
  • Britain’s Pat McCormack advances to the gold medal bout by walkover
  • Walsh, who beat Merven Clair of Mauritius 4:1 on Friday, gets a bronze medal

TOKYO: Aidan Walsh has been forced out of his semifinal bout at the Tokyo Olympics after the Irish welterweight injured his ankle while celebrating his quarterfinal victory.
Boxing officials announced Sunday that Walsh did not attend the medical check and weigh-in before his scheduled bout with Britain’s Pat McCormack, who advances to the gold medal bout by walkover.
Walsh, who is from Belfast, will still win a bronze medal. But he appeared to cost himself a chance at gold by celebrating overzealously after he beat Merven Clair of Mauritius 4:1 on Friday to advance to the medal bouts.
Walsh wildly jumped up and down after the verdict was announced, and he landed awkwardly on his ankle. The Irish team said Walsh sprained his ankle, and he was spotted by Irish media leaving the Kokugikan Arena in a wheelchair later Friday.
The Irish team confirmed Walsh is out of the Olympics due to an ankle injury, saying only that it occurred during his bout. Walsh clearly was healthy and mobile throughout his fight until he came up in pain from his celebration.
“What Aidan did this week is an incredible achievement,” said Bernard Dunne, Ireland team leader for boxing. “His performance throughout the tournament has been outstanding, and it is great to see him write his name in the annals of Irish sport.”
The top-seeded McCormack was favored to beat Walsh. McCormack now will face the winner of the other welterweight semifinal between Roniel Iglesias of Cuba and the Russian team’s Andrei Zamkovoy.
Ireland has two other boxers still fighting for medals. Walsh’s bronze is his nation’s 17th medal in boxing, representing roughly half of all the medals won by the Irish team in its Olympic history.