Spain looking for a partner for Ramos in defense

Spain's defender Sergio Ramos, left, and Norway's forward Joshua King vie for the ball during their Euro 2020 qualifying match. (AFP)
Updated 15 October 2019

Spain looking for a partner for Ramos in defense

  • Since Piqué retired from the national team Spain have struggled to find a reliable partner for Ramos

MADRID: Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué were the pillar of Spain’s defense for years and were crucial to the team’s success over the last decade.

The central defenders formed an uncontested duo that helped “La Roja” dominate world football, winning the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship in 2012.

But since Piqué retired from the national team after last year’s World Cup, Spain have struggled to find a reliable partner for Ramos in defense.

The 33-year-old Ramos has been with the national team since 2005 and set a record for most appearances with Spain on Saturday, in the team’s 1-1 draw at Norway in qualifying for the 2020 European Championship. He surpassed Iker Casillas’ mark by playing in his 168th match with the
national team.

Ramos has been surrounded mostly by newcomers since Piqué decided to focus on his time with Barcelona, and none has taken over as an indisputable replacement.

One of the most experienced defenders who made it to Spain’s squad recently is 34-year-old Raúl Albiol, who has little more than 50 appearances with the national team.

Against Norway, it was only the second time Albiol partnered with Ramos. Despite a decent performance by the Villarreal defender, Spain could not hold on to a late lead, conceding an equalizer in stoppage time to postpone Spain’s qualification for Euro 2020.

Iñigo Martínez was another central defender who played against Norway, replacing leftback Juan Bernat in the final minutes to try to aid the defense near the end.

“La Roja” will get another chance to qualify on Tuesday when they visit Sweden, when coach Robert Moreno will have an even greater challenge to overcome as Ramos will not be available because of suspension.

Other recent partners for Ramos include Nacho Fernández, Mario Hermoso and Diego Llorente. Also called up after Pique’s departure were Unai Nuñez and Pau Torres, the 22-year-old Villarreal defender touted as a future star but who is yet to make an appearance with the national team.

“When I was younger I looked up to defenders like Gerard and Sergio,” Torres said. “For me it’s a privilege to be able to share the changing room with Sergio Ramos and to learn from him and from the other defenders on the team.”

Ramos, Spain’s longtime captain, recently also surpassed Casillas’ record for most wins with the Spanish national team. He hasn’t talked much about his own retirement, although some rumors surfaced when he recently admitted to the possibility of joining Spain’s Under-23 squad to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Moreno said he sees the possible attempt by Ramos as a way for him to stay motivated and add to his already successful career.

“It would be unfair to keep players in the national team only because of their names,” Moreno said. “They would be the first to say that they don’t want to keep playing if they are not at a high level.

“But I’m certain that Sergio will keep practicing hard day after day and I’m certain that he will keep playing at this level.”


Saudi bowlers off to QubicaAMF World Cup

Updated 18 November 2019

Saudi bowlers off to QubicaAMF World Cup

  • First woman from the Kingdom to compete in the championship in Indonesia

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is sending its first woman to compete in the 55th QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup that begins in Indonesia.

Mashael Alabdulwahid will join her male teammate Abdulrahman Al-Khilaiwi, under the supervision of coach, Mario Joseph, to take part in the contest in Palembang.

Both players underwent training at a camp in Riyadh to prepare for the event. The training program included participating in the Asian Championship in Kuwait for Abdulrahman, and participating in the GCC 6th women’s bowling tournament for Mashael.

The men’s competition started Sunday at 9 p.m.

The women’s competition will begin at 3 p.m. today, where Mashael will take part in six rounds. The competition will run until Nov. 24.

HIGHLIGHT

  • Mashael Alabdulwahid will join her male teammate Abdulrahman Al-Khilaiwi, under the supervision of coach, Mario Joseph, to take part in the contest in Palembang.
  • Both players underwent training at a camp in Riyadh to prepare for the event. The training program included participating at the Asian Championship in Kuwait for Abdulrahman, and participating at the GCC 6th women’s bowling tournament for Mashael.

The competition continues on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and after completing 24 rounds, the top 24 players will be selected to compete for the top eight positions by playing eight runs on Friday. On Saturday, the best four female players and four male players will be chosen to compete in the finals.

Abdulrahman said that he is looking forward to the world cup. “This year there is a new advantage and that is having teammate Mashael joining me for the first time. I’m proud of her! It’s a big thing for Saudi women and for us in the team because this world exposure will help them to learn and give them an incentive to develop their skills,” he said.

The 20-year-old player has been bowling for the past 10 years. Despite his young age, thanks to his perseverance and sense of discipline he managed to win many victories, but the most distinguished were those in 2018. He delivered the bronze medal at the World Cup in Detroit, and two bronzes at the Asian Bowling Championship in the Philippines in the same year, and a gold medal for the trio event at the Arab Bowling Championship in Oman.

Mashael, 32, was only able to play officially last year in February 2018 when the Saudi Bowling Federation (SBF) received the decree to allow women to play in sports. However, she has been playing for fun since early childhood when she used to travel to Egypt with her family and where she managed to learn from the professionals and get hooked on the game. Mashael was chosen to take part in the Egypt Arab Championship and World Bowling Women’s Championship in Las Vegas in August 2018.

Mashael said: “Playing for fun is definitely enjoyable but when you wear your country’s flag that’s a huge responsibility put on your shoulder. You become an ambassador and a role model and when I’m put in that situation, I definitely want to give my all to be fit for that honor, and give the best image worthy of our beloved country.”

The bowlers expressed their gratitude to the Saudi Bowling Federation and its president Bader bin Abdullah Al-Alsheikh for his support and for creating opportunities for them so that they can progress, enrich their experiences and win awards and achievements.