Resurgent Dutch on cusp of Euro 2020

Dutch national team coach Ronald Koeman talks with Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt during a training session in Zeist, Netherlands. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2019

Resurgent Dutch on cusp of Euro 2020

PARIS: A thrilling crop of young players has Euro 2020 in its sights as the Netherlands prepare for a return to the big stage, while Teemu Pukki’s Finland are on the brink of their first ever major tournament.

Ronald Koeman’s side need just a draw at Northern Ireland on Saturday to guarantee a spot at their first international tournament since coming third at the 2014 World Cup.

The Dutch had been in the doldrums since then until the arrival early in 2018 of Koeman, with the once mighty Oranje missing out on the previous European Championship and last year’s World Cup in Russia.

The 56-year-old has revitalized his country’s dormant national team with the help of a crop of young players who are putting a famous footballing nation back on the map.

Rising stars including Frenkie de Jong, Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt have joined more experienced campaigners Virgil van Dijk, Georginio Wijnaldum, Daley Blind and Ryan Babel to go top of Group C ahead of the final two rounds of qualifiers.

They are level on 15 points with fierce rivals Germany but above them on head-to-head record and three ahead of Northern Ireland, who realistically need a win to carry on their battle for a spot in the tournament.

A late double from 25-year-old Memphis Depay, a revelation in qualifying with six goals in five appearances, in Rotterdam last month helped sink the brave Northern Irish and means they just have to avoid defeat at Windsor Park to join the likes of Italy and Spain.

Germany meanwhile just need to better Northern Ireland’s result to make sure of their place.

The Finns are also on the verge of making history, with a win over lowly Liechtenstein in Helsinki on Friday enough to see them qualify for their first ever European Championship.

They lie second in Group J behind already-qualified Italy thanks to a magical run inspired by the incredible form of star man Pukki.

The Norwich City striker has scored seven of his side’s 12 goals in eight games, with his brace in a 3-0 win over Armenia last time out opening a five-point gap between them and their third-placed opposition.

France are among several big hitters also a hair’s breadth away from the main tournament. They might qualify before they even take the field against Moldova at the Stade de France on Thursday.

Didier Deschamps’ world champions will take their place at the finals should third-placed Iceland not beat Group H leaders Turkey, although a win for France over bottom side Moldova would be enough regardless of what happens in Istanbul.

England can rubber stamp what has long looked to be certain qualification with a draw over winless Montenegro at Wembley, with Gareth Southgate’s side another one pushing young players to the forefront.

Raheem Sterling will not play following a brief spat with Joe Gomez in the wake of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Manchester City, although Southgate insisted a line had been drawn under the incident.

“I love all of my players,” Southgate said. “We are like a family and all families have disagreements.”

Reigning European champions Portugal meanwhile will have the chance to defend their title with a win over Lithuania, who have collected just a point from seven Group B games, if Serbia fail to beat Luxembourg.

The Portuguese are a point ahead of the Serbs as coach Fernando Santos recalls Lokomotiv Moscow forward Eder, whose goal won Euro 2016, with teenage star Joao Felix sidelined.

They are also without Everton midfielder Andre Gomes after he suffered a horrific leg injury against Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the month.


SFA launches Saudi Arabia’s first walk-run event in the summer

Photo/Supplied
Updated 13 July 2020

SFA launches Saudi Arabia’s first walk-run event in the summer

  • Staged under the banner of the Quality of Life program, the Step Together walk-run series aims to contribute to Vision 2030 by ensuring that physical activity levels are maintained and grow during the summer months

RIYADH: The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) has announced its first outdoor event of the summer season, a series of competitive walk-runs called Step Together.
The first Step Together virtual walk-run is open to individual and teams. Participants can register from July 17 until the closing date of July 26.
Adults taking part can choose to complete either a 42 kilometer full marathon or a 21 kilometer half marathon over a period of 10 days, commencing on July 17. Children under the age of 15 taking part in the challenge will complete a shorter 10 kilometer race over the same period.
The event is the first organized by the SFA since lockdown restrictions were eased. It is designed to appeal to all ages, abilities and demographics by offering both walk and run options. Participants who meet the distance goals will be awarded with finishing medals and electronic certificates celebrating their achievement.
Participants will be able to use their own preferred digital fitness tracker. They will upload data and images every day to the race platform to register progress and compare their results with other participants on the race leaderboard.
Community sports groups (CSGs) are also encouraged to join Step Together, with the event featuring an exclusive leaderboard for groups. Members of CSGs can complete simultaneously in both individual and group categories.
Registered users will each receive email confirmations with a unique link and instructions for the Race Result platform.
The dedicated link allows each participant to enter distance and elapsed time each day, validated by a screenshot from any digital fitness tracker.
A results tab on the platform allows users to enjoy friendly competition and compare results with other participants.
There are also leaderboards for various categories on the same page, including age, gender and distance.
Staged under the banner of the Quality of Life program, the Step Together walk-run series aims to contribute to Vision 2030 by ensuring that physical activity levels are maintained and grow during the summer months.
The aims to promote a renewed excitement and energy for outdoor fitness.
A recent SFA report said there was a 60 percent increase in walking in Saudi Arabia since March, while running became 30 percent more popular.
The report added that the increases mainly came from people who were previously less active.
The SFA aims to further encourage enjoyment of physical fitness within this demographic.

Step Together participants can register on the Race Result platform at sfa.sa/STen.