Ronaldo scores 99th goal as Portugal qualifies for Euro 2020

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo scores their second goal in their match with Luxembourg on Nov 17. 2019. (REUTERS/Johanna Geron)
Updated 18 November 2019

Ronaldo scores 99th goal as Portugal qualifies for Euro 2020

  • Portugal advanced to Euro 2020 in second place in Group B
  • Ukraine had already gone through as the group winner

LUXEMBOURG: Cristiano Ronaldo took his career tally to 99 international goals on Sunday as Portugal qualified for the 2020 European Championship with a 2-0 win against Luxembourg.

The Juventus star tapped in a shot by teammate Diogo Jota that was just inches from going over the goal line in the 86th minute, leaving Ronaldo one strike from the 100-goal mark.

Bruno Fernandes got Portugal’s first goal against the flow of play in the 39th when he scored from a long pass by Bruno Silva.

Luxembourg had outplayed Portugal until that point, dealing with the poor field conditions better than the defending European champions.

Portugal advanced to Euro 2020 in second place in Group B. Ukraine had already gone through as the group winner.

Separately, World Cup runners-up Croatia rounded off a rebuilding mission by booking their place at the tournament with a 3-1 win over Slovakia but they are unlikely to sneak under the radar again at next year’s finals.

Croatia secured top spot in Group E, a section also including Hungary, Wales and Azerbaijan, with five wins and two draws from their eight qualifiers.

Coach Zlatko Dalic, who masterminded the run to last year’s World Cup final, has gradually reconstructed a squad that lost Mario Mandzukic, Danijel Subasic and Vedran Corluka to retirement in the wake of the 4-2 loss to France in Russia.

The “Vatreni” — Croatian for “Fiery Ones” — needed only a point in Rijeka on Saturday to ensure a spot at the 24-team event, which kicks off in Rome on June 12.

After a shocking start for home fans when Robert Bozenik scored in the 32th minute, Croatia’s qualification was never in doubt once Nikola Vlasic drilled home the leveller in the second half.

Bruno Petkovic headed the hosts in front and Ivan Perisic sealed the three points with a thumping finish with 16 minutes left.

“I’m relieved ... proud and happy,” Dalic said after the match.

“These boys deserved the European Championship. This is the crowning moment for all that we have done in this year and a half since the World Cup.”

But the path through qualifying, preceded by a poor showing in the Nations League, where Croatia finished last in their group behind Spain and England, was far from plain sailing.


Saudi desert gears up for first Dakar rally in Asia

Updated 34 min 19 sec ago

Saudi desert gears up for first Dakar rally in Asia

  • Taking place from January 5 to 17, the 7500-kilometer adventure will be hosted in Asia for the first time
  • The race will start in Jeddah and will end in Qiddiya, Riyadh

RIYADH: There are only three weeks to go until Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 starts in Jeddah.

It will be the first time this adventurous race comes to Asia, where Saudi Arabia’s desert will play host to the 7,500-km-long rally over 13 days of action and 12 stages of challenging navigation.

Taking place from Jan. 5-17, the first edition of the rally will see more than 550 drivers from 62 nations explore the vast and formidable desert terrains of the Kingdom.

“We were really excited by the beautiful landscape. The deserts were exactly what we expected with their dunes, nice mountains and small canyons. We have some stages along the sea also, so it will be a mixed landscape, which is very interesting,” 13-time Dakar Rally winner Stéphane Peterhansel said.

FASTFACT

Taking place from Jan. 5-17, the first edition of the rally will see more than 550 drivers from 62 nations explore the vast and formidable desert terrains of the Kingdom.

More than 550 drivers from 62 countries will participate in the 12-stage race, which runs from Jan. 5-17. 

“Saudi Arabia is a big country, so there are a lot of possibilities. It has many deserts, which makes it the perfect place to organize Dakar,” the French driver added.

Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 gets underway in Jeddah before drivers and crews navigate their way through the winding dunes for 752 km.

The challenge will continue up north along the coast for nearly 900 km through the Red Sea Project until the futuristic megacity of Neom, where the journey will reach its highest point at an altitude of 1,400 meters amid a series of canyons and mountains.

A combination of sandy stretches and gravel await Dakar’s thrill-seeking competitors as they cruise through the next 676 km from Neom to AlUla in Dakar’s fourth stage, before the sandy hills of Hail put the navigation skills of competitors to the test as they descend south onto Riyadh.

A rest day in the capital will be followed by Dakar Saudi Arabia’s longest stage — 741 km — as the route takes a turn west to the center of the Kingdom’s enormous desert.

The race will take place from January 5 to 17. (Supplied)

The course will then loop back toward Haradh in the eastern governorate of Al-Ahsa, marking the entrance to the Empty Quarter and building up to the grand finale in the future entertainment, sports and cultural destination of Qiddiya, where the winner will be crowned on the final podium.

“Saudi Arabia is a very big country, and you can find almost every type of terrain in it,” Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi said.

Spanish rally driver Carlos Sainz added: “I think everyone finds it very exciting. It seems to be really what Dakar needs, and we are hoping to enjoy it and have a good race.”

The Saudi Federation of Automobiles and Motorcycles officially confirmed route details of the rally at an international press conference in Paris. 

Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 will see pilots drive specially modified vehicles, trucks, quads, SxS (four-wheel drive, off-road vehicles) and motorbikes, designed to handle the 12 stages of the varied, challenging terrains.