5 talking points from Saudi Arabia’s 5-0 World Cup qualifying win over Palestine

Saudi Arabia comprehensively beat Palestine 5-0 in Riyadh on Tuesday. (Twitter: @SaudiNT)
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Updated 01 April 2021

5 talking points from Saudi Arabia’s 5-0 World Cup qualifying win over Palestine

5 talking points from Saudi Arabia’s 5-0 World Cup qualifying win over Palestine
  • Herve Renard’s team moves to top of group with victory in Riyadh in front of returning fans

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia comprehensively beat Palestine 5-0 in Riyadh on Tuesday to move into pole position in Group D of qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

Yasser Al-Shahrani opened the scoring for Herve Renard’s team eight minutes before the break with a well-placed header and Fahad Al-Muwallad made it two shortly after. Two smart finishes early in the second half from Saleh Al-Shehri sealed the win and captain Salem Al-Dawsari added a late fifth from the spot.

With five games played and three remaining, the Green Falcons have 11 points, two ahead of Uzbekistan and four clear of Singapore. With only the eight group winners in the second round, along with the four best second-placed teams, progressing to the third round, there is still much to play for when the remaining fixtures take place in Saudi Arabia in June.

Here are five things we learned from the match:

1. It was a perfect evening and the third round beckons

In Tuesday’s only other World Cup qualifier, Japan thrashed Mongolia 14-0 but the feeling ahead of the game in Riyadh was that just a single goal would be enough to settle the affair.

From the start, Palestine got plenty of men behind the ball and when not in possession, which was most of the time, reverted to a 6-3-1 formation. Before the game, the whispers coming out of the visitors’ camp was that they would keep it tight and look to hit what they felt was a weak Saudi central defense in the hope of a goal.

It did not happen and while Saudi Arabia took time to get going, they ran out easy winners to take control of Group D. Apart from the occasional moment, the defense looked solid, the midfield was full of energy and running, and the forwards looked dangerous every time they attacked.

Saudi Arabia’s three remaining games are on home soil and assuming that Yemen and Singapore are defeated, a draw against Uzbekistan on June 15 will be enough to progress.

2. Goalkeeping errors on both sides a turning point

The game turned on three goalkeeping mistakes. The first was from Saudi Arabia shot-stopper Mohammed Al-Owais which was not punished. The 29-year-old has plenty of international experience (at least compared to the other three ’keepers named in the squad, none of which had a single cap between them).

But he did not have a great deal to do in the game which is why concentration is paramount. Just 10 minutes before the break, the Al-Ahli No. 1 spilled a simple looking cross from Mahmoud Abu Warda and Saleh Chihadeh almost put Palestine in front.

Just minutes after, Al-Owais’ opposite number Tawfiq Ali made two mistakes, and both were punished. And that was the game. In the 1-0 win over Kuwait last week, Saudi Arabia had lots of chances but did not make the most of them. We warned that the Green Falcons would have to be more clinical against Palestine and they were.

3. Palestine’s World Cup dreams all but over

There was some controversy in Palestine with a number of experienced players not being selected for the trip in what was a crucial game. In truth, the team were always unlikely to get to Qatar next year or even progress to the third stage of qualification, but they will be disappointed at how it ended.

After spending the first half-hour getting a foothold in the game, as soon as the deadlock was broken, there was only one team going to win.

It means that Palestine are bottom of the group with just four points from six games. In theory, a second-placed finish is not impossible but in reality, it is not going to happen, and Palestine are now going to have to focus on not finishing bottom of the group below Yemen and Singapore and keeping their hopes of qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup alive.

4. Likes of Al-Ghanam and Al-Shehri give Renard welcome selection headaches

While Palestine did not present either Al-Shahrani or Sultan Al-Ghanam with too many defensive headaches, the full-backs did what they needed to do at the back and got forward well.

Neither started against Kuwait but both impressed here. Al-Shahrani opened the scoring with a finish that any striker would be proud of while Al-Ghanam was lively going forward and created the third with vision and skill. It was well-finished by Al-Shehri who staked his claim to be back in attack for June’s games. There is much for the coach to think about.

5. It is great to see fans back

The King Saud International Stadium was sparsely populated but there were some fans present, extremely socially distanced of course. It did not feel quite like a real game, but it was a welcome return to something approaching normality.

The players were not the only ones making the noise. It was not just about the goals but the surge of excitement when a player beat another, the ripple of anticipation when the team moved to within sight of goal, the appreciation of a good save or strong tackle was there. If more fans are allowed in for June’s qualifiers, then so much the better.

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Tyagi grabs dramatic 2-run win for Rajasthan in IPL

Tyagi grabs dramatic 2-run win for Rajasthan in IPL
Updated 55 min 22 sec ago

Tyagi grabs dramatic 2-run win for Rajasthan in IPL

Tyagi grabs dramatic 2-run win for Rajasthan in IPL
  • Punjab needed only four runs off the last over, with plenty of wickets left

DUBAI, UAE: Fast bowler Kartik Tyagi conceded just one run and took two wickets in the last over of the game as Rajasthan Royals snatched a dramatic two-run victory against Punjab Kings in the Indian Premier League on Tuesday.
Punjab needed only four runs off the last over, with plenty of wickets left, but Tyagi (2-29) had Nicholas Pooran (32) and Deepak Hooda both caught behind and managed to frustrate Fabian Allen (0 not out) off the last ball as Punjab finished at 183-4.
Earlier, Rajasthan slumped to 185 all out in 20 overs after being put in to bat. Punjab claimed seven wickets in the last six overs with fast bowler Arshdeep Singh ending up with 5-32.
“Tyagi was confident with his yorkers and executed them well against the new batters,” Rajasthan skipper Sanju Samson said. “We were happy with our score. On this wicket that was a good score.”
Punjab was heading for a big win after Rajasthan dropped Punjab captain K.L. Rahul three times. Mayank Agarwal (67) and Rahul (49) pounced on the sloppy fielding and provided their team a commanding start of 120 runs off 71 balls before both fell in successive overs.
Tyagi, who had earlier dropped Rahul on 31, finally grabbed one at short third man as Rahul tried to cut Chetan Sakariya in the 12th over. Agarwal, who hit seven fours and two sixes, tried to play one too many and sliced a catch at deep point against spinner Rahul Tewatia.
However, Pooran and South Africa’s Aiden Markram (26 not out) seemed to have the match in their hands before Tyagi delivered his sensational last over, which Punjab started on 182-2.
Earlier, Rajasthan looked set for a 200-plus total after opener Evin Lewis (36 off 21 balls) contributed to an opening stand of 54 by smashing seven fours and a six before he was out in the sixth over. But once fellow opener and top scorer Yashasvi Jaiswal fell for 49 in the 15th over, Rajasthan lost its way despite Mahipal Lomror (43) and Liam Livingstone (25) playing cameos.
Mohammed Shami also bowled well for his 3-21 that included the wickets of Tewatia and Chris Morris in his last over.
Rajasthan has eight points from eight games and is tied for fourth with defending champions Mumbai Indians. Punjab is in danger of missing out on the playoffs with only six points from nine games.
“Tough one to swallow,” Rahul said. “We need to see how we can handle pressure better. It’s happened to the best in the game.”


Princess Reham greets Saudi shooting team on return from successful 14th Asian Air Gun Championships

Princess Reham greets Saudi shooting team on return from successful 14th Asian Air Gun Championships
Updated 11 min 15 sec ago

Princess Reham greets Saudi shooting team on return from successful 14th Asian Air Gun Championships

Princess Reham greets Saudi shooting team on return from successful 14th Asian Air Gun Championships
  • Saudi Olympic Committee official congratulates athletes on winning individual and team medals

The Saudi Arabian national shooting team was greeted by Princess Reham bint Seif Al-Islam, Saudi Olympic Committee’s executive director of protocol and events, on its return from a successful participation at the 14th Asian Air Gun Championships 2021 in Kazakhstan.

After landing at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on Monday, the squad was congratulated on winning several team and individual medals in the tournament, which was held at Shymkent Shooting Plaza from Sept. 9-20.

The Saudi participation at the championship ended with Safar Mohammed Al-Dossari winning silver in the individual 10m air pistol competition.

Earlier in the competition Al-Dossari, Atallah Nidaa Al-Anazi and Aqil Abdulhadi Al-Badrani came second to the host nation in the team 10m air pistol event.

Hussein Al-Harbi, Misfir Al-Ammari and Fayez Al-Anzi won bronze in the team 10m air rifle category.


Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi joins training camp for 2021 World Karate Championships in Dubai

Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi joins training camp for 2021 World Karate Championships in Dubai
Updated 9 min 53 sec ago

Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi joins training camp for 2021 World Karate Championships in Dubai

Saudi Olympic hero Tarek Hamdi joins training camp for 2021 World Karate Championships in Dubai
  • National coach Mounir Afkir picks 21 athletes for the November tournament

The Saudi Arabian national karate team, led by Tokyo 2020 silver medal hero Tarek Hamdi, has begun preparations for the 2021 World Karate Championships to be held in Dubai from Nov. 16-21.

Coach of the Saudi national team Mounir Afkir selected 21 players for the squad heading to the UAE: Hamdi, Fahd Al-Khathami, Imad Al-Maliki, Badr Al-Otaibi, Faraj Al-Nashiri, Omar Al-Azmi, Yasser Al-Barqi, Mazen Al-Duqail, Majed Al-Khalifa, Sultan Al-Zahrani and Al-Hussein Al-Sharif, Khaled Al-Sheikhi, Abd Al-Rahman Hafs, Ali Barnawi, Muhammad Al-Thubaiti, Fahd Hakami, Muhammad Al-Maliki, Haitham Hafs, Misfir Al-Dossari, Abdullah Hakami and Abdullah Al-Nasir.

The Saudi karatekas will begin their preparation program with daily morning and evening training sessions at their Riyadh hotel.


Hungary gets 1-match fan ban, $217,000 FIFA fine for racism

Hungary gets 1-match fan ban, $217,000 FIFA fine for racism
Updated 21 September 2021

Hungary gets 1-match fan ban, $217,000 FIFA fine for racism

Hungary gets 1-match fan ban, $217,000 FIFA fine for racism
  • Monkey chants were aimed at England forward Raheem Sterling and unused substitute Jude Bellingham on Sept. 2
  • The Hungarian federation was fined 200,000 Swiss francs

LONDON: Hungary was ordered by FIFA on Tuesday to play its next World Cup qualifier without spectators as punishment for the latest racial abuse by its supporters when England played in Budapest.
Monkey chants were aimed at England forward Raheem Sterling and unused substitute Jude Bellingham, who are Black, at Puskas Arena on Sept. 2.
The Hungarian federation was also fined 200,000 Swiss francs ($217,000), one of the largest financial penalties handed out to a country by the world governing body.
In a sign of a systemic problem with racism from Hungarian fans, the punishment extends the country’s run of games in empty stadiums because of racism in qualifiers for the 2014 and 2022 World Cups and Euro 2016.
The team will have to play another FIFA match without a crowd if there are future incidents of abuse, with the second match of the punishment being suspended for a probationary period of two years.
“The FIFA ban on Hungary for racism and the huge fine is welcome and a signal from FIFA of a renewed determination to punish racism,” Piara Powar, executive director of the anti-racism FARE network, told The Associated Press. “But this also means that Hungary will serve bans from two different football governing bodies at European and international level at the same time, the principle of escalation has not been applied, it will not deal with the problem of racism inside Hungarian stadiums longer term.”
Hungary’s Sept. 2 match against England in Budapest would already have been played without spectators had FIFA been asked to implement a UEFA punishment t for discriminatory abuse during European Championship matches. That two-game ban on spectators will take effect next June during the Nations League.
Hungary will have to host Albania on Oct. 9 in an empty stadium in its next World Cup qualifier.
“This case highlights the need to make sure that regulations that ensure a consistency of approach across governing bodies are in place,” Powar said. “If all Hungarian offenses had been taken into account they would be facing exclusion from the World Cup, and remedial measures would have been put in place. There should be better co-ordination between confederations, such as UEFA, and FIFA, to coordinate action.
In this case UEFA should have asked FIFA to apply their previous sanction and the Hungary vs. England match played behind closed doors. An administrative loophole has allowed racism to flourish.”
FIFA’s disciplinary committee ruled there had been “racist behavior of numerous supporters” during the England match this month that was played in front of a crowd of almost 60,000 at Puskas Arena.
The verdict came “after analizing and taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case, specifically the seriousness of the incidents,” FIFA said in a statement highlighting “racist words and actions, throwing of objects, lighting of fireworks, blocked stairways” by Hungary fans.
FIFA’s claim to adopt a “clear zero tolerance stance against such abhorrent behavior in football” was challenged by English football’s anti-racism organization.
“What does zero tolerance approach even mean? Words that read good in print but we’ll never actually adhere to them,” tweeted Kick It Out’s head of development Troy Townsend. “Anyway, we have our own problems and don’t even go this far with punishments.”


Italian boxer of Moroccan origin beats Nazi-tattooed rival

Italian boxer of Moroccan origin beats Nazi-tattooed rival
Updated 21 September 2021

Italian boxer of Moroccan origin beats Nazi-tattooed rival

Italian boxer of Moroccan origin beats Nazi-tattooed rival
  • Hassan Nourdine: Michele Broili’s tattoos ‘disgusted me … I had more of a taste to win’
  • Nourdine gained Italian super-featherweight title on points

LONDON: An Italian boxer born in Morocco has claimed victory over a fighter whose body is tattooed with Nazi symbols.

Hassan Nourdine, 34, beat Michele Broili, 28, on points to win the Italian super-featherweight title in the northeastern city of Trieste.

Nourdine, who moved to the Italian town of Asti with his parents when he was 6, said Broili’s tattoos motivated him to win.

“I tried to stay focused and undistracted the whole evening, but seeing Broili’s tattoos glorifying Nazism disgusted me, not to mention the spectators giving stiff-armed fascist salutes,” Nourdine told Italy’s La Stampa newspaper. “I wanted to have a good fight and given the situation I had more of a taste to win.”

He said the Federazione Pugilistica Italiana, Italian boxing’s governing body should not allow Broili to compete due to his tattoos.

“They should have realized this boxer had certain leanings — the incitement of hatred is punishable by law,” Nourdine added.

“Anyone who has been to school knows what the Nazis did, and even those who didn’t go to school know what the Holocaust was.”

Broili’s tattoos include the SS logo, a Celtic cross and the number 88, neo-Nazi shorthand for the expression “Heil Hitler.” 

Nourdine, who works night shifts at a factory making industrial machinery to support his family and boxing career, said: “You need to make young people understand these are dangerous messages. You need to remind them these symbols encouraged genocide.”

After the fight, the FPI said it was considering action against Broili for his tattoos.