De Bruyne to miss Belgium’s game against Russia at Euro 2020

De Bruyne to miss Belgium’s game against Russia at Euro 2020
Belgium’s players laugh during training at Petrovskly Stadium in St. Petersburg on the eve of their EURO 2020 match against Russia that Kevin De Bruyne will miss due to injury. (AFP)
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Updated 11 June 2021

De Bruyne to miss Belgium’s game against Russia at Euro 2020

De Bruyne to miss Belgium’s game against Russia at Euro 2020
  • Belgium coach said Friday he expects Manchester City’s midfielder to join training after Russia’s game
  • De Bruyne only linked up with the squad on Monday after having a minor operation

ST. PETERSBURG: Kevin De Bruyne will not play for Belgium in Saturday’s opening group game against Russia at the European Championship.
He is still following an individual training program after an operation on his fractured nose and eye socket.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said Friday he expects the Manchester City midfielder to join full training with the squad when the players return to their training camp in Tubize, near Brussels, after the game against Russia in St. Petersburg.
“The next two days will be really important, just to get him back to really being able to move freely and start getting the exercise needed before he can come to the group,” Martinez said of De Bruyne, who was recently voted as the Premier League’s player of the season for the second straight year.
De Bruyne only linked up with the squad on Monday after having a minor operation following the injuries sustained during City’s loss to Chelsea in the Champions League final on May 29.
Belgium’s second game in Group B is against Denmark in Copenhagen on Thursday, when Martinez expects De Bruyne to play a part.
Another key Belgium player missing against Russia will be defensive midfielder Axel Witsel, who was surprisingly included in the Euro 2020 squad despite missing the final four months of the club season with Borussia Dortmund because of a torn Achilles tendon injury.
Martinez said Witsel, who didn’t play in Belgium’s warmup games ahead of the tournament, was “progressing well” and had been training with the full squad.
“I don’t expect Axel will need a lot more work with the group,” Martinez said.


’All or nothing’ Germany out to prolong England’s 55 years of hurt in KO games

’All or nothing’ Germany out to prolong England’s 55 years of hurt in KO games
Updated 13 min 45 sec ago

’All or nothing’ Germany out to prolong England’s 55 years of hurt in KO games

’All or nothing’ Germany out to prolong England’s 55 years of hurt in KO games
  • Germany's nail-biting 2-2 draw with Hungary in Munich on Wednesday set up a mouthwatering clash with England at Wembley
  • Since England beat Germany 4-2 in 1966 World Cup final, Germans have won all four knockout meetings in major tournaments

MUNICH: Germany wants to extend their dominance of England’s Three Lions at the knockout stage of international tournaments to 55 years when the powerhouses meet again in the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Tuesday.
Germany’s nail-biting 2-2 draw with Hungary in Munich on Wednesday set up a mouthwatering clash with Gareth Southgate’s England at Wembley for a place in the quarter-finals.
“That will be an absolute highlight, now it’s all or nothing,” said Germany head coach Joachim Loew, who will step down after 15 years in charge following the tournament.
Since England beat Germany 4-2 after extra-time to win the 1966 World Cup final when Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick at Wembley, the Germans have won all four knockout meetings since at major tournaments.
That tally includes the semifinal of Euro ‘96, also at Wembley, when Southgate, the current England coach, missed the crucial penalty in a nail-biting penalty shootout.
That followed Paul Gascoigne’s famous tears in Turin before Germany again beat England in a penalty shootout in the semifinals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
Overall, Germany have only won 13 of 36 games compared to England’s 16 victories, while there have been seven draws.
Yet when it comes to knockout football, the 1966 triumph is England’s sole success against the Mannschaft.
Germany right-back Joshua Kimmich said “there is almost no nicer game” than playing England at Wembley.
The national side’s fortunes are being watched closely in Germany where 25.74 million viewers, 71 percent of the market, were glued to their television sets for the draw with Hungary.
The figure is sure to be surpassed when the Mannschaft plays England.
Having equalized twice in Munich, the Germans keep alive their dreams of a record fourth European crown.
“Yes!!!!!!!! Wembley calling!” wrote Leon Goretzka on Twitter after the Bayern Munich star came off the bench to smash home the crucial 84th-minute equalizer.
“We have no doubts and are full of self-confidence,” he continued.
The rest of the German squad were more down to earth.
“That was one of the most difficult games ever, you have to say,” admitted Loew, who was six minutes away from finishing his tenure with a humiliating defeat.
“What the team showed was an extremely good mentality and morale, we didn’t let it get to us.”
The Germans know that against England they have to better across the board.
“Wembley suits us,” said captain Manuel Neuer, “but we needed a more dominant and confident performance to go into the game (against England) with a top feeling.”
Kimmich echoed that sentiment, saying the Germans can ill afford to “compete” at Wembley “like we did today.”
Sloppy German defending — which has been a factor all season — allowed Hungary captain Adam Szalai to header the visitors ahead.
Germany equalized through Kai Havertz, but conceded another goal almost immediately when midfielder Andras Schaefer ghosted between two defenders to put Hungary 2-1 up before Goretzka spared Germany’s blushes.
A defeat to world champions France in their opening Group F game was followed by a stunning 4-2 win of holders Portugal on Saturday, yet Germany came perilously close to losing to Hungary.
Erratic German results have been a feature since their 2018 World Cup debacle when they finished bottom of their group, but the current side has the talent and potential to reach the Euro 2020 final.
“We know that if we play to our potential” at Wembley” we’ll be strong,” insisted Loew.
“But if we don’t implement a few things, we’ll be in trouble.
“The English have to play going forward at home.
“It will be an open game, more open than against Hungary.
“We have to correct a few things and be fully on our guard, there will be no quarter given there now.
“We have to do better, absolutely.”


New Zealand defy India, and English weather, to claim inaugural cricket World Test Championship

New Zealand defy India, and English weather, to claim inaugural cricket World Test Championship
Updated 37 min 38 sec ago

New Zealand defy India, and English weather, to claim inaugural cricket World Test Championship

New Zealand defy India, and English weather, to claim inaugural cricket World Test Championship
  • Reserve day needed after rain disrupts new competition’s playoff Test at Southampton

LONDON: How typical that English summer rain and murky conditions should conspire to influence the passage of the inaugural World Test Championship at Southampton over its five days. Were it not for the prescience of the International Cricket Council in deciding to allocate a reserve day, the match would have ended in a draw, with no outright champion.

As it was, the rain relented on the sixth day and the sun came out of hiding, allowing a full day’s play in which New Zealand triumphed in a tense atmosphere when their bowlers made good use of a helpful pitch and experienced batsmen saw them home with a mature and patient  display. They are worthy winners of the trophy, which earned them $1.6 million and India $800,000.

This was a welcome outcome for an event, first proposed in 2009, that has been dogged by a chequered launch, with previous attempts to introduce it having been abandoned in 2011 and 2014.

These two teams vying to become outright Test match champions earned that status through a points-based system which measured the performance, since August 1, 2019, of nine Test match-playing teams, in a specified number of series.

The intention of the ICC was for the teams to play eight Test series, but the crowded cricketing calendar, coupled with political considerations, would allow only six. This created a framework with each team scheduled to play three home and away series, involving 72 matches and 27 series. The pandemic struck part way through the cycle and not all teams were able to play six series.

A total of 120 points has been on offer for all series, irrespective of the number of games scheduled within the series, with the 120 divided by the number of scheduled matches. Thus, a five-match series carried 24 points for a win and a two-match series carried 60 points for a win. The two teams with the highest number of points are eligible to contest for the title of world champions in a play-off Test.

In November 2020, when the impact of the pandemic was apparent, the ICC adopted a percentage of points system, whereby the number of points that a team accrues is divided by the total that it contests. On this basis, India emerged with 72.5 percent and New Zealand with 63.6 percent.

Somewhat confusingly, the ICC also produces a rating of Test teams over a three-to-four-year cycle, using a different points system, by which the number of points obtained is divided by the number of matches to generate an average, called a rating. Fortunately, New Zealand and India are the top-rated teams at present, so there can be little argument about their respective rights to be at Southampton.

The aim of the ICC in devising the World Test Championship points system that applied between 2019 and 2021, was to encourage teams to place more emphasis on winning matches and to revive bilateral Test cricket.

However, the system is far from perfect. While it is out of the ICC’s control that India and Pakistan have not played a Test series against each other since 2007, current and past cricketers, such as Michael Holding, have criticized the fact that a win in a five-match series counts for less than a win in a two-match series.

In addition, there was criticism well before the match about pinning the title of world test champions on a single match, which is vulnerable to local conditions, as was illustrated in Southampton. The Indian head coach is not alone in expressing a view that a three-match series would be more appropriate, but the ICC says that there is no time to fit this into the calendar.

It has listened to the criticism of the points system. The next cycle, due to begin on August 1, 2021, starting with England v India, will see each match being worth the same number of points, reported to be a maximum of 12 per match, with teams ranked on the percentage of points system. This simplified system will allow teams to be compared at any point in time, considering that they are likely to have played a different number of series and matches.

The attempt to bolster bilateral men’s Test cricket has some limitations. In addition, the three other men’s Test-playing countries — Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe — are keen to test themselves at the highest level, but do not play enough of the longer form of the game for this to be possible in the near future.

The establishment of an outright winner in this inaugural WTC final will give impetus to its status and acceptance, taking away several of the criticisms that have been levelled at it. Future debates are likely to focus on the points system, where the final should be played and pathways for expanding the number of teams, rather than whether it should exist at all.

Indian captain Virat Kohli, a fervent supporter of Test cricket, was applauded by spectators for saying this at the presentation ceremony. India is a titan in the world of cricket, but despite this the holders of the ICC’s three pinnacles of cricket trophies are the West Indies, England and New Zealand. We will discover if this order changes in the next cycle.


Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad as Mohamed Salah looks set to miss out on Tokyo

Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad as Mohamed Salah looks set to miss out on Tokyo
Updated 24 June 2021

Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad as Mohamed Salah looks set to miss out on Tokyo

Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad as Mohamed Salah looks set to miss out on Tokyo
  • Liverpool unlikely to sanction Salah’s release in July as he is set to participate in the African Nations Cup for Egypt’s senior team January

LONDON: Ahmed Hegazi provided good news for fans in Saudi Arabia and Egypt this week after signing a permanent deal with Al-Ittihad and also agreeing to join up with his country’s team at the Olympics in July.

The initial benefactor is Egypt. Coach of the U-23 team Shawky Gharieb has been facing  up to the prospect of heading to Japan without star forward Mohamed Salah, but now has at least some consolation as he will be able to take the in-form defender Hegazi to Tokyo, where the team will face Spain, Argentina and Australia starting on July 22.

The tournament is reserved for players 24 and under — with the age limit rising by one year due to the Olympics being delayed because of the pandemic —  but each country is allowed to call three “overage” stars.

Whether Salah’s release would be sanctioned by Liverpool has been a major discussion in Egyptian football ever since the team qualified last November by defeating Ivory Coast in the final of Africa’s U-23 Championships. The six-time European champions are reluctant to release the forward, especially as he is also due to participate in the African Nations Cup for the senior side in January and February along with Sadio Mane and Naby Keita. 

“I do not want to say that it is impossible for Salah to participate in the Olympics, but it is difficult,” Egyptian FA President Ahmed Megahed said on Tuesday. “Salah agreed to lead the Olympic team during the last camp of the Egyptian team.”

“We contacted Liverpool to allow Salah to join the Olympic team,” the president continued. “They said they were waiting for the approval of the technical staff, but in the end, Liverpool refused the request because they do not want to lose the player at the beginning of the season, as well as next January with the Africa Cup of Nations, which will keep him from participating in the English Premier League matches.”

It has been widely reported that the player is keen to go to Japan to take part in the Olympics and is trying to persuade the club to let him go. All should be finalized by the end of the week.

“We spoke with Salah again, and he told us that he will make a new attempt with the technical staff of his team, to resolve the matter, and within the next two days he will find a way,” added Megahed, though reports in England suggest that Salah has an impossible task.

It is not just Salah who is set to miss the plane to Tokyo, with Turkish team Galatasaray also set to refuse a call-up for Mostafa Mohamed. The Istanbul giants want the 23-year-old forward for their UEFA Champions League playoff against PSV Eindhoven in July. 

“Mustafa Mohamed wants to play in the Olympics, but he is certainly not the decision-maker,” Mostafa’s agent Ahmed Yehia said.

“If his club agrees, he will play with the Egyptian national team, but he will not enter into a conflict with his club in order to participate. The last information I have is that Mostafa Mohamed will not participate in the Olympics,” he said, adding that there was still a little hope for Egypt as officials at the club have changed and there is a chance a new decision could follow.

If Salah and Mohamed are, as expected, officially ruled out of the games, it remains to be seen who Gahrieb plumps for as his other two overage players. He released a shortlist of eight, which contains goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawy and midfielder Mohamed Elneny of Arsenal. 

While Al-Ittihad are likely to miss Hegazi for the opening couple of weeks of the next league season, fans will be delighted that the 30 year-old is going to stay for two more years. His arrival in Jeddah from the now-relegated English Premier League club West Bromwich Albion in October sparked a turnaround in the Tigers’ fortunes and, inspired by the defender, the team that was in a relegation battle started to climb the table and finished in an impressive third place. It was his goal in the penultimate match of the season that clinched a place in the 2022 AFC Champions League. 

For many observers, Hegazi, who played 28 games and scored three goals in all competitions, was the most impressive performer in the league over the season as a whole.

There has been more good news for fans as Brazilian coach Fabio Carille has signed a one-year extension to his contract and will be in charge of the club next season.

Saudi Arabia will also be in Tokyo and take on Brazil, Ivory Coast and Germany with Al-Hilal trio Salman Al-Faraj, Salem Al-Dawsari and Yasser Al-Shahrani going to Japan as the overage players.


Charley Hull, Anne Van Dam, Catriona Matthew and Minjee Lee latest golfers confirmed for $1 million Aramco Team Series — London

Charley Hull, Anne Van Dam, Catriona Matthew and Minjee Lee latest golfers confirmed for $1 million Aramco Team Series — London
Updated 24 June 2021

Charley Hull, Anne Van Dam, Catriona Matthew and Minjee Lee latest golfers confirmed for $1 million Aramco Team Series — London

Charley Hull, Anne Van Dam, Catriona Matthew and Minjee Lee latest golfers confirmed for $1 million Aramco Team Series — London
  • European trio and Australian No.1 confirmed for next month’s three-day tournament at Centurion Club, the first of five Ladies European Tour (LET) events in 2021 sponsored by Aramco

London: European trio Charley Hull, Anne Van Dam and Catriona Matthew are the latest big names confirmed for next month’s $1 million Aramco Team Series — London, taking place July 8-10 at the Centurion Club, just two months ahead of this year’s Solheim Cup.

Both Hull and Van Dam played a key role in the European team, captained by Matthew, that snatched a pulsating one-point victory over the US at Gleneagles back in 2019.

US superstar Lexi Thompson was part of the travelling party, and with July’s event already scheduled to be her only English appearance of the year, she will be looking to lay down a marker against the trio who she will compete with just eight weeks later in Ohio.

In the unique format of the Aramco Team Series — London, which sees 36 team captains paired with two other professionals and one amateur, Thompson could even play alongside a European rival.

Former Women’s British Open champion, Georgia Hall, double-major winner, Anna Nordqvist, and 2021 Ladies European Tour (LET) Race to Costa del Sol champion, Emily Kristine Pedersen, have already confirmed participation in the event.

They will also be joined by Australia’s Minjee Lee, an eight-time champion across both the LET and LPGA, and Australia’s No.1 ranked golfer.

“It’s certainly shaping up to be quite the field, which is understandable, considering the exciting new format of the team tournament and what’s up for grabs,” Matthew said. “Being just a couple of months before the Solheim Cup adds a real bit of spice to the mix, especially with so many major-winners from both sides of the pond playing.

“As the Solheim Cup has proven, team golf is a format that really gets the heart racing and brings so much additional excitement,” she added. “Introducing four new Aramco Team Series events in four regions, I find a really fantastic initiative from the LET and I really am excited to see how it will propel women’s golf forward.”

World No.14 Lee said: “When this format of event was trialed in Saudi Arabia last year, you could really feel how positively the women who played in it responded to it. It was something completely different but a format of golf that offered so much excitement, both for teams and individual players, and that’s what you want to see as often as possible on tour.

“It’ll be really fun to play in and I can’t wait to get over to London and play as part of a team, something I love but almost never get to do.”

July’s London event is the first of five Aramco-sponsored events scheduled on the LET calendar for 2021.  They include the Aramco Team Series — Sotogrande (Aug. 5-7), the Aramco Team Series — New York (Oct. 14-16) and the Aramco Team Series — Jeddah (Nov. 10-12). The Jeddah event will take place just days after the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by the Public Investment Fund, being held Nov. 4-7. 

Each Aramco Team Series tournament will see 36 teams of four compete to shoot the lowest combined score over three days of golf. All teams will feature three LET players paired through a unique draft system, in which captains choose one player and are randomly assigned another.

The fourth member of each team will be an amateur golfer — a position open to all golfers in the UK for the Aramco Team Series — London through the tournament’s world-first Team Up competition. Fans can apply by uploading a video or image to social media before June 25 using the hashtag #ATSTeamUp, showing they have what it takes to play in an actual LET event.


Hilal Al-Helwe strikes down Djibouti and sees Lebanon through to 2021 FIFA Arab Cup

Hilal Al-Helwe strikes down Djibouti and sees Lebanon through to 2021 FIFA Arab Cup
Updated 24 June 2021

Hilal Al-Helwe strikes down Djibouti and sees Lebanon through to 2021 FIFA Arab Cup

Hilal Al-Helwe strikes down Djibouti and sees Lebanon through to 2021 FIFA Arab Cup
  • The 1-0 win means Lebanon will join Algeria, Egypt and Sudan in Group D of the competition taking place in Qatar in November

DOHA: A stunning second-half volley from Hilal Al-Helwe saw Lebanon beat Djibouti 1-0 to earn a place at the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar later this year.

The Lebanese team will now join Algeria, Egypt and Sudan in Group D of the tournament taking place between Nov. 27 and Dec. 18.

Lebanon were the heavy favorites heading into the qualifier, with the Cedars, at 93, sitting 90 places above Djibouti (183) in the FIFA World Rankings.

Djibouti, however, proved to be a far more stubborn opponent than Lebanon had anticipated as they successfully defended many attacks thanks to fine performances by goalkeeper Innocent Mbonihankuye and his defenders.

While Mbonihankuye kept Lebanon mostly at bay, especially from a series of set-pieces, Djibouti produced one of the most significant changes of the first half when Mahamoud Doualeh ended an excellent passage of play with a shot on target only for it to be deflected by the Lebanese defense for a corner.

Lebanon improved immediately after the break, and it was Al-Helwe who produced the monument of the match for coach Jamal Taha’s team within the first minute of the restart, firmly volleying past Mbonihankuye and from Mohammed Haidar’s pass.

Djibouti could have squared the match on 56 minutes when Mahabeh Mahdi was played through on goal, but the advancing Lebanon keeper Mehdi Khalil saved to seal his country’s spot at the FIFA Arab Cup in November.