France face Germany as Portugal begin title defense on Super Tuesday at Euro 2020

France face Germany as Portugal begin title defense on Super Tuesday at Euro 2020
Germany’s coach Joachim Loew and France’s coach Didier Deschamps. France faces Germany in a UEFA EURO Group F football match on Tuesday evening. (AFP )
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Updated 15 June 2021

France face Germany as Portugal begin title defense on Super Tuesday at Euro 2020

France face Germany as Portugal begin title defense on Super Tuesday at Euro 2020
  • Puskas Arena the only one of European Championship’s 11 venues with no Covid-19 limits on allowed number of fans
  • Les Bleus [France] come into the tournament as firm favourites thanks to their status as World Cup holders

PARIS: Reigning champions Portugal begin their defense of the trophy against Hungary at Euro 2020 in Budapest on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, World Cup holders France take on Germany in a hotly-anticipated clash between two of the continent’s heavyweights.
Action on the pitch on day five of the tournament was preceded by a heartwarming “I’m fine” social media post from Christian Eriksen, the Danish midfielder recovering from Saturday’s shocking cardiac arrest.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal are set to have the honor of a full house in the Hungarian capital, with the Puskas Arena the only one of the 11 venues at this European Championship where there are no Covid-19 limits on the number of fans allowed.
“It’s perfect. I wish every single venue could host a full house. It’s great for viewers and players, but sadly it’s not up to us to decide,” said Ronaldo of the prospect of a crowd of up to 68,000 watching the first of Tuesday’s two matches at the tournament in Group F.
Ronaldo is 36 now and aiming to score in a fifth different European Championship finals.
He needs just one more goal to become the outright top scorer in the tournament, and is just five goals away from equalling the all-time international scoring record of 109 held by Iran’s Ali Daei.
But, from Ruben Dias to Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix, there is also an outstanding team behind him and Portugal are hopeful of retaining the title they won at Euro 2016 in France.
“Right now we think we have what it takes to win the cup,” said coach Fernando Santos.
Hungary are the rank outsiders in the group but are hoping to make the most of their home advantage.
That game will be followed by the mouthwatering showdown in Munich as the world champions face a Germany side eager to make up for their desperate showing at the World Cup in Russia, when they were knocked out in the group stage.
Les Bleus come into the tournament as firm favorites thanks to their status as World Cup holders and after coach Didier Deschamps decided to recall Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema from a five-and-a-half-year international exile.
France lost 1-0 to Germany in the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals in Rio de Janeiro but are unbeaten in the five meetings between the sides since, including a 2-0 win in the Euro 2016 semifinals.
“This fixture brings back happy memories and not so happy memories,” said France goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris. “It is one of the all-time great major tournament fixtures.”
Germany are under pressure to perform in front of a home support at Munich’s Allianz Arena as they come into their final tournament under coach Joachim Loew, who will stand down after the finals following 15 years in charge.
“The spirit is very good and the team is hungry for success. That makes me confident and allows me to sleep peacefully,” Loew said.
In stark contrast to Budapest, authorities in Munich are only allowing around 14,500 fans into the Allianz Arena for games, equivalent to about 20 percent of capacity.
On Monday Spain got off to a stuttering start as Luis Enrique’s side — playing Group E games at home in Seville — were held to a 0-0 draw by Sweden.
European champions in 2008 and 2012, Spain were without captain Sergio Busquets, still isolating after testing positive for coronavirus, and paid for wasteful finishing by much-criticized Alvaro Morata.
In stark contrast Patrik Schick scored one of the championship’s greatest goals, a high, curling shot from just inside the halfway line in the Czech Republic’s 2-0 win over Scotland.
Schick had earlier headed in the opener as the Czechs ruined Scotland’s long-awaited first game at a major tournament in 23 years and went top of Group D.
“The ball bounced back, the goalkeeper was quite high, I took a look, I saw he was out there so I slammed it in,” said Bayer Leverkusen striker Schick of his stunner.
Also on day four, Slovakia edged out 10-man Poland 2-1 in Saint Petersburg in Group E.
In Copenhagen meanwhile Eriksen continues his recovery following his collapse in the game against Finland.
“I’m fine — under the circumstances, I still have to go through some examinations at the hospital, but I feel okay,” wrote the Denmark player on Instagram accompanied by a photo of him smiling and giving a thumbs-up while lying in bed.
Instagram was also the place where Austria’s Marko Arnautovic penned his apology after insulting North Macedonia players in Sunday’s victory, but despite his mea culpa UEFA have opened disciplinary proceedings into his behavior in Bucharest.


Early losses see 3 Algerian wrestlers depart Tokyo 2020

Early losses see 3 Algerian wrestlers depart Tokyo 2020
Updated 04 August 2021

Early losses see 3 Algerian wrestlers depart Tokyo 2020

Early losses see 3 Algerian wrestlers depart Tokyo 2020
  • Abdelhak Kherbache, Fateh Benferdjallah failed to progress from round of 16 in freestyle categories

RIYADH: Three Algerian athletes ended their participation in the Tokyo 2020 wrestling men’s competition after suffering round of 16 and repechage losses at Makuhari Messe Hall on Wednesday.

The first of the medal hopefuls to depart the Olympics was 26-year-old Abdelhak Kherbache, who lost 11-0 to Georgi Vangelov of Bulgaria in the 57-kilogram freestyle category.

Shortly afterwards, Fateh Benferdjallah followed his compatriot after losing to Swiss wrestler Stefan Reichmuth in the 86-kg freestyle. The 20-year-old Algerian put on a brave performance but was ultimately defeated 6-2.

Finally, Sid Azara scored a solitary point in a 5-1 loss to Serbian wrestler Zurabi Datunashvili in their men’s Greco-Roman 87-kg repechage contest having lost his quarterfinal to Zhan Beleniuk of Ukraine the previous day.


Tokyo 2020 gold result of new Moroccan generation’s long-term planning: Soufiane El-Bakkali

Tokyo 2020 gold result of new Moroccan generation’s long-term planning: Soufiane El-Bakkali
Updated 04 August 2021

Tokyo 2020 gold result of new Moroccan generation’s long-term planning: Soufiane El-Bakkali

Tokyo 2020 gold result of new Moroccan generation’s long-term planning: Soufiane El-Bakkali
  • 25-year-old overcame formidable challenges of Ethiopian, Kenyan runners to win 3,000m steeplechase

TOKYO: Moroccan gold medalist Soufiane El-Bakkali has revealed how his 3,000-meter steeplechase triumph at Tokyo 2020 was the result of years of intensive training with the Moroccan national team.

The 25-year-old runner, who just missed out on a medal at Rio 2016 after finishing fourth in the event, stormed to victory in Tokyo with a time of 8:08:90, ahead of Lamecha Grima of Ethiopia in second and Benjamin Kigen in third.

“It’s an historic achievement for me,” El-Bakkali told Arab News Japan outside Tokyo’s Olympic Village on Tuesday.

“The Tokyo Olympics is like no other tournament, especially that it was delayed for a year. Thankfully I came with a plan and was able to reach a high standard which allowed me to win the gold medal.”

El-Bakkali belongs to a school of young Moroccan athletes nurtured by the track and field Royal Moroccan Athletics Federation, and he paid tribute to its programs and the conditions that have helped him to become a champion.

He said: “Spending three years on the national team helped me so much. In Morocco, we have all the facilities available, and the climate is favorable and unique in the cities Rabat and Fez that wanted to put the country on the map of top runners in the world. It focused on the new generation of 21 to 25-year-olds.”

El-Bakkali pointed out that his victory was the culmination of many years of preparation and training, and from competing with the Kenyan and Ethiopian runners who had dominated the races for years. Tokyo proved the perfect moment for him to take the lead.

“In the previous races, I managed to save my energy for the final, where I started the race fast from the start.”

He also highlighted the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on the Games. “The crisis overshadowed the Olympics indeed, and this was difficult for the athletes in particular. But I took precautions before I came to Japan. I followed the same approach that I had adhered to before to protect myself and others from the virus.

“In Japan, I found strong precautions in place already, and I remained protected from the pandemic until the time of the competition,” he added.


UEFA targets FA for discipline over fan chaos at Euro final

UEFA targets FA for discipline over fan chaos at Euro final
Updated 03 August 2021

UEFA targets FA for discipline over fan chaos at Euro final

UEFA targets FA for discipline over fan chaos at Euro final
  • Fans without tickets forced their way into the stadium and there were ugly scenes in the stands
  • European soccer's governing body added that more information "will be made available in due course”

NYON, Switzerland: UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against the English Football Association on Tuesday over the behavior of some England fans at the European Championship final at Wembley Stadium.
Fans without tickets forced their way into the stadium and there were ugly scenes in the stands during the July 11 game, which Italy won 3-2 on penalties.
“Following an investigation conducted by a UEFA ethics and disciplinary inspector into the events involving supporters which occurred inside and around the stadium during the UEFA Euro 2020 final match between the national teams of Italy and England played on 11 July at Wembley Stadium, London, disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the English Football Association for a potential violation of Article 16(2)(h) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations for a lack of order or discipline by its supporters,” UEFA said.
European soccer’s governing body added that more information “will be made available in due course.”
Fans without tickets broke through security barriers and turnstiles to get in to see England’s first major tournament final in 55 years. England defender Harry Maguire said last month that his father sustained rib injuries during “a stampede” of fans.
The official attendance was around 67,000 of the stadium’s 90,000 capacity, with many seats intended to be left empty to distance fans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FA itself had described the scenes as ” disgraceful ” and earlier commissioned an independent review.
“We are determined to fully understand what happened outside and then inside Wembley Stadium at the UEFA Euro 2020 final on Sunday 11 July,” the FA said last month.
The FA had vowed to work with law enforcement “to identify those responsible and hold them to account.”


Right decision to hold Tokyo 2020, says head of Jordan Olympic Committee

Taekwondo silver Medallist Saleh Elsharabaty of Jordan wearing a kaffiyeh celebrates after his bout. (Reuters)
Taekwondo silver Medallist Saleh Elsharabaty of Jordan wearing a kaffiyeh celebrates after his bout. (Reuters)
Updated 03 August 2021

Right decision to hold Tokyo 2020, says head of Jordan Olympic Committee

Taekwondo silver Medallist Saleh Elsharabaty of Jordan wearing a kaffiyeh celebrates after his bout. (Reuters)
  • Country participating with delegation of 14 athletes

TOKYO: Holding the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was the right decision, according to the secretary-general of the Jordan Olympic Committee.

Nasser Al-Majali told Arab News Japan that it was the “correct decision” to go ahead with the event despite calls to cancel it due to the pandemic.

“The dreams of our players would not have been realized without holding the Olympics,” he said. “Many Arab and non-Arab players had the opportunity to realize their dreams.”

Al-Majali singled out Jordan’s silver Taekwondo medal from Saleh Elsharabaty and Qatar’s high jump gold from Mutaz Barshim as highlights.

When asked about his impression of the general atmosphere in Tokyo, especially with concerns over the spread of COVID-19, Al-Majali thanked the Japanese for their hospitality.

“They try as much as possible to be hospitable, and they really are. The Japanese are apologizing to us because they can't do more due to the coronavirus situation. Even outside the Olympic Village they are very civil, and that's their nature.”

Al-Majali said it was a shame that the games had to be held with so many restrictions, and that the Jordanian Olympic delegation in Japan had been exercising caution throughout.

“We spend most of the time in the village and between the tournament hotels, in compliance with the laws in force, to reduce the possibility of anyone being infected inside or outside the Olympic Village. But we hoped that we would have the opportunity to learn about Japanese culture.”

He extended his gratitude to the city of Noshiro, in Akita Prefecture, which hosted the Jordanian Olympic delegation in a pre-game camp.

“I would like to extend special thanks to the city of Noshiro. We receive messages from the people of Noshiro all the time asking us to send them Jordanian flags signed by the athletes. We thank them and hope that we will have the opportunity to visit them with our athletes in the future.”

Jordan is participating with an Olympic delegation of 14 athletes and Al-Majali said the standard had been good in general.

The most important performance was that of Elsharabaty, whose silver was the second Olympic medal in Jordan’s history, after the gold won by Ahmad Abu Ghosh, also in Taekwondo, at the 2016 Rio Olympics.


Egyptian Equestrian star Nayel Nassar qualifies for Tokyo 2020 Jumping Individual Final after near-faultless ride

Egypt's Nayel Nassar rides Igor van de Wittemoere in the equestrian's jumping individual qualifying during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Equestrian Park in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (AFP)
Egypt's Nayel Nassar rides Igor van de Wittemoere in the equestrian's jumping individual qualifying during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Equestrian Park in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 03 August 2021

Egyptian Equestrian star Nayel Nassar qualifies for Tokyo 2020 Jumping Individual Final after near-faultless ride

Egypt's Nayel Nassar rides Igor van de Wittemoere in the equestrian's jumping individual qualifying during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Equestrian Park in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (AFP)
  • He will be joined in the 30-athlete field by compatriot Mood Zeyada

DUBAI: After a near-faultless ride at Tokyo’s Equestrian Park, Egypt’s Nayel Nassar qualified for the Olympic Jumping Individual Final taking place on Wednesday where he will be joined by compatriot Mouda Zeyada in the quest for gold.

The 30-year-old Nassar, riding the horse Igor van de Wittemoere, and 26-year-old Zeyada, on Galanthos Shk, will be among 30 top performers from the 73 that took part in the Qualifier on Tuesday afternoon.

Their success came on a day that also saw Egypt’s handball team reach the Tokyo 2020 semifinals after beating Germany 31-26.

Nassar in particular has been center of attention since the weekend after Bill Gates, father of his wife Jennifer Katharine Gates, sent him a message of good luck on social media that went viral.

“I support many athletes in the Tokyo Olympics at the moment, but there is no athlete I support more than my son-in-law Nayel Nassar. Good luck Nayel,” Gates, the founder of Microsoft, posted on his official Instagram account.

Nassar proposed to the daughter of the billionaire founder of Microsoft at the start of last year, the two Stanford graduates having been in a relationship for four years.

As well as taking part in equestrian competitions that have helped him amass a reported net worth of $75 million, the Chicago-born Egyptian also owns Nassar Stables, established in 2014 and based in the city of Encinitas in California.