Wales beat Turkey to close on Euro 2020 knockout stage

Wales beat Turkey to close on Euro 2020 knockout stage
Wales caretaker manager Robert Page with Turkey coach Senol Gunes after their match at Baku Olympic Stadium in Azerbaijan where Wales won 2-0. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 June 2021

Wales beat Turkey to close on Euro 2020 knockout stage

Wales beat Turkey to close on Euro 2020 knockout stage
  • Turkey faces an uphill challenge to reach the knockout stages after losing their first two Group A matches without scoring
  • Turkey coach dropped Juventus defender Merih Demiral who scored an own goal in Friday's defeat against Italy

BAKU: Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts scored as Wales took a huge step toward reaching the last 16 at Euro 2020 with a 2-0 win over Turkey in Baku on Wednesday.
Turkey is facing an uphill challenge to reach the knockout stages after losing their first two Group A matches without scoring.
Wales, semifinalists five years ago, should have won more convincingly, but wasted several chances including a second-half penalty which was blazed over by captain Gareth Bale.
Turkey coach Senol Gunes dropped Juventus defender Merih Demiral after he scored an own goal in Friday’s tournament-opening defeat in Italy.
Robert Page kept the same Wales side from Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Switzerland in Baku.
A hostile crowd was expected due to the close links between Ankara and Baku due to a centuries-long relationship solidified with Turkey’s support of Azerbaijan in last year’s conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Every early Wales touch was welcomed with whistles from the 30,000 crowd, with up to 4,000 Turkish fans having traveled, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In a very open first half an hour both sides had very good chances to open the scoring including Turkey skipper Burak Yilmaz, whose effort was deflected out for a corner, and Wales’ Ramsey.
With opportunities at both ends as the two teams refused to sit back, the Crescent Stars had two efforts blocked by last-gasp defending on the 30-minute mark.
With two minutes of the half remaining the vocal home support were stunned into silence by Ramsey’s opener.
Bale found Ramsey free in the box and the Juventus man chested the ball down before side-footing coolly past Ugurcan Cakir, making amends for missing two glorious earlier chances.
The muted crowd rediscovered their voices after the interval as Turkey pressed forward for an equalizer, their best chance falling to Yilmaz who sent his volley from close range high into the stands.
The game remained open going into the final 30 minutes and Ramsey was just stopped from adding a second as Cakir blocked with his foot, before Bale had an opportunity to seal the three points.
He charged into the box and was tripped by Zeki Celik but the one-time most expensive player in the world fired his penalty over the crossbar.
Page brought Ethan Ampadu on for the tiring Joe Allen, one of just two players remaining from the starting team in the semifinal defeat to Portugal in 2016, with a quarter of an hour left before Gunes sent on Halil Dervisoglu to partner Yilmaz up front.
Turkey, who were knocked out of the group stage in France at the previous tournament, applied incessant pressure in the closing moments.
With three minutes left the previously dropped Demiral had a golden chance but his free header from a Hakan Calhanoglu corner was wasted.
A scuffle broke out in the Wales box at the start of injury time after a collision on the floor and Ben Davies, Chris Mepham and Yilmaz were shown yellow cards before Page’s men claimed a second goal.
Bale powered into the box from a short corner, found Roberts and the Swansea right-back claimed his second international goal to send the 400 Wales fans into pandemonium behind the goal.
Turkey face Switzerland in the Azeri capital on Sunday while Wales head to Rome at the same time.


Double semifinal heartbreak for Egypt in men’s wrestling at Tokyo 2020

Double semifinal heartbreak for Egypt in men’s wrestling at Tokyo 2020
Updated 39 min 34 sec ago

Double semifinal heartbreak for Egypt in men’s wrestling at Tokyo 2020

Double semifinal heartbreak for Egypt in men’s wrestling at Tokyo 2020
  • Mohammed Ibrahim Elsayed, Mohammed Metwally will now fight in 67-kg, 87-kg bronze medal matches, respectively

RIYADH: There was double semifinal Olympics heartbreak for Egypt’s Mohammed Ibrahim Elsayed and Mohammed Metwally as the athletes on Tuesday lost their respective last four contests in the men’s wrestling Greco-Roman competition at Tokyo 2020.

Both will return to the mat tomorrow for a chance to claim bronze.

Elsayed exited the 67-kilogram competition after a tense 7-6 semifinal loss to Ukrainian Parviz Nasibov at Makuhari Messe Hall. The Egyptian had taken a 5-0 lead and looked set to progress to the final, but a series of late mistakes saw him lose the contest in an agonizing manner.

In the 87-kg category, Metwally lost 9-2 to Viktor Lorincz of Hungary, who will now contest the final against the Ukrainian Zhan Beleniuk, who beat Croatian Ivan Huklek 7-1 in their semifinal.

Metwally and Huklek will meet in the 87-kg bronze medal contest on Wednesday afternoon.

In the earlier 67-kg semifinal, Iranian Mohammed Reza Geraei defeated Ramaz Zoidze of Georgia 6-1, and will now meet Nasibov in the Wednesday final, taking place from 12:15 p.m. Saudi time. Elsayed will take on Zoidze in the bronze medal match.

It had been a promising day for the Arab fighters until the semifinal stage.

In the early hours of Tuesday, Metwally had beaten Cuba’s Daniel Hechavarria 4-0 in the quarterfinals of the 87-kg competition after a crushing 9-1 win against Kiryl Maskevich of Belarus in the previous qualifying round.

Elsayed had a tougher time in his 67-kg matches, edging South Korea’s Hansu Ryu in his first bout, and getting another slim victory over Karen Aslanyan of Armenia in their quarterfinal bout.


Olympic fallout: Are young Saudi footballers being hampered by SPL’s 7-foreigner rule?

Olympic fallout: Are young Saudi footballers being hampered by SPL’s 7-foreigner rule?
Updated 03 August 2021

Olympic fallout: Are young Saudi footballers being hampered by SPL’s 7-foreigner rule?

Olympic fallout: Are young Saudi footballers being hampered by SPL’s 7-foreigner rule?
  • Clubs in Kingdom continue to count on overseas players for goals, with negative consequences on Saudi U-23 team at Tokyo 2020

RIYADH: Now the Olympics football tournament is over, attention has quickly turned to the start of the new Saudi Professional League (SPL) season next week.

Take a quick look at the headlines and social media and there is not much being said about what happened in Japan as the young Falcons lost all three games at Tokyo 2020. But there are the usual significant number of reports and rumors as to which foreign stars are heading to the league. The two are connected, however.

There is no doubt that there are some top-class foreign players in Saudi Arabia who bring a lot to their clubs and the league. Stars such as French striker Bafetimbi Gomis and Syrian sharpshooter Omar Al-Somah light up the league on and off the pitch.

Looking ahead to the new season there will be speculation about whether Al-Hilal will make it three in a row or if Al-Ahli will return to the running, but there is one certainty: The top scorer next season will not be Saudi Arabian.

Saudi Arabia’s league is unusual in Asia in that it does not limit the number of foreign players to four in the way many do, with each club allowed to sign and field seven overseas footballers.

And it is no surprise that attackers from around the world are in demand. After all, scoring goals is the hardest thing in football to do, so why would clubs and coaches not look to import solutions?

Gomis, a powerful, skillful striker, fiery yet with ice-cool composure in the area, is one of the best center-forwards in Asia. He was the top scorer in the 2019 AFC Champions League as Al-Hilal picked up a third continental championship. Others played their part but the former French international made the difference at crucial times. The likes of Abderrazzak Hamdallah of Morocco and Cristian Guanca of Argentina were other stars last season.

It is not just the title-chasing clubs that have goal scorers from abroad. Swede Carlos Strandberg scored 16 goals, more than a third of Abha’s total in the SPL, and those strikes played a major part in the club staying up by a point.

In short, in Saudi Arabia, all the teams look to foreigners for goals. This can help the local defenders gain some vital experience in facing a variety of strikers from all over the world. For young center-backs there can be few better learning curves available than one which features clashes against the physical Gomis, the artful Guanca, and the single-minded Strandberg.

This attacking talent can flourish anywhere in the world and if any defender can learn to hold their own against them then they have nothing to fear and plenty to look forward to.

But what about the local strikers? There are consequences for this love of international attackers. Increasingly the home-grown forwards are getting fewer chances to develop. Just look at the goalscoring charts for last season; none of the top 10 were from Saudi Arabia. The highest-ranked was Hassan Al-Amri at No. 12 and seven of his 12 goals for Al-Qadisiyah came from the spot. In contrast, six of the most prolific 10 players in Japan were locals.

This is obviously a worry. If teams look overseas for striking talent, then there are fewer opportunities for locals.

At the Olympics, many hopes were placed on the shoulders of Abdullah Al-Hamdan who made headlines when signing for Al-Hilal from Al-Shabab in January. It was hoped that the 21-year-old was the answer to the search for the next Sami Al-Jaber. Yet the forward struggled to get into games in Japan, looked off the pace, and was easy for defenders to handle. That should not be a surprise given that he has been a bit-part player for Al-Hilal, playing a full league game just once since joining the club.

If he cannot get a run of games then he is unlikely to be able to make the difference against defenders from the Ivory Coast, Germany, and Brazil.

And if it was not tough enough for the player last season, Al-Hilal have added Moussa Marega from Porto. The 30-year-old Malian marksman scored plenty in Portugal and is likely to slot straight into the starting line-up when the new season kicks off.

So, what is a promising young striker such as Al-Hamdan to do? If he does not get much playing time, then he has to move but the same issues exist in other clubs in Saudi Arabia. Moving overseas may be the answer but is not an easy one, especially when Saudi strikers have little reputation internationally, partly due to the fact that they are squeezed out of their starting elevens at home.

Nobody could blame a coach for pushing a talented young player in Riyadh or Jeddah toward midfield or the wings. It is a vicious circle. While foreigners dominate the scoring charts, the demand for them will continue to rise. This reduces the chances for the locals; if they are not playing, they are not scoring, and so clubs continue to look overseas.

There is no easy answer or quick fix but reducing the number of imports from seven to four would be a step in the right direction.


Wrestling success for Egypt on mixed morning for Arab athletes at Tokyo 2020

Wrestling success for Egypt on mixed morning for Arab athletes at Tokyo 2020
Updated 03 August 2021

Wrestling success for Egypt on mixed morning for Arab athletes at Tokyo 2020

Wrestling success for Egypt on mixed morning for Arab athletes at Tokyo 2020
  •  Mohamed Metwally and Mohamed Ibrahim Elsayed reach semifinals of 87 kg and 67 kg categories

TOKYO: Egyptian athletes enjoyed a productive Tuesday morning on the wrestling mat at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with two fighters reaching the semifinals.

Mohammed Metwally beat Cuba’s Daniel Hechavarria 4-0 in the quarterfinals of the Greco-Roman 87-kilogram competition after a crushing 9-1 win against Kiryl Maskevich of Belarus in the previous round.

Metwally’s compatriot Mohammed Ibrahim Elsayed had a tougher time in his 67-kilogram matches, edging South Korea’s Hansu Ryu in his first bout, and getting another slim victory over Karen Aslanyan of Armenia in their quarterfinal bout.

Both will take to the mat later in their bid to reach the finals of their respective competitions.

In other bouts, Tunisia’s Lamjed Maafi lost 11-1 to Azerbaijan’s Rafig Huseynov in the 77-kg repechage while Ryu defeated Algeria’s Abdelmalek Merabet 8-0 in a 67-kg qualification match before losing to Metwally.

Aker Al-Obaidi of the refugee team beat Tunisia’s Souleymen Nasr 8-0 in the 67-kg category but was then defeated 10-0 by Georgia’s Ramaz Zoidze in the quarterfinals.

Algerian wrestler Bachir Sid Azara wiped out China’s Fei Peng 11-1 to reach the 87-kg quarterfinals, but then lost narrowly to Ukraine’s Zhan Beleniuk.

In the women’s freestyle quarterfinals, Sweden’s Henna Johansson overcame Tunisia’s Marwa Amri 5-1.

On the track, Lebanon’s Noureddine Hadid finished last in the 200-meter heats with a time of 21.12 seconds and did not advance.


Euro hero Chiellini signs two-year deal with Juventus

Euro hero Chiellini signs two-year deal with Juventus
Updated 02 August 2021

Euro hero Chiellini signs two-year deal with Juventus

Euro hero Chiellini signs two-year deal with Juventus
  • Chiellini, 36, was out of contract after his previous deal with Juve expired at the end of June
  • He put pen to paper on a contract which runs until 2023

ROME: Giorgio Chiellini has signed a new two-year contract with Juventus, the Serie A club announced on Monday, a few weeks after the Italy captain led his country to triumph at Euro 2020.
Chiellini, 36, was out of contract after his previous deal with Juve expired at the end of June, while Italy were still on their charge to European Championship victory.
He put pen to paper on a contract which runs until 2023, contrary to initial reports in Italy which said he was prepared to agree to a deal until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which takes place in November and December next year.
“Giorgio Chiellini embodies everything that Juventus stands for, and it is through his commitment and excellent displays over the course of last 16 years that has earned him a contract renewal,” Juve said.
“There is an overlap in Giorgio’s DNA and that of Juve’s. He forms a big part of Juve’s history, yet also the present and the future,” they added.
The announcement of his new contract was expected, with chairman Andrea Agnelli saying last week that the club were waiting for the center-back to return from his post-Euro holidays before agreeing a new deal.
Chiellini began his long Juventus career in 2005 and was a pillar of the team which won nine successive Serie A titles before Inter Milan broke their rivals’ run of domestic dominance last season.
He has also contested two Champions League finals and won five Italian Cups with Juventus.
Chiellini and his Juve teammate Leonardo Bonucci were central to Italy’s success at this summer’s Euro, providing the solid basis from which Roberto Mancini’s vibrant team flourished.
The Azzurri won the tournament in impressive style, cruising through their group and seeing off the likes of Belgium and Spain in the knockout stages before beating England on penalties in the final at Wembley.
He has played 112 times for his country, finishing runner-up at Euro 2012.


Belarusian athlete to fly to Warsaw from Tokyo on Wednesday

Belarusian athlete to fly to Warsaw from Tokyo on Wednesday
Updated 02 August 2021

Belarusian athlete to fly to Warsaw from Tokyo on Wednesday

Belarusian athlete to fly to Warsaw from Tokyo on Wednesday
  • Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya will fly from Tokyo on a direct flight to Warsaw

WARSAW: Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya will fly to Warsaw on Wednesday, the chairman of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation said on Monday.
Tsimanouskaya who took refuge in the Polish embassy in Tokyo a day after refusing her team’s orders to board a flight home from the Olympic Games.
“She will fly from Tokyo, a direct flight to Warsaw on August 4, in two days’ time,” Aleksandr Opeykin told Reuters.
“She has accepted the offer issued by the Polish Foreign Ministry to request international help, she has done that and she has received a Polish visa today. We, at the Foundation, helped her to get the ticket to Warsaw,” he added.