Depay and Dumfries send Netherlands into Euro 2020 knockouts

Depay and Dumfries send Netherlands into Euro 2020 knockouts
The Dutch now cannot be caught at the top of the group. (AFP)
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Updated 18 June 2021

Depay and Dumfries send Netherlands into Euro 2020 knockouts

Depay and Dumfries send Netherlands into Euro 2020 knockouts

AMSTERDAM: The Netherlands are through to the last 16 at Euro 2020 after Memphis Depay’s penalty set up a 2-0 win over Austria on Thursday, their second straight victory securing top spot in Group C as coach Frank de Boer declared there is much more to come from his side.
Depay made no mistake from the spot in the 11th minute in Amsterdam after David Alaba’s foul on Denzel Dumfries was spotted by the Israeli referee only after he came across to review the images.
Dumfries, so impressive in the thrilling opening 3-2 win over Ukraine, added another midway through the second half, his second goal of the tournament.
The Dutch were comfortable at home in the Johan Cruyff Arena and De Boer’s side are so far making a success of their first major tournament since the 2014 World Cup.
That is great news for De Boer, whose predecessor as national coach, Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman, was among the spectators.
“I know we can beat anybody when we are at our best but I think other teams are thinking the same so let’s go game by game and see where that takes us,” De Boer said.
The Dutch now cannot be caught at the top of the group after Ukraine beat North Macedonia earlier in Bucharest, with the Balkan outsiders already eliminated.
That means De Boer can rest players for the final group game against North Macedonia, safe in the knowledge that the Dutch will go to Budapest for a last-16 tie on June 27 against a third-place finisher.
“We need to decide how to prepare for the next game, whether to keep working on the system and improve that or give some players extra time off,” De Boer added.
He had said coming into the Euro that the 1988 champions were “between the fourth and eighth-best team” and already they can see their path opening up to the quarter-finals.
They will still need to improve if they are to go further, but they appear to be finding their feet in the 3-5-2 system that De Boer has controversially opted for.
Austria, after all, are a mediocre side and were not helped by the penalty given away by Alaba, their captain.
Franco Foda’s side were also handicapped by the absence of Marko Arnautovic, suspended for insulting an opponent after coming off the bench and scoring against North Macedonia.
Foda had said he was in line to start here.
Austria can nevertheless still qualify with a game against Ukraine to come.
“We knew we couldn’t completely stop the Dutch,” said Alaba.
“I am proud of the team. We will go to Bucharest to try to beat Ukraine and stay in the tournament.”
If the Dutch King and Queen were present at their first match, this time FIFA president Gianni Infantino was in the stands, as well as Koeman.
Depay, out of contract at Lyon, hinted before this game that he is set to team up with Koeman in Barcelona.
The ex-Manchester United man believes he is good enough to play for a club of Barcelona’s stature, and he confidently stroked home the early spot-kick awarded following a VAR review for Alaba’s foul on Dumfries.
He then missed a sitter before half-time, failing to hit the target after Wout Weghorst teed him up.
It was from a Depay corner that Weghorst nodded down for Stefan de Vrij to see his effort from point-blank range saved by Austria goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann on the hour.
De Boer then made a triple change, including sending on PSV Eindhoven forward Donyell Malen for Weghorst.
And midway through the second half Depay released Malen to run through and square for Dumfries, one of the stars of the tournament so far, to score.
Koeman will also have been impressed with another assured display by Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong in midfield, while Matthijs de Ligt cruised through the game in defense on his return from injury.


Man City pays record fee to sign Grealish from Aston Villa

Man City pays record fee to sign Grealish from Aston Villa
Updated 05 August 2021

Man City pays record fee to sign Grealish from Aston Villa

Man City pays record fee to sign Grealish from Aston Villa
  • City paid a fee of 100 million pounds ($139 million), Villa chief executive Christian Purslow confirmed
  • The 25-year-old Grealish signed a six-year contract with manager Pep Guiardiola's squad

MANCHESTER, England: Premier League champion Manchester City broke the British transfer fee record on Thursday to sign midfielder Jack Grealish from Aston Villa.
City paid a fee of 100 million pounds ($139 million), Villa chief executive Christian Purslow confirmed. That’s the most ever paid by a Premier League club.
The 25-year-old Grealish signed a six-year contract with manager Pep Guardiola’s squad.
“City are the best team in the country with a manager considered to be the best in the world — it’s a dream come true to be part of this club,” Grealish said in a team statement. “To play for Pep and learn from him is going to be special and it’s something any top footballer would want.”
The previous record fee was the 105 million euros ($124 million) that Manchester United paid Juventus for midfielder Paul Pogba in 2016.
Addressing Villa supporters, Purslow said in a video Thursday that the team set Grealish’s price at 100 million pounds last year when they extended his contract. Several teams expressed interest this summer, he said, but below the target.
“We simply refused to entertain those approaches. Finally, Manchester City notified us that they would be willing to pay the 100 million pounds it would take to trigger this clause,” Purslow said. “Ultimately, (Grealish) said it boiled down to wanting to play Champions League football now.”
The Birmingham-born Grealish had spent his whole career with Villa, with one season on loan to lower-tier Notts County in 2013-14, and now joins a formidable midfield with Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and others.
“Everyone knows how much I admire Kevin. It’s going to be a dream come true to play alongside him,” Grealish told club media. “Competing for trophies, for major trophies is something that I wanted to do. ... Playing in the Champions League was a massive thing for me — I haven’t done that yet.”
Grealish said the 21-year-old Foden is “like a little brother. When you have a connection with someone off the pitch, you can transfer that onto the pitch as well.”
The attacking midfielder was a bit of a late bloomer as a superstar, only debuting for England in September 2020. He originally played for Ireland at youth levels before switching to England in 2015.
Easily recognizable with his swept-back hair and bulging calf muscles, Grealish carries the ball superbly and with such pace and directness that it is no surprise he is constantly fouled.
“Jack’s development over the past few seasons both for club and country has been plain for everybody to see,” said Txiki Begiristain, City’s director of football. “His natural talent together with his commitment to improve as a player has seen him become one of the most exciting attacking players in world football today.
“Pep loves the way he plays, and we all feel he is an ideal fit for Manchester City,” he continued. “Our style and his style are a perfect match.”
Grealish was part of England’s team in the European Championship, though mostly as a substitute — and fan favorite. England lost to Italy in the final.
Grealish will wear the No. 10 shirt, which became available when striker Sergio Aguero left the club for Barcelona.
The playmaker made his Premier League debut in May 2014. Villa later slipped into the second-tier Championship but Grealish helped the squad win promotion after the 2018-19 season. The team finished 11th last season.
Grealish scored 32 goals and compiled 43 assists in 213 appearances for Villa.
City kicks off the new season at Tottenham on Aug. 15.


Madrid opposes Spanish league’s deal that secured $3 billion

Madrid opposes Spanish league’s deal that secured $3 billion
Updated 05 August 2021

Madrid opposes Spanish league’s deal that secured $3 billion

Madrid opposes Spanish league’s deal that secured $3 billion
  • The majority of the league's clubs are expected to give their final approval to the deal
  • “This agreement was reached without the involvement or knowledge of Real Madrid,” Madrid said in a statement

MADRID: Real Madrid expressed its opposition Thursday to the Spanish league’s deal with an investment fund that secured $3.2 billion in funding to help its clubs.
The league’s executive committee unanimously approved the “strategic agreement” with international investment fund CVC Capital Partners on Wednesday. The majority of the league’s clubs are expected to give their final approval to the deal in an upcoming general assembly.
“This agreement was reached without the involvement or knowledge of Real Madrid and today (Thursday), for the first time, LaLiga has given us limited access to the terms of the agreement,” Madrid said in a statement.
As part of the agreement, the private equity firm which used to own Formula One would have a share of about 10 percent of the league’s revenues and a stake of 10 percent in a new commercial entity that values the league at 24.2 billion euros ($28.7 billion).
“The clubs have signed over their audiovisual rights exclusively for their sale on a competitive basis for a period of three years. This agreement, by way of a misleading structure, expropriates 10.95 percent of the clubs’ audiovisual rights for the next 50 years, in breach of the law,” Madrid said.
It said the negotiation “was carried out without competitive proceedings and the financial conditions” in the agreement gives this “opportunistic fund” annual returns “of over 20 percent.”
Madrid noted that CVC “tried and failed” to reach similar agreements with the Italian and German leagues.
“Real Madrid cannot support a venture which hands the future of 42 first and second division clubs over to a group of investors, not to mention the futures of those clubs who qualify over the next 50 years,” it said.
The league had said the funding would help the clubs’ finances and boost its global presence as it continues to try to catch up to the powerful Premier League, the world’s richest soccer league. It said CVC would not have control of the management of the competition, or the sale of its broadcasting rights.
The clubs would receive 90 percent of the money paid by CVC, with 70 percent aimed at long-term structural investments. Some of the money would also go toward paying off debts and increasing their spending limits on players and coaches.
Madrid and Barcelona are among the clubs with heavy losses because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Barcelona earlier Thursday announced that Lionel Messi will not stay at the club because the league’s financial regulations made it impossible to sign the Argentina star to a new contract.


Barcelona says Messi will not stay with the club

Barcelona says Messi will not stay with the club
Updated 05 August 2021

Barcelona says Messi will not stay with the club

Barcelona says Messi will not stay with the club
  • Lionel Messi will not stay with Barcelona after Spanish league financial regulations made it impossible to reach a deal
  • "Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled,” stated Barcelona

BARCELONA, Spain: Barcelona said Thursday that Lionel Messi will not stay with the club after Spanish league financial regulations made it impossible for a deal to be reached between the club and the player.
Barcelona said in a statement that a deal for a new contract had been reached but financial “obstacles” made it impossible for the player to remain with the club.
“Despite club and player reaching an agreement and their clear intention to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles,” the club said.
It blamed “Spanish league regulations” for not allowing the club to sign a new contract with the player. His previous one had ended on June 30.
“As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona,” it said. “Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.
“FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandizement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life,” the statement said.

 


Qatar to contest beach volleyball bronze medal match after semifinal loss to Russian Olympic Committee team

Qatar to contest beach volleyball bronze medal match after semifinal loss to Russian Olympic Committee team
Updated 05 August 2021

Qatar to contest beach volleyball bronze medal match after semifinal loss to Russian Olympic Committee team

Qatar to contest beach volleyball bronze medal match after semifinal loss to Russian Olympic Committee team
  • Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan have excelled in Tokyo but came up against formidable opponents in final four
  • Before their defeat to ROC, Younousse and Tijan had been on a five-match winning streak at Tokyo 2020

Qatar lost the Olympic Men’s Beach Volleyball semifinal 2-0 to the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) at Shiokaze Park on Thursday and will now take on Latvia in the bronze medal match on Saturday.

The Qatari duo of Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan have caught the eye at Tokyo 2020 with some brilliant performances that have seen them overcome more fancied opponents, including their impressive win over the Italian team of Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo 2-0 (21-17, 23-21) in the quarterfinal on Wednesday.

But on Thursday they came up against the formidable Russian duo Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy, who ran out winners in straight sets (21-19, 21-17).

Before their defeat to ROC, Younousse and Tijan had been on a five-match winning streak at Tokyo 2020.

The pair began their Olympic campaign on July 25, beating Switzerland 2-0 (21-17, 21-16) in their preliminary round, Pool C match.

They followed that up with two more group victories, beating Italy 2-0 three days later, and the USA 2-0 last Friday.

On Sunday, they beat the USA 2-1 (14-21, 21-19,15-11) in the round of 16 to reach the quarterfinal against Italy.


An umpire’s word is final, except when technology is around

Although the Laws of Cricket accord absolute determination to umpires, they are human and have made errors along the way. (Action Images via Reuters/File Photo)
Although the Laws of Cricket accord absolute determination to umpires, they are human and have made errors along the way. (Action Images via Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 05 August 2021

An umpire’s word is final, except when technology is around

Although the Laws of Cricket accord absolute determination to umpires, they are human and have made errors along the way. (Action Images via Reuters/File Photo)
  • Television technology and off-field umpires may have changed decision making at elite level, but club cricket still takes the word of only one man

LONDON: As a boy, when I was learning how to play and understand cricket, it was drummed into me by my seniors that the umpire’s decision was final. I witnessed and suffered what appeared to be poor or biased decisions by umpires who made me question the veracity of this mantra.

In the league in which I cut my teeth, neutral umpires were appointed, but it seemed that some of them carried baggage about certain clubs and individuals from prior encounters. One incident which has stuck with me occurred in a match between my local town club and a fierce local rival. Whilst I was batting, the opponents appealed for a catch by the wicket keeper. As I was sure that I hit the ball, I “walked,” not waiting for the umpire’s decision.

On my way back to the pavilion, I was met by my captain, who, pointing behind, said, in strong terms, go back, the umpire has not given you out. I was in a quandary. Do I disobey my captain, independently overrule the umpire, or face the wrath of the opposition? I chose the latter and faced sustained verbal abuse. The umpire who gave me not out, whispered words to the effect, don’t let these people get the better of you. I never knew if he had made an error or had favoured me instead of the opposition. What it did confirm to me is that an umpire has authority.

The incident caused me to access the first codified Laws of Cricket, drawn up in 1744. These specify that the umpire is allowed a certain amount of discretion, making it clear that the umpire is the “sole judge” and that “his determination shall be absolute.” While not saying the umpire’s word is final, it is as close as one can get. 

Although the Laws accorded absolute determination to umpires, they are human and have made errors along the way. The acceptance of such errors or perceived injustices, have varied from sanguine acceptance to visible shakes of the head, to bat throwing, to verbal confrontations and challenges to the fabric of the game. 

One such event occurred in August 2006. The umpires alleged that the Pakistani team had illegally attempted to alter the condition of the ball. This can occur by gouging the surface or lifting the seam. Within their discretion under Law 42.3, the umpires awarded the opposition team, England, five runs and the choice of a replacement ball. The Pakistani team staged a protest and remained in their dressing room. After much toing and froing, it was agreed that the match could not be re-started and the Pakistan captain thereby forfeited the match.

On Sept. 28, 2006, the report of the match referee effectively dismissed the allegations of ball tampering in saying that there was insufficient evidence that the fielding side had changed the condition of the ball beyond normal wear and tear. This was a clear and historic case when the match referee overruled the decision of umpires, effectively ruining the career of one of them. The Pakistani captain was found guilty only of bringing cricket into disrepute and given a four match One-Day International ban.

Two decades before, unsavoury clashes in Pakistan between home umpires and England’s captain of the time in 1987 caused a furore. Ironically, Imran Khan, then Pakistan’s captain, tired of criticism and accusations of home umpiring, had arranged in 1986 for two Indian umpires to stand in a test against the West Indies. The experiment was continued for the Pakistan-India series in 1988-89, when two English umpires were invited to stand.

It was clear that cricket had a problem and, in 1992, the International Cricket Council (ICC) appointed one neutral umpire per test on an experimental basis, with full adoption two years later. Progression to two neutrals was made in 2002. Alongside this change, the role of match referee evolved, designed to ensure that the ICC’s Code of Conduct was upheld and proper facilities provided. The first appointment was made in 1991-1992.

Advances in television technology, especially the slow-motion replay, had also begun to further expose erroneous umpiring decisions. An electronic back up was required to support umpires. This arrived in 1992 in the form of an off-field third umpire — also known as the TV umpire — who could be consulted by the on-field umpires on certain decisions: A run-out, stumping and boundaries.   

Such arrangements continued until 2009 when, after two years of trials, England’s Test series against the West Indies allowed both teams the opportunity to challenge the decisions made by the on-field umpires. A second opinion could be requested from the third umpire, who had access to repeated television replays.

Prior to this, it was against the spirit of cricket to dispute an umpire's decision by word, action or gesture. From 2009, in international cricket, the shake of the head, the curse or verbal confrontation could be delayed or eliminated by a review of the original decision. Since then, there have been further technological advances with more tracking technology at the disposal of the off-field umpires that serve to make further inroads into the authority of the on-field umpires. These and their impact will be explored in a subsequent column.

In club cricket around the world, no such technological interventions exist. The game is the same as it always was. Opportunities for dispute continue to exist. In many matches, players act as umpires, dispensing duties with as much impartiality as they can muster, knowing that their decision is absolute and that abuse of this power could lead to anarchy. It is tempting to conclude that, currently, an umpire at this level has more absolute on-field authority than those at the elite level.