Sudan overcome Libya to reach 2021 FIFA Arab Cup as the first of the qualifiers

Sudan overcome Libya to reach 2021 FIFA Arab Cup as the first of the qualifiers
Sudan players celebrate after winning the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup qualifying match between Libya and Sudan at Khalifah International Stadium in Doha, Qatar on June 19, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 20 June 2021

Sudan overcome Libya to reach 2021 FIFA Arab Cup as the first of the qualifiers

Sudan overcome Libya to reach 2021 FIFA Arab Cup as the first of the qualifiers
  • The competition, backed by FIFA for the first time, takes place in Doha later this year

Exactly one year before the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off, football fans from across the Arab world can savor the atmosphere of international tournaments when the newly introduced FIFA Arab Cup takes place in Qatar between Nov. 27 and Dec. 18 this year.

That journey started on Saturday as Sudan and Libya met in Doha’s Khalifa International Stadium in the first of seven play-off matches where the 14 lowest ranked national teams in the region compete for a place in the finals. They will join the nine sides that have already qualified for the 16-team tournament in Qatar.

In the coming week the Qatari capital will host one game a day as Oman play Somalia, Jordan faces South Sudan, Mauritania takes on Yemen, Lebanon play Djibouti, Palestine go against Comoros and Gulf neighbors Kuwait and Bahrain lock horns in the final qualifying play-off on Friday.

On Saturday, attendance was limited to 30 percent capacity, with only vaccinated fans allowed entry, but the presence of several thousands of fans at Khalifa Stadium offered a glimpse of what to expect this winter. The crowd on Saturday predominantly belonged to Sudan, home to an estimated 60,000 expats in Qatar, but there was a small, vocal Libyan presence too.

On the pitch, Sudan showed its attacking intent from the start. Coach Hubert Velud’s men came racing out of the block, applying a high press system to retrieve the ball deep in their opponents’ half and creating chances almost at will. Their approach paid dividends at the quarter-hour mark when Saif Eldin Malik reacted fastest to reach a loose ball inside the Libyan box, drawing a foul from youngster Tahir bin Amir. Talisman Mohammed Abdelrahman stepped up confidently and converted from the spot, sending goalkeeper Mohammed Nashnush the wrong way.

Libya looked every bit a team still in search of a new playing identity in what was the first match in charge for coach Javier Clemente. The veteran Spaniard has returned for a second spell, having guided the Mediterranean Knights to African Nations Championship glory in 2014. Faisal Al-Badri tested the Sudanese goalkeeper from 30 yards out and Kuwait-based Ammar Al-Sanousi’s misconnecting volley was the only other big chance for the Libyans before the break.

Cautious not to allow their opponent space to run into, Sudan looked to hold on to its one-goal advantage with a slow passing game after the restart but this nearly backfired on the 57-minute mark as Libya’s Mohammed Zubya rose unopposed to power a header that goalkeeper Ali Abu Eshreen managed to keep out.

Abu Eshreen, who had been instrumental in Sudan’s successful African Cup of Nations qualification campaign, once more demonstrated his quality to deny Muad Eisay. The Libyan substitute outmuscled his marker and had the goal at his mercy but could not get past the Sudanese goalkeeper.

Romanian-born Yasin Hamed came off the bench for Sudan midway through the second half, replacing Malik, and he looked lively, with a curled effort that passed agonizingly wide of the upright. The 21-year-old is growing into an influential member of the Sudan squad, having switched allegiances from Romania to his father’s home country in 2019.  

Any notion of the Arab Cup being a redundant friendly tournament was dispelled by the scenes at the final whistle with emotions running high as the Sudanese players celebrated in front of their large following. There were even tears on the other side with this result coming on the back of Libya’s failure to reach the 2021 African Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Sudan had booked its place in Cameroon three months earlier, and now Abdelrahman’s goal sealed qualification to the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup. It will serve as perfect preparation for the Falcons of Jediane ahead of their return to the African competition they won in 1970.

Sudan face North African powerhouses Algeria and Egypt in Group D of the Arab Cup in Doha, while the fourth spot in the group will be contested on Wednesday between Lebanon and Djibouti.

“The Falcons of Jediane once more taught us that our strength lies in our unity,” tweeted Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok after the match, congratulating the team and hailing the support of the Sudanese community in Qatar.

In the upcoming Arab Cup fans across the region will be immersed in such hype in a competition that taps into a pan-Arab identity and is being presented as an official FIFA tournament for the very first time.


Euro hero Chiellini signs two-year deal with Juventus

Euro hero Chiellini signs two-year deal with Juventus
Updated 24 min 14 sec ago

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.


‘Best thing ever’: Gianmarco Tamberi basks in shared glory with friend Mutaz Barshim

Gianmarco Tamberi has expressed his joy at sharing an Olympic high jump gold medal with his friend from Qatar Mutaz Essa Barshim. (AFP)
Gianmarco Tamberi has expressed his joy at sharing an Olympic high jump gold medal with his friend from Qatar Mutaz Essa Barshim. (AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

‘Best thing ever’: Gianmarco Tamberi basks in shared glory with friend Mutaz Barshim

Gianmarco Tamberi has expressed his joy at sharing an Olympic high jump gold medal with his friend from Qatar Mutaz Essa Barshim. (AFP)
  • The high jump rivals and friends decided to share Olympic gold rather than have a deciding jump-off

TOKYO: Gianmarco Tamberi has expressed his joy at sharing an Olympic high jump gold medal with his friend Mutaz Essa Barshim, calling it the “best thing ever.”

The Qatari and Italian athletes captured the hearts of sports fans around the world when, in an unprecedented show of sporting solidarity, they decided to share the gold medal in the men’s high jump rather than participate in a deciding “jump-off” against each other.

“Mutaz is my big friend so we enjoyed the evening yesterday and we decided to share the gold medal,” Tamberi told Arab News Japan as he prepared to leave the Olympic Village in Tokyo.

“It’s the best thing ever and that’s the Olympic spirit,” he added. “It was amazing.”

Tamberi had perviously revealed that it was Barshim who, more than anyone else, helped him get over the severe disappointment of missing out on the high jump competition at Rio 2016 due to a injury.

On Sunday, the friends and rivals both cleared 2.37 meters, but then failed with three attempts each at 2.39 meters.

As a Tokyo 2020 official explained to Tamberi and Barshim that a jump-off could be introduced to separate them, the Qatari athlete uttered the words that have now gone down in Olympic history: “Can we have two golds?”

As the official confirmed they could, the duo hugged and broke into tearful celebrations, finally banishing years of injuries and close calls.

Having won bronze in London in 2012 and silver in Rio five years ago, the 30-year-old Barshim now has his gold. Barshim missed a large part of the 2018 season with an ankle injury, but returned to win gold at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha.

“This is a dream I don't want to wake up from,” Barshim said on Sunday. “I have been through a lot. It's been five years that I have been waiting, with injuries and a lot of set-backs.”

“But we are here today sharing this moment and all the sacrifices. It's really worth it now in this moment,” he added.


Glory for Morocco’s Soufiane El-Bakkali as he wins gold in Men’s 3000m Steeplechase at Tokyo 2020

Soufiane El Bakkali, of Morocco celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP)
Soufiane El Bakkali, of Morocco celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Glory for Morocco’s Soufiane El-Bakkali as he wins gold in Men’s 3000m Steeplechase at Tokyo 2020

Soufiane El Bakkali, of Morocco celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP)
  • The 25-year-old left a strong field behind him as pre-race talk focused on battle between Kenyans and Ethiopians

A glorious run by Moroccan runner Soufiane El-Bakkali saw him win the gold medal in the Men’s 3000m Steeplechase at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium on Monday.

The 25-year-old, who finished fourth in this event at Rio 2016, won with a time of 8:08:90, ahead of Lamecha Grima of Ethiopia in second and Benjamin Kigen in third.

Before the final, all the talk had focused on the fact that no Ethiopian had ever won this event at the Olympics, while the Kenyans had won every 3000m Steeplechase gold medal since Los Angeles 1984.

But the Moroccan proved to be the ace in the pack, in the end comfortably stretching away from his opponents on the last lap and collapsing into tears at the finish line.

El-Bakkali had won the 3000m Steeplechase Heat 3 on Friday with a time of 8:19:00, ahead of Topi Raitanen of Finland and Alexis Phelut of France, who both qualified to the final.

Previously, he had won bronze in this event at the 2019 World Athletics Championship in Qatar and silver two years earlier in London.

The Moroccan will now turn his attentions to the Men’s 1500m Round 1 — Heat 3 (3:27 a.m. KSA).


Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin’s brave semi-final run sees him depart men’s 400m at Tokyo 2020

Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin’s brave semi-final run sees him depart men’s 400m at Tokyo 2020
Updated 02 August 2021

Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin’s brave semi-final run sees him depart men’s 400m at Tokyo 2020

Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin’s brave semi-final run sees him depart men’s 400m at Tokyo 2020
  • 25-year-old produced some of Saudi delegation’s most competitive performances of Olympics, but will miss out on Thursday’s final

RIYADH: Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin has been eliminated from the men’s 400 meters at Tokyo 2020 after on Monday finishing fourth in the second semifinal at the Japanese capital’s Olympic Stadium.

Despite a fine run that saw him post a time of 45.37 seconds, the 25-year-old will now miss out on Thursday’s final.

Michael Cherry of the US, and Christopher Taylor of Jamaica, finished first and second and will be in the field of eight vying for the medals on Thursday. Steven Solomon of Australia came in third, 0.22 of a second ahead of Al-Yassin.

 

 

Al-Yassin had produced a thrilling run when winning heat two at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday to progress to the following day’s semifinals against some of the world’s best short-distance runners. A personal best time of 45.16 seconds saw him finish ahead of Kevin Borlee of Belgium and Ricky Petrucciani of Switzerland.

The runner received his call-up to the Olympics on July 2, one of the last of Saudi Arabia’s 33 athletes to confirm his place in Tokyo.

His exit from the Games means that Tarek Hamdi, who will take part in the karate 75-kilogram category on Friday, is the last remaining Saudi at Tokyo 2020.