Spain beats Switzerland, reaches Euro 2020 semifinals

Spain beats Switzerland, reaches Euro 2020 semifinals
Spain beat Switzerland 3-1 on penalties. (AFP)
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Updated 03 July 2021

Spain beats Switzerland, reaches Euro 2020 semifinals

Spain beats Switzerland, reaches Euro 2020 semifinals

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia: As Spain’s jubilant players sprinted onto the field to celebrate a penalty-shootout victory at the European Championship, Luis Enrique stood alone and simply pumped his fists.
Amid the tension and rising pressure inside Saint Petersburg Stadium, the Spain coach might have been the calmest person around.
“I’d tried to convey a message that what would be, would be,” Luis Enrique said, revealing what he’d told his team ahead of the 3-1 shootout victory over Switzerland in the quarterfinals on Friday. “I told them to relax ... and to enjoy the moment as much as they could.”
Easier said than done for a team that had missed its last five regulation penalties in matches, two of them at Euro 2020. For a team that had squandered chance after chance in extra time as Switzerland’s energy-sapped players hung on for a 1-1 draw through extra time. For a team that had come into the match as the favorite and had taken an eighth-minute lead, only to see that wiped out by a defensive mistake.
So imagine the relief when Mikel Oyarzabal stepped up to convert the decisive spot kick past goalkeeper Yann Sommer, whose save on Kylian Mbappe’s shot in a shootout win over France got Switzerland to the tournament’s quarterfinals for the first time.
After seeing the ball hit the back of the net, Oyarzabal headed straight to Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon, who had made two saves in the shootout. They were soon consumed by their teammates as “Y Viva Espana” blasted out from the stadium’s loudspeakers.
“When it goes your way,” Luis Enrique said, “it feels very good indeed.”
Of course, the Swiss know that feeling. But unlike against France, when they scored all five of their penalties in the shootout, they failed with three of their four attempts this time. Fabian Schar and Manuel Akanji had shots saved by Simon, while Ruben Vargas fired the ball over the crossbar.
“Penalties are a bit 50-50,” said Switzerland captain Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored his team’s goal in regulation time. “I think we just lacked a little bit of luck today.”
Spain will play Italy in the semifinals on Tuesday at Wembley Stadium in London. The team is two wins away from emulating the country’s golden generation, which captured European titles in 2008 and 2012.
After the wild fluctuations of “Manic Monday,” when Spain and Switzerland won chaotic games in the round of 16 that both needed extra time and featured a combined 14 goals, their quarterfinal match was perhaps unsurprisingly a more labored affair punctuated by big moments.
Among them was a red card in the 78th minute for Switzerland midfielder Remo Freuler, whose studs connected with the ankle of substitute Gerard Moreno in a sliding challenge.
Yet a rearguard effort — requiring a string of diving saves by Sommer and a number of last-ditch blocks by sprawling defenders — kept the Spanish at bay in the extra 30 minutes that were played almost entirely in Switzerland’s half. A crowd made up of mostly Russian spectators was fully behind Switzerland, even to the extent of jeering Spain’s players when they had the ball.
Moreno, in particular, squandered four chances with poor finishing or the acrobatics of Sommer, though the striker made amends by converting one of Spain’s kicks in the shootout.
The Swiss initially missed the energy and authority of suspended captain Granit Xhaka, whose replacement — Denis Zakaria — had the misfortune of scoring the 10th own-goal of the tournament when he sliced the ball into his own net. Jordi Alba sent in the shot after latching onto a corner from the right that had sailed over everyone’s heads in the area.
A defensive mix-up brought about Shaqiri’s equalizer in the 68th, which came just as Switzerland’s players had started to assert themselves.
Aymeric Laporte came across to cover a pass over the top but touched the ball onto the leg of his center back partner, Pau Torres. Freuler pounced on the ball and laid it off to Shaqiri, whose first-time shot crawled into the bottom corner.
Freuler’s red card ensured a penalty shootout was the best ending Switzerland could realistically hope for, and the team just about made it thanks to the misses from Moreno.
Switzerland bowed out in the same stadium where the team was eliminated from the 2018 World Cup. Then, the Swiss lost to Sweden 1-0 in the round of 16.

Beijing offering COVID-19 booster shots ahead of Olympics

Beijing offering COVID-19 booster shots ahead of Olympics
Updated 22 October 2021

Beijing offering COVID-19 booster shots ahead of Olympics

Beijing offering COVID-19 booster shots ahead of Olympics
  • The booster has been rolling out in cities across the vast nation since late September
  • The pandemic is believed to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019

BEIJING: China’s capital Beijing has begun offering booster shots against COVID-19, four months before the city and surrounding regions are to host the Winter Olympics.
Anyone 18 or older who have received two-dose Chinese vaccines and belong to at-risk groups, including those participating, organizing or working on games facilities, would be eligible for the additional shot, state media reported Friday.
The booster has been rolling out in cities across the vast nation since late September, but Beijing authorities have been extra cautious in who receives the extra jab.
The games are set to begin on Feb. 4 with only residents of China allowed in the stands. Indoor events with sliding, skiing and jumping will be held in the suburb of Yanqing and the neighboring city of Zhangjiakou.
China has been largely successful in preventing local transmission through strict requirements on mask wearing, quarantining and contact tracing. Cases continue to pop up however, with 28 new ones reported Friday, including one in the Beijing suburb of Fengtai.
The pandemic is believed to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, leading to a total lockdown that affected more than 50 million people.
China has been accused of covering up the initial outbreak and stymying investigations into the coronavirus’ origins, although it said earlier this week that it would cooperate with a renewed investigation by the World Health Organization while “firmly opposing any forms of political manipulation.”
WHO on Wednesday released a proposed list of 25 experts to advise it on next steps in the search for the virus’ origins after its earlier efforts were attacked for going easy on China.

Riyadh Season kicks off with a bang as WWE Crown Jewel returns to Saudi Arabia

Riyadh Season kicks off with a bang as WWE Crown Jewel returns to Saudi Arabia
Updated 22 October 2021

Riyadh Season kicks off with a bang as WWE Crown Jewel returns to Saudi Arabia

Riyadh Season kicks off with a bang as WWE Crown Jewel returns to Saudi Arabia
  • The sports entertainment group brought a stacked card to the Mohammed Abdu Arena on the Boulevard in Riyadh

RIYADH: WWE returned to Saudi Arabia on Thursday evening for the 2021 edition of Crown Jewel.

The sports entertainment group brought a stacked card to the Mohammed Abdu Arena on the Boulevard in Riyadh as part of the ongoing Riyadh Season. 

The event had major matches taking place, including the return of some of the organization's biggest superstars, none bigger than Brock Lesnar, who was back in a championship match against Roman Reigns.

Three more championship matches, including a “No Holds Barred” match as well as the finals for King of the Ring and Queen's Crown also took place. 

After taking a beating under Hell in a Cell match conditions, the WWE veteran Edge managed to defeat Seth Rollins capping off their long fued.

Mansoor and Mustafa Ali faced off again with a swift win for the WWE wrestler hailing from Riyadh, Mansoor pinned Mustafa Ali in under minutes. Ali did not take the his defeat on the chin and attacked Mansoor from behind, this move was followed by a surprise appearance and WWE debut for Tarek Hamdi, karate silver medalist for Saudi Arabia in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

Next was the Raw Tag Team Championship where champions RK-Bro took on the  dynamic duo of AJ Styles & Omos. The champions retained their titles and are still on their RK-Bro path as tag champions. 

Next was the finals for the first ever Queen's Crown finals between Doudrop and Zelina Vega which saw Vega become the first ever Queen of WWE’s ring.

Up next was Bobby Lashley and Goldberg in the “No Holds Barred” contest where pin falls could happen anywhere in the arena. Everywhere in the arena is exactly where these two battled it out as the two bulls pulled out all the stops for the bout and Goldberg scored the win.

Goldberg unleashed his full power on Lashley, giving him no moment to grasp what was happening, as the much anticipated fight began. 

The victory for Goldberg will taste all the sweeter as he wanted revenge against Lashley for hurting his son in Summer Slam earlier this year.

The finals of the “King of the Ring” proved to be a stellar match between Finn Balor and Xavier Woods, the crowd awed at the spectacle Balor and Woods put on. Chants, screams and applause filled the auditorium after Woods pinned Balor in what was a lengthy and worthy match-up between the two warriors, in which Woods was crowned the winner.

Elsewhere, Big E retained the championship against Drew McIntrye in one of the nine major matches. After losing to Lashley, McIntyre faced Big E as his first non-Lashley challenger.

A rowdy triple header saw Becky Lynch victorious over Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair retaining her belt in the Smackdown Women's Championship.

Free agent Brock Lesnar, the Beast Incarnate, faced the tribal chief Roman Reigns in the main event of the evening and the most anticipated fight yet.

Fighting his heart out wasn’t enough as the Usos helped the universal champion by knocking Lesnar out leaving him immobile for their cousin Roman Reigns to easily pin and win the championship. 

With heavy hearts, Lesnar fans gave a standing ovation, thanking him for his first match back in in the WWE.

Why Steve Bruce built narrative that left Newcastle United fans exasperated with his club management

Why Steve Bruce built narrative that left Newcastle United fans exasperated with his club management
Updated 21 October 2021

Why Steve Bruce built narrative that left Newcastle United fans exasperated with his club management

Why Steve Bruce built narrative that left Newcastle United fans exasperated with his club management
  • Divisive coach departed St. James’ Park with club sat 19th in table, winless in 8 Premier League games, having division’s worst defensive record

NEWCASTLE: Thirteen days. Having waited 27 months for new beginnings at Newcastle United, manager Steve Bruce hung onto his job for less than two weeks of the Saudi-financed era at St. James’ Park.

The club’s new owners — the Saudi Public Investment Fund, RB Sports and Media, and PCP Capital Partners — have confirmed Bruce as the first major casualty of a fresh era of hope on Tyneside.

It was a decision roundly welcomed, even celebrated by the Newcastle faithful. Not quite as vociferously as the takeover itself, of course.

Bruce, who took charge of his 1,000th professional game as a manager last Sunday, is one of the most experienced coaches in the history of English football but has proven a divisive figure at United.

Why? Arab News spoke to prominent Newcastle United fan Alex Hurst, a True Faith fanzine podcast host, organizer of the pre-takeover 1892 Pledge supporter fighting fund scheme to buy a percentage of the club, and board member of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, to find out.

He said: “Bruce is very much seen as a Mike Ashley (Newcastle United’s former owner) apologist. He’s built this picture, a narrative that he’s never been wanted or accepted at Newcastle United — but that’s just not true. People did not think it was a positive move replacing (former Newcastle manager) Rafa Benitez with Bruce, but no one wanted him to fail.

“He should have seen this as an opportunity to manage this great football club but instead he painted a picture of it being the impossible job. And it proved to be that way for him, but that has nothing to do with fan criticism or expectation. Bruce built this view of himself — that he was unpopular — and he let it fester,” he added.

For Bruce, the facts do not lie.

United sit 19th in the table, with no wins from eight Premier League games, and have the worst defensive record in the division with 19 goals conceded.

The former Manchester United skipper, who managed Sheffield Wednesday prior to working at hometown club Newcastle, left the Magpies with a win percentage of just 27.4 percent in the top flight.

The low point of his spell came last season when he oversaw a run of just two wins in 21 matches between December and February, but somehow held onto his job.

“Newcastle were a team with one of the best defensive records when he took over — now they are the worst,” Hurst said.

“The style of football is worse. Players have regressed, no one has improved. He talked fans down, players down. He then talked opposition players up at every opportunity.

“On a number of occasions Bruce had the chance to use his time at Newcastle as an opportunity. Each time he failed. In the summer of 2020, the FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester City, a chance of a first semi-final since 2005, it was a surrender at home, and yet he smiled ear to ear after the game,” he added.

Hurst highlighted the Carabao Cup quarter-final loss against Brentford last year as a huge, missed opportunity when Bruce played a weakened team against an also weakened Championship side.

He said: “But the thing that sticks with me from Bruce’s time is when he called criticism from fans ‘mass hysteria.’ He seemed to conflate criticism with abuse. Genuine criticism from fans was labelled abuse as he didn’t seem big enough to take it.

“Bruce could not rise above any of this, and it defined his time as head coach.”

Meanwhile, the club have confirmed assistant boss Graeme Jones, who acted as one of Gareth Southgate’s coaches for England’s run to the Euro 2020 final in the summer, will face the media on Friday ahead of Newcastle’s trip to Crystal Palace the following day.

Jones was a surprise appointment to the Newcastle coaching setup in February, as the club’s hierarchy attempted to kick-start an ultimately successful fight against relegation.

However, it is not expected that Jones will remain in the role for too long, as United’s football recruitment working group continues to press on with plans to appoint Bruce’s successor.

Paulo Fonseca is the bookmakers’ favorite for the job, and Arab News understands the Portuguese coach has been in negotiations with Newcastle chiefs since before the confirmation of Bruce’s departure.

Swiss former Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre is another understood to have been spoken to, as is Eddie Howe, formerly of AFC Bournemouth. Howe has been a regular visitor to northeastern England in recent months and is understood to have been on Tyneside this week.

Howe turned down the chance to manage Scottish Premiership giants Glasgow Celtic last summer, despite weeks of negotiations with the Hoops’ chiefs.

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez is also thought to be a candidate, while Glasgow Rangers’ Steven Gerrard, and former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, are reportedly liked by key figures within the new United hierarchy.

Newcastle are also keen to appoint a sporting director, with Luis Campos and Ralf Rangnick believed to be under consideration. Netherlands and Arsenal hero Marc Overmars is another name in the frame.

The end of the road for Bobby Lashley and Goldberg at the WWE Crown Jewel

The end of the road for Bobby Lashley and Goldberg at the WWE Crown Jewel
Updated 21 October 2021

The end of the road for Bobby Lashley and Goldberg at the WWE Crown Jewel

The end of the road for Bobby Lashley and Goldberg at the WWE Crown Jewel
  • The rivalry between Goldberg and Bobby Lashley has been brewing ever since they first met at SummerSlam

RIYADH/JEDDAH: Bill Goldberg will be looking for revenge when he goes head to head with Bobby Lashley in a “No Holds Barred” match headlining WWE Crown Jewel at Mohammed Abdo Arena in Riyadh on Thursday night.

Fueled by the images of his son unable to escape the clutches of Bobby Lashley at SummerSlam in August, passionate fans are flocking in to see the spectacle that is Goldberg who is on a mission of redemption, to finally settle the score and end his personal rivalry with Lashley. 

Earlier this year at SummerSlam, Lashley defeated Goldberg to retain the WWE Championship but the animosity between the two wrestlers spilled over post match when Lashley attacked Goldberg’s son, who had come to the aid of his defeated father.

Coming into the match in Riyadh, Goldberg revealed on the CarCast podcast that he is not 100 percent fit to compete as he is still recovering from a knee injury, but on Thursday morning he told Arab News that this will not stop him going after his rival in the ring.

“I’m at peace, because in a matter of hours I’m gonna get my hands around the throat of some guy who dared to touch my son. It’s a pretty simple equation,” Goldberg said. "If somebody goes after you family, they need to pay.”

Goldberg is accustomed to the atmosphere at the Crown Jewel, and this is his fourth visit to the Kingdom. After the disruptions of the pandemic saw many WWE events take place behind closed doors, he is delighted to be back performing in front of a live audience. 

“The feeling of the people, period, end of story,” he said. “It’s hard to go out and perform if nobody's watching in person, you don’t have the direct connection with the fan, you don’t have the immediate gratification of listening to them cheer or boo.”

“It’s like doing a match in your closet,” Goldberg added.

The success of Crown Jewel means it is now one of WWE’s marquee events and with this comes high expectations.

The rivalry between Goldberg and Bobby Lashley has been brewing ever since they first met at SummerSlam, and the unfinished business between the two looks set to be settled in front of a packed crowd in Riyadh.

Why the increasing dominance of T20 format looks set to shape cricket’s future

Why the increasing dominance of T20 format looks set to shape cricket’s future
Updated 21 October 2021

Why the increasing dominance of T20 format looks set to shape cricket’s future

Why the increasing dominance of T20 format looks set to shape cricket’s future
  • The economics of world cricket have become highly skewed thanks largely to the phenomenal success of T20 in India

The Indian Premier League concluded on Oct.15 without any apparent major hitches caused by the coronavirus disease or mental health issues.

The T20 World Cup opened on schedule, rather romantically, with Papua New Guinea appearing for the first time only to be soundly beaten by Oman.

England announced their squad to tour Australia, only to be condemned by parts of the press as unimaginative, not good enough and likely to be trounced, a view shared gloatingly down-under.

Unimaginative was also the verdict passed on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)’s decision to restore its domestic four-day County Championship to a two divisional structure, comprising teams in the positions in which they ended the 2019 season.

Taken together, these outcomes provide the impression that normality has been restored to the world of cricket. However, dig a little deeper and some shifting plates may be discerned under the landscape. The most obvious one is the influence of the T20 format.

Whilst the IPL is its glittering epitome, the delayed return of the scheduled 2020 World Cup, hard on the heels of the IPL, will extend T20’s exposure for longer than normal. It will also supply a benchmark for its progress since the 2016 World Cup in terms of skills and tactics. Prior to the pandemic, nine countries/regions held International Cricket Council recognized T20 competitions, and three more are planned to start in 2022. Since 2016, both the Pakistan Super League and the Big Bash in Australia have grown in quality and appeal. 

Apart from the format, these tournaments share two common features — the ability to attract money and, partly because of this, the ability to attract players from a wide range of countries, based upon a bidding system that values each player according to perceived ability. The rewards are now staggering.

The total prize money for the T20 World Cup is $5.6 million. There will be $1.6 million for the winning team and $0.8 million for the runners-up. The losing semi-finalists will receive $0.4 million each, with the balance of $2.4 million being shared between group stage winners and those who are knocked out along the way.

In the 2021 IPL, the winners received around $2.65 million, the runners-up $1.69 million, and the third and fourth placed teams $1.16 million. On top of this, the players receive salaries with the top five being in a range of $2-2.4 million in 2021. The stark conclusion is that the top players in the IPL earn more than the winning team in the T20 World Cup, and that the financial reward for winning the IPL is greater than for winning the T20 World Cup. Taken together, the rewards on offer are a bonanza.

Contrast these riches, for example, to the financial state of English cricket. The ECB’s income is generated via broadcast rights deals, sponsorship from commercial partners, ICC distributions, ticket sales and sundry income. In the year ending Jan. 31, 2021, it reported an income of $290 million and a pandemic-induced loss of $22.6 million, which dramatically reversed the previous year’s profit of $9.1 million, causing a sharp fall in its cash reserves to $3.1 million.

As a non-profit-making organization, the ECB distributes its income in pursuit of its mission to manage and develop every form of cricket for men and women, boys and girls, from the playground to the Test arena. Almost 44 percent of the income goes directly to cricket organizations, including the 18 first-class counties. Fourteen percent is spent in supporting each of four areas — the running and growth of cricket from the grassroots up; running the England Men’s, Women’s and Disability teams; central activities, such as marketing and, in the current cycle, its new competition, The Hundred, which has been explored in previous columns. 

Professional cricket is organized through the County Championship structure. The counties have the responsibility for developing talent, ultimately producing cricketers who can perform at the highest level across the various formats.

A review of the finances of the 18 counties would show that, for most, there is a heavy dependency on the ECB distribution for survival. There is also a clear divergence between the financial health of those counties who host international matches and those who do not. The structure of county cricket and its dependence on central funds to maintain its current state has attracted much criticism, particularly in terms of the way in which the counties use the money to develop both the game and alternative income sources within their boundaries.

How enviously must English cricket cast its eyes at the wealthy, independent Board of Control of Cricket in India. Although it, too, has suffered a loss of income because of the pandemic, the completion of the IPL will ensure a recovery to previous levels and beyond. In 2019–2020, the BCCI’s annual income is thought to have been some $535 million. Almost two-thirds of this comes from the IPL, a quarter from bilateral cricket with other nations and 10 percent from its annual share of ICC revenues, which are derived from the ICC’s own media and sponsorship income streams. In 2022, two more franchises will be added to make a 10 team IPL tournament, creating further wealth.

The economics of world cricket have become highly skewed and look set to become even more so. This is largely because of the phenomenal success of T20 in cricket-mad India that has generated previously unseen revenue. This has allowed India’s cricketing ambitions to become more expansionary and has encouraged copycat tournaments to emerge.

In turn, the lure of high rewards and the attraction of the format in emerging countries that have a dearth of either facilities, resources or time, such as Papua New Guinea, is leading T20 to assume an increasingly prominent position in cricket’s landscape. This powerful position, coupled with the financial clout of India, can only lead, surely, to further changes in the way that the game is structured and financed.