Messi, Neymar to battle in dream Copa final for 1st title

Argentina's Lionel Messi (top) and Colombia's Wilmar Barrios vie for the ball during their Conmebol 2021 Copa America football tournament  semi-final match in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 6, 2021. (AFP)
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Argentina's Lionel Messi (top) and Colombia's Wilmar Barrios vie for the ball during their Conmebol 2021 Copa America football tournament semi-final match in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 6, 2021. (AFP)
Brazil's Neymar (R) and Peru's Anderson Santamaria vie for the ball during their Conmebol 2021 Copa America football tournament semi-final match in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 5, 2021. (AFP)
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Brazil's Neymar (R) and Peru's Anderson Santamaria vie for the ball during their Conmebol 2021 Copa America football tournament semi-final match in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 5, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 09 July 2021

Messi, Neymar to battle in dream Copa final for 1st title

Messi, Neymar to battle in dream Copa final for 1st title
  • This will be Messi's fourth Copa final and perhaps his last chance to finish on the winning side

RIO DE JANEIRO: Former Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Neymar will line up opposite each other in Saturday’s Copa America final looking to end a hoodoo that has also affected some of their countries’ greatest players.
Like Brazil’s Pele and Diego Maradona of Argentina before them, neither Messi nor Neymar has ever won the Copa.
That statistic will change for one of them in the dream final at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium.
For six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi, this will be his fourth Copa final and perhaps his last chance to finish on the winning side.
He’s been his team’s standout performer, as ever, scoring four goals and creating five more — the tournament leader in both categories.
But at 34, this may well be his last Copa and next year’s World Cup could be his last major international tournament altogether.
So far, finals have led only to disappointment for Messi having lost in 2007, 2015 and 2016 at the Copa, and seen his side beaten 1-0 by Germany at the 2014 World Cup.
Some people believe winning something with Argentina is Messi’s only remaining professional goal.
“We’ll try to stop him achieving this objective,” said Brazil center-back Marquinhos.
“As much as Messi, we also have players that deserve this title ... like our own ‘Ney’ who wasn’t there for the last Copa,” he added.
At 29, Neymar has a bit more time on his side but he was injured and absent two years ago when Brazil won their ninth title on home soil, beating Peru 3-1 in the final.

But as well as the two superstars lining up on opposite sides on Saturday, this is a classic match between two world heavyweights.
“We’re going to play a final against our eternal rivals, the lifelong ones, the two most powerful national teams in South America and we hope ... it will be a great match,” said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.
“Brazil versus Argentina is much more than a simple game of football ... these jerseys make the world stand still to watch their games. That represents the history of Brazil-Argentina,” added Marquinhos.
Incredibly, these two sides are not even the two most successful ones in Copa history, with Uruguay having won 15 titles to Argentina’s 14 and Brazil’s nine.
In what is the 47th edition of the Copa, this is also just the fourth time these two have met in the final, with Argentina triumphing the first time in 1937 and Brazil coming out on top in 2004 and 2007.
And that is despite having faced each other more than 100 times in their history.
They have been by far the strongest two sides in the competition, even if Argentina rode their luck a touch in their semifinal penalty shoot-out win over Colombia.

The two squads are impressive for their strength in depth.
In their semifinal victory over Peru — and despite Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus being suspended — Brazil left the likes of Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, Flamengo hot-shot Gabriel Barbosa and Real Madrid starlet Vinicius Junior on the bench.
In midfield, Liverpool’s Fabinho has been kept out of the side by a resurgent Fred, of Manchester United.
Likewise, Paris Saint-Germain winger Angel Di Maria — a bright spark when he came on in the semifinal against Colombia — has mostly started on the bench while new Barcelona signing Sergio Aguero has hardly had a look in for Argentina.
Messi and Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez (three goals) have provided Argentina’s main attacking thrust but they have quality and creativity throughout.
“Argentina are not just Lautaro and Messi, we cannot only concentrate on those two,” said Brazil and Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro.
“They’re great players, world class players, but if Argentina have reached the final it’s because of the (whole) group, we have to respect this.”
As well as looking to end his career-long trophy drought with Argentina, Messi could make history in another way on Saturday.
He currently sits on 76 goals for Argentina, one shy of Pele’s South American record of 77 national team goals.


Saudi rower Husein Alireza takes to the Sea Forest Waterway for final flourish at Tokyo 2020

Saudi rower Husein Alireza takes to the Sea Forest Waterway for final flourish at Tokyo 2020
Updated 44 min 1 sec ago

Saudi rower Husein Alireza takes to the Sea Forest Waterway for final flourish at Tokyo 2020

Saudi rower Husein Alireza takes to the Sea Forest Waterway for final flourish at Tokyo 2020
  • The 27-year-old has been racing at the Olympics with a damaged lung sustained in the weeks leading up to the competition

TOKYO: Saudi rower Husein Alireza continues his Olympic journey on Thursday morning when he takes part in the Men’s Single Scull Semifinal C/D on the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo.

The race offers him the chance to raise his ranking at Tokyo 2020 despite not being in medal contention.

On Sunday, Alireza who has been competing with a damaged lung, revealed to Arab News the strategy devised by his team at Tokyo 2020 that has allowed him to manage an injury-hit games. With the 27-year-old unable to perform at full capacity in all his races, a deliberately cautious Men’s Single Sculls Semifinal A/B meant he could focus of the Semifinal C/D and a chance to improve his overall ranking.

“It’s an exciting but tough line-up so we’ll evaluate how the body is feeling closer to the race,” Alireza said yesterday.

A serious rib injury in May had left Alireza with a punctured lung that stopped him training for weeks, and three races in three days in the high heat and humidity of Tokyo — which left three other competitors suffering with heat stroke — were always going to take a physical toll on Alireza, who has had trouble with his breathing in the conditions.

After only training for a few weeks before the start of the tournament, and with his lung capacity still down 10 percent his technical team decided on a path that would give him his highest possible finish.


Painful end for Saudi weightlifter at 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Painful end for Saudi weightlifter at 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Updated 28 July 2021

Painful end for Saudi weightlifter at 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Painful end for Saudi weightlifter at 2020 Tokyo Olympics
  • Mahmoud Al-Ahmeed was injured during his third attempt at clean and jerk in the men’s 73-kilogram weightlifting competition
  • The 28-year-old Saudi finished 12th overall among 14 competitors in the event

TOKYO: Mahmoud Al-Ahmeed’s Olympic campaign came to a painful end when he was injured during Group B action of the men’s 73-kilogram weightlifting competition on Wednesday morning at the Tokyo International Forum.

The 28-year-old Saudi had a strong start with a score of 141 kg from his three attempts at snatch, which put him in second place in the early standing of the five-competitor group.

Al-Ahmeed followed that up with a lift of 165 kg in his first attempt of clean and jerk, giving him a total of 306 for the competition.

He was injured during his second attempt at 175 kg and held the back of his thigh in pain. It proved to be his last action of the 2020 Tokyo Games. The Saudi finished 12th overall among 14 competitors in the ​​men’s 73-kilogram weightlifting competition.

When the competition resumed on Wednesday afternoon, Shi Zhiyong of China won the gold medal by setting an Olympic and world record score of 364. Julio Reben Mayora Pernia of Venezuela (346) took silver, followed by Indonesia’s Rahmat Erwin Abdullah (342) with the bronze.

It was a disappointing end for Al-Ahmeed, whose Olympic journey started during a chance meeting in 2008 while with a weightlifter friend at a gym session. Al-Ahmeed caught the attention of a coach, who asked him to lift some weights.

After Al-Ahmeed was impressive with his handling of 40 kg weights, the then 15-year-old began training every day as his Olympic dreams became a reality 13 years later when he earned his qualification for Tokyo.

Along the way, Al-Ahmeed became the Gulf champion in 2013, Arab champion in 2015, and secured gold at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

He qualified for Tokyo 2020 by topping the International Weightlifting Federation rankings for Asian athletes in his category.


Saudi U-23 football team ends disappointing Tokyo 2020 with a loss to reigning champions Brazil

Saudi U-23 football team ends disappointing Tokyo 2020 with a loss to reigning champions Brazil
Updated 28 July 2021

Saudi U-23 football team ends disappointing Tokyo 2020 with a loss to reigning champions Brazil

Saudi U-23 football team ends disappointing Tokyo 2020 with a loss to reigning champions Brazil
  • Despite playing well in all three of their matches, the Young Falcons failed to win a single point at the Olympics

Saudi Arabia’s U-23 team bowed out of the Olympic football completion after losing 3-1 to Rio 2016 champions Brazil at Saitama Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

The Saudis put in another commendable performance but defensive mistakes cost them the chance of claiming a single point from the three Group D clashes.

The match was watched by the President of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC), Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal.

Having lost its first two group matches against Ivory Coast (2-1) and Germany (3-2), Saudi Arabia came into this fixture with nothing to play for except pride, while Brazil needed to avoid defeat to confirm progress to the quarterfinals.

Coach Saad Al-Shehri sent out a team that seemed focused on defending, but it took Brazil only 14 minutes to take the lead when Matheus Cunha headed past Amin Al-Bukhairi, the Saudi goalkeeper, who only managed to get a hand to the ball in his first start at Tokyo 2020.

On 20 minutes Brazil almost doubled its lead when Antony Santos headed against the bar from a precise Diego Carlos cross, and the pressure was maintained for several minutes as the Saudis struggled to hold the champions off.

The Young Falcons were getting plenty of possession of their own but were not able to threaten Brazil.

They finally scored the equalizer on 27 minutes when Salman Al-Faraj’s curling freekick was headed firmly by Abdulelah Al-Amri past Santos in the Brazil goal.

As against Germany in the second match, the Saudis were not awed by their more celebrated opponents and the goal gave them even more confidence to attack.

With three minutes left of the first half Cunha’s cross was almost turned in from close range by Antony but Al-Bukhairi saved superbly, injuring himself as the Brazilian attacker seemed to unintentionally step on his hand.

The early stages of the second half saw few chances at either end. Brazil should have taken the lead on 65 minutes after Richarlison’s shot was saved by Al-Bukhairi and Cunha struck the rebound against the post when it would have been easier to score.

Ten minutes later Brazil retook the lead after a Dani Alves freekick was cleared by the Saudi defence, but only to Bruno Guimaraes. He headed the ball back across the penalty area for Richarlison to finish with clinical header for this fourth goal of the tournament.

In the last seconds of normal time Richarlison scored again but the goal was ruled out for offside.

With seven minutes added on, there was still time for Richarlison to tap in Reinier’s cross for Brazil’s third in the 93rd minute.

Their win put Brazil at the top of Group D with seven points and they now progress to the quarterfinals, along with Ivory Coast. They managed a 1-1 draw with Germany, who depart Tokyo with Saudi Arabia.


UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation teams up with I-Friends to produce Arabic TV series promoting the sport and its values

UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation teams up with I-Friends to produce Arabic TV series promoting the sport and its values
Updated 28 July 2021

UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation teams up with I-Friends to produce Arabic TV series promoting the sport and its values

UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation teams up with I-Friends to produce Arabic TV series promoting the sport and its values
  • TV series will fuse drama and sport and serve as a vehicle to highlight the popularity and benefit of the sport in the Arab world

ABU DHABI: The UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) and I-Friends Sport, a subsidiary of the television production firm I-Friends Culture and Media, are partnering to produce an Arabic drama series that will highlight the sport of jiu-jitsu and the benefits its values have on society.

The signing of the partnership by the sport’s governing body in the emirates and the media firm took place at the federation’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi in the presence of UAEJJF General Secretary Fahad Al Shamsi and I-Friends Culture and Media General Manager Amr Mostafa Kamel.

“The media have always been a key vehicle to promote the sport of jiu-jitsu in the community through both sporting events and wider initiatives,” Al-Shamsi, said. “Today’s MoU signing elevates our efforts in embracing technology to raise awareness of the values of our beloved sport. This drama series will offer viewers a new experience and a different view of jiu-jitsu and the role it plays beyond the mat. Our partnership with I-Friends Culture and Media is a result of a common vision and goals in promoting positive values and healthy living.

“We look forward to working with the I-Friends team on this project and engaging jiu-jitsu coaches and players to reflect the true nature of the sport,” he added.

Commenting on the feature format of the show, Kamel said: “Drama plays an important role in promoting values and ideas, and the popularity of Arabic drama series has grown, reaching viewers from all the Arab world. The partnership with the UAEJJF will allow us to use our expertise in the field of drama production and present the sport of jiu-jitsu and its values.”

“Sports drama has always been a great success around the world, whether dealing with the lives of athletes or the history of sports,” he added. “We are confident that our cooperation with the UAEJJF will help project the jiu-jitsu sport forward and engage new audiences.”

Further details on the name of the series, where it will be streamed and how viewers can access the content will be revealed in the coming weeks, and the show will be broadcast primarily in UAE and Egypt, to reflect the growth of the sport among athletes from different countries.


Egyptian handball team beats host Japan for 2nd win at Tokyo 2020

Egyptian handball team beats host Japan for 2nd win at Tokyo 2020
Updated 28 July 2021

Egyptian handball team beats host Japan for 2nd win at Tokyo 2020

Egyptian handball team beats host Japan for 2nd win at Tokyo 2020
  • Sweden will be Egypt’s next Group B opponent before match against Bahrain

IYADH: Egypt on Wednesday beat Olympics host Japan 33-29 in the third preliminary round Group B match of the Games’ handball competition at Yoyogi National Stadium to record the team’s second win of the tournament.

The Egyptians had defeated Portugal 37-31 in their opening match of Tokyo 2020, but on Monday lost 32-27 to Denmark.

The win against Japan will reinvigorate the nation’s hopes of qualifying for next week’s quarterfinals.

In what was a more comfortable victory than the final score suggested, Egypt took an early first half lead and never relinquished it, with the halftime score standing at 18-11.

The Egyptians maintained their superiority throughout the second half with 37-year-old veteran Ahmed El-Ahmar, and Yehia El-Deraa among the team’s standout players.

Japan piled on some late pressure when it looked like the game was already up, but Egypt remained dangerous on the break and kept the hosts at arm’s length. A last-ditch Japanese flurry, that cut the margin of the win to four points by the final buzzer, never looked to have Egypt in trouble.

Egypt’s next match in Group B will be against Sweden on Friday, before the team faces Bahrain on Sunday.