Defensive mistakes cost Saudi Arabia dear in 3-2 loss to Germany

The defeat means Saudi Arabia, with no points from two matches, will depart Tokyo 2020 after the final clash against Brazil on Wednesday. (Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee)
The defeat means Saudi Arabia, with no points from two matches, will depart Tokyo 2020 after the final clash against Brazil on Wednesday. (Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee)
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Updated 25 July 2021

Defensive mistakes cost Saudi Arabia dear in 3-2 loss to Germany

The defeat means Saudi Arabia, with no points from two matches, will depart Tokyo 2020 after the final clash against Brazil on Wednesday. (Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee)
  • 10-man Germany knock Saad Al-Shehri’s team out of Tokyo 2020 football tournament

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia put on an excellent display of attacking football only to fall 3-2 to 10-man Germany thanks to several defensive mistakes in the Group D match at Yokohama International Stadium.

The defeat means Saudi Arabia, with no points from two matches, will depart Tokyo 2020 after the final clash against Brazil on Wednesday.

Ragnar Ache should have given Germany the lead after only three minutes but headed wide when the goal was at his mercy. In the next two minutes Al-Rubaie saved smartly from Eduard Lowen and Max Kruse as Germany piled on the pressure.

In the sixth minute, Abdullah Al-Hamdan thought he had given Saudi Arabia the lead when he finished smartly after collecting Salem Al-Dossary’s cross, but his effort was disallowed for handball. It looked a very harsh decision, and it would not be the only time in the match the Saudis would be aggrieved by the officials.

Saudi players suddenly looked lively and started stretching the German back line, with Yasser Al-Shahrani in particular causing trouble down the left flank.

But 11 minutes into the match, a wonderful passing move was finished off by Nadiem Amiri of Bayer Leverkusen for his second goal of the tournament.

Saudi Arabia should have levelled when Al-Hamdan’s deft pass found Sami Al-Najei free in the German penalty box, but his shot cleared the bar wastefully.

The young Falcons, however, would not be denied on the half hour when Al-Dossary’s shot was parried by German goalkeeper Florian Muller into the path of Al-Najei, who tapped from close range for a deserved equalizer.

While the Saudis were showing great ambition in attack, Germany consistently looked dangerous on the break and Al-Rubaie had to save smartly from Cedric Teuchert seven minutes before the break.

On the stroke of half time, Germany retook the lead when Amos Pieper’s brilliant pass was met on the volley by Ache, and though Al-Rubaie saved yet again, the Eintracht Frankfurt forward reacted the quickest to stab home the rebound.

It was harsh on the Saudis, who had more than held their own in the first half.

Just five minutes after the break, the Saudis were level again thanks to arguably their best move of the match, which culminated with Saud Abdulhamid’s cross brilliantly turned in by Al-Najei.

A superb run by Al-Shahrani minutes later was almost finished by Al-Dossary but Muller stood firm. The Germans were rocking but in the blink of an eye could have taken the lead after another excellent team move saw Amiri shoot wide.

On 65 minutes, Al-Dossary almost scored with a carbon copy of his effort against Ivory Coast, but the ball flew just wide of Muller’s lefthand post.

Saad Al-Shehri’s team was given a huge boost when Pieper was sent off, with some help from VAR, for a blatant trip on the excellent Al-Dossary.

Despite the disadvantage, Germany took the lead with 15 minutes left when substitute Felix Uduokhai headed Kruse’s corner firmly past Al-Rubaie. The match could have been put to bed several time but Ache in particular was wasteful.

Al-Dossary had another golden chance to score Saudi Arabia’s third goal on 88 minutes from a tight angle, but Muller saved well with his legs.

It would prove the last big chance of the match, and the final whistle saw the disappointed Saudi players sink to their knees.


UEFA says FIFA snubs request for talks on World Cup concerns

Updated 1 min 32 sec ago

UEFA says FIFA snubs request for talks on World Cup concerns

UEFA says FIFA snubs request for talks on World Cup concerns
LONDON: Intensifying its opposition to FIFA’s push for biennial World Cups, UEFA complained Wednesday that Gianni Infantino’s world body has yet to respond to its request for talks to discuss the concerns of European nations.
Infantino has been deploying retired players and former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in a campaign to win support for the overhaul of world football, which UEFA said is a sign of “promotional campaigns of unilaterally pre-determined concepts” rather than an open consultation process.
Doubling the frequency of World Cups would create significant disruption for club competitions, continental tournaments, including the European Championship, and existing global events like the Olympics.
“UEFA is disappointed with the methodology adopted, which has so far led to radical reform projects being communicated and openly promoted before having been given, together with other stakeholders, the chance to participate in any consultation meeting,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has already said that Europe could boycott the World Cup if Infantino succeeds in securing approval for his plan from the FIFA Congress of 211 member associations. Most of those countries never get to play at the World Cup, which will feature 32 men’s teams for the last time in 2022 before expanding to 48 nations in 2026.
“There are real dangers associated with this plan,” UEFA said in a statement after an executive committee meeting, “the dilution of the value of the No. 1 world football event, whose quadrennial occurrence gives it a mystique that generations of fans have grown up with; the erosion of sporting opportunities for the weaker national teams by replacing regular matches with final tournaments; the risk to sustainability for players, forced to engage in summer high intensity competitions every year instead of longer recuperation breaks in alternate years.”
More than a week after asking FIFA “to organize a special meeting with them to be able to voice their concerns on the impact of such plans,” UEFA said it “to date not yet received a reply.”
Major women’s tournaments, such as the World Cup and continental events like the European Championship, are currently held in odd-numbered years. The men’s World Cup and Euros are held in even-numbered years. FIFA’s new vision would mean every year would feature a men’s tournament, including continental events.
“We are grateful for the attention reserved to the UEFA European Championship, with the proposed double frequency of its final event,” UEFA said, “but we prefer to address such a sensitive matter with a comprehensive rather than speculative approach.”
UEFA flagged up “the risk for the future of women’s tournaments, deprived of exclusive slots and overshadowed by the proximity of top men’s events.”
A World Cup would also clash with the Olympics, unlike now, if the new plans are approved.
UEFA highlighted “the impact on the global sports system and respect that football, as the most followed sport worldwide, must show to consolidated spaces of exposure and exploitation used by other sports.”
FIFA has been stepping up the publication of in-house interviews featuring former players stating the case for a review of the international match calendar and for holding the World Cup every two years. Infantino has not been made available for comment since May.
“The serious concerns that the FIFA proposal provokes ... cannot be dispelled simply with unsubstantiated promotional slogans on the supposed benefits of a thicker calendar for final tournaments,” UEFA said.
“The respect for a consultation process with the stakeholders — which should be unbiased — would suggest abstaining from promotional campaigns of unilaterally pre-determined concepts that nobody has been given the possibility to see in detail and which have wide-ranging, often unexpected, effects.”

Canelo Álvarez, Caleb Plant trade blows at news conference

Canelo Álvarez, Caleb Plant trade blows at news conference
Updated 22 September 2021

Canelo Álvarez, Caleb Plant trade blows at news conference

Canelo Álvarez, Caleb Plant trade blows at news conference

BEVERLY HILLS, California: Canelo Álvarez and Caleb Plant couldn’t wait until Nov. 6 to start throwing hands.
The super middleweight champions traded blows at their news conference Tuesday to promote their upcoming title unification bout, and the exchange left Plant with a cut under his right eye.
The fighters scuffled after exchanging verbal barbs during the ceremonial faceoff before the news conference began in the garden of the Beverly Hilton. Apparently in response to a comment from Plant about Álvarez’s mother, the Mexican superstar knocked Plant backward with a two-handed shove.
“You can say whatever you want to me, but not about my mother,” Álvarez said afterward.
Plant stepped forward and threw a left hook at Álvarez, who mostly dodged it and countered with a left hand to Plant’s face. Plant said the blow struck his sunglasses, which jammed into his cheek and caused the cut.
“We were just saying things, just the normal back-and-forth banter, and then he did what he did,” Plant said.
Álvarez put it succinctly on Twitter while posting video of the brouhaha: “Don’t talk about my mom.”
The fighters’ camps eventually separated them, but Plant was left dabbing at the blood on his cheek. He eventually put on his sunglasses for a frosty, combative news conference in which Plant repeatedly called out Álvarez for his doping violations in 2018.
Álvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) will risk his WBC, WBA and WBO super middleweight titles against Plant (21-0, 12 KOs), the unbeaten IBF champion from Tennessee, when they meet at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Plant repeatedly said Álvarez and trainer Eddy Reynoso are “cheaters.” Álvarez was suspended for six months for clenbuterol detected in a drug test, although the Mexican champ claimed the banned substance came from tainted meat.
“This sport is too dangerous for people to be popping positive,” Plant said. “He’s a cheater. It’s not up for discussion. Did he get suspended? Did he test positive? It’s not about what I say. It’s about what the (athletic) commission said. You have to take that up with them, not me.”
Reynoso responded angrily when pressed on Álvarez’s past positive test and the more recent failed doping test for Oscar Valdez, Canelo’s training partner. Speaking in Spanish, Reynoso didn’t directly address Plant’s comments, but instead profanely suggested Plant wasn’t training hard enough to win in seven weeks.
“Taking illegal substances doesn’t happen because you’re confident,” Plant said. “It happens because you’re afraid. That just gives me more confidence. I’ve dedicated a lot to this sport, and it will be my life’s work coming together in that one moment when I beat him. It would etch my name in the history books, and that’s what I’m here to do.”
Álvarez is unbeaten in 15 fights since his only career loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2013. He traded insults with Plant after their physical exchange, but kept his public comments more brief.
“For me, it’s for history, for Mexico, for my team,” he said. “I’m going to knock out this guy in less than eight rounds.”


Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’

Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’
Updated 22 September 2021

Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’

Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’
  • Lewandowski netted 41 times in 29 games for Bayern in the 2020-21 season

MUNICH: Europe’s “Golden Shoe” winner Robert Lewandowski sent out a warning to defenses around Europe on Tuesday when he likened himself to a ‘good wine’ that was still improving.
The Bayern Munich striker also offered warm praise and thanks to his wife Anna when he received the award as top scorer in European football last season.
Lewandowski netted 41 times in 29 games for Bayern in the 2020-21 season, breaking the great Gerd Mueller’s record of 40 goals in a Bundesliga season, set in 1971-72.
His tally represents the highest in Europe since Cristiano Ronaldo bagged 48 goals for Real Madrid in 2014-15.
The 33-year-old forward insisted, though, that there were still plenty more goals and titles yet to come.
“I’m still here, and I will be here for a long time!” said Lewandowski.
“Age is just a number, I feel very good, my form indicators have never been so good.
“I know that with my body I can still play for years at the highest level. I am like good wine and I hope to become even better.”
This season, Lewandowski has already scored seven goals in five days as champions Bayern top the early Bundesliga table.
“It’s not over yet, we are still hungry for titles,” said Lewandowski who hopes to help Bayern to a second Champions League title to add to the one he won with them in 2020.
“I don’t need to go and prove myself in another league,” said the striker who was linked with Real Madrid a few years ago.
“With the Champions League, I can measure myself against the best. I am 100 percent focused on Bayern and I don’t think about anything else.”
At the ceremony held at Bayern’s Allianz Arena, the Poland striker was effusive in his praise for his wife who is also his personal “motivation coach.”
“I have to thank my wife, she is a great support for me and a motivation when things are not going so well,” he said.
A former Polish international karateka, Anna Lewandowska is also a nutritionist and oversees her husband’s diet.
“I am very proud of him,” she said. “He is extraordinary as a person, as an athlete, as a partner, as a friend and as a husband.”
Lewandowski is only the second Bundesliga player to win the award after Mueller, who won in 1970 and 1972.
Lionel Messi has won the award a record six times while Ronaldo has taken it four times but they only scored 30 and 29 goals respectively in 2020-21.


Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon returns for 15th edition in February 2022

Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon returns for 15th edition in February 2022
Updated 22 September 2021

Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon returns for 15th edition in February 2022

Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon returns for 15th edition in February 2022
  • The northern emirate will once again welcome leading international athletes, regional participants and residents to the world’s fastest half marathon

RAS AL-KHAIMAH: The Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon is set to return to the northern Emirate on Feb. 18, 2022.

Returning for its 15th edition, the race will welcome back elite athletes, running enthusiasts and amateurs from across the globe, to participate in what is billed as the world’s fastest half marathon.

“Aligned with the continued recovery of the Emirate, we are delighted to welcome back an incredible line-up of elite athletes, as well as residents and visitors from across the globe, to the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon in February 2022,” said Raki Phillips, CEO of Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.

“We are extremely proud to have hosted this prestigious race for 15 editions, making the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon one of the most anticipated events on the global sporting calendar, adding to an expansive portfolio of world-class sporting events hosted in the Emirate,” he added. “We look forward to showcasing our stunning landscape and renowned hospitality to participants and spectators as they enjoy the world’s fastest half marathon.”

Taking place on Marjan Island, the event will include four established categories: Half marathon, a half marathon relay for teams of two, a 5km and a 1km fun run. The Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon is open to runners of all abilities and ages.

“We are delighted to announce the new 2022 date for the hugely popular Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon.” said Michele Napoli, CEO of race partners RCS Sports and Events. “Once again, it is an honour to support Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority as this fantastic race returns to Marjan Island on Feb. 18 2022.

“The Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon has undoubtedly grown from strength to strength, with each edition gaining traction on both a regional and international scale, and we cannot wait for participants to experience the highly anticipated 2022 edition.

“We look forward to announcing our all-new offers for runners shortly, and to welcoming an incredible line-up of elite athletes,” he said. “The Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience for everyone.’’


Saudi Sports for All Federation marking 91st National Day with campaign celebrating nation’s sporting achievements

Saudi Sports for All Federation marking 91st National Day with campaign celebrating nation’s sporting achievements
Updated 22 September 2021

Saudi Sports for All Federation marking 91st National Day with campaign celebrating nation’s sporting achievements

Saudi Sports for All Federation marking 91st National Day with campaign celebrating nation’s sporting achievements
  • The SFA is commemorating the occasion with a series of events aimed at getting people active

RIYADH: The Saudi Sports for All Federation is marking Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day with an online campaign that will allow residents from the Kingdom to share their sporting stories and achievements.

The federation’s activities leading up to National Day will be highlighted under a hashtag that translates into English as “Saudi sporting society” and which will serve as the banner for people from all walks of life to share their daily lifestyles and how they stay active throughout the day.

“The Sports for All Federation joins you all in congratulating the nation on the occasion of Saudi’s 91st National Day,” said SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal. “The federation, in step with the nation’s leadership, is consistently working towards a health-first mindset across all our communities.

“We congratulate His Majesty, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman, and HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the incredible accomplishments that have ignited the pride of our people all over the country. A healthy and active population is a prosperous one; we’ll be alongside you celebrating through our various activities that promote physical and mental well-being.”

Prince Khaled further highlighted that the support of the Quality of Life Program and a unified purpose under Vision 2030 continued to propel the SFA team to innovate programs and activities to meet the country’s wellness targets.

The federation is hosting several events to mark Saudi National Day. For example, Step Together, which organizes virtual walking and running challenges for communities throughout Saudi Arabia, is holding a special National Day challenge from Sept. 20 to 29. Participants completing the challenge will receive a medal to commemorate their achievement, along with a certificate of completion.

The SFA’s hosting of walking events and campaigns at Arabian Center malls across Saudi Arabia will also commemorate National Day. The walking track installed at Al-Nakheel Mall in Riyadh will host a National Day challenge, asking visitors to walk 2030 steps through the SFA app for a chance to win prizes. This initiative builds on the SFA’s goal of marking the nation’s progress through inclusive sporting events that bring people together irrespective of their age, ability, background or gender.

A special cycling event is also being held on Thursday in collaboration with the Saudi Cycling Federation and the MiSK Foundation. Cyclists in Riyadh, Jeddah and Khobar have signed up to cycle 15 km to mark the occasion.

The 91st Saudi National Day campaigns highlight the SFA’s support for the goals of the Quality of Life Program as mandated in the Saudi Vision 2030, which calls for increasing the number of people undertaking regular physical activity in the Kingdom to 40 percent by 2030.