Seven Arab nations eye African success following AFCON draw

Arab football fans will have plenty to cheer in this year’s African Cup of Nations in Cameroon with seven nations competing. (AFP/File Photo)
Arab football fans will have plenty to cheer in this year’s African Cup of Nations in Cameroon with seven nations competing. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 20 August 2021

Seven Arab nations eye African success following AFCON draw

Arab football fans will have plenty to cheer in this year’s African Cup of Nations in Cameroon with seven nations competing. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The previous record was five Arab countries in the 2019 edition in Egypt

DUBAI: The record-breaking contingent of seven Arab nations competing at the 2021 African Cup of Nations in Cameroon in January learned their fate on Tuesday night, with reigning champions Algeria leading as pre-tournament favorites.

The upcoming edition, postponed from the summer of 2021 due to the pandemic, will see its most successful nation, Egypt, joined by title-holders Algeria, 2004 winners Tunisia, 1976 champions Morocco, 1970 winners Sudan as well as Mauritania and debutants Comoros to make up the largest-ever presence for Arab League member countries in the competition, with only Libya, Djibouti and Somalia missing out on the 24-team tournament.

The previous record was five Arab countries in the 2019 edition in Egypt, with Sudan and Comoros missing out of the current participants.

With Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco all seeded in the first pot, the remaining teams were fortunate to avoid drawing against hosts Cameroon, who will be facing a straightforward group alongside 2013 runners-up Burkina Faso and minnows Ethiopia and Cape Verde.

Debutants Comoros will have their work cut out for them as they find themselves drawn in the metaphorical “group of death” against four-time champions Ghana and continental powerhouse Morocco, while Gabon, led by Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, round up Group C.

After three narrow 1-0 draws in the group stage, Morocco suffered an embarrassing round of 16 defeat at the hands of Benin last time out, which cost coach Herve Renard his job. The new man at the helm, Vahid Halilhodzic, brought along bags of experience in African football, having previously coached Côte d’Ivoire and Algeria and won the 1997 CAF Champions League with Raja Casablanca. With a squad featuring new PSG man Achraf Hakimi, Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech and Sevilla forward Youssef En-Nesyri among other talents, they will be expected to progress from the group and go deep into the knock-out stage after the disappointment of two years earlier.

Having been drawn together in the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup taking place in Qatar in December, Nile neighbors Egypt and Sudan find themselves set to face-off again a month later with the duo joined by Nigeria and Guinea-Bissau in group D.

Egypt — record champions with seven African Cup of Nations titles to their name — crashed out of the round of 16 on home soil in their most recent appearance, but history will be a good omen for both Egypt and Sudan. The two sides have met on five occasions in the competition; on the three times that Egypt won the match, they went on to be crowned champions in 1957, 1959 and 2008. The same was true for Sudan in 1970. When they drew in 1963, it was Sudan who went all the way to the final but lost 3-0 to Ghana.

While the last Egyptian triumph in the competition dates back to 2010 and the golden generation of coach Hassan Shehata, the iconic Mohammed Salah will be hopeful of cementing his status as the nation’s greatest of all time by leading them to African glory. For Sudan, a return to the summit of the continent might be a distant prospect, but under coach Hubert Velud progress has been vivid and the possibility of calling up diaspora players such as MK Dons’ Mo Eisa, Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar and Perth Glory’s Osama Malik could prove the difference.

The Algerian title defence sees them line up against a Wilfried Zaha-inspired Côte d’Ivoire side as well as Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone, against whom they will get their campaign underway. Coach Djamel Belmadi’s side built on their continental triumph two years ago and went from strength to strength, breaking an all-time African record of going 27 matches unbeaten between November 2018 and June 2021. 

The already star-studded title-winning side of 2019, led by Manchester City talisman Riyad Mahrez and featuring the likes of AC Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer and Borussia Monchengladbach left-back Ramy Bensebaini, was further bolstered with the emergence of talents such as West Ham winger Said Benrahma and the development of OGC Nice full-back Youcef Atal. The Fennecs will be bullish on the prospect of adding a third title after 1990 and 2019.

Group F produced a near identical draw to Group D from two years ago, with Tunisia, Mauritania and Mali all drawn together again, while it was Gambia who missed out on 2019 rounding off the group instead of Angola who missed out on the current edition. 

Back then, Tunisia stuttered to qualify in second place after failing to win a single game, drawing all three of their matches but eventually joining group leaders Mali in the round of 16. The Eagles of Carthage went all the way to the semi-final in Egypt 2019, but their unconvincing displays meant French coach Alan Giresse had to make way for Mondher Kebaier who steadied the ship, leading them to Cameroon 2021 with an unbeaten qualification campaign in which they won five and drew only one game. A lot will ride on the fitness and form of key men Wahbi Khazri, Seifeddine Jaziri and Ferjani Sassi.

On their continental debut, Mauritania earned the plaudits in a similar group in 2019, coming within a point of qualification after holding the vastly more experienced Tunisia and Angola to goalless draws. The Atlantic nation built their footballing identity around resilient defending and have demonstrated that further in the 2021 qualifiers with four clean sheets in their six games, including a pair of goalless draws against Morocco. Where they will have to improve is in the final third, with only five goals scored en route to Cameroon 2021. A slight improvement on their results from the previous edition could be enough to guide them to a historic knock-out stage qualification.

With 12 out of the previous 32 editions being won by Arab nations, the 2021 edition offers the opportunity for the region to improve on its record of one title in the past five competitions, but can any of the seven teams take that chance?


Real Madrid motivated ahead of Frankfurt Super Cup clash

Real Madrid motivated ahead of Frankfurt Super Cup clash
Updated 2 min 38 sec ago

Real Madrid motivated ahead of Frankfurt Super Cup clash

Real Madrid motivated ahead of Frankfurt Super Cup clash
  • The Italian coach said he saw echoes of Real’s fighting spirit in their underdog opponents Frankfurt, and was aware not to take last season’s Europa League winners lightly

HELSINKI: Real Madrid are determined not to be knocked off their perch at the summit of European football this season as they prepare to start their campaign against Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Super Cup in Helsinki on Wednesday.

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, who is the only manager to win the Champions League four times, said his side’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool in last season’s final made him “feel like no one should ever take your place.” 

“And that’s a pretty strong motivation to keep winning,” he said in an interview with UEFA.com.

Ancelotti returned for a second spell in charge of Real ahead of last season and led them to their 35th Spanish title.

However, it was in Europe where Real really impressed, pulling off comeback victories over Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City before beating the heavily favored Reds in the final.

“All the comebacks we made were achieved in our stadium, thanks to that boost which came from the stands. Always believe, never give up. After all, we played against very strong teams. It was inevitable that we would suffer,” he said.

The Italian coach said he saw echoes of Real’s fighting spirit in their underdog opponents Frankfurt, and was aware not to take last season’s Europa League winners lightly.

“Last year, Eintracht achieved something special because they weren’t among the favorites,” added Ancelotti, whose side recently returned from a pre-season tour to the US.

Wednesday’s game will be played at the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, where Frankfurt will make their Super Cup debut in their first competitive meeting with Madrid since the legendary 1960 European Cup final which the Spanish giants won 7-3.

Real will be making their eighth Super Cup appearance, having lifted the trophy four times.

Ancelotti himself is unbeaten in Super Cup finals. He won two with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007, as well as with Real in 2014.

While Real will take on a side which qualified for the final on the back of winning their first European trophy in 42 years, Ancelotti said Frankfurt had the advantage going into Wednesday’s clash in Helsinki.

“We have a few more disadvantages than Eintracht, who start their season earlier, but we’ll play to win,” he said.

Although Madrid’s La Liga campaign will not start until Sunday when they take on newly-promoted Almeria, Frankfurt fans may question how much of an advantage they have in the wake of Friday’s 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich in their Bundesliga season opener.

Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp said his side would not be overawed against Madrid and were relishing the experience ahead of what will be their maiden Champions League campaign this year.

They knocked out Barcelona on the way to winning last season’s Europa League, defeating Rangers on penalties in the final in Seville.

“We want to be a team who are awkward to play against, who fight and never give up. Of course we have respect, but not fear,” the former PSG goalkeeper told the Eintracht Frankfurt website in an interview published Sunday.

Trapp, who alongside former Bayern and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mario Goetze is one of only a handful of players with Champions League experience in the Eintracht ranks, said his side deserved their place in the season-opening showpiece.

“Playing in the Super Cup means you’ve been successful, earned it and done a good job. To have the opportunity at this stage of the season to win a trophy against this club (Madrid) — it doesn’t get better.”


USA Swimming cuts deal to simplify anonymous abuse reporting

USA Swimming cuts deal to simplify anonymous abuse reporting
Updated 09 August 2022

USA Swimming cuts deal to simplify anonymous abuse reporting

USA Swimming cuts deal to simplify anonymous abuse reporting
  • RealResponse has developed technology that allows reporters to file reports about abuse via text and for those who receive the reports to follow up while the name of the reporter remains concealed
  • USA Swimming plans to make the technology available to its approximately 400,000 members

DENVER: USA Swimming has added technology to its abuse-reporting systems that will allow better communication between those coordinating investigations and reporters who want to remain anonymous.

The organization announced a deal with RealResponse on Monday, which is international Safe Sport Day.

One feature in RealResponse’s technology is the ability to exchange information with anonymous reporters via text without the reporters having to identify themselves. Though organizations can often act more decisively when victims or witnesses attach their names to reports, anonymous reporting is crucial because often victims fear retribution if their names become public.

RealResponse has developed technology that allows reporters to file reports about abuse via text and for those who receive the reports to follow up while the name of the reporter remains concealed.

“Previously, we could receive an anonymous report, but we had no way to follow up with that individual if we had additional questions or didn’t have enough information, or wanted to let them know what we were doing to follow up,” said Abigail Howard, who oversees the director of USA Swimming’s safe sport program.

USA Swimming plans to make the technology available to its approximately 400,000 members.

The national governing body is a defendant in several lawsuits claiming it failed to protect them from abuse by coaches. In 2010, USA Swimming’s former executive director, the late Chuck Wielgus, was accused of ignoring or downplaying dozens of cases of sexual abuse. Around 150 swimming coaches have since been banned by the US Center for SafeSport, which was created in response to cases in swimming, gymnastics and other Olympic sports.

Though not affiliated with the SafeSport center, RealResponse started offering its own technology five years ago to help organizations streamline reporting and keep better track of the way they process and resolve cases. At times, organizations get into legal trouble because there’s insufficient documentation to show how they responded when told about a case.

The mission, says the company’s founder, David Chadwick, is “providing a safe space for people to speak up and doing it in a really accessible and easy to use way and, frankly, helping leaders of these organizations identify issues faster before they become bigger crisis.”

RealResponse has deals with more than 100 college sports programs, a handful of NFL teams and the National Women’s Soccer League. In the Olympic realm, USA Swimming joins USA Track and Field, US Equestrian, USA Gymnastics and the US Anti-Doping Agency among the organizations that have signed on.


AP source: Durant reiterates desire to be traded by Brooklyn

AP source: Durant reiterates desire to be traded by Brooklyn
Updated 09 August 2022

AP source: Durant reiterates desire to be traded by Brooklyn

AP source: Durant reiterates desire to be traded by Brooklyn
  • The Athletic first reported details of the latest Durant-Tsai meeting

NEW YORK: Kevin Durant has again told Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai that he wants to be traded, reiterating a request he first made nearly six weeks ago, a person with knowledge of the matter confirmed Monday night.

Durant also told Tsai that he has concerns about the Nets’ direction under coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the perennial All-Star nor the team confirmed details of the talks publicly.

The Athletic first reported details of the latest Durant-Tsai meeting.

“Our front office and coaching staff have my support,” Tsai tweeted Monday night. “We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”

This is the latest phase of a saga that began June 30, when Durant told the Nets he wanted a trade just as this summer’s free agent period was beginning. Durant isn’t a free agent; he has four years and $198 million remaining on his contract with the Nets, who will undoubtedly demand a haul of players and draft picks in any trade agreement for the 12-time All-Star, four-time scoring champion, three-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time NBA champion.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has never been a fan of trade demands going public.

“This needs to be a two-way street,” Silver said last month. “Teams provide enormous security and guarantees to players and the expectation is, in return, they will meet their end of the bargain. I’m realistic that there’s always conversations that are going to go on behind closed doors between players and their representatives and the teams. But we don’t like to see players requesting trades, and we don’t like to see it playing out the way it is.”

Durant has spent three seasons with Brooklyn, not playing in the first of those years while he recovered from a torn Achilles. He averaged 29.9 points in 55 games last season, after leading the US to Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games last summer.


Ozzy Osbourne closes Commonwealth Games as Birmingham parties

Ozzy Osbourne closes Commonwealth Games as Birmingham parties
Updated 09 August 2022

Ozzy Osbourne closes Commonwealth Games as Birmingham parties

Ozzy Osbourne closes Commonwealth Games as Birmingham parties
  • The show, celebrating Birmingham’s rise from the wreckage of World War II and its emergence as a diverse and vibrant modern city, brought 11 days of sporting action to a close
  • Sporting powerhouse Australia have topped the table at every Games since 1990 except in 2014, when England finished in first place in Glasgow

BIRMINGHAM: Legendary Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne brought the curtain down on the Commonwealth Games in spectacular style on Monday as dominant Australia celebrated finishing top of the medals table yet again.

Athletes swarmed Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium for a closing party that also featured UB40, Dexys and a tribute to Peaky Blinders, the global hit TV show about the city’s most notorious gang.

Birmingham-born Osbourne, known as the “Prince of Darkness,” brought the ceremony to a climax after emerging as the surprise act.

The show, celebrating Birmingham’s rise from the wreckage of World War II and its emergence as a diverse and vibrant modern city, brought 11 days of sporting action to a close.

Earlier, six-time defending champions Australia wrapped up their campaign in style, hammering India 7-0 in the men’s hockey final to end up with 67 golds overall.

Hosts England ended in second place with 57 golds, ahead of Canada on 26 and India on 22, with para sports included in the medal tally.

Sporting powerhouse Australia have topped the table at every Games since 1990 except in 2014, when England finished in first place in Glasgow.

Australia hockey captain Aran Zalewski said winning the Commonwealth Games title is “harder than you think.”

“We have won seven, but it’s not as simple as coming out here and winning,” he said.

“There are so many challenges that go into winning a tournament of hockey.

“To finish off with a special performance like that, really clinical, was very nice.”

Elsewhere on Monday, Scotland’s James Heatly and Grace Reid won the mixed synchronized 3m springboard final, with England pair Noah Williams and Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix taking gold in the 10m event.

India celebrated a golden double in badminton.

World No. 7 PV Sindhu won the women’s singles, overcoming Canada’s Michelle Li, while Lakshya Sen beat Malaysia’s Ng Tze Yong to win the men’s gold.

India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta beat England’s Liam Pitchford 4-1 in the men’s singles table tennis gold medal match.

“The best two weeks of my 40 years of life,” said the winner, who won three golds and a silver in Birmingham. “It can’t get better.”

Birmingham 2022 CEO Ian Reid told a briefing earlier that the Games had been a huge boost for the city and the surrounding area.

He said more than 1.5 million tickets had been sold, with most venues above 90 percent capacity.

“One of the goals at the outset was to put the city on the world map and instil that huge pride across everyone that lives in the region and I think we’ve achieved that,” he said.

“I think that can lead to much bigger and greater things.”

Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Katie Sadleir said there had been “huge engagement” with the Games globally.

She added a number of countries had expressed an interest in staging future Commonwealth Games, including African nations.

She said Birmingham, which already had many facilities in place, could be a blueprint for the future.

“It is definitely not something we want people to spend huge amounts of money and capital investment if it is not needed and desired by the long-term plans for the country,” she said.

The Birmingham Games made history in being the first to award more medals to women than men.

Australian swimming great Emma McKeon became the most decorated athlete in Commonwealth Games history, with 20 medals — including six golds in Birmingham.

And the tiny island of Niue won its first ever Commonwealth Games medal, a boxing bronze for Duken Tutakitoa-Williams.

Commonwealth Games Federation president Louise Martin handed the flag to Linda Dessau, the governor of the Australian state of Victoria, which will host the 2026 Games.

Martin said Birmingham had put on an event “unlike any we’ve seen before.”

“We are emerging from one of the most challenging periods in modern history, where the Covid-19 pandemic has kept us apart,” she said.

“Birmingham 2022 proved to be a special moment when we reunited, when the power of sport to connect us came into sharp focus.”


Everton sign England’s Coady on season-long loan from Wolves

Everton sign England’s Coady on season-long loan from Wolves
Updated 09 August 2022

Everton sign England’s Coady on season-long loan from Wolves

Everton sign England’s Coady on season-long loan from Wolves
  • Coady is the fourth player to arrive at Goodison Park during the current transfer window, following the Burnley duo of James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil as well as Sporting Lisbon defender Ruben Vinagre

LONDON: England centerback Conor Coady has joined Everton on a season-long loan from Premier League rivals Wolves, it was announced on Monday.

The Toffees were left short of defenders after both Ben Godfrey and Yerry Mina were injured during a 1-0 defeat by Chelsea in their opening match of the new league season on Saturday.

This move sees Wolves captain Coady, 29, returning to his home city eight years after leaving Liverpool, where he came through the Anfield club’s academy.

“It’s incredible to join Everton,” Coady told his new club’s website.

He added: “I’ve grown up around the city, I know the football club, how big this club is and what it means to the supporters.

“I’m someone who was desperate to come here, to play for this club. I’ve got family and friends who are massive Evertonians.

“I’m here to give absolutely everything I’ve got for this football club.”

Coady is the fourth player to arrive at Goodison Park during the current transfer window, following the Burnley duo of James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil as well as Sporting Lisbon defender Ruben Vinagre.

“We are delighted to bring a player of Conor’s quality and vast experience to Everton and he fits into how we want to play as a team,” said Toffees manager Frank Lampard.

Coady was on the bench for Wolves’ first game of the season, a 2-1 loss away to Leeds.

He moved to Wolves from Huddersfield in 2015 and has played in 196 out of a possible 198 league games during the past five seasons for the Midlands club.

Just minutes after Coady’s move was announced, Wolves said they had signed Valencia forward Goncalo Guedes on a five-year contract for an undisclosed fee.

“We have been monitoring Goncalo for a long time and are very pleased to welcome him to Wolves,” said chairman Jeff Shi of the 25-year-old Portugal international, who was coached by Wanderers manager Bruno Lage at Benfica.

“He has natural talent and has performed very well across Europe and for his country, and we think he is well suited to the Premier League.

“Goncalo worked with Bruno at Benfica and played with many members of our squad previously, so we’re confident he will settle quickly into the group here.

“Now, we are delighted that Goncalo is a Wolves player and look forward to giving him a warm welcome at Molineux this Saturday.”