Why Lebanon could just end up being the surprise package of the Asian Qualifiers to Qatar 2022

Why Lebanon could just end up being the surprise package of the Asian Qualifiers to Qatar 2022
Lebanon's forward Bassel Jradi (L) celebrates the country’s win with goalkeeper Mostafa Matar during a match between Syria and Lebanon. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 14 October 2021

Why Lebanon could just end up being the surprise package of the Asian Qualifiers to Qatar 2022

Why Lebanon could just end up being the surprise package of the Asian Qualifiers to Qatar 2022
  • Having recorded a famous 3-1 win over Syria on Tuesday, the Cedars could finish third in the qualification group and enter the playoff rounds

DUBAI: It’s been a wonderful week for the Lebanese national team and, in hindsight, could have been even better.

Had Lebanon not missed a great opportunity with the last kick of the game with South Korea in September, they would have come away from East Asia with a 1-1 draw instead of a 1-0 defeat and would not be level on points with Korea in second place in Group A. 

As it is, the Cedars are not doing too badly, sitting in third in the final round of qualification with five points, two clear of the UAE and Iraq and four ahead of Syria. It’s impressive stuff for the lowest-ranked team of all 12 in the final round, and there may well be more to come.

Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Syria in Amman was spectacular in more ways than one. First, it was widely entertaining. Syria had by far the best of the first half and looked to be heading into the break with a 1-0 lead when the visitors scored twice in added time. To put it more accurately, Mohamad Kdouh scored twice. The 24-year-old first slotted home from close range and then fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner from outside the area. Soony Saad extended the lead after the break, and while Syria came back into it, Lebanon held on for the win.

It was fitting that Syria were the opponents, as Lebanon are starting to mirror some of the Qasioun Eagles’ efforts in qualification for the 2018 World Cup. Nobody really expects Lebanon to challenge South Korea and Iran for the top two automatic spots as they may lack the consistency and depth over 10 games, but with other teams dropping points left, right and center, third is very much a possibility.

That is what Syria managed last time. The team finished behind Iran and South Korea and earned themselves a play-off against Australia. They pushed the Socceroos all the way, losing only 3-2 on aggregate with Tim Cahill getting the crucial goal in extra time of the second leg. Something similar is possible for Lebanon this time around. Syria only won three games out of the 10 to take third as teams took points off each other, as is happening now. Lebanon have already shown they can match the other teams.

Teamwork and an unwillingness to give up served Syria well. On the road to Russia, they scored in the last minute in four out of the last five qualifiers to clinch that place above Uzbekistan on goal difference. Lebanon have the same spirit and determination, and they kept running until the 99th minute on Tuesday when the game finally ended. Despite their understandable fatigue, the celebrations were intense and just as the players fought for each other on the field, they danced together off it. 

“The match was as difficult as we expected, but I’m really proud with the players who knew how to handle the early pressure thanks to their great fighting spirit,” said the team’s head coach Ivan Hasek. “The most important thing now is to build on this victory. What we achieved now is a small step on the road of our dream.”

Lebanon do not yet have the quality strikers like Omar Khribin and Omar Al-Somah that Syria boasted, though if Kdouh can keep this up, there may be a cutting edge up front that can make the difference in tight games. Lebanon are, however, just as hard to beat as Syria were, are defensively strong — the exploits of goalkeeper Mostafa Matar are still being talked about in Seoul — and do not make things easy for the opposition.

There is another factor in their favor. Syria made it into third despite not playing a single game at home due to security reasons. Lebanon have the trump card of home advantage, and it is one that they have yet to play. All four games so far have taken place elsewhere. September’s South Korea clash was due to be held at home but was switched for mutually beneficial reasons in that the Koreans had a home game five days earlier and preferred to cut down on travel and Lebanon did not want to go, as originally scheduled, to Seoul in January when evening temperatures can drop as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius.

This means that five of the six games remaining will take place in Lebanon, and it is a hard place to go. South Korea famously lost in Beirut’s Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium in November 2011 and the following September, Iran suffered the same fate. In the previous round of this qualification campaign, South Korea drew 0-0.

Beirut has been a potent weapon in the past but will not be hosting games this time as that privilege will fall to the city of Sidon. If fans there can recreate the same hostile atmosphere, then anything can happen, assuming fans are allowed in. The Lebanon Football Association is trying to persuade authorities to give the go-ahead.

There is real hope then. The other five teams in Group A are going to have to go to Lebanon and get something from an increasingly confident team. None will find it easy, and it may just be that Sidon can be the 12th man that gives Lebanon an unlikely shot at going to the 2022 World Cup.


International Olympic Committee renews Saudi Arabian memberships for next four years

International Olympic Committee renews Saudi Arabian memberships for next four years
Updated 01 October 2022

International Olympic Committee renews Saudi Arabian memberships for next four years

International Olympic Committee renews Saudi Arabian memberships for next four years

RIYADH: The International Olympic Committee on Friday announced that it is renewing three memberships for Saudi Arabia for the next four years, while adding a new fourth membership, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
IOC President Dr. Thomas Bach said the three committee memberships that have been renewed include Minister of Sport and President of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal as a member of the Marketing Commission.
The IOC renewed the membership of SOPC Vice President Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdul Aziz as vice president of the Commission for Public Affairs and Social Development.
Saudi ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar, who is a member of the IOC and board member of SOPC, was granted a new membership in the Sustainability and Legacy Commission, in addition to renewing her previous membership in the Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Commission and the Coordination Commission for the Brisbane 2032 Olympics.

 


The Kingdom’s renewed and additional membership in the IOC, the largest and most important sports organization in the world, comes within the framework of strengthening and raising the number of Saudi capabilities in international organizations, in line with the Kingdom’s expanding sporting sector and in accordance with the objectives of its Vision 2030.
On Friday, the IOC also announced that Bach had appointed an equal number of women and men to the commissions for this year, marking “a historic milestone in the committee’s efforts to increase gender balance at its governance level.”

 


Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism and NBA launch official countdown to The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism and NBA launch official countdown to The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022
Updated 30 September 2022

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism and NBA launch official countdown to The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism and NBA launch official countdown to The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022
  • Burj Khalifa light projection marks a week until 1st ever NBA Games in the Arabian Gulf
  • The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 will feature the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks playing two preseason games at Etihad Arena

ABU DHABI: The iconic Burj Khalifa was on Friday lit by the logo of The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 that are set to start on Oct. 6 in the capital of the UAE.
Hundreds of excited spectators gathered to look on as the logo of the historic event was displayed on the skyscraper’s façade, accompanied by a stunning light show event.
The event was held in celebration of the official countdown to The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022, the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) – Abu Dhabi and the National Basketball Association (NBA).
A countdown clock was briefly displayed with eye-catching lights beamed onto Burj Khalifa, creating yet another milestone in the history of one of the most popular sports leagues in the world.
The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 will feature the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks playing two preseason games at Etihad Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 6 and Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. GST, marking the league’s first games in the UAE and the Arabian Gulf.
The games are part of a ground-breaking multiyear collaboration between the NBA and DCT Abu Dhabi.
A media statement said the “NBA District,” an immersive, interactive fan event in conjunction with The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022, will be held at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi from Oct. 5 and Oct. 9. NBA District will showcase the music, media and art associated with NBA culture. Fans will be able to engage with NBA personalities from around the world, watch authentic NBA game entertainment, enjoy hands-on basketball activities, and purchase limited-edition NBA merchandise.
Fans can purchase tickets to the NBA District and the NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 by visiting NBAEvents.com/AbuDhabi and follow @NBAArabic on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the latest updates, news and content in Arabic.


CAS asked to judge Ecuador case by 10 days before World Cup

CAS asked to judge Ecuador case by 10 days before World Cup
Updated 30 September 2022

CAS asked to judge Ecuador case by 10 days before World Cup

CAS asked to judge Ecuador case by 10 days before World Cup
  • CAS said it registered appeals by the Chilean and Peruvian soccer federations against a FIFA ruling this month
  • Chile officials claim to have documents proving Castillo is actually Colombian

LAUSANNE, Switzerland: Sport’s highest court has been asked to judge a case that aims to remove Ecuador from the World Cup by no later than Nov. 10.
Just 10 days before the team should face host Qatar in the opening game.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport said it registered appeals by the Chilean and Peruvian soccer federations against a FIFA ruling this month that Ecuador defender Byron Castillo was in fact eligible to play in the eight qualifying games he was selected for.
CAS gave no timetable for appointing judges and organizing a hearing, though said both parties appealing asked for a final award by Nov. 10.
Chile officials claim to have documents proving Castillo is actually Colombian and that Ecuador should forfeit all eight games he played in as 3-0 losses.
That legal argument was dismissed by FIFA’s disciplinary committee in June and upheld by FIFA appeal judges two weeks ago.
Ecuador placed fourth in the South American qualifying group in March and claimed a direct World Cup entry. Days later they was drawn into Group A with Qatar – playing the host on Nov. 20 in Doha — Netherlands and Senegal.
If the qualifying games were forfeited, the revised points totals would lift Chile to fourth from seventh.
Peru placed fifth and have asked CAS to get Ecuador’s entry as the next highest placed South American team. Peru already lost an intercontinental playoff to Australia in June.


France’s Kamara to miss World Cup due to knee injury

France’s Kamara to miss World Cup due to knee injury
Updated 30 September 2022

France’s Kamara to miss World Cup due to knee injury

France’s Kamara to miss World Cup due to knee injury
  • Kamara was injured while playing for Aston Villa against Southampton this month

BIRMINGHAM, England: France midfielder Boubacar Kamara has been ruled out of the World Cup after sustaining knee ligament damage.
Kamara was injured while playing for Aston Villa in a 1-0 win against Southampton this month.
The 22-year-old Kamara was picked in France’s Nations League games this month but had to withdraw.
Villa manager Steven Gerrard confirmed the extent of Kamara’s injury on Friday ahead of an English Premier League game against Leeds on Sunday.
“Bouba will be missing until after the World Cup unfortunately, so that’s a huge blow,” Gerrard said.
Kamara joined Villa from Marseille on a free transfer in July and has started every game.
He forced his way into Didier Deschamps’ plans to successfully defend the World Cup.


IOC’s Bach eyes return to sports for anti-war Russians

IOC’s Bach eyes return to sports for anti-war Russians
Updated 30 September 2022

IOC’s Bach eyes return to sports for anti-war Russians

IOC’s Bach eyes return to sports for anti-war Russians
  • “It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” said Bach
  • Most sports followed International Olympic Committee advice in February and banned Russian team and athletes from their events

GENEVA: Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.
“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”
Most sports followed International Olympic Committee advice in February and banned Russian team and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.
With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.
In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.
“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”
Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.
Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.
Olympic gold medalist swimmer Evgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.
Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.
Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.
In athletics, Russians have competed since 2015 only as neutrals approved by the sport’s governing body because of the state-backed doping scandal which tainted the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Bach and the IOC faced criticism in fallout from the scandal for not being strict enough with Russian athletes who competed at each Olympics since 2016 with extra vetting of their drug testing or as neutrals without their national team name, flag and anthem.
Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”
“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested.
“We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”
Bach was in Rome also for a sports forum hosted by the Vatican, where Pope Francis praised sports as “an educational and social good and it must remain so.”
“We should be committed to giving everyone the opportunity to play sports,” the pope said, “to cultivate — one could say to be ‘trained’ in — the values of sport and transform them into virtues.”
Vatican officials previously have said they would like to one day field a team recognized by the IOC in the Olympics.