Saudi Arabia kick off 2021 FIFA Arab Cup campaign with 1-0 defeat by Jordan

Saudi Arabia kick off 2021 FIFA Arab Cup campaign with 1-0 defeat by Jordan
Saudi Arabia's young team went down 1-0 to Jordan in their opening match of the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup. (Photo/SAFF)
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Updated 02 December 2021

Saudi Arabia kick off 2021 FIFA Arab Cup campaign with 1-0 defeat by Jordan

Saudi Arabia kick off 2021 FIFA Arab Cup campaign with 1-0 defeat by Jordan
  • Herve Renard’s young Falcons created few chances during a match in which both teams had a man sent off

Saudi Arabia’s Arab Cup campaign began with a 1-0 defeat by Jordan on Wednesday at the Education City Stadium in Qatar. Both teams ended the game with 10 men.

While the result was not a huge shock, given the youth and inexperience of a young Green Falcons side shorn of most of their big-name players and featuring no outfielder born before 1999, the performance was disappointing, with few chances created until the dying moments. The Saudis were second best for much of the match, even though Jordan were reduced to 10 men after 53 minutes when midfielder Ehsan Haddad was sent off.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, the Nashama took the lead 10 minutes later thanks to Mahmoud Al-Mardi. And just as Saudi Arabia were beginning to press for an equalizer, defender Khalifa Al-Dawsari received marching orders of his own with 17 minutes remaining. The three-time Asian champions did manage to produce a late flurry that included an injury-time equalizer that was disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper.

Earlier in the day, Morocco moved into first place in Group C with a 4-0 victory over Palestine, so the defeat leaves the Saudis, who rarely troubled Jordan’s goalkeeper Yazeed Abulaila, with much to do if they are to progress to the last eight of the 16-team tournament.

Jordan had much the better of the first half, with nine attempts on goal. After 15 minutes, Yazan Al-Arab headed a corner straight into the arms of Mohamed Al-Rubaie. Moments later, a fierce long-range effort by Haddad went just over the bar.

The Reds were happy to shoot from distance, and after 25 minutes a looping shot by Mahmoud Al-Mardi from outside the area went wide. Soon after, Yazan Al-Naimat danced past a couple of Saudi challenges, only to shoot weakly at the goalkeeper.

The young Falcons struggled to get any sort of rhythm going at all, with Laurent Bonadei, manager Herve Renard’s assistant who is in charge of the team during games, growing increasingly animated on the touchline.

Eight minutes before the break, Jordan had their best chance so far. Al-Mardi’s left-sided cross seemed perfect but while Baha Faisal rose high above the Saudi defense to meet it, his header went well wide.

A goal looked to be coming and it seemed to have arrived a minute later. Just moments after Al-Naimat shot wide from a good position at the corner of the area, the Saudis gave the ball away cheaply. The forward gratefully received the ball near the penalty spot and made no mistake in firing home. However the VAR ruled that he was a centimeter or two offside during the build-up.

Saudi Arabia were happy to end the half on level terms after giving the Jordanian goalkeeper little to do — and their own coach much to think about.

The second half began in a similar vein as Jordan again came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock. Faisal got on the end of a free kick but his header hit the underside of the crossbar, and although Adnan Hamad’s men argued that the ball had bounced behind the line, play continued.

In the 53rd minute, Saudi Arabia seemed to get the break they badly needed when Haddad, who could have no complaints, was shown a straight red for a rash tackle on Turki Al-Ammar.

Yet Jordan recovered quickly from the setback to take the lead just after the hour mark. Faisal crossed from the left and, though the initial cross was blocked by Al-Dawsari, the ball fell to Al-Mardi whose shot hit the prone defender and bounced into the back of the net.

It took time after that for Saudi Arabia to get into the game but just as it was starting to happen, Al-Dawsari was sent off, with 17 minutes remaining, leaving both teams a man short.

Yet the boys from Riyadh should have equalized in stoppage time. Abdullah Al-Qahtani’s initial shot was saved by Abulaila at the near post but the ball bounced out to Aidan Hamed, only for him to blast it over the bar from a perfect position.

There was still time for controversy, as the Saudis had a goal ruled out after captain Saud Abdulhamid was adjudged to have fouled the goalkeeper when they both jumped for the ball.

“I’m really proud of my players, who gave their all in the match, but when we were 11 versus 10, we wanted to attack and score first and we made a mistake,” said Bonadei. “We did well but unfortunately it didn’t happen. I think we can improve. We have to win the next game against Palestine.”

That match will take place on Saturday, with Jordan taking on Morocco the same day.


Dubai Creek Mile at Meydan heads stellar week for UAE race fans

Dubai Creek Mile at Meydan heads stellar week for UAE race fans
Updated 17 sec ago

Dubai Creek Mile at Meydan heads stellar week for UAE race fans

Dubai Creek Mile at Meydan heads stellar week for UAE race fans
  • The first thoroughbred Listed race of the season, the Dubai Creek Mile, has two Group 1 winners in it
  • Other events in Al-Ain on Friday, Jebel Ali on Saturday, Abu Dhabi’s Jewel Crown fixture Sunday

DUBAI: The card for this week’s horse racing at Meydan Racecourse in the UAE is nothing short of outstanding for the time of year.
The first thoroughbred Listed race of the season, the Dubai Creek Mile, has two Group 1 winners in it, plus a host of horses that could stamp their mark on Dubai World Cup night.
Sixth in the 2021 Dubai World Cup when last seen, the talented and popular Military Law trained away last season without making a race for trainer Musabbeh Al-Mheiri and owner Nasir Askar.
And he will need to be fit to win, facing a Uruguayan Group 1 winner in Atletico El Culano, plus Golden Goal, who must give 2 kilograms to the field because of his Group 2 win last season. Another strong contender will be Capezzano, a Group 1 winner returning after almost one year off and tipped to be back to his best.
The card also has a strong three-year-old rated conditions event, race six, which sees the return of last year’s G3 UAE 2000 Guineas winner Azure Coast. The horse has had a remarkable career, starting in Russia, before winning two of three starts in the UAE last season, returning to Moscow with a win in September, and now traveling back to Dubai.
This time he will be with his Russian jockey Myrzabek Kappushev up against a tough field including UAE Derby fourth-place finisher Bendoog, one of the biggest horses in training at the yard of champion trainer Bhupat Seemar.
Racing fans in the UAE are in for a treat at the weekend, with four meetings, including Al-Ain on Friday, Jebel Ali on Saturday, and the Jewel Crown fixture at Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
One of the richest purebred Arabian races in the world, the $1.36 million Jewel Crown has attracted a top international cast, including 2021 heroine Lady Princess.
Trained in France by Thomas Fourcy, the six-year-old is the best Arabian in the world despite her tiny size, having won her last five races, all at Group 1 level.
She has a talented bunch of rivals to beat, however, including Dubai Kahayla Classic winner First Class, and Izadi Star, winner of both his starts at Abu Dhabi before running some creditable efforts in Group 1s in France.
The card’s thoroughbred race is the Listed National Day Cup, which sees the return of last season’s G1 Jebel Hatta winner Alfareeq, as well as the talented Haqeeqy, and Moqtarreb, winner of the race in 2021.
All of these carry the silks of Shadwell, run by Sheikha Hissa Hamdan Al-Maktoum, who will be hoping her operation’s excellent European season, spearheaded by the remarkable Baaeed, will continue into her home country.
 


Seventh edition of the PIF Saudi Open gets underway next week

Seventh edition of the PIF Saudi Open gets underway next week
Updated 15 min 55 sec ago

Seventh edition of the PIF Saudi Open gets underway next week

Seventh edition of the PIF Saudi Open gets underway next week
  • Participation in the tournament will be open to ADT players, as well as professional and amateur golf players in the Middle East and North Africa who are registered with a golf club
  • Majed Al-Sorour: I am especially proud of how each edition provides Saudi and Arab golf players the opportunity to participate in a top tier competition in their home country

RIYADH: The Asian Development Tour (ADT) arrives in Saudi Arabia, for the first time, next week, with the playing of the seventh edition of the PIF Saudi Open between 8th — 10th December, at Golf Saudi managed Riyadh Golf Club.

The ADT event will see a prize fund of $200,000 up for grabs. Participation in the tournament will be open to ADT players, as well as professional and amateur golf players in the Middle East and North Africa who are registered with a golf club. 

As a result of Golf Saudi entering a 10-year partnership with the Asian Tour, the tournament is expected to receive wide interest from golf fans inside and outside the Kingdom. The fact that the PIF Saudi Open is being played on the ADT for the first time is confirmation of the strengthening of ties between the Asian Tour and Golf Saudi. Particularly as the 2023 edition of the $5 million PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers has now officially become the opening event on the Asian Tour’s annual calendar. 

The PIF Saudi Open will also see the participation of a raft of up and coming players from the GCC and Arab countries, in addition to Saudi Arabia’s growing home talents from the National Team, who have all gone from strength to strength in recent years, as part of Golf Saudi wider Mass Participation program to grow the game of golf in the Kingdom. 

Majed Al-Sorour, Deputy Chairman and CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said: “All of us at both the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi are incredibly excited about next week’s seventh edition of the PIF Saudi Open. Each and every year we host the tournament, it gets bigger and better. I am especially proud of how each edition provides Saudi and Arab golf players the opportunity to participate in a top tier competition in their home country and be able to not only develop their skill levels but also to test themselves and go head-to-head against players from different countries in the Middle East, North Africa and now the Asian Development Tour in a competitive environment.” 

Managed by Golf Saudi and playing to a par of 72, Riyadh Golf Club is 20 minutes from Riyadh. The course, opened in 2005, is known for its undulating terrain, wide fairways and manicured greens. 

Al-Sorour continued: “By hosting tournaments such as the PIF Saudi Open, we hope to encourage and facilitate greater uptake in the game and offer our elite golfers the chance to compete against the very best. So, thanks must go to our strategic partners the Asian Tour for helping us to achieve that aim, as their involvement will mean the strongest player field in the PIF Saudi Open’s history.” 

The tournament, which kicks off on the 8th December will witness the participation of the most prominent Saudi players, including the first and only Saudi professional player Othman Almulla, along with other National Team players: Abdulrahman Al-Mansour, Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif. A lot will be at stake for those players competing, as the PIF Saudi Open also represents a qualification opportunity for the 2023 PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, which will be held next February. 


Iran World Cup loss sparks despair — and joy from regime critics

Iran World Cup loss sparks despair — and joy from regime critics
Updated 30 November 2022

Iran World Cup loss sparks despair — and joy from regime critics

Iran World Cup loss sparks despair — and joy from regime critics
  • Iranian gaming journalist Saeed Zafarany: ‘Who would’ve ever thought I’d jump three meters and celebrate America’s goal!’
  • Danish journalist Rasmus Tantholdt said that he was briefly detained by Qatari security forces after filming pro-regime fans attacking supporters of the Iranian protest movement

NICOSIA: For Iranians, their football team’s World Cup loss against the United States was cause for either sadness or exuberant joy, depending on where they stand on a two-month-old protest movement.
Caught between the clerical regime and calls to show solidarity with protesters, the national team pressed near-relentlessly in the second half on Tuesday night but were unable to cancel out a 38th minute opener by the US, resulting in an early exit.
That prompted the extraordinary spectacle of Iranians cheering a defeat inflicted by the Islamic republic’s arch-enemy often labelled the “Great Satan.”
“Who would’ve ever thought I’d jump three meters and celebrate America’s goal!” tweeted Iranian gaming journalist Saeed Zafarany.
Inside Iran, celebrations were especially marked in western Kurdistan province, the cradle of a movement sparked by the death of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody after her arrest for allegedly infringing the nation’s strict dress code for women.
A video shared online by Kurdish activist Kaveh Ghoreishi showed a Sanandaj city neighborhood at night with sounds of cheering and horns blaring after the United States scored.
That goal also prompted joy in Amini’s hometown of Saqez, according to the London-based news website Iran Wire, which published images showing fireworks and sounds of people cheering.
Protesters also set off fireworks in Mahabad, Kurdistan, following Iran’s loss, according to videos shared online, while Norway-based Hengaw human rights group also reported celebrations there and in the city of Marivan.
The scenes of joy were not confined to Kurdistan province, reflecting the nationwide nature of the protest movement.
Videos on social media showed citizens celebrating in the capital Tehran and Ardabil, Mashhad, Kerman and Zahedan — many with people dancing and cheering in the streets amid long traffic jams.
It was a very different story in a hall in Tehran, where hundreds gathered to unreservedly cheer on their team — including women, in a country where they often have difficulty accessing stadiums.
“I’m so sad that Iran couldn’t defeat the USA but anyway we are proud of our national team and its players,” said Ali, a retiree. “They did their best and we are not angry with them.”
In Qatar itself, supporters of the US and Iran mingled cordially before the crunch game.
Crowds with the Stars and Stripes and the red, green and white colors of Iran’s flag talked largely freely as they entered Al Thumama Stadium.
Inside the ground, female Iranian fans sat — and often stood — proudly cheering their team without headscarves, some with the national flag daubed on their faces.
Iran’s players, after refusing to sing the national anthem for their opening game against England in a gesture of solidarity with the protests, reversed that stance for their second game with Wales, resulting in opprobrium in some quarters.
Players again voiced the anthem, albeit with little enthusiasm, for what turned out to be Iran’s final game.
They now go home to a country that remains on edge, as authorities crack down on the mainly peaceful protests that have become the biggest challenge to the regime since its birth in 1979.
After Iran’s victory over Wales, the judiciary announced the release of more than 1,100 detainees, including protesters, among them former national goalkeeper Parviz Boroumand.
Emblematic of the divisions, an AFP video showed scuffles breaking out among pro- and anti-regime Iranians outside the stadium after the US match.
The footage showed a woman wearing a T-shirt with the protest slogan “Woman, life, freedom” being harassed by Iranian men as she gave a televised interview.
A Danish journalist said he was briefly detained after filming pro-regime fans attacking supporters of the Iranian protest movement.
Rasmus Tantholdt of TV2 Denmark tweeted that Qatari security forces had instructed him to erase the footage but he refused to do so.
Iranian supporters have had run-ins with security for sporting clothing bearing images of Amini or the words “Woman, life, freedom” in Qatar which, unlike most other Gulf states, maintains cordial relations with Tehran.
Iran says more than 300 people have been killed since the protests erupted, but Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights says at least 448 people have been killed by the security forces in the ongoing protest crackdown.


John Herdman wants to remain as Canada coach through 2026

John Herdman wants to remain as Canada coach through 2026
Updated 30 November 2022

John Herdman wants to remain as Canada coach through 2026

John Herdman wants to remain as Canada coach through 2026
  • "You'll not find one as passionate who wants to take the country to that next level,” Herdman said
  • In the World Cup for the first time since 1986, Canada lost their opening match 1-0 despite outplaying Belgium

DOHA: John Herdman wants to remain as Canada’s coach through the 2026 World Cup in North America after leading the nation to their return to soccer’s top tournament.
“Eleven years of work in this country and I’ve been pioneering for a long period of time, and you’ll not find anyone as passionate as I am about this program or about these players or about this staff,” Herdman said Wednesday.
“You’ll not find one as passionate who wants to take the country to that next level. And you’ll not meet anyone that’s experienced this moment with this team — and the learning that I’ll take from this to take into the next one.”
In the World Cup for the first time since 1986, Canada lost their opening match 1-0 despite outplaying Belgium, then took a second-minute lead against Croatia before losing 4-1 and getting eliminated. The Canadians close against Morocco on Thursday.
Herdman, a 47-year-old from Britain, coached New Zealand’s women’s team from 2006-11 and Canada’s women from 2011-18, winning Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and 2016.
He took over the Canadian men in 2018 and led them to first place in qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Herdman was especially proud of the way Canada played against Belgium.
“Thierry Henry told me this team played them off the park,” Herdman said of the former French star, now an assistant to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez. “I’ll take that, because if that’s our foundation, we got a great four years ahead, and I can’t wait to get after it.”
Herdman sees part of the team’s mission as increasing the sport’s prominence in Canada. Alphonso Davies’ goal was Canada’s first in five World Cup games, and Herdman hopes the nation will get their first win against Morocco, which are contending for a spot in the knockout stage.
Canada will co-host the 2026 World Cup with the United States and Mexico, staging games in Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia. Canadian soccer officials hope this year’s World Cup and the build-up to the next spark increased youth interest in the sport.
“It’s those kids and those schools that will keep believing that Canada is a football country,” Herdman said, “because they’ve seen that Belgium game, they’ve seen Davies score against Croatia and they know we are — I nearly said it, yeah, we’re a football country. We’re there. And you can’t deny that. No one can.”


History-chasing Morocco want ‘no regrets’, says coach

History-chasing Morocco want ‘no regrets’, says coach
Morocco's coach Walid Regragui attends a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha. AFP
Updated 30 November 2022

History-chasing Morocco want ‘no regrets’, says coach

History-chasing Morocco want ‘no regrets’, says coach
  • The north African side reached the last 16 in Mexico 36 years ago for the only time in their history
  • Morocco are second in Group F, level on four points with leaders Croatia, who face Belgium, on three points, while Canada are bottom with no points

DOHA: Morocco coach Walid Regragui wants “no regrets” after facing Canada on Thursday, with his team aiming for qualification to the World Cup knockout stage for the first time since 1986.
The north African side reached the last 16 in Mexico 36 years ago for the only time in their history, and a point against already-eliminated Canada would see them repeat the feat.
Morocco are second in Group F, level on four points with leaders Croatia, who face Belgium, on three points, while Canada are bottom with no points.
“We don’t want to have an eye on the Croatia and Belgium match to decide our own fate, we (need to) give everything we’ve got so we have no regrets at the end,” Regragui told a press conference Wednesday.
“We’ll give everything we’ve got. Our players want to make history and will give 110 percent to ensure the Moroccan population is happy.”
Morocco players have been allowed to bring their families to the tournament and after the 2-0 win over Belgium on Sunday, Paris Saint-Germain defender Achraf Hakimi was pictured in an emotional embrace with his mother in the stands.
“Before we got here we had a strategy meeting, to bring families with us or not,” said Regragui.
“Based on our experience in 2018, along with our technical team, we chose the option to bring the families.
“Some players have kids, some would rather have their parents with them. We did a good job in that regard. When you win, there’s no negatives, everyone is happy, but if you lose they will say — ‘Why did you bring the families?’
“We meet them after the game and then we concentrate on the next one.
“The spirit of family off the pitch, we want to bring that onto the pitch, and until now it’s functioning very well.”

- Making progress -

African champions Senegal qualified from Group A after beating Ecuador on Tuesday and Morocco have a good chance to join them in the next round.
“Senegal showed us a great path, we want to go through and move forward,” said Regragui.
“Morocco is my priority, Morocco and Moroccans. (But) we hope to fly the flag of African football high.
“Often African football has been described as sub-par, not as good as elsewhere, but we’ve shown we can give anyone a run for their money.”
Opponents Canada are playing in only their second World Cup and despite two defeats and elimination with a game to spare, coach John Herdman said his team have made progress.
They were unfortunate to lose 1-0 against Belgium, and scored their first ever goal at the tournament in the 4-1 defeat by Canada on Sunday, with Alphonso Davies sending them ahead early on.
“It’s an opportunity to keep stepping forward,” Herdman told a press conference.
“We’ll stay committed to our identity and go into this match with an opportunity to make some more history.
“We’ve been enjoying the ride and we know there’s not long left, the players are excited for their families, to try and step into the stadium and try to have one of those moments.
“We watched the celebrations back, we watched Alphonso’s goal together, to be proud of moments like that because there’s more to come.”
Canada will participate in the 2026 tournament as co-hosts with the United States and Mexico.
“We’re a football country, we’re there. You can’t deny that, and we will push tomorrow to keep proving that,” he added.