Saudi Arabia, Iraq absent as 2021 FIFA Arab Cup party gets into full swing

Saudi Arabia, Iraq absent as 2021 FIFA Arab Cup party gets into full swing
Saudi Arabia's defender Saud Abdulhamid (L) consoles his teammate forward Abdullah Al-Hamdan during the FIFA Arab Cup 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 12 December 2021

Saudi Arabia, Iraq absent as 2021 FIFA Arab Cup party gets into full swing

Saudi Arabia, Iraq absent as 2021 FIFA Arab Cup party gets into full swing
  • Despite a disappointing group stage exit, the Green Falcons’ participation must be seen as nothing more than a platform to try out young talent

When the 2021 Arab Cup quarterfinals took place over the weekend, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, two of Asia’s traditional powerhouses, were nowhere to be seen.

Despite being two of the region’s most successful teams, they both exited at the group stage after a series of disappointing performances.

There has been huge discontent among Iraqis with the way the team has been managed and the technical instability since their frustrating performances in the World Cup qualifiers. It is no surprise that Iraq will be scrutinized for their performances at the Arab Cup, especially since they arrived in Qatar looking to claim a fifth title, but left the group stage with two draws with Oman and Bahrain and a heavy loss to the hosts.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, ended with a draw and two defeats, scoring only one goal and failing to keep a clean sheet in the three matches.

The two-time winners’ appearance in this tournament did not match their recent outstanding results or elegant performances in the qualifying rounds for the 2022 World Cup.

The Saudis also — but to a lesser extent — have been criticized by some fans. But it is important to focus on the goal of their participation in their tournament. Was it to win the competition? Or  did they have longer-term targets?

While making it clear that he did not wish to devalue the tournament, Green Falcons coach Herve Renard used it as a platform to try out the country’s young talent — those born in the year 1999 and after — with his assistant Laurent Bonadei taking charge of team affairs. The idea was to pick out those that could potentially go on to play at the World Cup next year or the AFC Asian Cup in 2023. This is the same approach that the Frenchman had previously taken when in charge of the Moroccan national team ahead of the African Cup of Nations.

Watching from the stands allowed Renard to supervise the young players from a distance and study their performance better, and more dispassionately, than if he had been in complete charge.

Still, Renard was criticized for choosing certain players randomly, without preparation, and without homogeneity or cohesion on the field. The team did not appear to be playing with a clear identity in attack.

Contrast that with the Saudi first team’s exceptional performances and personality in the World Cup qualifiers, which have produced 16 points from five victories and a draw. They sit atop their qualifying group and are strong favorites to make it to Qatar 2022.

While it would have been asking a lot to maintain that level with what was essentially a reserve team, many believe Renard left out players — such as Saleh Al-Shehri — who could have benefited from showing off their skills and character.

While disappointment, even heartbreak, was evident in the Saudi press, which stressed the team’s lack of experience, it is hoped that this tournament will eventually be seen as a strategy with a long-term benefit. I see that the participation with fringe players was a wise and smart decision, especially since the calendar is already hectic for many of the first-choice squad members.

In fact, the players are to be applauded, as their participation was far from a disgrace, given their complete lack of preparation time, and they have already confirmed the benefit they gained from the experience of playing against more mature and experienced players.

Responsibility for the results, and the team’s elimination, lies with Renard, which is something that he was more than prepared for.

It is true that the result was statistically the worst in Saudi Arabia’s history in this tournament, but the main objectives remain qualification for next year’s World Cup and the AFC Asian Cup beyond that.

Only then will we find out if the strategy applied in this Arab Cup was correct or not.


Cameroon beat Brazil 1-0 in final group game at World Cup

Cameroon beat Brazil 1-0 in final group game at World Cup
Updated 03 December 2022

Cameroon beat Brazil 1-0 in final group game at World Cup

Cameroon beat Brazil 1-0 in final group game at World Cup
  • Aboubakar was sent off with a second yellow card for taking off his shirt during his celebration
  • Brazil finished with six points, the same as Switzerland

LUSAIL, Qatar: Vincent Aboubakar scored with a header two minutes into stoppage time in Cameroon’s 1-0 win over Brazil at the World Cup on Friday, a result that still allowed the five-time champions to win the group and eliminated the Africans.
Aboubakar was then sent off with a second yellow card for taking off his shirt during his celebration.
Brazil, which had already reached the knockout stage after victories over Serbia and Switzerland, will face South Korea in the round of 16.
Brazil finished with six points, the same as Switzerland but the South Americans had a better goal difference. The Swiss also advanced and will face Portugal. Cameroon ended with four points and Serbia one.
Coach Tite rested nearly all of his regular starters and made 10 changes from the win against Switzerland on Monday.
Brazil was still without the injured Neymar, but the star forward was at Lusail Stadium to watch the match with his teammates.


Switzerland beat Serbia 3-2 to reach last 16 of World Cup

Switzerland beat Serbia 3-2 to reach last 16 of World Cup
Updated 03 December 2022

Switzerland beat Serbia 3-2 to reach last 16 of World Cup

Switzerland beat Serbia 3-2 to reach last 16 of World Cup
  • Remo Freuler scored the winning goal just after halftime as the Swiss secured second place in Group G
  • They will next face Portugal on Tuesday at Lusail Stadium

DOHA: Switzerland advanced to the last 16 of the World Cup for the third tournament in a row after a 3-2 win over Serbia on Friday.
Remo Freuler scored the winning goal just after halftime as the Swiss secured second place in Group G. They will next face Portugal on Tuesday at Lusail Stadium.
Xherdan Shaqiri put Switzerland ahead early in the first half before Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic responded for Serbia. Breel Embolo evened the score just before halftime.
Switzerland needed a win to guarantee themselves a place in the knockout round after beating Cameroon and losing to Brazil in their opening two games. The team reached the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and again four years later in Russia. They lost 1-0 in both matches, to Argentina and Sweden, respectively.
Against Portugal, the Swiss will be looking to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since hosting the competition in 1954.


Ronaldo ‘insulted’ by South Korean player in World Cup loss

Ronaldo ‘insulted’ by South Korean player in World Cup loss
Updated 02 December 2022

Ronaldo ‘insulted’ by South Korean player in World Cup loss

Ronaldo ‘insulted’ by South Korean player in World Cup loss
  • The 37-year-old skipper looked miffed and ambled off slowly when his number went up in the 65th minute
  • "He was angry with the player from Korea and everyone saw that," Santos said

DOHA: Cristiano Ronaldo was “insulted” by a South Korean player as he was substituted during Portugal’s 2-1 World Cup defeat on Friday, coach Fernando Santos said.
The 37-year-old skipper looked miffed and ambled off slowly when his number went up in the 65th minute.
Santos denied that was because he was upset at being hooked.
“He was angry with the player from Korea and everyone saw that,” Santos said after his side topped Group H despite conceding in injury time to fall to defeat for the first time in Qatar.
“The player was insulting him, telling him to go away (get off the pitch) so that’s why he was angry and everyone saw that.
“I saw the interaction with the Korean player and have no doubt about it.”
Becoming irritated by the line of questioning, Santos added: “He (the Korean player) was not aggressive, he was verbally aggressive.
“He was speaking in English to Cristiano and Cristiano said, ‘Well, perhaps he did not have a good day.’“
South Korean midfielder Hwang In-beom attempted to play down the controversy.
“I didn’t see it, I was too tired,” he said. “I was looking at the ground, so I didn’t see it and I have nothing to say.”


Uruguay beats Ghana 2-0 at World Cup but both teams out

Uruguay beats Ghana 2-0 at World Cup but both teams out
Updated 02 December 2022

Uruguay beats Ghana 2-0 at World Cup but both teams out

Uruguay beats Ghana 2-0 at World Cup but both teams out
  • Suarez was distraught on the sidelines and covered his face
  • Suarez had been substituted when the screen at Al-Janoub Stadium suddenly flashed that South Korea was in second place

AL-WAKRAH, Qatar: This time, Luis Suarez cried on the sidelines after Uruguay were eliminated from the World Cup despite a 2-0 win over Ghana on Friday.
The result also put Ghana out of the competition.
Suarez played a key role in both first-half goals scored by Giorgian De Arrascaeta and Uruguay appeared headed for the round of 16 after inflicting more pain on Ghana 12 years after their now-infamous meeting in the quarterfinals at the World Cup in South Africa.
Then, Suarez denied Ghana a winning goal with a deliberate handball on the goal-line and having been sent off, he celebrated wildly on the sidelines when Ghana missed the resultant penalty.
Uruguay were in a position to go through in Qatar until South Korea’s late goal gave it a 2-1 win over Portugal in the other Group H game. That meant Uruguay needed to score one more goal in the dying minutes of its game to qualify.
They didn’t and were eliminated because they had scored fewer goals than South Korea in the group stage. Suarez was distraught on the sidelines and covered his face with his shirt having been substituted in what was likely his last World Cup appearance.
Uruguay’s goals came in a six-minute spell soon after Ghana raised more memories of the 2010 quarterfinal by missing a penalty.
A Suarez shot led to De Arrascaeta’s opener and Suarez set up the second with a clever pass that De Arrascaeta volleyed in. After those two strikes, Uruguay thought it was on its way to the knockouts.
Ghana captain Andre Ayew, the team’s only survivor from the 2010 squad, had his penalty saved by Sergio Rochet in the 21st minute and the game changed immediately after that. De Arrascaeta scored in the 26th and 32nd minutes to crush Ghana hopes.
But the Uruguayans were ultimately also crushed.
Suarez had been substituted when the screen at Al-Janoub Stadium suddenly flashed that South Korea was in second place in the group after a late goal against Portugal.
Uruguay surged forward in search of the goal that would have put it through. Substitutes Maximiliano Gomez and Sebastian Coates both missed late chances and Suarez was crying after the final whistle.


Saudi motorsport chiefs predict ‘best ever’ Red Bull Car Park Drift world final in Jeddah

Saudi motorsport chiefs predict ‘best ever’ Red Bull Car Park Drift world final in Jeddah
Updated 02 December 2022

Saudi motorsport chiefs predict ‘best ever’ Red Bull Car Park Drift world final in Jeddah

Saudi motorsport chiefs predict ‘best ever’ Red Bull Car Park Drift world final in Jeddah
  • Jeddah will host 21 drifters from 18 different countries who will battle it out to be named the Red Bull Car Park Drift King

JEDDAH: For the first time ever the Red Bull Car Park Drift World Final will be held in Saudi Arabia on December 8 in Jeddah.

Organizers Saudi Motorsport Company and Jeddah Corniche Circuit are promising fans the “best ever” season-ending event as tickets for the final have gone on sale.

Jeddah will host 21 drifters from 18 different countries who will battle it out to be named the Red Bull Car Park Drift King of Drift for 2022. 

Expert power control, pure pace, and the most delicate of touches will be the difference between victory and defeat for the competitors, set to deliver packed grandstands and a festive atmosphere.

For Saudi motorsport fans, the event will welcome three competitors from the Kingdom. Those drivers will be confirmed at a qualifying event on 3 December.

With tickets available for all fans of high octane, Saudi Motorsport Company (SMC) CEO, Martin Whitaker, said he is counting down the days to one of Jeddah’s biggest automotive moments. 

“I believe the Jeddah Corniche Circuit is one of the best ever venues in the long and impressive history of the Red Bull Car Park Drift and we expect an event which is more than equal to this stunning location,” he said.

“This is such a special event for the region, and we are so proud to be able to bring it to Jeddah and give drifting fans the chance to experience world-class competition.

“Of course, with three Saudi Arabian drivers competing in the final we expect the crowd to be more enthusiastic than ever and how special it would be to see a local driver crowned the King of Drift,” he added.

The Saudi drivers will go head-to-head with drifters who qualified in competitions from Jamaica to Mauritius, Sri Lanka to Pakistan, Kenya to South Africa, while the series also travelled through Poland, Estonia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, as well as Qatar, Oman, UAE, Bahrain, Jordan and Lebanon.