Algeria and Tunisia clash in intriguing all-African 2021 FIFA Arab Cup final in Doha

Algeria and Tunisia clash in intriguing all-African 2021 FIFA Arab Cup final in Doha
Algeria's players celebrate their victory in the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup semi-final football match between Qatar and Algeria at the Al-Thumama stadium in the Qatari capital Doha on 15 December 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 18 December 2021

Algeria and Tunisia clash in intriguing all-African 2021 FIFA Arab Cup final in Doha

Algeria and Tunisia clash in intriguing all-African 2021 FIFA Arab Cup final in Doha
  • Both teams reached the final in dramatic circumstances with winners deep into stoppage time

A fascinating final between neighbors Tunisia and Algeria awaits us today in a special final of the Arab Cup.

It has been a wonderful tournament, with 10th Arab Cup preserving the traditions and characteristics that have long defined the competition.

Algeria ensured the final will be a historic one when they qualified for the first time by beating Qatar 2-1. Thus they set a date with Tunisia, who defeated Egypt 1-0, in the first all-African final since the establishment of the tournament.

Last-minute goals were a prominent feature in the group stages, and this continued in the dramatic semi-finals, both confrontations being decided very late with the help of friendly fire and a penalty kick.

In the first half of the match against Egypt, Tunisian coach Munther Al-Kabeer adopted a 5-4-1 formation, which enabled his team to put pressure on their opponents. Despite the setback of an injury to Yassin Meriah, it proved successful in stopping their opponents from scoring, setting the stage for that late dramatic win thanks to Egyptian captain Amr El-Solia’s 95th minute own goal.

It was Egypt’s first defeat in 19 games since their elimination from the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

How much the void left by Meriah will affect the Tunisians in the final remains to be seen. Muhammad Ali bin Ramadan will again replace him, as he did against Egypt.

Throughout the tournament Tunisia have presented a significant aerial threat from set pieces. Against Egypt, the Carthage Eagles played eight balls from free kicks into the penalty area — including the one that set up the winner. According to their coach, they should focus on repeating this in the final against Algeria.

The second semi-final between Algeria and Qatar was in danger of being overshadowed by the refereeing and VAR, which prompted the Saharawis to celebrate their win in front of the officials, who they deemed had almost cost them a win with the 19 minutes of stoppage time added at the end of the 90 minutes.

It was the second match in row that had ended in high drama for the Algerians. They had put on an excellent performance in the quarter-final against neighbors Morocco, the match providing everything we love about football and ending with a tense penalty shootout.

The semi-final against Qatar proved even more dramatic, with the hosts equalizing in the sixth minute of stoppage time and Algeria’s winner, incredibly, coming in the 17th minute.

The final is an intriguing one between two nations with a long history in continental competitions and World Cup qualifiers. Their last match was a friendly in June which Algeria won 2-1. Their previous match was another friendly in 2019, which Algeria also won. Tunisia’s last victory in this fixture came at the 2017 African Nations.

Algeria have a formidable squad full of players of high quality and physical prowess. As pointed out by coach Majid Bougherra, his players have endured difficult matches and played more minutes than any other team. He stressed the difficulty of playing six matches in 17 days with a team made up mostly of home players and missing some Europe-based players such as Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez.

I was particularly drawn to the performances of veteran Algerian goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi, especially in the semi-final win, while for Tunisia Mohamed Drager, who plays for Nottingham Forest, has stood out in the three matches he has taken part in.

At the start, the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup looked like a dress rehearsal for Qatar 2022, with many teams treating it as warm-up for continental tournaments and World Cup qualifiers in the coming months.

But with every match, culminating in those two semi-finals, it has proved itself a competition worthy of its name. On Saturday evening, we await another titanic battle between Algeria and Tunisia.


Scheffler makes a late bid to return to No. 1 

Scheffler makes a late bid to return to No. 1 
Updated 03 December 2022

Scheffler makes a late bid to return to No. 1 

Scheffler makes a late bid to return to No. 1 
  • Scheffler spent more weeks at No. 1 than anyone this year, which earns him the Mark H. McCormack Award

NASSAU, Bahamas: The degree Masters champion Scottie Scheffler earned from the McCombs School of Business at Texas did not equip him with the skills to figure out the new formula for the Official World Golf Ranking.

He is No. 2 in the world. He can go back to No. 1 if he wins the Hero World Challenge, simple as that.

“I don’t like being No. 2,” he said. “I don’t like finishing second.”

Scheffler took a step in that direction in the relentless wind at Albany. He ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine for a 4-under 68, leaving him in the group one shot behind defending champion Viktor Hovland.

Hovland knows a little about wind. The Norwegian saw enough of it during his amateur days across Europe, and then he starred at Oklahoma State.

Hovland made eagle for the second straight day — the other 19 players have combined for one eagle this week — had three straight birdies on the back nine and had a 70. He was at 5-under 139.

Scores typically are much lower in the holiday event Tiger Woods hosts for a 20-man field of elite players in the Bahamas. The course was soaked and played long on Thursday. It dried out in 30 mph wind on Friday.

Xander Schauffele leaned on exquisite wedge play for a 68 and joined Scheffler, Cameron Young (69) and Collin Morikawa (71) in the group one shot behind.

Tom Kim dropped two shots on the final three holes and that gave him a 72, leaving him two shots behind. That’s not the reason the 20-year-old South Korean raised both arms after he had signed his card. Scrolling through his phone, he learned South Korea had advanced to the knockout stage in the World Cup.

“Goose bumps,” Kim said as he stretched out his arms.

Scheffler spent more weeks at No. 1 than anyone this year, which earns him the Mark H. McCormack Award. That was a product of four wins against strong fields in the spring, including his first major. The Masters was his last win.

Rory McIlroy replaced him with a win in South Carolina in October, and now Scheffler has a chance to grab it back, even if for a short time. McIlroy is expected to be No. 1 when the year ends regardless of what happens in the Bahamas.

The model went from rating the top 200 players in a field based on their world ranking to rating everyone in the field using the “strokes gained” formula, which measure actual scores and adjusts for relative difficulty of each round.

It favors deeper fields, regardless of how many of the top players are there. And it won’t be fully integrated until next August.

But there has been no shortage of complaints, with even Woods weighing in this week that it’s a flawed system. Some of the criticism stems from the new formula not giving as much credit to smaller fields compared with full fields.

“I think now I would say the top players are not bringing as much weight to events as they should,” Scheffler said.

The Hero World Challenge has 15 of the top 20 in the world. It also has only 20 players, and so the winner will get slightly fewer points than the winner of the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.

“But it’s also really tough to rank golfers when they’re not playing the same schedule,” Scheffler said. “So I think as we all start to play together more often and you get the best players playing together more often, it’s going to be much easier to rank those guys.

“It’s a tough system. It’s not something that’s easy to get right,” he said. “In other sports, you have a record and golf is not necessarily a record. It’s a challenging system. I think they went from one extreme to the other, and we’ll meet in the middle, hopefully, and find something that’s a little bit better.”

The ultimate measure remains the low score, and that belongs to Hovland. Woods, who is not playing this week because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot, is the only player to have won the World Challenge in consecutive years.

He’s not sure how he’s getting it done, especially in this wind.

“It’s kind of strange, like I knew it was windy and I feel like I missed so many putts,” Hovland said. “And I still don’t feel like I’m hitting it very good. I’m not comfortable over the ball, but the ball’s going straight and I’m giving myself looks.”
 


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.