Egypt abject, Algeria frustrated: 5 things we learned from Arab nations’ early action at Africa Cup of Nations

Egypt abject, Algeria frustrated: 5 things we learned from Arab nations’ early action at Africa Cup of Nations
Egypt's Mohamed Salah, right, and Nigeria's Taiwo Awoniyi fight for the ball during the African Cup of Nations Group D soccer match between Egypt and Nigeria in Garoua, Cameroon, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 13 January 2022

Egypt abject, Algeria frustrated: 5 things we learned from Arab nations’ early action at Africa Cup of Nations

Egypt abject, Algeria frustrated: 5 things we learned from Arab nations’ early action at Africa Cup of Nations
  • With the tournament yet to catch fire, only Morocco among the Arab representatives have managed to claim three points after beating Ghana 1-0

The delayed 2021 African Nations Cup in Cameroon is still very much in its infancy, but below are the five things Arab News has learned after the first 72 hours of the tournament.

1. Abject Egypt got what they deserved — nothing

The only good thing that can be said about Egypt’s 1-0 loss to Nigeria was that at least it was not a heavier defeat. The Super Eagles made almost all of the running in an attacking sense and the Pharaohs never really looked like scoring. An isolated Mohamed Salah cut a lonely figure up front and, apart from a blocked shot and then a scuffed effort, was rarely involved in the action. Nobody expects Liverpool levels of service, but if the “Egyptian king” is going to lead the team all the way to the title then he is going to need better support than long balls pumped forward from deep. Carlos Queiroz’s men were nonexistent in midfield.

Overall, it was a poor performance. Nigeria could, and should, have scored more than the fine first-half goal that came from Kelechi Iheanacho. Egypt improved slightly after the break, but it was only in the closing minutes that they looked anything close to threatening and, even then, there was not a single clear chance created. 

At least that should be the toughest test of the group stage out of the way. The seven-times champions need to beat Guinea-Bissau in the next game and will have to play a good deal better. At least they cannot get much worse.

 

2. Frustration for Algeria, but little to worry about

Algeria were involved in the seventh game of the tournament and the first that ended all square, with the defending champions held to a 0-0 draw by Sierra Leone, who were playing in their first tournament for over 25 years and gave absolutely everything against one of the competition favorites.

The draw means the North Africans now have gone 35 games unbeaten and are just two short of Italy’s world record. Coach Djamel Belmadi would have preferred the three points, but he can at least console himself with the fact that while Algeria were as goalless as Egypt, they at least looked like scoring. 

A number of Algeria’s talented attackers were guilty of wastefulness. Yacine Brahimi missed perhaps the best of the lot when he had just the goalkeeper to beat early in the second half, while Said Benrahma of West Ham could have won it late on, but shot wide from 10 yards. At least opportunities were created; the next step is to become more clinical.

The next game against Equatorial Guinea should bring the three points that will almost guarantee the champs a place in the next stage, but Belmadi, who grew increasingly annoyed as opportunities came and went, will be looking for first place.

 

3. Morocco can scrap when needed

Opening games often do not set the tone for the rest of the tournament, especially when the match is between the biggest rivals in the group, but that makes Morocco’s 1-0 win over Ghana very sweet, indeed, with the victory taking the pressure off the Atlas Lions for the remaining group games. Indeed, a place in the knockout stage should be clinched, or as good as, in the next game against tournament debutants Comoros, who lost their first game against Gabon 1-0.

In truth, the game with Ghana was scrappy. It was a battle between two strong midfields, with the final ball all too often going astray. Slack defending in the final minutes cost Ghana, as Soufiane Boufal was given a little too much space in a crowded area and smashed the ball home.

Coach Vahid Halilhodzic was delighted. With a number of players missing through injury and illness, Morocco showed that they can battle their way to the points when needed. It bodes well for the coming games when the team will surely start to find more fluency in attack.

 

4. Comoros and Sudan show what they are made of

Comoros lost their first-ever game at this stage 1-0 to Gabon and it took a fine strike from Aaron Boupendza to give the Panthers the points. It was clear that if the debutants were to have a chance of the next stage then a win in the opening game was necessary, and possible given the issues in Gabon’s camp. It did not happen, but Comoros were not outclassed at all and put their opponents under plenty of pressure even if the decision-making in the final third was not great. The Coelacanths can take heart from their continental bow. 

Sudan’s 0-0 draw with Guinea-Bissau was also not a spectacle for the neutrals, but it felt like a victory for the Secretary Birds as goalkeeper Ali Abu Eshrein saved a penalty 12 minutes from time. Whatever happens against Nigeria on Saturday, the result means Sudan will be in the running for the second round when they meet Egypt in the final game.

 

5. A slow start all round

Nine goals in nine games does not scream excitement. Some tournaments start like a runaway train in terms of action and drama, and then calm down, while some do the opposite and others never really catch fire at all. It is to be hoped that AFCON steps up a gear in the coming days, or at least in the knockout stages. Amid a slow opening and tight games, there has been little to write home about for the 24 nations involved. Fans in Cameroon are waiting for a real humdinger to light the touchpaper.

The hosts came back from a goal down to defeat Burkina Faso in the opening game, but did so courtesy of two penalties. The following seven games brought six goals. Senegal, tournament favorites for many, struggled to get going in their 1-0 win over Zimbabwe and had to wait until the 97th minute when Liverpool star Sadio Mane got the all-important goal.

So far, only Nigeria have really impressed and shown they have a few gears at their disposal. It goes without saying, however, that there is a long way to go.


Winners of Prince Faisal bin Fahad Award for Sports Research announced

Winners of Prince Faisal bin Fahad Award for Sports Research announced
Updated 28 May 2022

Winners of Prince Faisal bin Fahad Award for Sports Research announced

Winners of Prince Faisal bin Fahad Award for Sports Research announced
  • The $2 million international research grant program was launched in 1983 by the late Prince Faisal bin Fahad Al-Saud

Seventeen project proposals exploring topics related to sports in Saudi Arabia have been chosen in the latest funding round of the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Award for Sports Research.

The $2 million international research grant program was launched in 1983 by the late Prince Faisal bin Fahad Al-Saud, President of the General Presidency of Youth Welfare (later the Ministry of Sport) and chairman of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, to capitalize on the tremendous role research played for the development and training of world-class Saudi athletes.

Selected from more than 400 proposals – covering  public health, coaching and education, or youth and grassroots tacks – coming from over sixty countries, the winning projects were awarded grants ranging from $80,000 to $120,000 to execute a year-long research project focused on sports in Saudi Arabia. An independent scientific committee appointed by the International Academy of Sport Science and Technology based in Lausanne, Switzerland selected the winners.

The recipients include Dr. Amanda Visek from The George Washington University, whose project explores why Saudi youth opt out of sport participation and their motivations to opt in and stay involved with sports; Dr. Matthew Reeves from the University of Central Lancashire, whose project examines the talent identification and talent development processes and practices in football in Saudi Arabia; Prof. Hussein Ageely from Jazan University, whose project examines the effects of a home-based physical activity program on the quality of life for Saudi type-2 diabetes patients

Also chosen was Dr. Deepti Adlakha from North Carolina State University, whose project explores the correlation between physical activity, sedentary behavior, and weight status in adolescents, and neighborhood environments in Saudi Arabia; and Dr. Ahmed Alanezi from Alfaisal University, whose project explores the governance and the gender equality agenda of professional football clubs in Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Mahmoud Abulmeaty of King Saud University on the development and validation of new predictive equations for energy requirements in Saudi athletes and Dr. Abdulrahman Alshabeb of Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University on Fun Move Saudi: Promoting physical activity and health in children through fundamental movement skill development will also be funded.


Butler, Heat drag Celtics to Game 7 in Miami

Butler, Heat drag Celtics to Game 7 in Miami
Updated 28 May 2022

Butler, Heat drag Celtics to Game 7 in Miami

Butler, Heat drag Celtics to Game 7 in Miami
  • Butler’s 47 points were the seventh-most in NBA history for a player facing elimination

BOSTON: Jimmy Butler had 47 points, nine rebounds and eight assists and the Miami Heat forced the Eastern Conference finals to a decisive seventh game by beating the Boston Celtics 111-103 on Friday night.

Ten years after LeBron James had 45 points in Boston to help the Heat avoid Game 6 elimination en route to the first of their back-to-back NBA titles, Butler scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to top him and send the series back to Miami.

With a victory at home Sunday, the Heat would advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in three years.

“This is the way it should be, with these two teams. It should have gone seven games,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’m just really thrilled that our group gets an opportunity to compete in a Game 7 in front of our home crowd.”

In the most back-and-forth game of the series, Boston took a 97-94 lead on Derrick White’s 3-pointer with under five minutes to play — the first time all series the lead has changed hands in the fourth quarter. Kyle Lowry answered with a 3 and then added two free throws as Miami scored 11 of the next 13 points.

Lowry finished with 18 points and 10 assists before fouling out with 2:18 left. Butler made 16 of 29 shots, hitting 4 of 8 from 3-point range and all 11 free throws.

“Matching his intensity from the start wasn’t there,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “Understanding that he was going to put it on his shoulders, and we didn’t match it.”

Jayson Tatum had 30 points and nine rebounds and Derrick White came off the bench to score 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter for Boston. The Celtics are trying to reach the finals for the first time since 2010.

Boston’s Jaylen Brown scored 20 points, missing a pair of free throws with the game tied at 99 after Lowry fouled out. Brown fouled out himself on a charge offensive that was assessed after a challenge on a missed dunk with 13 seconds left and the Celtics down by four.

Butler’s 47 points were the seventh-most in NBA history for a player facing elimination.

Elgin Baylor had 61 against Boston in Game 5 of the 1962 finals. Wilt Chamberlain topped 50 three times, Sleepy Floyd had 50 against the Lakers in 1987 and Jamal Murray scored 50 against Utah in 2020.

It was also the third-most to stave off elimination against the Celtics. In addition to Baylor, Chamberlain had 50 in Game 5 of the East finals in 1960.

James’ 45 against Boston in Game 6 of the 2012 conference finals set the stage for a Game 7 win in Miami.

The Heat are hoping Butler’s performance can do the same.

“I get it, people can easily draw the comparisons between the two,” Spoelstra said. “That’s a different era. That’s a different team. I want our guys to embrace this moment.”

Miami guard Tyler Herro missed his third straight game with a strained groin, costing the team its No. 2 scorer. Kyle Lowry (hamstring), Max Strus (hamstring) and P.J. Tucker (knee) had been listed as questionable but were in the starting lineup.

Boston’s Marcus Smart (sprained right ankle) and Robert Williams III (sore knee) tested their injuries pregame and were also in the lineup.

TIP-INS

Heat: Butler had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists in the first. He scored or assisted on 24 of Miami’s 29 points in the quarter.

Celtics: Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who was inducted into the ballclub’s Hall of Fame on Thursday night, was courtside. Ortiz threw out a ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park earlier in the evening. Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez was also at the game, wearing his World Series ring.


Bouwman rules Giro 19th mountain stage, Carapaz keeps leader’s pink jersey

Bouwman rules Giro 19th mountain stage, Carapaz keeps leader’s pink jersey
Updated 28 May 2022

Bouwman rules Giro 19th mountain stage, Carapaz keeps leader’s pink jersey

Bouwman rules Giro 19th mountain stage, Carapaz keeps leader’s pink jersey
  • Bouwman negotiated the jostling on a sharp final bend to beat his four breakaway companions for his second stage win after Potenza in southern Italy two weeks ago
  • The Giro will go down to the wire with Saturday’s stage in the Dolomites now looking crucial to the outcome

CIVIDALE DEL FRIULI, Italy: Dutch rider Koen Bouwman won a sprint finish in the mountains for stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia at Santuario di Castelmonte on Friday as Richard Carapaz held the leader’s pink jersey.

Ecuador’s 2019 Giro winner Carapaz holds a slim three-second advantage on Australian Jai Hindley two days before the race finishes with a time-trial in Verona.

Bouwman negotiated the jostling on a sharp final bend to beat his four breakaway companions for his second stage win after Potenza in southern Italy two weeks ago.

Quick Step’s Mauro Schmid of Switzerland was just behind with Italian Alessandro Tonelli of Bardiani three seconds off the pace.

“After I won one stage I said anything else would be a bonus,” said Jumbo-Visma’s Bouwman who is assured of the top climber’s blue jersey providing he finishes the race.

“Today I rode for the Maglia Azzurra and I’m glad I secured it.

“I knew about the last corner but I didn’t expect it to be that sharp.

“I had to break but it’s great that I was in the best position there. That gave me the win. I’m delighted.”

Carapaz survived the setback of losing his key mountain lieutenant Richie Porte early in the 178km stage from Marano Lagunare which included four climbs and crossed into neighboring Slovenia.

Ineos Grenadiers rider Porte was dropped from the peloton on the first climb of the day, the third-category Villanova Grotte, after 70km of racing. Organizers later confirmed the 37-year-old Australian had withdrawn from the Giro.

“It’s been a pretty hard stage,” said Carapaz.

“It’s a pity that we lost Richie Porte early in the race but the team has done a great job and Pavel Sivakov is in a great shape.

“All top three riders, we’re together. It’s fine with me. Whatever happens tomorrow will be fine with me too.”

A 12-man breakaway approached the main climb of the day, the Kolovrat over 10.3 km and with a 9.2 percent gradient, with more than nine minutes on the peloton.

The four survivors only lost a little over a minute on this climb near Caporetto, the site of a historic defeat for the Italians in the First World War.

Neither Carapaz nor Hindley tried to pull ahead in the final climb having made several attempts earlier along with Spaniard Mikel Landa, third in the standings.

The Giro will go down to the wire with Saturday’s stage in the Dolomites now looking crucial to the outcome.

The 20th stage, the last in the mountains, includes three great climbs — the San Pellegrino, the Pordoi for the highest point of this year’s race at 2,239 meters above sea level concluding at the Fedaia, with a spectacular steep climb in the last 5,400 meters.

Sunday’s final stage is a 17.4km individual time-trial into Verona where Ecuadorian Carapaz claimed overall victory three years ago.


World No.1 Scheffler clings to a  share of lead at PGA Colonial 

World No.1 Scheffler clings to a  share of lead at PGA Colonial 
Updated 28 May 2022

World No.1 Scheffler clings to a  share of lead at PGA Colonial 

World No.1 Scheffler clings to a  share of lead at PGA Colonial 
  • After winning his first US PGA title at Phoenix in February, Scheffler won at Bay Hill and captured the WGC Match Play title in March then won his first major title at the Masters in April to overtake Spain’s Jon Rahm as world No. 1 

LOS ANGELES: Top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler fired a 5-under par 65 to keep a share of the lead after Friday’s second round of the US PGA Charles Schwab Challenge.

Scheffler, chasing his fifth victory of the year, stood alongside fellow Americans Beau Hossler and Scott Stallings on 9-under 131 after 36 holes at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

After winning his first US PGA title at Phoenix in February, Scheffler won at Bay Hill and captured the WGC Match Play title in March then won his first major title at the Masters in April to overtake Spain’s Jon Rahm as world No. 1.

“I’ve definitely enjoyed the stuff that comes with winning majors and winning the other tournaments that I have,” Scheffler said. “It has been a lot of fun.”

Scheffler has not made a bogey in the first two rounds.

“I love that stat,” Scheffler said. “I kept the stress off myself for the most part.”

Scheffler missed the cut at last week’s PGA Championship, giving him a much-needed break before a hometown event.

“It has been busy,” he said. “Definitely a good reset. I came home and did nothing on Saturday and had a relaxing practice on Sunday. It was definitely a good little break.”

Hot and windy weather is forecast for the weekend.

“I like it when the conditions are really hard and so I’d rather it be very difficult than very easy,” Scheffler said. “If you’re playing really good golf, you can extend yourself and I’m really excited for the challenge this weekend.”

Scheffler opened with back-to-back birdie putts from about four feet and made a par save from just inside 10 feet at the par-4 seventh.

He began the back nine with a birdie then holed a 24-foot birdie putt at the 12th and a 14-footer for birdie at the 17th to share the lead again after being among eight co-leaders following the first 18 holes.

“I worked really hard just improving my iron play and creating a lot of different shots for myself,” Scheffler said. “This course is a lot about the approaches to the green and it looks like the hard work is paying off out here.”

Stallings fired a 64, the best round so far this week. He closed the front nine with a 20-foot birdie putt at the eighth and holeout from 37 feet at the ninth, then sank a birdie putt from just inside 29 feet at the 18th to share the lead.

“Had some good looks early,” said Stallings. “I felt good on the greens, felt good with my stroke and nice to see them fall in there toward the second half of the round.”

Hossler holed birdie putts at the par-3 eighth from 24 feet and the par-3 13th from 21 feet to highlight his bogey-free 65.

“Played a solid round,” Hossler said. “Nothing too exciting. Hit a lot of greens and just made the round relatively stress free.”

Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, was fourth on 132 with fellow Americans Pat Perez and Chris Kirk sharing fifth on 133.

Justin Thomas, who won his second major title at last week’s PGA Championship, and fellow American Will Zalatoris, who lost at Southern Hills in a playoff, each missed the cut.

Chile’s Mito Pereira, who missed out on the PGA playoff after a 72nd-hole collapse on Sunday, fired a 66 to stand on 136.


Djokovic, Nadal and Alcaraz roll into last 16 at French Open

Djokovic, Nadal and Alcaraz roll into last 16 at French Open
Updated 28 May 2022

Djokovic, Nadal and Alcaraz roll into last 16 at French Open

Djokovic, Nadal and Alcaraz roll into last 16 at French Open
  • The 35-year-old Serb is aiming to become the oldest men’s singles champion in Paris in the Open era as he chases a record-equalling 21st Grand Slam title
  • The Spanish teenage star is the youngest man in the Roland Garros fourth round since Djokovic 16 years ago

PARIS: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal closed in Friday on a blockbuster clash at the French Open as both reached the last 16, while 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz became the youngest man to make the second week in Paris since 2006.

Reigning champion Djokovic and 13-time winner Nadal are on course to meet in the quarterfinals, with the Spaniard seeded outside the top four at Roland Garros for just the second time.

World No. 1 Djokovic strolled to a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene and Nadal eased past Dutch 26th seed Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

“I’m always very motivated when I get on the court, with the desire to produce my best level each time. It’s not always possible to do it, but today it was very good,” said Djokovic.

The 35-year-old Serb is aiming to become the oldest men’s singles champion in Paris in the Open era as he chases a record-equalling 21st Grand Slam title.

Next up for Djokovic, who was also French Open champion in 2016, is a matchup with Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, the 15th seed.

Nadal, the 21-time major champion, improved his record at Roland Garros to 108-3 after seeing off 2021 US Open quarter-finalist Van de Zandschulp.

He has now reached at least the fourth round in 17 of 18 visits to Roland Garros, with the exception of 2016 when he withdrew in the third round with a wrist injury.

“Today has been a very good test and very positive test, because I was able to play my best match of the tournament so far, without any doubt,” said Nadal.

The Spaniard had a break point for 5-0 in the third set, but Van de Zandschulp refused to roll over, winning four of the next five games before Nadal put away his second match point, having saved a break point in between the two.

“You always feel a little bit the nerves to finish the match, so I’m happy to be through in straight sets,” said Nadal, who plays Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime for a place in the last eight.

In a twist to that clash, Toni Nadal, the uncle and former coach of the Spaniard, is now working with Auger-Aliassime.

Alcaraz gained revenge against the only man to beat him on clay this year, defeating US 27th seed Sebastian Korda 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in the evening session.

The Spanish teenage star is the youngest man in the Roland Garros fourth round since Djokovic 16 years ago.

“I’m trying to have fun out there. I just enjoy every single second. I love playing tennis,” said Alcaraz, who saved a match point against countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the previous round.

He has won 20 of 21 matches on clay this season and next faces 21st seed Karen Khachanov. The Russian knocked out Cameron Norrie in four sets as the 10th-seeded Briton became the highest-ranked player to fall.

Alexander Zverev, the third seed and 2021 semifinalist, ended the run of American Brandon Nakashima, winning 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5).

The German Olympic champion, who also saved a match point in round two, next takes on Bernabe Zapata Miralles, the 131st-ranked Spaniard who downed John Isner in five sets.

Amanda Anisimova, the 27th seed and a 2019 semifinalist, advanced to the last 16 as injury-plagued Karolina Muchova retired down 6-7 (7/9), 6-2, 3-0 after falling and twisting her ankle midway through the second set.

Last year’s US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez beat Olympic champion Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich defeated three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber 6-4, 7-6 (7/5).

Coco Gauff, the youngest player left in the French Open, made the last 16 with a straight-sets win over Kaia Kanepi, the oldest woman in the tournament at 36.

Sloane Stephens, runner-up in 2018, ended the run of French teenager Diane Parry in straight sets, while Swiss 23rd seed Jil Teichmann overcame two-time former Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10/5).