5 things we learned from Egypt’s 2-1 win over Morocco in Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals

5 things we learned from Egypt’s 2-1 win over Morocco in Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals
Egypt's Mahmoud Hassan Trezeguet, right, scores a goal past Morocco's goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, foreground, during the AFC 2022 quarter-final soccer match between Egypt and Morocco, Jan. 30, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 31 January 2022

5 things we learned from Egypt’s 2-1 win over Morocco in Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals

5 things we learned from Egypt’s 2-1 win over Morocco in Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals
  • Mohamed Salah finally hits the heights with a goal and an assist to put the Pharaohs within two wins of glory

 

Egypt overcame Morocco 2-1 in an incident-filled Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal that went to extra time and now face a last-four clash with hosts Cameroon. Here are five things that Arab News learnt.

1. Salah came alive and made the difference

In the end Mohamed Salah, who had been quiet in the previous games, made the difference with a goal and a top-class assist to help grab the win. It was quite a turnaround.

The sight in the first half of Salah, the team’s best player and one of the best finishers in world football, taking the set pieces was a depressing one. It brought back memories  of Harry Kane taking the corners during England’s doomed Euro 2016 campaign. 

And, then, there was Salah, early in the second half, pouncing on a loose ball inside the six-yard box, and given far too much space, levelling for Egypt. It was a reminder of his poaching qualities.

In extra time, the Liverpool star was released down the right and found himself in a one-on-one situation with Nayef Aguerd — and there was only going to be one winner. Salah skipped into the area, found Trezeguet at the far post, and the Aston Villa man made no mistake.

 

2. Ziyech may be back soon

Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic is a fiery character who does things his way. In truth, the tournament was a disappointment for Morocco. This is a team that had what it takes to go all the way. While they eased through the group stage and came from behind to beat Malawi in the second round, it was not a memorable campaign, and the football was more functional than flowing.

Halilhodzic’s decision to leave out Hakim Ziyech, citing a supposed lack of commitment, was a huge call. As we have said before, the success of the call depended on whether Morocco went all the way, or close to it. But with the Atlas Lions crashing out in a narrow defeat to Egypt, the absence of Ziyech will be seen as huge.

World Cup qualification ends in March, and it may well be that Halilhodzic is shown the door sooner rather than later. If so, we may see Ziyech in his national team’s colors before long. 

 

3. It was the start Egypt did not want but the neutrals did

With Achraf Hakimi in great form, the nerves in the Egyptian defense were obvious when he began to run down the right side. That was evident inside the first few minutes when the Paris Saint-Germain star was brought down by Ayman Ashraf. The referee did not give the penalty initially, but there was little doubt after watching the replay that it was a spot kick.

For the neutral, it was a welcome development, with the theory that an early goal would force Egypt to come out and play more. Yet those who expected an open game were disappointed, at least in the first half. The run from Hakimi was the only moment of genuine class in the early exchange, and neither side able to build momentum or produce any fluidity. Egypt slowly started to get the upper hand, however.

 

4. Egypt deserved the win against a disappointing Morocco

That early goal seemed to suck the energy out of Morocco and, following the penalty, they struggled to create clear chances and became more concerned about protecting what they had rather than trying to go for more.

Being behind changed Egypt and they came out for the start of the second half in a very different mood. The energy and approach were on a higher level as the seven-time champions started troubling the Moroccan defense, who were sitting too deep and asking for trouble. When the equalizer arrived after 53 minutes, it did not come as a surprise. 

Morocco slowly got back into the match, but their performance was summed up by their free kick in the final seconds of extra time. It was on the right side, just outside the penalty area, and the goalkeeper had come up in that familiar act of desperation. Yet instead of launching the ball into the area, there was an inexplicable pass back, a loss of possession and an Egyptian break on an open goal that somehow did not result in a third goal. 

 

5. Despite goalkeeping issues, Egypt have the defense to go all the way

With just two goals conceded in 510 minutes of football, Egypt have the defense to take them to the final and beyond. If Carlos Queiroz knows anything, he knows how to organize a backline.

The potential spanner in the works is a big one, however, as the team is going through goalkeepers at an alarming rate and have a number of other injuries, too.

The usual number one, Mohamed El Shenawy, had to go off in the win over Ivory Coast and replacement Mohamed Abou Gabal, also known as Gabaski, came in and pulled off a great save in the shootout.

Then the number two got injured, though not before he pulled off another great save to push a header on to the bar, and had to go off against Morocco late in the game.

In came the third choice, Mohamed Sobhy, to make his first-ever international appearance. Goalkeepers help win titles and if Sobhy starts on Thursday, Cameroon are going to look forward to testing him.


Djokovic, Swiatek among stars to compete in Dubai’s World Tennis League

Djokovic, Swiatek among stars to compete in Dubai’s World Tennis League
Updated 10 sec ago

Djokovic, Swiatek among stars to compete in Dubai’s World Tennis League

Djokovic, Swiatek among stars to compete in Dubai’s World Tennis League
  • All-new competition will see the world’s best players at inaugural event from Dec. 19-24
  • Lineup includes Nick Kyrgios and Elena Rybakina at the Coca Cola Arena

DUBAI: Some of the world’s top stars, including Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek, are heading to Dubai for the inaugural World Tennis League set to take place at the Coca Cola Arena from Dec. 19 to 24.

The new competition will feature many of the best men and women players in the world, as well as offer a novel format featuring two-set battles across both singles and mixed doubles matches, with a 10-point tie-breaker set to decide the final outcome if needed.

After play each evening, ticket holders for what is being billed as “The Greatest Show on Court” can attend concerts featuring artists including Dutch DJ superstars Tiësto and Armin Van Buuren.

Rajesh Banga, chairman of the competition, said: “The World Tennis League will be an event like no other. It brings a unique and engaging new format to the game of tennis, offering a spectacular mix of sport and entertainment together. We can’t wait to welcome fans from around the globe for this momentous event that hails a new era for tennis.”

Djokovic heads the men’s field with world No. 1 Swiatek leading the women’s entry list.

The Serbian former world No. 1 has 21 Grand Slam titles including nine Australian Opens, two French Opens, seven Wimbledons and three US Opens to his name, in addition to five ATP Tour Finals titles. Swiatek, a WTA fan favorite, comes to Dubai following her Grand Slam victories at the French Open and US Open in 2022.

“This new event is exciting, there’s no doubt about it,” said Djokovic. I absolutely love playing in Dubai, I’ve had a lot of success there over the years and really enjoy the fans. This is something different, and it’s going to be great being a part of it.”

Swiatek added: “I like it most when tennis connects people and when it’s true entertainment. When it’s combined with a great show and music, it’s even better, so that’s the reason why I’m excited to join this year’s World Tennis League. I’m happy that together with other top players we’ll introduce tennis as fun to new audiences. I can’t wait.”

Joining the men’s field are Alexander Zverev, a rising star who reached a ranking of two in the world this year, and the resurgent Nick Kyrgios, one of the most colorful characters on the ATP Tour. For the women’s field, former world No. 1 Simona Halep and current Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina will also join the lineup.

A player lottery will be held on Nov. 1, where the 16-player lineup will be split into four teams of four players each, and a round robin format for matches across the tournament. The top two teams will then face off in a final day of matches to determine the overall winner of the World Tennis League in Dubai.

The organizers have confirmed that additional award-winning international artists will be announced for the post-match concerts over the coming weeks.


UAE’s big-name signings rejuvenate football league

UAE’s big-name signings rejuvenate football league
Updated 18 min 31 sec ago

UAE’s big-name signings rejuvenate football league

UAE’s big-name signings rejuvenate football league
  • Kostas Manolas, Adel Taarabt and Allan latest high-profile players to move from Europe

This has been a week like no other in the ADNOC Pro League.

A flurry of big-name additions has turned an unforeseeably strong transfer window into an utterly astonishing one.

Al-Ain’s early summer capture of Ukraine maestro Andriy Yarmolenko, plus Sharjah’s double swoop for Barcelona alumni Paco Alcacer and Miralem Pjanic, surpassed wildest hopes. Yet, these elite deals were just a starting point.

A bravura weekend witnessed the King’s remarkable business continue with esteemed Olympiacos and Greece center-back Kostas Manolas. He of “Romantada” fame and regular extravagantly priced Premier League links.

This would be swiftly followed by Al-Nasr tying up flamboyant Benfica and Morocco midfielder Adel Taarabt, with Al-Wahda emphatically reacting to the new season’s unbearably slow start by securing Everton’s Brazil warrior Allan. The 31-year-old should line up alongside the previously procured Pizzi, a former Benfica skipper and Portugal midfielder.

There was more to come.

Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club made, arguably, Asia’s leading deal of the market with Jason Denayer, the coveted 27-year-old ex-Lyon center-back, holding genuine pretensions about making Belgium’s World Cup 2022 roster.

Al-Jazira decisively reacted to influential Serbia center-back Milos Kosanovic’s fibula surgery by bringing in Czech Republic and Fenerbahce utility defender Filip Novak.

Such revered names were meant to be a thing of the past in the UAE’s topflight. Memories had faded of a gilded age experienced at the previous decade’s midpoint with Ghana superstar Asamoah Gyan, Brazil striker Grafite and Montenegro hit man Mirko Vucinic.

World Cup winners Fabio Cannavaro, David Trezeguet and Luca Toni preceded this celebrated cohort, but with unsatisfactory returns.

The UAE Pro League had consigned itself to casting envious glances in the direction of the Roshn Saudi League and the Qatar Stars League, as stellar name after stellar name chose to disembark within their borders.

Emirati outfits, increasingly, failed to challenge in the AFC Champions League. Al-Ahli and Al-Ain were defeated in the 2015 and 2016 finals. And from 2018 until Wahda in 2021, none of their contingent made the last eight.

This status quo has been shattered. The question now is how markedly.

Change does not occur in isolation.

The UAE has emerged from the COVID-19 health crisis with a burgeoning economy, further bolstered amid 2022’s surging commodity prices.

Financial services giant Deloitte was consulted five years ago by the governing body, the then-named Pro League Committee, as an understandable drive toward self-sustainability was sought. The UAE Football Association would apply a salary cap for local players in the same period.

These aims remain. Increased resources now, though, are available.

Leadership is also key.

The ADNOC Pro League launched expanded English-language commentary for the 2019-20 season as it attempted to tap into wider communities and markets — a venture advanced by this month’s first live studio for Jazira’s epic 2-1 victory in the Capital Derby against champions Al-Ain. More will follow.

Clubs and organizers have also actively engaged with fans to drive numbers back into stands.

Even promoted Dibba Al-Fujairah now call an enviable AED100-million ($27 million) stadium home, while new boys Al-Bataeh are aggressively sweeping up impressive domestic buys and garnering attention.

Yarmolenko, Manolas, Pjanic and company, actualize the UAE’s “build it and they will come” mentality.

The innate strengths of Saudi Arabia’s and Qatar’s premier competitions are unquestionable. Both leagues, especially the Kingdom’s, recruited extensively this pre-season.

But a familiar face appears poised to re-join them at Asian football’s top table.

Now, a title race to savor in the UAE is the minimum expectation.

Holders Al-Ain’s surprise opening with four points from three matches is a sign of overall strength, not weakness. This is despite landing 2022 Golden Boy nominee Matias Palacios, retaining head coach Serhiy Rebrov and gifting him Yarmolenko’s signature.

The 2020-21 champions Al-Jazira are revitalized by the presence of Romania forward Florin Tanase and electric Morocco winger Achraf Bencharki. Ali Mabkhout, an icon for club and country, has responded with seven goal contributions in 305 minutes.

Sharjah’s spine could hardly be stronger with Manolas, Pjanic and Alcacer. That they possess, potentially, the continent’s outstanding tactician in Cosmin Olaroiu, plus numerous UAE talents, further strengthens last season’s runners-up.

Carlos Carvalhal will, surely, come good at Allan’s Wahda. Leonardo Jardim’s CV speaks for itself at Shabab Al-Ahli and so too Denayer’s and 2017 AFC Player of the Year Omar Khrbin’s.

Dark horses come in the guise of Ittihad Kalba, who welcome Galatasaray loanee Alexandru Cicaldau, and even Bataeh. Former Saudi Arabia boss Juan Antonio Pizzi has made an entertaining start at Al-Wasl, with legendary playmaker Omar Abdulrahman appearing rejuvenated after his fallow spell.

Taarabt has sprinkled stardust into the ranks of Bur Dubai rivals Al-Nasr. First impressions of manager Thorsten Fink are positive.

This glamorous cast has ensured the ADNOC Pro League will put on a show for 2022/23.

Euphoria about enlivening foreign captures was tempered by concurrent international matters.

Tuesday’s 4-0 friendly thrashing by Venezuela followed a 1-0 reversal to Paraguay. Both are within the bottom-three-ranked South American nations by FIFA.

These chastening results evidence how far the UAE game, as a whole, still has to go. No matter the monstrous size of steps being taken.

Defining characteristics of this influx’s lasting legacy cannot be confined to just social media engagements, ticket sales or entertainment value on the pitch, important as these markers are.

Hallowed progression to a second World Cup in 2026 represents real return on investment.

This outlay will be worth every dirham if invaluable lessons learned beside these established stars can transform slender AFC fourth-round qualification defeat for Qatar 2022 into jubilation for Canada, Mexico and the US.


India to host MotoGP for first time in 2023: organizers

India to host MotoGP for first time in 2023: organizers
Updated 30 September 2022

India to host MotoGP for first time in 2023: organizers

India to host MotoGP for first time in 2023: organizers
  • Indian authorities hope the event will boost foreign investment

BURIRAM: India will stage a MotoGP race for the first time in 2023, organizers said on Friday, at the same track that once hosted Formula One.
The race is scheduled to take place at Buddh International Circuit in Uttar Pradesh, to the south of New Delhi.
The track has already played host to Formula One, staging three F1 grands prix between 2011 and 2013.
“We have a lot of fans in India and we’re excited to be able to bring the sport to them,” Carmelo Ezpeleta, chief executive of MotoGP organizers Dorna, said in a statement.
India represents a key market to expand the sport, organizers said, citing a population of 1.4 billion people and more than 200 million motorcycles.
“It’s a matter of great pride for Uttar Pradesh to host such a global event,” Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh chief minister, said.
Indian authorities hope the event will boost foreign investment.


Arsenal, Spurs seek to prove title credentials in north London derby

Arsenal, Spurs seek to prove title credentials in north London derby
Updated 30 September 2022

Arsenal, Spurs seek to prove title credentials in north London derby

Arsenal, Spurs seek to prove title credentials in north London derby
  • While Tottenham’s rise underlines Conte’s managerial acumen, it is arguably Arteta who has done the more impressive work this term
  • Wenger, who led Arsenal to their most recent title in 2004, believes his former team should already be regarded as title contenders

LONDON: Arsenal and Tottenham will be fighting for much more than local bragging rights on Saturday as the north London rivals aim to prove they are serious contenders for the Premier League title.

As top-flight action returns following the international break, Arsenal sit top of the table after an unexpectedly strong start, while unbeaten Tottenham are just one point behind in third place.

With Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United still recovering their equilibrium after turbulent starts to the season, a path has opened up for the north London clubs to gatecrash the title race.

If a title challenger was expected to emerge from either end of the Seven Sisters Road, it was Tottenham who were the more likely candidates after snatching a top-four finish from their bitter rivals and neighbors in dramatic fashion last term.

Arsenal were in pole position to qualify for the Champions League when they moved four points clear of Tottenham with just three games left.

But Mikel Arteta’s side blew their chance as a disastrous 3-0 defeat at Tottenham was followed by a devastating loss against Newcastle, ruining their hopes of returning to the Champions League for the first time since the 2016/17 season.

Buoyed by pipping Arsenal, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy bowed to Antonio Conte’s demands, sanctioning a close-season spending spree that further enhanced the feelgood factor around the club.

With Conte refusing to let his players rest on their laurels, Tottenham have continued to progress in their second season under the demanding Italian.

Conte showed his ruthless side in Tottenham’s last game when he dropped Heung-min Son after his eight-match goalless run and was rewarded with a hat trick from the South Korean after sending him on as a substitute in the 6-2 rout of Leicester.

While Tottenham’s rise underlines Conte’s managerial acumen, it is arguably Arteta who has done the more impressive work this term.

Arsenal’s implosion in the final week of last season could have been a hammer blow to Arteta’s gradual rebuild of a club mired in mediocrity since well before the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign.

The eccentric side to Arteta’s personality was on display during the “All or Nothing” television documentary that captured the Spaniard’s fight to steer the club through troubled waters last season.

But Arteta’s quirks should not obscure the astute way he has infused Arsenal with energy and enthusiasm by promoting a group of talented youngsters, while also shipping out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang following disciplinary problems.

Revitalized by the recent signings of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, as well as the development of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal have enjoyed the benefits of a relatively benign fixture list so far.

Wenger, who led Arsenal to their most recent title in 2004, believes his former team should already be regarded as title contenders.

“I would say they have a good chance because I don’t see any super-dominating team,” Wenger told Sky Sports. “I believe it is a good opportunity to do it this season.”

However, Arsenal’s only match against a top-four rival this season ended in a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United.

Arteta needs a statement victory to show there is substance to the surge that gave Arsenal their best start to a season since 2004, courtesy of a five-game winning run.

History is in Arsenal’s favor, with Tottenham on a run of 11 top-flight visits to the Emirates Stadium without a win since their last success in 2010.

Yet Arsenal, beaten only once in their past 29 home league games against Tottenham, must find a way to subdue long-time nemesis Harry Kane.

Tottenham striker Kane has scored a record 13 goals in 17 north London derby appearances, including two in their most recent meeting in May.

 

FIXTURES:

Saturday (1400 GMT unless stated)

Arsenal vs. Tottenham (1130), Bournemouth vs. Brentford, Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea, Fulham vs. Newcastle, Liverpool vs. Brighton, Southampton vs. Everton, West Ham vs. Wolves (1630)

Sunday

Manchester City vs. Manchester Utd (1300), Leeds vs. Aston Villa (1530)

Monday

Leicester vs. Nottingham Forest (1900)


Lin, Atthaya shine at LPGA Volunteers Classic

Lin, Atthaya shine at LPGA Volunteers Classic
Updated 30 September 2022

Lin, Atthaya shine at LPGA Volunteers Classic

Lin, Atthaya shine at LPGA Volunteers Classic
  • The 26-year-old from Guangzhou, chasing her first win on the US LPGA Tour, vaulted into the lead with a brilliant eagle on the par-5 17th hole that took her to 6 under

LOS ANGELES: China’s Lin Xiyu grabbed a one-shot lead from in-form Thai teenager Atthaya Thitikul in the opening round of the LPGA Tour’s Volunteers of America Classic in Texas on Thursday.

Lin fired a 6-under-par 65 to head the field at The Colony Golf Club, north of Dallas, in a low-scoring first round.

The 26-year-old from Guangzhou, chasing her first win on the US LPGA Tour, vaulted into the lead with a brilliant eagle on the par-5 17th hole that took her to 6 under.

Lin’s round included five birdies, with the lone blemish a bogey on the par-4 fourth.

The 19-year-old Atthaya, meanwhile, coming off her second LPGA Tour victory at the NW Arkansas Championship last weekend, had to settle for a 5-under 66 after a bogey on her final hole of the day.

Teeing off on the back nine, Atthaya surged up the leaderboard with a hat trick of birdies on the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to make the turn at four under.

Two more birdies on the first and eighth holes left her at six under, before a bogey on the ninth dropped her down to a share of second alongside Lizette Salas, who also posted a five-under-par 66.

England’s Charley Hull, Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn, Canada’s Maddie Szeryk and American Lexi Thompson were tied a further shot back on 4 under after shooting 67s.

Thompson had seemed set for share of second place but saw an otherwise flawless round spoiled with a bogey on her final hole.

Three players, including Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn and France’s Celine Boutier were tied in eighth place after shooting 3-under 68s.