Al-Ahly’s heartbreak: 5 things we learned from African champions’ loss to Palmeiras in the semifinal of the FIFA Club World Cup

 Al-Ahly’s heartbreak: 5 things we learned from African champions’ loss to Palmeiras in the semifinal of the FIFA Club World Cup
Palmeiras players celebrate the second goal in the 2-0 win over Al-Ahly in Abu Dhabi. (Basheer Saleh)
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Updated 09 February 2022

Al-Ahly’s heartbreak: 5 things we learned from African champions’ loss to Palmeiras in the semifinal of the FIFA Club World Cup

 Al-Ahly’s heartbreak: 5 things we learned from African champions’ loss to Palmeiras in the semifinal of the FIFA Club World Cup
  • The Egyptian club can have no complaints about the 2-0 defeat in Abu Dhabi to superior Brazilian opponents

There was more Egyptian heartbreak as Al-Ahly met Palmeiras in the semifinal of the FIFA Club World Cup on Tuesday and lost 2-0. Here are five things that Arab News learned from the clash between the champions of Africa and South America.

 
1. Palmeiras were the better team

Taking on the South American champions was always going to be a tough ask, and so it proved. Palmeiras were well-organized and dominant in the opening half hour, pressed Al-Ahly hard and did not allow their opponents any meaningful chances. Six minutes before the break Raphael Veiga gave the Brazilian powerhouse a deserved lead. In the second half, Al-Ahly had more possession but were still unable to create the kind of clear chances necessary, and when Dudu added a second early in the second half then the Africans had a mountain to climb.

There was no coming back from that. There were some positives in that Al-Ahly responded well after conceding the goals and showed plenty of endeavour and spirit but just could not get back into the game. In the end, it fizzled out and Palmeiras ran out deserved winners to go into the final. They also got some measure of revenge for losing to the Egyptians last year.

 
2. A sad 48 hours for Egyptian football

The world watched on Sunday as Egypt lost the African Cup of Nations final against Senegal in a penalty shootout, always a heartbreaking way to exit a tournament. And then less than 48 hours later, Cairo giants Al-Ahly were defeated in another big game on the world stage. Neither national team nor club can have many complaints, but losing two big games in such quick succession must be a bitter pill to swallow.

Spare a thought especially for Ayman Ashraf. The defender quickly came to Abu Dhabi from Cameroon on Monday to join up with his club team and can’t have been in the best of moods after the penalty heartbreak. With nine minutes remaining against the Brazilians he was shown a straight red card for a rash challenge on Rony. It was already going to be hugely difficult for Al-Ahly to get back in the game but at that moment it was all over. It was a silly and dangerous challenge, though Ashraf’s apparent frustration was understandable given the events of this week and it summed up a difficult few days for Egyptian football.

 
3. Mosimane is right about the balance

Al-Ahly boss Pitso Mosimane complained about the format and scheduling of the tournament but these were no sour grapes after defeat; the South African made his feelings clear in the build-up. Why, he asked, did the African champions have to play a second-round game when the South American and European title-holders did not? “Africa will always be compromised when it comes to this,” he said. “We have to play Palmeiras who are rested. We have to play again. Why we have to play Palmeiras in the semifinals; why don’t they also play earlier also? What’s the criteria? Those are the realities that are happening. The scale is not proper (balanced) when it comes to Africa and Europe. But it’s a fact.” He’s right, it is a fact and the tournament suffers because of the preferential treatment that some teams get.

 
4. No complaints about VAR

Had there been no video assistant in Abu Dhabi then the outcome could have been different. With 18 minutes remaining, Palmeiras goalkeeper Weverton spilled a shot to present Mohamed Sherif with a simple tap-in. Suddenly the game was looking very interesting as there was enough time for the Egyptians to get a second and put real pressure on the opposition for the first time.

A quick review, however, showed that the striker was just offside and that was that. Nine minutes later, Ashraf was initially given a yellow card for his wild challenge on Rony but that was changed to a red after a quick look at the footage, meaning that the already slim hopes of a comeback were extinguished. In both cases, the right decision was reached after the review but there is a VAR-free alternative reality where Al-Ahly had 18 minutes to score just one goal with 11 men on the pitch rather than needing to score two with ten.

 
5. There’s still a big game to play

While it would be better to face one of Chelsea or Al-Hilal in the final with a chance to be world champions, a meeting in the third and fourth place play-off is still an attractive fixture. On the one hand, there could be a game to come against the European champions who are packed with global stars, and it is rare for an African team to take on such an opponent in a competitive fixture.

On the other hand, there could be an equally mouth-watering clash against Al-Hilal. It could be argued that Al-Ahly are the biggest Arab club in Africa and the Saudis are the biggest Arab club in Asia and it would be fascinating to see them meet on the international stage. This is the FIFA Club World Cup but could also become an official tournament to decide the club champion of the Arab world. It would have been great to have this in the final, but to have it at all is a rare treat.


Edoardo Mortara wins Marrakesh E-Prix in round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

Edoardo Mortara wins Marrakesh E-Prix in round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship
Updated 19 sec ago

Edoardo Mortara wins Marrakesh E-Prix in round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

Edoardo Mortara wins Marrakesh E-Prix in round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship
  • Antonio Felix da Costa finished in second place, with Mitch Evans third
  • ROKiT Venturi Racing driver Mortara tops podium for the third time this season with victory in Marrakesh, and takes lead in drivers’ championship

MARRAKESH: Edoardo Mortara hit the top of the Drivers’ World Championship with victory in the Marrakesh E-Prix round 10 as the ROKiT Venturi Racing driver fended off pressure from DS TECHEETAH teammates Antonio Felix da Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne throughout.

Da Costa started on pole position and, after falling behind Mortara during the early stages, he clung to the back of the Swiss driver’s car as the race reached its climax. But the Season 6 champion couldn’t make it past the Venturi driver who remained unflustered on the way to the top step and his third win of the season, as well as the standings lead.

“I must admit after Free Practice 2, we had a lot of issues and I was not thinking we could turn this thing around, but I have an incredible team behind me and they managed to do an incredible job already in quali,” said Mortara. “Then during the race, they had a plan, they had a strategy, we executed it and it was perfect.”

“You have the guys putting you under a lot of pressure. I was trying to be intelligent, trying to manage,” he said. “There was a lot to manage today — tires obviously, but also battery temperatures, energy. It was very difficult. I had some issues with the car today, I was a little bit by myself, let’s say, but we did that and I’m extremely happy.”

Mercedes-EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne was top of the Drivers’ World Championship going into the race but a braking glitch in qualifying left him down in 20th on the grid. He recovered to finish eighth but with just four points on the day, Mortara stands tall at the end of Round 10 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

Vergne had found himself in second heading into the closing stages with 2 percent of usable energy available before he slipped back behind da Costa to an eventual fourth position. Fellow title challenger Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) fought from sixth on the grid to the podium with a final lap lunge on Vergne for silverware and a handful of extra, crucial World Championship points.

In the searing 33-degree heat, drivers and engineers elected to jump early for their two mandatory Attack Mode boosts with the school of thought being that it would be more efficient and effective in the long run to ply that extra 30kW through the batteries and powertrain. In the mix was Lucas di Grassi (ROKiT Venturi Racing), who battled to fifth and vital points for the Monegasque team.

Reigning World Champion Nyck de Vries (Mercedes-EQ) clambered to sixth and Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) would have to settle for seventh. Vandoorne did make up an impressive 12 spots to finish eighth in the end after his qualifying disappointment. Sam Bird wound up ninth for Jaguar TCS Racing, and Oliver Rowland — who ran as high as second spot early on — rounded out the points-paying positions in 10th.

All that saw Mortara jump to an 11-point Drivers’ World Championship lead, with Vergne second and Vandoorne now third, having led heading into this Marrakesh E-Prix race weekend. Evans finds himself just 15 points shy of Mortara, with the top four breaking well clear of the chasing pack to set up a four-driver shootout over the final six races.

Next time out is the New York City E-Prix on July 16 to July 17 for rounds 11 and 12 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. The much-anticipated double-header takes place on the streets of the Red Hook district of Brooklyn against the spectacular backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. 

Two more double-headers close out Season 8, with the London E-Prix weekend on July 30 to July 31 before the championship climaxes with a first visit to Korea and the Seoul E-Prix weekend on Aug. 13 to Aug. 14.


Riyadh to host Italian Super Cup between Inter and AC Milan next year

Riyadh to host Italian Super Cup between Inter and AC Milan next year
Updated 2 min 26 sec ago

Riyadh to host Italian Super Cup between Inter and AC Milan next year

Riyadh to host Italian Super Cup between Inter and AC Milan next year
  • The showpiece match between Italy’s league and cup winners was last held in Saudi Arabia in 2019

The Italian Super Cup match between league champions AC Milan and cup winners Inter is set to take place in Riyadh on Jan. 18, 2023, Italy’s national professional league, Serie A, has confirmed.

No stadium has yet been assigned for the return of the showpiece match to Saudi Arabia.

The Italian Super Cup, or Supercoppa Italiana, has often been played abroad and was last hosted outside of Italy in Riyadh in 2019, when Lazio beat Juventus 3-1 at the King Saud University Stadium.

The competition has for the last two years taken place on home soil due to COVID-19 restrictions, with Juventus beating Napoli 2-0 in Reggio Emilia in 2020 and Inter beating Juventus 2-1 last year at Milan’s San Siro Stadium.

 


Saudi Arabia to play France, Poland and Slovenia at 2023 Handball World Championship

Saudi Arabia to play France, Poland and Slovenia at 2023 Handball World Championship
Updated 30 min 9 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to play France, Poland and Slovenia at 2023 Handball World Championship

Saudi Arabia to play France, Poland and Slovenia at 2023 Handball World Championship
  • The Saudi team has faced all three Group B opponents in previous competitions

The draw for the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship on Saturday placed Saudi Arabia’s handball national team in Group B alongside France, Slovenia and co-hosts Poland.

The tournament, organized by Sweden and Poland, will run from Jan. 12 to Jan. 29 in 2023.

The Saudi team has faced all three rivals in previous versions of the competition, having twice taken on Slovenia and Poland, while facing France once.

The first meeting against Slovenia was in 2001, ending in a 35-22 defeat for Saudi Arabia, while the second meeting in 2013 resulted in a 32-22 loss.

In 2003, Saudi Arabia faced France for the first time, in a match that ended in a 33-22 loss for the Green Falcons.

Poland, too, have won both of their encounters with Saudi Arabia — with a result of 28-14 in 2013, and 32-13 in 2015.

This will be the 10th time the Saudi national team has taken part in this competition, with the first of nine previous participations taking place in 1997, and the last in 2019. The team’s highest position was 10th in the 2003 competition played in Portugal.


UAE jiu-jitsu clubs top medals table as AJP Tour Fujiarah International Pro Championship kicks off

UAE jiu-jitsu clubs top medals table as AJP Tour Fujiarah International Pro Championship kicks off
Updated 58 min 14 sec ago

UAE jiu-jitsu clubs top medals table as AJP Tour Fujiarah International Pro Championship kicks off

UAE jiu-jitsu clubs top medals table as AJP Tour Fujiarah International Pro Championship kicks off
  • Commando Group took the top position on day one, with AFNT and Sharjah Self-Defense Sports Club in second and third place

FUJAIRAH: The AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Championship kicked off at Zayed Sports Complex on Saturday with stellar performances from Emirati fighters in the teens, youth, and men’s masters categories.

Commando Group came in first on the opening day of the championship while AFNT and Sharjah Self-Defense Sports Club took second and third places respectively.

About 800 athletes from 50 countries are competing in the championship, which is organized by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation in partnership with AJP. The first day’s competitions were held across seven mats with the top finisher in each category receiving 600 ranking points under the AJP-approved ranking.

The AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Championship is the third event of the AJP Championships, which consists of five legs held in different regions of the country.  The opening day saw the UAE take first place in the country rankings, ahead of Colombia and Brazil.

Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, minister of state for foreign trade, was presented with two commemorative shields at the event by the UAEJJF and the Fujairah Martial Arts Club in appreciation of his support for jiu-jitsu and other martial arts competitions.

“The UAE continues to excel and solidify its position as a home for jiu-jitsu,” Al-Zeyoudi said. “The strongest evidence of our country’s excellence in hosting and managing the largest sporting events and championships is the fantastic performance we saw in the Zayed Sports Complex today and the great response by the public to the competitions.”

Mohammed Salem Al-Dhaheri, on behalf of the board of directors of the federation, extended his thanks to Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Sharqi, crown prince of Fujairah, for his support for jiu-jitsu.

“The biggest assurance for the tournament’s success and achievements was his highness’ support,” he said. “The primary tenet of the nation’s leadership in this sport on a global scale is the support of our wise leadership.”


Ronaldo wants to leave Man United — reports

Ronaldo wants to leave Man United — reports
Updated 03 July 2022

Ronaldo wants to leave Man United — reports

Ronaldo wants to leave Man United — reports
  • United’s international players are due to report for training in the coming days ahead of flying to Thailand on Friday

LONDON: Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave Manchester United this summer if the Premier League club receive an appropriate offer, according to multiple reports on Saturday.
The 37-year-old Portugal forward returned to Old Trafford from Juventus last summer but despite being United’s top scorer last season, and third in the Premier League, the campaign was overall disappointing.
United finished sixth in the Premier League, missing out on Champions League qualification, leaving the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who has a year left on his contract plus an optional year, facing the prospect of playing in the Europa League for the first time.
Manchester United are adamant Ronaldo, who scored 24 goals in all competitions, is not for sale, according to reports, with new manager Erik ten Hag keen to work with him.
Ronaldo won three Premier League titles and the Champions League during six trophy-laden years with United before leaving for Real Madrid in 2009 and Juventus in 2018, collecting more trophies at both clubs.
United’s international players are due to report for training in the coming days ahead of flying to Thailand on Friday for the start of their pre-season tour.