Eyes of football world on Doha for World Cup draw

Branding is displayed near the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center in Doha, Qatar, where the soccer World Cup final draw will be held on April 1. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Branding is displayed near the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center in Doha, Qatar, where the soccer World Cup final draw will be held on April 1. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
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Updated 01 April 2022

Eyes of football world on Doha for World Cup draw

Eyes of football world on Doha for World Cup draw
  • FIFA chief predicts a "fantastic and unique World Cup," where 8 stadiums are all within 50 km, fans can watch several games in a day and there is no travel for teams

DOHA: The draw for this year’s World Cup takes place in the shadow of Doha’s skyscrapers on Friday, with the focus for the evening on the actual football after a build-up dominated by the many off-field issues surrounding the awarding of the tournament.
It is the most controversial World Cup in history, with Qatar dogged ever since it was named host in 2010 by accusations of vote-buying — which were hotly denied — and questions over the country’s suitability.
From human rights concerns to the ongoing war in Ukraine, it has been impossible to keep the spotlight solely on the sport, but FIFA president Gianni Infantino has repeated, as he did on Thursday, that it “will be a fantastic and unique World Cup.”




FIFA president Gianni Infantino poses with Al Rihla, the official match ball before a press conference during the 72th FIFA Congress in the Qatari capital Doha, on March 31, 2022. (AFP)

“We never will have another World Cup where eight stadiums are all within 50 kilometers, fans can watch several games in a day and there is no travel for teams,” he insisted ahead of the first World Cup to be played in November and December.
The move away from the usual June and July slot was forced upon FIFA by the heat in the region at that time of year, but the competition is finally approaching and excitement about the draw itself is inevitable.
Friday’s event at Doha’s Exhibition and Convention Center, with former World Cup winners such as Cafu and Lothar Matthaeus among the draw assistants, will have holders France among the top seeds in Pot One.

That will be comprised of the top seven nations in the FIFA rankings as well as debutants Qatar, at 51st one of the lowest-ranked teams at the World Cup but with privileged status as hosts.
World number one nation Brazil, Belgium, Lionel Messi’s Argentina, England, Spain and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal are the other top seeds, with the latter benefiting from European champions Italy’s absence.
That also means Germany, after their surprise group-stage exit at the 2018 World Cup, are the biggest name in Pot Two, which also contains the Netherlands and Croatia, runners-up four years ago.
African champions Senegal, Japan and Robert Lewandowski’s Poland are among the names in the third pot, and Canada will be in the fourth pot in their first appearance since 1986.

Yet while fans of the 29 qualified nations from around the world will eagerly tune in for the draw, three spots have still to be decided in the last 32-team World Cup before it expands to 48 teams in 2026.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is partly to blame. Ukraine’s qualifying play-off semifinal against Scotland was postponed until June as a result, with the winner of that match facing Wales for a place in Qatar.
There are also two intercontinental play-offs to come in Qatar in June, with either Australia or the United Arab Emirates getting to face Peru for one berth and Costa Rica playing New Zealand for the other.
The tiny Gulf state of under three million people stunned the world when it was awarded the hosting rights, and it has been readying itself ever since.
Seven of its eight venues have been newly built, while Doha also opened a new metro system in preparation for welcoming fans from around the world.
Over 800,000 tickets have already been snapped up, and by the time the matches get underway construction should be finished on the promenade on Doha’s Corniche.

However, concerns remain over the treatment of gay and transgender supporters coming to a country where homosexuality is illegal, as well as over the working conditions of hundreds of thousands of migrant laborers in the country, including those who built stadiums.
Thursday’s FIFA Congress in Doha saw Lise Klaveness, head of the Norwegian Football Federation, speak out to say that the 2018 and 2022 World Cups had been awarded “in unacceptable ways with unacceptable consequences.”
“Human rights, equality, democracy, the core interests of football were not in the starting XI until many years later,” she said.
“There is no room for employers who do not secure the freedom and safety of World Cup workers.”
The chief executive of Qatar’s World Cup Supreme Committee, Hassan Al-Thawadi, countered by saying he was disappointed that Klaveness had made no attempt to talk to Qatari authorities before speaking out.
He said the first World Cup in the Middle East would leave “truly transformational social, human, economic and environmental legacies.”

 


Rashford brace gives Man Utd come from behind win in Cyprus

Rashford brace gives Man Utd come from behind win in Cyprus
Updated 06 October 2022

Rashford brace gives Man Utd come from behind win in Cyprus

Rashford brace gives Man Utd come from behind win in Cyprus
  • On a balmy night at Nicosia's 23,000 capacity GSP Stadium, United went a goal down in the first half
  • They fought back for a morale-boosting victory after being demolished 6-3 by cross-town rivals Manchester City

Nicosia — CYP
Nicosia, Oct 6, 2022 Agence France Presse: Manchester United came from behind to snatch a crucial 3-2 away win against Cypriot outfit Omonia in the Europa League on Thursday thanks to a second-half brace by Marcus Rashford.
Anthony Martial also scored while Karim Ansarifard and Nikolas Panagiotou netted for the home side as United claimed a narrow win on their first ever trip to play a Cypriot team.
On a balmy night at Nicosia’s 23,000 capacity GSP Stadium, United went a goal down in the first half but fought back for a morale-boosting victory after being demolished 6-3 by cross-town rivals Manchester City at the weekend.
Erik ten Hag named a strong line-up with Cristiano Ronaldo, starting just his fourth match of the season, leading the attack and Brazilian Casemiro anchoring the midfield, but it was the substitutes who saved the day.
“All the subs had a really good impact,” with (Luke) Shaw and Rashford strengthening the left side,” Dutch coach ten Hag told reporters afterwards.
“We played well, the only thing is we didn’t score a goal. After half-time I think we dealt with the setback.
“It was a bad 10 minutes after we conceded the goal (but) if you then are able to come back... that’s positive.”
United got off to a dominant start, largely controlling the opening period against a side managed by former Celtic boss Neil Lennon.
Antony nearly got the breakthrough in the 28th minute, cutting inside and unleashing a long-range shot that was parried away by Omonia goalkeeper Fabiano.
It looked like United were beginning to turn the screw when they were awarded a free-kick outside Omonia’s area in the 34th minute.
Christian Eriksen fired it in but Omonia managed to scramble it away. The ball fell to Tyrell Malacia who was then robbed by Omonia’s Brazilian forward Bruno.
Three Omonia players broke clear before Bruno tapped it across the face of goal for Iranian striker Ansarifard to tuck it away.


United came out stronger in the second half with Rashford coming on for the anonymous Jadon Sancho and Shaw replacing Malacia.
And it paid immediate dividends, with Bruno Fernandes getting a shot on goal before setting up Rashford to level the scores in the 53rd minute.
Ronaldo, who was left on the bench during the weekend rout by City, cut a frustrated figure up front, but United continued to drive forward, creating more chances as the second half progressed.
Ten minutes after levelling, United went ahead when the newly-introduced Martial tapped in with his second touch of the game, seizing on an assist from Rashford.
The home supporters jeered loudly when referee Joao Pinheiro of Portugal waved away an Omonia claim for handball, a decision confirmed by VAR.
Ronaldo’s woes continued, however, with the Portuguese star hitting the post from within the six-yard box with an open goal, one of a hatful of missed chances by the 37-year-old.
Minutes later Rashford latched onto a pass from Ronaldo to double his tally.
Omonia were not finished, though, Panagiotou getting a goal back in the 87th minute.
United created more chances, with Brazilian midfielder Fred forcing a save from Fabiano in the dying minutes.
Lennon praised his players for putting up a fight but said he saw signs that United were on the up.
“This is a team definitely building... I think they’re going in the right direction,” he said.
“Thankfully Cristiano didn’t have his shooting boots on tonight.”
hc-dv/dj/jc
CELTIC PLC
MANCHESTER UNITED


Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters
Updated 06 October 2022

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters
  • Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman
  • Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn't seriously threaten Djokovic

ASTANA, Kazakhstan: Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.
Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.
“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”
Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s US Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.
Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.


Barcelona predict record revenues, rising profits

Barcelona predict record revenues, rising profits
Updated 06 October 2022

Barcelona predict record revenues, rising profits

Barcelona predict record revenues, rising profits
  • The Catalans said in the year just ended they made a profit of 98 million euros after taxes
  • Barca said they were "back on the road to profit and looking to initiate a new virtuous circle"

BARCELONA, Spain: Barcelona on Thursday forecast profits of 274 million euros (270.7 million dollars) this season and record revenues of 1.255 billion euros.
“It’s a conservative budget,” Barca’s financial vice president Eduard Romeu said, as the club released figures for the 2021/22 financial year and forecasts for the current campaign.
Barcelona said the revenue figure included more than 450 million euros from the sale of long-term television and other rights.
The Catalans said in the year just ended they made a profit of 98 million euros after taxes, with operating income of 1.017 billion euros and expenses of 856 million euros.
That followed two loss-making seasons during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Barca said they were “back on the road to profit and looking to initiate a new virtuous circle.”
The budget for next year predicts expenses of 1.065 billion euros, of which 656 million euros would go on the sporting wage bill.
Romeu said salaries had been cut from 617 euros for the 2020/21 season to 518 million euros last season.
New player signings and a lack of departures have led to expectations of an increase this season.
“We were planning for a more significant reduction in the salary bill,” Romeu said, adding that even so, the club would be happy to take Lionel Messi back.
“Messi is an asset for Barca and has the doors open,” Romeu said.
“It is a matter for the sporting management and if the sporting management want it, we will get to work on that objective.”
In the 2020/21 season Barcelona posted losses of 481 million euros and blamed them for not being able to renew their all-time record scorer’s contract, leading him to sign for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.
Romeu lamented that he had not been able to persuade other high-priced stars to leave.
“There are a number of contracts that have a very high cost and between this season and next season they disappear,” said Romeu, adding that he wants to achieve a balance by the 2024/25 season.
“Five hundred million euros would be the ideal figure for a competitive first-team squad.”
In the summer, the club sold 25 percent of their La Liga television rights to investment firm Sixth Street for the next 25 years, raising more than 500 million euros, and 49 percent of their Barca Studios production company to two companies for a total of around 200 million. Some of that revenue is included in the 2022/23 forecast.
Barca said “without the effect of this extraordinary sale, the club still received 750 million euros in other operating income.”
They highlighted the “sale of metaverses, NFTs and tokens” by Barca Studios and said the new partnerships “will produce an acceleration of the business.”
The budget will be submitted to the club’s annual general assembly of members on October 9.


Newcastle United chairman pens letter of appreciation for fans on anniversary of takeover

Newcastle United chairman pens letter of appreciation for fans on anniversary of takeover
Updated 06 October 2022

Newcastle United chairman pens letter of appreciation for fans on anniversary of takeover

Newcastle United chairman pens letter of appreciation for fans on anniversary of takeover
  • Newcastle, under manager Eddie Howe, have seen an upturn in results in the Premier League since PIF-backed consortium purchased the club

LONDON: The chairman of Newcastle United has written a letter to thank supporters on the first anniversary of the Saudi Public Investment Fund-backed takeover of the club.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan and the PIF-led consortium took over the club from Mike Ashley last October.

Newcastle, under manager Eddie Howe, have seen an upturn in results in the Premier League and the beginnings of serious investment off the pitch.

The letter read: “To all the fans of Newcastle United Football Club, Thank you for your incredible support.

“I am very conscious of the contributions that you all make – on and off the field. Football clubs are driven by their fans and this club’s fans are more passionate and more committed than any others. I have seen for myself on many occasions how Newcastle fans have lifted our team.

“As we mark the first anniversary of our takeover of the club, it seemed appropriate to take the time to say thank you – on behalf of the Newcastle Board.

“The first game after the takeover will live long in my memory. The feeling of pride at holding the black and white scarf as I entered the stadium. The collective roar of 52,000 of you and the unrivalled, electric atmosphere of St. James’ Park on match-day. I will never forget the warmth of your welcome to my fellow board members and me on that October day.

“A year ago, we set out some principles in an open letter that framed our thinking as custodians of the club. We told you that we wanted to build, over time, a consistently successful team. And we told you that we were focused on long-term success.

“There is still a long way to go, but each season is a building block towards our objective – to challenge for trophies both domestically and in Europe. The club we are building is made up of people who understand our long-term vision, and who understand the patience and persistence that it will take to achieve those goals. Those values are reflected in the players that we bring to the club.

“Bringing the women’s team into direct ownership of the club is a part of that plan. Progress won’t always be smooth – but we will always forge ahead. You can rest assured that we are all working very hard to drive the club forward.

“The support of our fans and the Newcastle community is an incredible motivation for us. It will never be taken for granted.”


Lionel Messi says 2022 World Cup in Qatar will ‘surely’ be his last

Lionel Messi says 2022 World Cup in Qatar will ‘surely’ be his last
Updated 06 October 2022

Lionel Messi says 2022 World Cup in Qatar will ‘surely’ be his last

Lionel Messi says 2022 World Cup in Qatar will ‘surely’ be his last
  • Messi, who is due to appear in his fifth World Cup, made his international debut in 2005
  • He admitted he was nervous about the impending tournament in Qatar

BUENOS AIRES: Argentina captain Lionel Messi said Thursday that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will “surely” be the last of his career.
“It’s my last World Cup, surely. I feel good physically, I was able to do a very good pre-season this year, which I couldn’t do last year. It was essential to get to where I am, with a good state of mind and a lot of hope,” the 35-year-old told ESPN Argentina.
Messi, who is due to appear in his fifth World Cup, made his international debut in 2005 and has since won 164 caps for Argentina and is the country’s all-time record scorer with 90 goals.
In the interview, which took place in Paris where Messi plays for Paris Saint-Germain, he admitted he was nervous about the impending tournament in Qatar.
“There is anxiety, nerves about the World Cup,” he said. “We can’t wait for it to start.”
Messi’s international debut as a substitute against Hungary in 2005 lasted just two minutes before he was sent off but he quicky established himself in the national team set-up and traveled to Germany for his first World Cup in 2006.
He went on to play in the 2010 edition in South Africa, 2014 in Brazil, where Argentina reached the final, and 2018 in Russia.
The current side, under the management of Lionel Scaloni has now gone 35 games without defeat and is likely to figure as one of the pre-tournament favorites for the Qatar tournament.
“We have reached a good moment, with a very well-equipped and very strong group, but anything can happen,” said Messi.
“All the games are very difficult. The favorites are not always the ones who end up winning or taking the path that one expected.
“Argentina is always a candidate because of its history and what it means. But we are not the only favorites, there are other teams that are above us.”