Kaka backs Brazil for World Cup glory, naming Raphinha as star to watch

Kaka backs Brazil for World Cup glory, naming Raphinha as star to watch
Kaka during a five-a-side match with a group of young Arab footballers at the launch of the official FIFA World Cup ball, Al Rihla, in Qatar. (FIFA)
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Updated 01 April 2022

Kaka backs Brazil for World Cup glory, naming Raphinha as star to watch

Kaka backs Brazil for World Cup glory, naming Raphinha as star to watch
  • The former World Cup winner sees France and Germany as his country’s main challengers, while players such Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi also hope to inspire their teams

Five years after retiring from football, Kaka’s timing remains as immaculate as ever.

Just hours before Brazil were confirmed as the new No.1 team in FIFA’s World Rankings, he told Arab News he expects his countrymen will head to Qatar 2022 as favorites to win a record-extending sixth World Cup.

Speaking at the unveiling of the official FIFA World Cup match ball, Al-Rihla, at an event in Qatar Kaka said: “We just finished the qualifying [round], topping the table. It’s been a very good job with Tite, the coach who’s been there since the last World Cup, with a lot of young players coming out and growing at the right moment. This is why in my opinion Brazil will be one of the favorites.”

Sticking with the same coach after the 2018 World Cup and eschewing the cycle of firing and hiring that so often follows every failed tournament has been pivotal in allowing the team to develop over the past few years, Kaka says. Following elimination by Belgium at the quarter-final stage in Russia, Brazil’s 60-year-old coach promptly delivered the 2019 Copa America on home soil.

“Tite is very good with tactics, he understands the players, the way to play,” he said. “And he gave this team an identity. So we can see Brazil playing very well. Another good thing that just happened in the last few games was that Brazil played very well without Neymar. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need him. We do need him. But I think when we take away all this responsibility from him, we also give him more opportunity to shine. So this is why Brazil can make the difference in the World Cup.”

Brazil will not have it their own way, and Kaka, who has a 2002 World Cup medal to his name, sees France, the reigning world champions, and other powers as their biggest rivals when the tournament kicks off on Nov. 21.

“France will be one of the favourites. Germany, too, they have a very, very good team. Of course, when you talk about Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal will be always a very strong national team and tough to play. Argentina, with Messi, as well, and Belgium.

“And Spain is doing very, very well. In my opinion, it will be those teams. And of course in every World Cup we see one surprise. So let’s see who’s going be the surprise in this one.”

For Kaka, Neymar remains Brazil’s obvious talisman, and he sees Aston Villa’s rejuvenated Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, Newcastle’s Bruno Guimaraes and Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr playing major roles.

One player who has caught his eye above all others is Leeds United’s gifted winger Raphinha, increasingly one of the team’s most outstanding players and first choice for Tite.

The 39-year-old is impressed by the young players emerging in the world.

“Pedri is an amazing player. Really good, really good, one of the best” said Kaka. “This is a new generation with [Kylian] Mbappe, [Erling] Haaland, Pedri. In Brazil we now have Raphinha. It’s a new generation, new players coming out and they are playing very, very well.”

During the launch event of Al-Rihla, Kaka took part in a 20-minute five-a-side match that included Spanish World Cup winner and former Real Madrid colleague Iker Casillas, and aspiring female and male footballers from Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

With the focus of the world turning to the Middle East as the World Cup approaches, Kaka says this is the time to encourage growth at a grass roots level and develop new talent across the region. “They are trying to take advantage of the World Cup to invest a little bit more in football and youth, and to develop players.”

“This is something that I would like to see after the World Cup here in the Middle East,” he said. “Especially because it could be one of the ways to develop not just players, but also people, because I think the values that football can bring for the people are really important.”

Kaka said that the Arab world already has one particular football icon and that more will hopefully follow in his footsteps.

“We are seeing, of course, a lot of good players,” he said. “[Mohamed] Salah is an amazing player, of course, and one of the best. It’s something that’s happening here in the region that can give us hope that a lot of good players can come out from here.”


Saudi weightlifter Mansour Al-Saleem wins gold and two silvers at Islamic Solidarity Games

Saudi weightlifter Mansour Al-Saleem wins gold and two silvers at Islamic Solidarity Games
Updated 12 August 2022

Saudi weightlifter Mansour Al-Saleem wins gold and two silvers at Islamic Solidarity Games

Saudi weightlifter Mansour Al-Saleem wins gold and two silvers at Islamic Solidarity Games
  • Thursday also saw a bronze medal for the Kingdom in the men’s table tennis team competition and another for Ali Al-Mabrouk in taekwondo

Vice President of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee Prince Fahd bin Jalawi on Thursday presented Saudi weightlifter Mansour Al- Saleem with a gold and two silver medals in the 55 kg competition at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Konya, Turkey.

Al-Saleem had claimed his medals by winning the snatch category with a lift of 115 kg, taking second in the clean and jerk with 137 kg, and finishing in overall second position with a total of 252 points.

In the men’s table tennis team competition, Saudi’s Ali Al-Khadrawi, Abdulaziz Bushulaibi, Khaled Al-Sharif and Turki Al-Mutairi took the silver after losing 3-0 to Iran in the final.

The quartet had earlier in the tournament defeated both Kyrgyzstan and Lebanon by a score of 3-0, before overcoming Azerbaijan and Yemen in the quarter-finals and semifinals respectively, also in straight sets.

In taekwondo, Ali Al-Mabrouk took the bronze medal in the under 80 kg competition after losing 8-7 in the semifinals to Turkey’s Huseyin Tarkal.

By close of play on Thursday night, the Saudi medal tally stood at 12 (one gold, seven silver and four bronze).

Meanwhile, the Saudi sprints quartet of Abdullah Abkar, Mohammed Daoud, Ahmed Al-Marwani and Fahad Al-Subaie qualified for the final of the 4x100m relay after finishing third in the semifinals with a time of 40.12s.


Razzetti claims European 400m medley gold, Hosszu wins 97th medal

Razzetti claims European 400m medley gold, Hosszu wins 97th medal
Updated 12 August 2022

Razzetti claims European 400m medley gold, Hosszu wins 97th medal

Razzetti claims European 400m medley gold, Hosszu wins 97th medal
  • In the medley, the 23-year-old Razzetti made the most of the absence of world champion Leon Marchand, winning in 4 min 10.60 sec, more than six seconds outside the European record set by French swimmer Marchand in winning the world title
  • Hungarian 33-year-old Katinka Hosszu claimed the 97th medal of her career as her team finished third, behind winners Netherlands and runners-up Great Britain, in the women’s 4x200m relay final

ROME: Alberto Razzetti won the men’s 400m medley as the hosts claimed two medals on Thursday in the opening final of the European swimming championships in Rome.

“Winning here in Rome, in this pool and in front of our public, is something incredible,” said Razzetti after his victory in the historic Foro Italico pool.

“To hear the screams of the public when you hit the wall first is something I will never forget. It’s really very emotional. I hope this is a good omen for the whole Italian team.”

Hungarian 33-year-old Katinka Hosszu then claimed the 97th medal of her career as her team finished third, behind winners Netherlands and runners-up Great Britain, in the women’s 4x200m relay final.

In the men’s 800m relay, Hungary claimed gold, their third medal of the evening, anchored by Kristof Milak, the double butterfly champion at the World Championships in June. France were second and Italy third.

In the medley, the 23-year-old Razzetti made the most of the absence of world champion Leon Marchand, winning in 4 min 10.60 sec, more than six seconds outside the European record set by French swimmer Marchand in winning the world title.

Razzetti beat Hungarian David Verraszto (4:12.58) and another Italian, Pier Andrea Matteazzi (4:13.29).

“Two medals here at home is very emotional. It’s a great feeling to be here, and it’s an extra motivation for the whole team in the days to come,” Matteazzi told AFP.

“We started well, we are really happy. We are a nice group, we are a strong team, we have seen in the last few years that Italy has done really good things. I hope and I’m sure we’ll all do good things.”

The evening’s semifinals suggested the Italian team, the top European nation in the World Championship medal table will quickly give Razzetti and Matteazzi their wish.

World champion Nicolo Martinenghi was the fastest qualifier in the men’s 100m breaststroke, comfortably quicker than Arno Kamminga of the Netherlands, the runner-up in Budapest.

In the women’s 200m backstroke, two-time defending champion Margherita Panziera was more than a second-and-a-half faster than Eszter Szabo-Feltothy of Hungary.

Nyls Korstanje of the Netherlands was fastest in the 50m butterfly semis. Italian Thomas Ceccon, who won the 100m backstroke at the world championships, was third.

Britain’s Ben Proud, who has had a busy schedule in a crowded summer, scratched. He won two golds, one in this event, representing England at the recent Commonwealth Games, and took the 50m freestyle gold in Budapest.

Frenchwoman Charlotte Bonnet was quickest in women’s 100m free followed by Marrit Steenbergen, who then anchored the victorious Dutch relay team.

On Friday, David Popovici, the Romanian 17-year-old freestyle specialist, will make his first appearance of the championships in the 100m freestyle heats.

In Budapest, he became the first man in almost 50 years to complete the 100-200m double at the World Championships


Late eagle lifts Kim to share of FedEx St. Jude Championship lead

Late eagle lifts Kim to share of FedEx  St. Jude Championship lead
Updated 12 August 2022

Late eagle lifts Kim to share of FedEx St. Jude Championship lead

Late eagle lifts Kim to share of FedEx  St. Jude Championship lead
  • Kim and Spaun both posted 8-under par 62 to open the tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, the three-tournament series that culminates with the Tour Championship where an $18 million winner’s prize will be on offer

WASHINGTON: South Korean Siwoo Kim holed out for eagle from the fairway at the 18th hole on Thursday to grab a share of the first-round lead alongside J.J. Spaun at the PGA Tour St. Jude Championship.

Kim and Spaun both posted 8-under par 62 to open the tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, the three-tournament series that culminates with the Tour Championship where an $18 million winner’s prize will be on offer.

Kim hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation at TPC Southwind on Thursday, but his most spectacular hole didn’t involve a putt.

He was on the right side of the fairway at the 453-yard 18th, where his eight-iron from 171 yards out found the hole.

“It was a perfect shot,” said Kim, who said he was just trying to get the ball to 10 feet, left of the pin.

Kim followed his birdies at the second and third with a three-putt bogey at the fourth.

Feeling uncomfortable on the greens, he said he changed his putting grip and then rolled in a 21-foot birdie from the fringe at the 10th before making four birdies in a row at the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th.

That run featured a 23-foot birdie at the 14th.

Spaun’s day also included a run of four straight birdies, from the ninth through the 12th. He started with a 14-foot birdie at the first and a four-footer at the second, rolled in a 17-footer at the ninth and added two more birdies at 16 and 18.

“I’m hot, figuratively and literally, I guess,” Spaun quipped after his round in the steamy Tennessee weather.

“I think I putted really well and I drove it really well. I guess I hit 15 out of 18 greens. So that’s a pretty good combo.

“When you’re hitting a lot of greens and putting well and hitting fairways, it’s hard to complain about how I played today.”

Spaun won his first US PGA Tour title at the Texas Open in April, a victory that put him into his first Masters the following week.

If he can make it to the 30-player Tour Championship, he’ll likely secure a berth for next year’s Masters with a lot more time to prepare.

“That’s the place to be, and hopefully (if I) keep playing well this week and the next couple weeks, I’ll be there,” he said.

This week’s field features 125 players, but only the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings will advance to next week’s BMW Championship in Delaware.

Only 30 qualify for the Tour Championship at Eastlake in Atlanta, Georgia.

Kim and Spaun held a one-shot lead over American Sahith Theegala, who had seven birdies in his seven-under 63.

It was a further stroke back to Tony Finau, J.T. Poston, South Korean Lee Kyoung-hoon and Austrian Sepp Straka.

Finau is the designated defending champion thanks to his victory at last year’s Northern Trust in New Jersey, which was replaced this season as the first playoff event.

Mexican Abraham Ancer won the WGC St. Jude Invitational in Memphis last year but is banned from the PGA Tour after jumping to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series in June.

A host of big names had plenty of work to do after the opening round.

Reigning FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay and British Open champion Cameron Smith were in a group on three-under 67.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy — denied by Smith at St. Andrews last month — carded an even-par 70, while top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler posted a one-over par 71.


Kyrgios hammers de Minaur for Montreal Masters quarter-final spot

Kyrgios hammers de Minaur for Montreal Masters quarter-final spot
Updated 12 August 2022

Kyrgios hammers de Minaur for Montreal Masters quarter-final spot

Kyrgios hammers de Minaur for Montreal Masters quarter-final spot
  • The Wimbledon runner-up dominated in the all-Aussie match, winning the opening set at a clip of three minutes per game in a contest which took just 64 minutes

MONTREAL: Nick Kyrgios crushed fellow Australian Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the ATP Montreal Masters.

Kyrgios carried on constant backchat with his player box, giving almost a running commentary of his state of mind on court in a display that seems second nature to him.

Nevertheless, the Wimbledon runner-up dominated in the all-Aussie match, winning the opening set at a clip of three minutes per game in a contest which took just 64 minutes.

The second-set pace was just as torrid, with Kyrgios breaking in the opening game.

He failed to serve out the win leading 5-2, missing on a drop shot and sending a forehand into the net.

But de Minaur lost the next game to love as Kyrgios prevailed in front of a packed-out stadium.

The winner of last week’s Washington 500 series title suffered his only recent loss to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final. Victory means he’ll be in the top 30 next week, meaning a seeding at the US Open which starts on Aug. 29.

“That was my goal, so I didn’t have to play one of the (tennis) gods in the first round,” Kyrgios said.

“Today was a tough one. there was a lot on the line. I’m happy with the performance today.

“After beating (world number one Daniil) Medvedev yesterday, my confidence is incredibly high.

“It’s never easy to play a friend, but against Alex I went out and got the job done, I played how I had to play,” said Kyrgios who next faces eighth-seeded Hubert Hurkacz, a 6-7 (6/8), 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) winner over Albert Ramos.

Kyrgios has now won 15 of his last 16 singles matches, “The days are blending into each other,” he said. “It’s tiring but that’s the sport.”

He added: “I’m missing home a lot but there are only a few more tournaments until I can go home and see my family.”

Casper Ruud kept his title hopes alive as he dueled for more than three hours to overcome Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.

The Norwegian, who at fourth is the highest seed still standing, said he regrouped during a 69-minute interruption as thunderstorms passed over the area after two sets had been completed.

He said time in the locker room was the perfect antidote for a game which had gone slightly stale as he battled the Spaniard.

“Thanks to the weather gods,” he said. “It was a tough battle, the first two sets, two hours 20 minutes of good intensity.

“But I was feeling it a bit in the legs, it was tough to find my intensity. The rain gave me time to breathe and regain some energy.”

Ruud wrapped up a long afternoon on his fourth match point, ending with 54 winners and 39 unforced errors.

“I’m still surviving, there will be another match tomorrow and I’ll try to survive it,” added the seventh-ranked Ruud, who is the top target remaining after the second-round exits of Medvedev, Carlos Alcaraz and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The Norwegian owns three titles this season with a match record of 37-13. He reached the Miami final in April but lost to Alcaraz.

He’ll play Canadian sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who dispatched Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-4.

Unseeded briton Jack Draper advanced, moving through when French veteran Gael Monfils retired with an injury while trailing 6-2, 0-2.


Swiatek ambushed by Brazil’s Haddad Maia in stunning upset at Toronto Masters

Swiatek ambushed by Brazil’s Haddad Maia in stunning upset at Toronto Masters
Updated 12 August 2022

Swiatek ambushed by Brazil’s Haddad Maia in stunning upset at Toronto Masters

Swiatek ambushed by Brazil’s Haddad Maia in stunning upset at Toronto Masters
  • Haddad Maia put Swiatek on the defensive, forcing her to save 15 of 19 break points while committing nine double-faults

TORONTO: Brazilian outsider Beatriz Haddad Maia toppled world No. 1 Iga Swiatek 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the WTA Toronto Masters.

The South American ranked 24th in the world beat her third top-10 opponent this season, but notched her first career win over a world No. 1 as she clawed out the victory in three hours.

Haddad Maia, who won titles at Nottingham and Birmingham in June, became the first Brazilian to reach the quarters at a WTA 1000 tournament.

She was the first from her country to face a No. 1 since Telian Pereira lost to Serena Williams at Roland Garros in 2016.

Swiatek, whose six titles this season include the French Open, missed her chance at a 50th match win this year.

Her run of 23 straight wins at the Masters 1000 level was snapped in difficult playing conditions.

“At the beginning I struggled to find my rhythm, probably because she’s lefty and I had a hard time adjusting to her serve,” Swiatek said.

“Without the wind I would manage. But it was pretty crazy out there.

“In the third set I knew (the mistakes) I’d made. So I know what I want to work on and what I want to improve before the next tournament, for sure.”

Swiatek added: “She just used the conditions better than me. When she was playing with the wind she was playing really strong balls.

“I made more mistakes than her. She was a little bit more solid.”

Haddad Maia put Swiatek on the defensive, forcing her to save 15 of 19 break points while committing nine double-faults.

She limited her own unforced errors to a dozen, backed up by 23 winners while Swiatek ended with 33 winners and 28 unforced errors.

“I’m happy and proud of myself and my team, it’s a special moment,” she said. “It’s not always easy to beat the number one on a huge stage and against all the crowd.

“I think I passed through very tough moments in my career to live this moment. I just want to enjoy a little bit.

“I don’t want to think about my next match. But, yeah, I feel happy. I believe in myself.

In other third-round action, Coco Gauff survived 15 double-faults to squeeze out a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4) win over Aryna Sabalenka.

The American teenager contributed just under half of the miscues in the error-strewn affair, with her opponent accounting for 18 additional doubles.

Tenth seed Gauff, who fell to Swiatek at Roland Garros in her first Grand Slam final this year, battled for three and a quarter hours against sixth-seeded Sabalenka.

Gauff finished with nine aces and saved 10 of 14 break points that she faced.

“The conditions weren’t easy today, a lot of wind,” Gauff said. “I think I hung in there mentally and that’s what I’m most proud of.”

Victory for the 18-year-old came a day after she beat Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the third round in a match that took two and three-quarter hours.

The American admitted that trailing 3-0 in the final set, she had to give herself a serious talking-to.

“I said if I was going to lose, I’m not going to lose like this. I had to change, and that’s what I did.”

“She is frustrating to play. She plays big tennis — sometimes you hit a good shot and she hits a winner.”

Gauff will face off on Friday against two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep after the former No. 1 from Romania defeated Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann 6-2, 7-5 in 91 minutes.

Seventh-seeded American Jessica Pegula advanced, beating defending champion Camila Giorgi of Italy 3-6, 6-0, 7-5.

Pegula will face Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva, who beat Alison Riske 6-3, 7-5.