No honor guard for Real Madrid as Atletico beat champions

No honor guard for Real Madrid as Atletico beat champions
No honor guard for Real Madrid as Atletico beat champions. (AFP)
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Updated 09 May 2022

No honor guard for Real Madrid as Atletico beat champions

No honor guard for Real Madrid as Atletico beat champions
  • Atletico said ahead of the match that they were  not going to do this to avoid upsetting their fans at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium

MADRID: After keeping a promise that it wouldn’t give Real Madrid an honor guard before the game, Atletico Madrid went on to beat the newly crowned Spanish league champion 1-0 Sunday and moved closer to securing a Champions League spot.

Atletico clinched the victory in the last city derby of the season with a 40th-minute penalty kick converted by Yannick Carrasco.

The win gave fourth-place Atletico a six-point advantage over fifth-place Real Betis, the first team outside the Champions League spots with three rounds to go. Betis lost 2-1 at home to second-place Barcelona on Saturday.

Sevilla stayed one point in front of Atlético after salvaging a stoppage-time 1-1 draw at Villarreal earlier Sunday.

Madrid clinched their record-extending 35th league title last weekend with a 4-0 home win against Espanyol.

Madrid’s fans wanted Atletico to keep a tradition whereby players line up to applaud their opponents as they enter the field before kickoff. But Atletico said ahead of the match that they were not going to do this to avoid upsetting their fans at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

Madrid were coming off their epic victory over Manchester City to advance to the Champions League final.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti rested some of his regular starters, including goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, midfielder Luka Modric, forward Vinícius Júnior and striker Karim Benzema. Modric and Vinícius came on as second-half substitutes.

Rodrygo, who scored twice late to force extra time against Man City on Wednesday, started the game.

Atletico had won only one of its last six games in all competitions — 2-1 against Espanyol in the Spanish league two rounds ago. Since then it had drawn at home against relegation-threatened Granada and lost at Athletic Bilbao.

Sevilla draw late

Jules Koundé scored deep into stoppage time as Sevilla escaped with a draw at Villarreal to stay one point ahead of Atletico and seven points in front of Seville city rival Betis.

Kounde found the net five minutes into stoppage time after getting to a loose ball inside the area in one of the last plays of the game. Sevilla goalkeeper Bono also was in the area trying to score the equalizer.

Villarreal, coming off elimination from the Champions League after a home loss to Liverpool on Tuesday, had opened the scoring with Giovani Lo Celso in the 86th.

It was the second consecutive winless game for Unai Emery’s team, which stayed in seventh place.

“We suffered a lot,” Kounde said. “It was an important goal that gives us a point in a complicated field after we didn’t play well. We know how important it is to stay in the Champions League places. We have to lock that spot as soon as we can.”

Koundé’s goal came in Sevilla’s only second shot on target at the La Ceramica Stadium.

Rayo safe

Rayo Vallecano mathematically secured their position in the first division with a 0-0 draw at Getafe.

Radamel Falcao was a second-half substitute for midtable Rayo, which had returned to the top flight this season after two consecutive years in the second division.

Getafe are not yet out of danger of being demoted for the first time since 2016. They sit in 15th place, five points above the relegation zone.

Espanyol earlier Sunday drew 1-1 with Osasuna at home in a match between teams far from the relegation zone.


Messi stars as Argentina set up World Cup quarter-final date with Netherlands

Messi stars as Argentina set up World Cup quarter-final date with Netherlands
Updated 35 sec ago

Messi stars as Argentina set up World Cup quarter-final date with Netherlands

Messi stars as Argentina set up World Cup quarter-final date with Netherlands

DOHA: Lionel Messi finally scored a goal in the knockout rounds of the World Cup on Saturday as he inspired Argentina to a 2-1 win over Australia that sets up a mouthwatering quarter-final showdown with the Netherlands, who proved too strong for the United States earlier.
The Argentina captain marked his 1,000th career appearance with his 789th goal to open the scoring in the first half at Doha’s Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
It was a classy finish from a player appearing at his fifth World Cup but who had never previously found the net in a knockout tie at the tournament he is looking to win for the first time at the age of 35.
It looked like Argentina were going to run away with the game when Julian Alvarez took advantage of a goalkeeping mistake to double their lead just before the hour mark.
Yet an Australia team who had already defied all expectations in Qatar just in reaching the last 16 went down fighting.
They pulled one back when a Craig Goodwin shot deflected in off Enzo Fernandez for an own goal and only a last-ditch challenge from Lisandro Martinez prevented Aziz Behich, of Dundee United in Scotland, from scoring a remarkable late equalizer.
“It was a really physical game but I am very happy with the victory and that we have taken another little step forward,” Messi told Argentine television.
Argentina were one of the pre-tournament favorites and have since bounced back from losing to Saudi Arabia in their opening game to progress to the last eight.
Australia, meanwhile, go home after failing in their quest to reach the quarter-finals for the first time, but it has been a memorable campaign for Graham Arnold’s Socceroos.
“It’s all about making the nation proud and I’m pretty sure we did that,” Arnold said.
“Everyone said we were the worst Socceroos to ever qualify for the World Cup and the worst Socceroos ever.
“That’s gone now.”
Argentina can now look forward to a last-eight tie next Friday against the Netherlands, a pairing that evokes memories of some classic World Cup contests, including the 1978 final won by the South Americans and a 1998 quarter-final decided by a brilliant Dennis Bergkamp goal.
Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side also started slowly in Qatar but they still topped their group and on Saturday they produced their best performance yet to beat the United States 3-1.
Their victory was set up by a wonderful early opening goal at the Khalifa International Stadium, with Memphis Depay finishing at the end of a 20-pass move.
Daley Blind got their second goal just before half-time and a late strike from Denzel Dumfries sealed a deserved victory after Hajji Wright had pulled one back.
“We always want to improve and, since the start of the tournament, it’s been getting better and better with each game,” Van Gaal said.
For the United States it was a familiar story — they enjoyed plenty of the ball but were hampered by the lack of a cutting edge.
USA coach Gregg Berhalter’s men head home after scoring just three goals in their four matches.
“When you look at the difference of the two teams, there was some offensive finishing quality that Holland had that we were lacking,” said Berhalter.
“We don’t have a Memphis Depay right now, who’s scoring in the Champions League, playing for Barcelona, experienced at scoring at this level.”
The last-16 action continues on Sunday as holders France take on Poland before England meet Africa Cup of Nations winners Senegal.
While Kylian Mbappe and Robert Lewandowski will attract most of the attention when the French and Poland face off, the game will also be significant for France captain Hugo Lloris as he equals Lilian Thuram’s national record of 142 caps.
“It is no small achievement. I am really honored at the figures and very proud, even if it is very much secondary to the fact that we are on the eve of the last 16 of the World Cup,” Lloris said.
England are expected to see off Senegal at Al Bayt Stadium but their manager Gareth Southgate has no intention of underestimating Aliou Cisse’s men.
“They have some excellent individual players who can cause problems, but a good structure as well,” he said.


Fury stops Chisora to retain WBC heavyweight title

Fury stops Chisora to retain WBC heavyweight title
Updated 6 min 3 sec ago

Fury stops Chisora to retain WBC heavyweight title

Fury stops Chisora to retain WBC heavyweight title

Tyson Fury retained his World Boxing Council heavyweight title with a decisive stoppage win over Derek Chisora at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday.
Fury, still unbeaten as a professional, dominated from the start of this all-British contest, and with Chisora's eyes starting to close, referee Victor Loughlin stopped the fight shortly before the end of the tenth round.

— More to follow.


FIFA’s shortsightedness in World Cup expansion could make Qatar 2022 the last ‘classic’ tournament

FIFA’s shortsightedness in World Cup expansion could make Qatar 2022 the last ‘classic’ tournament
Updated 03 December 2022

FIFA’s shortsightedness in World Cup expansion could make Qatar 2022 the last ‘classic’ tournament

FIFA’s shortsightedness in World Cup expansion could make Qatar 2022 the last ‘classic’ tournament
  • As a competitive Qatar 2022 group stage ends, Arab News looks at why expansion in four years’ time might backfire

LONDON: Competitive teams. Fair, hard-fought competition with no chance of blow-out scorelines or one-sided matches. A gripped, captivated global viewership of billions.

It is the “Holy Grail trifecta” for sport governing bodies the world over in their quest for audiences, viewing figures and lucrative sponsporships. And, even with all their arrogance and bravado, especially for the most powerful of the lot — FIFA.

Finally, in the ongoing World Cup in Qatar, as the group stage closes and the high-drama of knockout football gets underway, the FIFA bigwigs might have finally found a winning formula.

But, in true FIFA fashion, in four years’ time the governing body will be throwing the baby out with the bathwater and tinkering, fine-tuning and meddling at the most inopportune moment.

The 1998 tournament in France was the first to feature the now-established 32-team format that fans have grown to know, love and plan their lives around for the quadrennial six-week run of a FIFA World Cup.

Eyebrows were raised back then. Even more so as Spain thumped Bulgaria, Netherlands hammered South Korea and Argentina dismantled Jamaica. Letting in the so-called “also-rans” was watering down the tournament, reducing the quality and cheapening the product, said the naysayers.

“24-team tournaments just work,” they bemoaned. “Look at the quality of the European Championship (at the time an intense, high-drama 16-team battle to be continental champions),” they cried. “The smaller teams will just devalue the competition,” they howled.

But, FIFA stuck to its guns and in the ensuing two decades since has produced three World Cups arguably very near the top of most people’s lists of “favorite World Cups,” especially within the big-spending, sought after millennial generation. Germany’s fiesta of football in 2006 stands out for this writer, in particular.

Of course, the mathematical, logical argument of 32 going into 16 was also a major factor in FIFA’s decision-making. Long gone were the complicated best-third-placed teams equations to work out and unfair criteria of tournaments past. It was now a case of: “Finish in the top 16 spots, you progress.”

And so, 24 years on from France’s shock triumph over Brazil in a home tournament, the benefits are being reaped in the Middle East.

We have seen one of the most memorable group stages of a World Cup in living memory in Qatar. Saudi Arabia beating Argentina, Japan toppling Germany, Morocco looking like world-beaters on their way to topping their group, more Asian teams in the Round of 16 than South American sides for the first time.

The list goes on.

FIFA’s 32-team format this year has gripped the world and, bar an anomalous seven-goal demolition of Costa Rica by Spain proving the exception rather than the rule, fans tuned in to every game truly pondering who might come out on top — even in so-called “David vs. Goliath on paper” clashes.

As the old adage goes, the game is not played on paper.

So, much like the Euros losing some of its magic and allure when UEFA expanded its showpiece tournament to 24 teams in 2016, it is likely that the type of memories-of-a-lifetime made in Doha will fade away when FIFA expands to 48 teams in US, Canada and Mexico’s 2026 tournament.

Adding another 16 teams, some most likely playing in their first World Cup, has the danger of making the tournament too protracted, too long and too complicated.

FIFA’s quest to “spread the game as wide as possible,” giving nations a chance of playing on the biggest stage and delivering millions more people the joy of watching their national heroes taking to a World Cup pitch is a laudable, noble one.

But, with all due respect to any nations competing, would TV audiences or (more importantly for FIFA) wealthy sponsors with deep pockets want to provide financial backing or tune in for a Dominican Republic vs. Hungary match? Take a day off for a Finland vs. Sierra Leone match? Or set the alarm clock for a potential blow-out match between France and Haiti?

FIFA has a difficult task of making the World Cup as egalitarian as possible, while maintaining the captivating, high-drama competition that has already marked out Qatar 2022 for high praise.

Perhaps, rather than throwing more teams into the mix, an overhaul of the whole qualification procedure would work? Or, maybe, addressing the obvious imbalance in favor of UEFA’s European monopoly of qualification berths for each tournament might help?

Whatever the solution for FIFA, having finally hit the nail on the head with a winning product in the World Cup finals itself, as another well-known saying goes … “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”


Brazil soccer legend Pele has respiratory infection, but remains stable

Brazil soccer legend Pele has respiratory infection, but remains stable
Updated 03 December 2022

Brazil soccer legend Pele has respiratory infection, but remains stable

Brazil soccer legend Pele has respiratory infection, but remains stable
  • The medical team diagnosed a respiratory infection, which is being treated with antibiotics
  • The 82-year-old will remain hospitalized for the next few days to continue treatment

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian soccer legend Pele was diagnosed with a respiratory infection but remains in a stable condition, a medical report showed on Friday.
“The medical team diagnosed a respiratory infection, which is being treated with antibiotics. The response has been adequate, and the patient, who remains in a common room, is stable, with general improvement in health status,” said the report from hospital Albert Einstein.
The 82-year-old will remain hospitalized for the next few days to continue treatment, his medical staff added.
Pele was admitted to the hospital in Sao Paulo on Tuesday to reevaluate his treatment for cancer after he had a tumor removed from his colon in September 2021.
On Thursday, the former forward posted a photo on Instagram thanking his supporters for the positive messages he has received.


England bond over cards ahead of Senegal World Cup clash

England bond over cards ahead of Senegal World Cup clash
Updated 03 December 2022

England bond over cards ahead of Senegal World Cup clash

England bond over cards ahead of Senegal World Cup clash
  • Werewolf, a game of roleplay and deduction, has become a popular pastime for the squad between games “
  • It’s about being the best liar,” said midfielder Declan Rice

DOHA: For a nation that has frequently flattered to deceive at soccer’s major tournaments, a card game that relies on the art of deception is strengthening the bond among England’s players ahead of their match against Senegal in the World Cup round of 16.
Werewolf, a game of roleplay and deduction, has become a popular pastime for the squad between games.
“It’s about being the best liar,” said midfielder Declan Rice. “The villagers have got to snuff out the wolves and the wolves have got to lie and tell everyone why they are not a wolf. There is a lot of teamwork, ganging up.”
Whatever England are doing at their base in Qatar, it’s working so far.
They play Senegal on Sunday after topping Group B and tying Spain as leading scorers in the tournament so far with nine goals.
No other team picked up more than the seven points England recorded on their way to the knockout round and they are only one of three still undefeated.
Yet the message from coach Gareth Southgate and captain Harry Kane this week has been about maintaining focus and standards.
Belgium and Germany were high-profile departures from the group stage, while defending champion France, along with Argentina, Spain, Brazil and Portugal have all been on the wrong end of upsets.
And to think England’s 0-0 draw with the United States was considered enough of a shock that it prompted loud jeers from Three Lions fans after that match last week.
“I think it’s always difficult when you see big teams or big players in teams that don’t have the success that you want or don’t live up to the expectation of a nation or where they see themselves,” said defender John Stones. “We don’t ever want to fall into that category. I think that is great motivation for us as a reminder — you never want to take anything for granted or who you are playing against.”
England may be considered a major soccer nation, but their only tournament success came when they hosted and won the World Cup in 1966.
The years since have been pitted with disappointment and underachievement.
There has been an upturn under Southgate, who led the team to the semifinals of the World Cup in Russia in 2018 and to the final of last year’s European Championship, which they lost on penalties to Italy.
The bond he has developed among the players is seen as a key factor in England’s improvement.
Southgate is also meticulous about his planning, from psychological help to deal the pressure of taking penalties to even the most minor details.
At a team meeting this week, players were reminded about leaving their socks out the “right way” for the kitmen to collect after training.
“We get on each other for things like that because we have created those standards,” said Stones. “If you start getting sloppy with the little things, the bigger things start to get sloppy very easily. Any one percent or two percent of things that we can do to get better … obviously those are small things, but they matter to us.”
So there should be no danger of England taking Senegal lightly.
The African Cup of Nations winner finished second in Group A behind the Netherlands. That was despite suffering the pre-tournament disappointment of star striker Sadio Mane being ruled out.
“They’re knockout games now: if you win, you get to stay here; if you lose, you go home,” said Senegal coach Aliou Cissé. “There’s no need to overthink things, every team is at the same level.
“Our squad is experienced today, they’ve gone through a lot together and they know how to prepare for this type of game now, in competitions like this one,” he added.