Rodrygo pays off Real Madrid’s investment after Champions League heroics

Rodrygo pays off Real Madrid’s investment after Champions League heroics
The Brazilian’s goalscoring performance for Madrid’s have been impressive. (File/AFP)
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Updated 10 May 2022

Rodrygo pays off Real Madrid’s investment after Champions League heroics

Rodrygo pays off Real Madrid’s investment after Champions League heroics
  • Longtime bench player giving Carlo Ancelotti, Tite food for thought after meteoric rise

Had there been any doubts before, Rodrygo Silva de Goes has now well and truly paid off every last penny that Real Madrid laid out for his services.

Last week, the the 22-year-old Brazilian was the substitute hero of the astonishing Champions League comeback that saw Carlo Ancelotti’s team knock out favorites Manchester City, scoring twice in stoppage time to take the match into extra time. And then victory, thanks to Karim Benzema’s penalty.

Watching the action unfold, my mind went back to a curious history I have had with Rodrygo — one that shows just how much his career has come on in recent years.

In 2019, Real Madrid offered two players to be interviewed for the Arab fans, but not Rodrigo, then still a newcomer to the Bernabeu.

I immediately proposed to interview him instead, as I was curious to know who this kid was for whom the club had paid €45 million ($47 million).

After last week’s remuntada, it must seem like peanuts.

Rodrygo had been signed from Santos, the Brazilian club which had also sold fellow countrymen Robinho to Real in 2005. The club also sold Neymar to Barcelona in 2013.

Just what was so special about Rodrygo, still relatively unknown globally, for the club to pay that amount?

My persistence paid off and I ended up in interviewing the then 18-year-old Brazilian. I would not be disappointed either.

I was immediately impressed by his humility and his friendliness, but above all, his focus on constantly improving himself and making a success of his adventure at Real Madrid.

In an understated but mature manner, he told me that his routine was simply home to training center and back. He had no time yet to get to know the city of Madrid.

Such humility and patience has paid off three years later, with Rodrygo becoming a fan favorite at Real, where he has just claimed a second La Liga title in three years.

At 21, Rodrygo has shown that he is player for the big occasion, giving Ancelotti a welcome selection headache ahead of the Champions League final against Liverpool. It is a problem that Brazil’s national team coach, Tite, will not mind having either as he prepares his team for the 2022 FIFA World Cup starting this November.

This season, Rodrygo has scored eight goals and provided eight assists in 44 games; three goals and four assists have come in the successful La Liga campaign.

Meanwhile, in the Champions League, he has played 10 matches (six coming from the bench) and scored five goals. He may not have been a starter, but his value as a squad player is rising with every match.

He had served notice from his early days at the club that he enjoys playing in the competition.

In his first ever Champions League appearance for Real Madrid, back in the 2019-20 season, he scored a perfect hat-trick — right foot, left foot and header — against Galatasaray of Turkey.

The Brazilian’s goalscoring performance for Madrid’s have been impressive, scoring six goals in the last six games in the Champions League and La Liga.

Rodrygo has an incredible ability to finish and decide. The game vs. Man City was lost. Rodrygo brought it back to life in two minutes. In addition to the two goals, he made the move that brought them a penalty, a foul by Ruben Dias and the winning goal by Benzema.

Once again I saw that ability to surpass himself — which I had noted in that first interview — in his second goal against Pep Guardiola’s team. Rodrygo, at only 1.74 meters tall, beat Aymeric Laporte (1.91 meters) and Ruben Dias (1.87 meters) to head the ball past the rooted Ederson and take the match into an extra 30 minutes.

Few players have progressed as much as Rodrygo has this season, and acclaim has come from the greatest of Brazil’s legends.

“I knew this time will arrive and I will congratulate you,” said Pele in message to his talented countryman after his double strike against the Premier League champions.

Bigger and better challenges lie ahead.

The night before the game against Manchester City, Rodrygo told his father that he would score a hat-trick. Having managed two goals, he said after the match: “Well, I didn’t score the third, but I will get that one in the final.”

Should he do so, his days of watching from the bench for both club and country may well be over.


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.


FIFA officially advances World Cup start by a day to Nov. 20

FIFA officially advances World Cup start by a day to Nov. 20
Updated 12 August 2022

FIFA officially advances World Cup start by a day to Nov. 20

FIFA officially advances World Cup start by a day to Nov. 20
  • Football’s top officials universally approved the decision, FIFA said in a statement while Qatar said it would give unspecified help to fans affected by the change

DOHA: FIFA on Thursday officially brought forward the opening match of this year’s World Cup by one day to Nov. 20 in a rare change so that hosts Qatar feature in the gala game.

Football’s top officials universally approved the decision, FIFA said in a statement while Qatar said it would give unspecified help to fans affected by the change.

On the old schedule, Qatar against Ecuador was to be the official inauguration match on Nov. 21 but Senegal against Netherlands would be the first match of the day. England against Iran would have been second.

Qatar had also been frustrated as it has invested in a huge opening ceremony show.

“Host country Qatar will now play Ecuador on Sunday 20 November as part of a stand-alone event,” said FIFA.

“The opening match and ceremony of this year’s tournament at Al Bayt Stadium have been brought forward one day following a unanimous decision taken by the bureau of the FIFA Council today.”

The bureau is made up of FIFA leader Gianni Infantino and the six heads of the contintental confederations.

“The change ensures the continuity of a long-standing tradition of marking the start of the World Cup with an opening ceremony on the occasion of the first match featuring either the hosts or the defending champions,” added FIFA.

Under the new plan, the Group A game between Senegal and the Netherlands has been shifted from 1:00pm (1000 GMT) on November 21 to a 7:00pm start. There is no change to England’s opening Group B clash against Iran.

Qatari organizers, who have spent billions of dollars preparing for the event, immediately welcomed FIFA’s gesture.

“Opening the first FIFA World Cup to be held in the Middle East and Arab world is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Qatar,” said the organizing committee in a statement.

“The impact of this decision on fans was assessed by FIFA. We will work together to ensure a smooth tournament for the supporters affected by the change,” they added without giving details.

Some Ecuador fans may have to change flights to arrive in Qatar earlier and football sources said the date switch could force changes to some World Cup contracts.

But many companies linked to the World Cup expressed confidence that disruption would be overcome.

“It is something we will deal with,” said Jaime Byrom, chairman of Match Hospitality, which has a deal with FIFA to organize hospitality packages for World Cup matches and has locked in 450,000 tickets for the tournament.

“It is really not — compared to the other challenges that we could have faced or have faced in the past — a particularly large problem,” Byrom told AFP.

“We have to focus on those customers who are most affected and I guess in this case we will be looking at our Ecuadorian customers who are traveling from overseas, and making sure that they are on time for the match.”

Official countdown clocks for the event were quickly changed. The 100 day countdown to the opening match will now start on Friday, instead of Saturday.

The decision was also announced as Qatar staged the first official match at the Lusail stadium which will host the December 18 World Cup final.

Before more than 10,000 fans, and with players engulfed in air conditioning to ward off stifling summer heat, Al Arabi beat Al Rayyan 2-1 in the Qatar championship.