New route for Dakar 2023 in Saudi Arabia revealed

New route for Dakar 2023 in Saudi Arabia revealed
Dakar 2023 will be the fourth edition of the rally to be held across the Saudi desert. (BRX)
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Updated 06 June 2022

New route for Dakar 2023 in Saudi Arabia revealed

New route for Dakar 2023 in Saudi Arabia revealed
  • World’s most famous rally will see participants start from Red Sea beaches, finish on Arabian Gulf sands in Dammam
  • The Dakar saw a decisive step forward in its energy transition in 2022, with the creation of the T1-U category and the spectacular entry of Audi’s hybrid 4x4s

RIYADH: A new route itinerary for the fourth edition of the world-famous Dakar rally in Saudi Arabia has been announced.

The first round of the FIA-FIM World Rally-Raid Championship will take place across the Kingdom’s desert terrain from Dec. 31 to Jan. 15, 2023.

The route will take participants from the beaches of the Red Sea to the sands of the Arabian Gulf in Dammam. The crossing of the country will be a complete tour as the 14 stages will first lead the Dakar to the northwestern mountain regions before heading to the deep southeast for a three-day journey through the dunes of the Empty Quarter.

The new start format will accommodate the entire Dakar caravan during the final technical and administrative checks, which will take place mainly at the Castellet circuit in France at the end of November. The structures have been redesigned for the occasion to include entertainment and provide areas for conviviality and interaction. The Sea Camp concept consists of taking over a piece of desert by the sea.

The 2023 Dakar will be characterized by its length, with 14 stages plus a prologue for 15 days of competition. The itinerary includes 70 percent of new special stages and will be the densest rally format in its modern era.

The overwhelming majority of the special stages are close to 450 kilometers. The liaison sectors will be shorter, with the finish lines closer to the bivouacs, which will reduce liaison times. In total, with almost 5,000 kilometers of special stages, the latest edition will feature the longest distance of competition since 2014.

In recent years, Dakar competitors have become familiar with the immense region of Saudi territory designated as the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula. But forays to the marathon bivouac at Shubeyta in 2020 or loops traced from Wadi Ad Dawasir only revealed a minuscule portion of the vast desert. Due to improved route communications with neighboring Oman, a much deeper immersion has been made possible, allowing for a bivouac to be set up in the extreme eastern region of Saudi Arabia. The pilots will also have to cope with the challenge of a marathon stage during the three days in the Empty Quarter.

With 140 vehicles, the second edition of the Dakar Classic was a great success and highlighted the significant differences in potential between the older cars and those from the late 1990s. As a result, an additional speed group, called H0, has been added to define lower average speeds adapted to less-powerful cars.

There will be two new challenges, namely the authentic co-driver challenge for vehicles that enter without modern regularity instruments, and the iconic classic club for original vehicles that participated in the Dakar in the 20th century, thus excluding all replicas. A selection committee will limit the number of entries to a maximum of 150.

The Dakar saw a decisive step forward in its energy transition in 2022 with the creation of the T1-U category and the spectacular entry of Audi’s hybrid 4x4s, winners of four special stages with Spaniard Carlos Sainz, Swede Mattias Ekstrom, and Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel.

New projects are being developed and progress goes on thanks to the use of biofuels and synthetic fuels that drastically reduce the vehicles’ carbon footprint.


Ronaldo eyes World Cup quarters as Morocco dare to dream

Ronaldo eyes World Cup quarters as Morocco dare to dream
Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo warms up ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group H match against South Korea. AFP
Updated 10 sec ago

Ronaldo eyes World Cup quarters as Morocco dare to dream

Ronaldo eyes World Cup quarters as Morocco dare to dream
  • Ronaldo was hogging the headlines at the tournament even before he kicked a ball after launching a tirade against Manchester United and their manager Erik ten Hag

DOHA: Cristiano Ronaldo will aim to fire Portugal past Switzerland and into the World Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday as Morocco bid to derail Spain’s bid for a second global crown.
Just two last-eight slots remain to be filled in Qatar after five-time winners Brazil swatted aside South Korea 4-1 and 2018 finalists Croatia squeezed past Japan via a penalty shoot-out.
Ronaldo was hogging the headlines at the tournament even before he kicked a ball after launching a tirade against Manchester United and their manager Erik ten Hag.
Following an exit by “mutual agreement” he is now seeking a new team, with sources saying he is in talks over a blockbuster deal with Saudi club Al-Nassr.
The 37-year-old superstar forward, who is appearing in what is almost certainly his last World Cup, has been a shadow of his former self in Qatar despite all the hype.
After scoring a penalty in his team’s opening clash against Ghana to become the first player to score at five World Cups, he has huffed and puffed but has failed to find the net again.
Ronaldo’s starting role in the team remains a hot topic among Portugal fans, but coach Fernando Santos said he was not paying attention to the raging debate.
“I do not read this type of material,” he said. “It is not a lack of respect, it is simply that we have three days to train for a game and I am not looking at other kinds of news. We focus on the upcoming match.”
Santos said he expected a close contest against Switzerland. Portugal beat the Swiss 4-0 in the UEFA Nations League in June before losing 1-0 in the reverse fixture.

- African hopes -

Morocco are the sole remaining team from Africa, and the only Arab team left in Qatar.
Coach Walid Regragui has urged his men to believe they can defeat powerhouse Spain as they attempt to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
Morocco would become just the fourth African team to reach the last eight — after Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010 — if they beat the 2010 champions.
“We’ll come out swinging,” said Regragui. “We want to hoist the Moroccan flag way up high. We’re playing first and foremost for us and our country. 
“All Arabs and Africans, we want to make them happy. We want their prayers and we want their support so it can give us that extra ingredient to win. Before it was just the Moroccans that supported us.”
Spain started the tournament with a swagger, smashing seven goals past Costa Rica before a draw with Germany and a defeat against South Korea.
Coach Luis Enrique said he set each of his players the “homework” of practicing 1,000 penalties ahead of the World Cup, saying he is convinced they are not a lottery.
Brazil, with Neymar back in the team after injury, put on a first-half masterclass on Monday against South Korea, rocketing into a 4-0 lead in the 36th minute, including a goal for their talisman from the penalty spot.
Paik Seung-ho pulled one back with a thunderbolt late on but his side were outclassed on a disappointing night for Asian football.
Earlier, Luka Modric’s Croatia did it the hard way against Japan, coming back from a goal down to equalize before winning 3-1 on penalties.
Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was the hero for Croatia, saving three penalties in the shootout.
Seven of Croatia’s past eight knockout games at major tournaments have gone to extra time, the only exception being their defeat in the final by France in Russia four years ago.
Brazil will face Croatia in the quarter-finals on Friday, with the Netherlands taking on Argentina on the same day. England play France on Saturday.


Saudi’s FIFA eWorld Cup 2018 champion Musaed Al-Dossary to attend BLAST Premier World Final in Abu Dhabi

Saudi’s FIFA eWorld Cup 2018 champion Musaed Al-Dossary to attend BLAST Premier World Final in Abu Dhabi
Updated 14 min 59 sec ago

Saudi’s FIFA eWorld Cup 2018 champion Musaed Al-Dossary to attend BLAST Premier World Final in Abu Dhabi

Saudi’s FIFA eWorld Cup 2018 champion Musaed Al-Dossary to attend BLAST Premier World Final in Abu Dhabi
  • The Team Falcons founder joins BanderitaX and a strong lineup of gamers and content creators
  • 8 teams now confirmed for the $1m competition from Dec. 17-18 at Etihad Arena

ABU DHABI: Saudi Arabia’s Musaed Al-Dossary, winner of the FIFA 2018 eWorld Cup, and top creator BanderitaX, will attend the BLAST Premier World Final 2022 in Abu Dhabi alongside a host of top gamers, gaming influencers and content creators from the Middle East region.

Al-Dossary, known as “Msdossary,” is also the founder of Team Falcons, the esports team covering MENA and Europe across a range of games.

BanderitaX has racked up more than 12 million subscribers on YouTube and is one of the most popular content creators in the region. They will be joined by some of the biggest names in the region including “Basharkk,” and Galaxy Racer’s professional Fortnite players “Souriano” and “g1ntl.”

BLAST has also announced its Gaming Zone for the World Final, which takes place on Dec. 17 and 18 at Etihad Arena with a host of activities on offer across different gaming titles. Fans of all ages can participate in a weekend of playing Counter-Strike, FIFA and Fall Guys.

The activities are part of the BLAST Premier World Final that will see the world’s best Counter-Strike teams battle for a slice of the $1 million prize fund in the Etihad Arena. BLAST has partnered with Abu Dhabi Gaming, a gaming and esports initiative, to host the tournament.

Following the conclusion of last week’s BLAST Fall Final, the lineup has been confirmed with OG Esports, Navi, G2 Esports, Heroic, Faze Clan, Outsiders, Team Vitality and Team Liquid set to compete.

The event will be the culmination of the BLAST Premier tournament series which has seen six other editions as part of the 2022 world Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, or CS:GO, calendar.

Another huge attraction for the week will be a local head-to-head between leading regional teams Falcon Esports and Nasr Esports who will be playing in the World Final Show match.

Charlotte Kenny, managing director of BLAST Premier, said: “At BLAST we are always looking at ways to deliver next-level entertainment for fans. As part of this ambition, we are delighted to host some of the most popular and loved esports and gaming personalities from the Middle East at next month’s BLAST Premier World Final in Abu Dhabi.

“Msdossary has quickly become one of the most well-known names in esports in the region, having had a successful FIFA career so far and it’s no different for Fortnite professionals Souriano and g1ntl, along with popular gaming creators BanderitaX and Basharkk. By having them under one roof at the Etihad Arena will also make the World Final even more special, giving a unique opportunity for fans to meet their heroes in person.”


Neymar returns as Brazil brush aside South Korea to reach World Cup quarters

Neymar returns as Brazil brush aside South Korea to reach World Cup quarters
Updated 06 December 2022

Neymar returns as Brazil brush aside South Korea to reach World Cup quarters

Neymar returns as Brazil brush aside South Korea to reach World Cup quarters
  • Vinicius Junior opened the scoring inside seven minutes before Neymar added another from the penalty spot to move to 76 goals for his country
  • Richarlison’s brilliant goal made it 3-0 and Lucas Paqueta added another before half-time to leave South Korea shellshocked

DOHA: Neymar returned from injury to help inspire Brazil to a 4-1 victory over South Korea on Monday as the favorites cruised through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
The world’s most expensive player had sat out his team’s last two matches with a sprained ankle suffered in their first game in Qatar, a 2-0 win over Serbia.
But he came back for this last-16 tie as Tite’s team clicked into gear and delivered an ominous message to their rivals, at least before easing off in the second half.
Vinicius Junior opened the scoring inside seven minutes before Neymar added another from the penalty spot to move to 76 goals for his country, leaving him just one away from equalling Pele’s all-time record tally.
Richarlison’s brilliant goal made it 3-0 and Lucas Paqueta added another before half-time to leave South Korea shellshocked.
Paik Seung-ho pulled one back but by then Brazil were thinking about Friday’s quarter-final clash with 2018 runners-up Croatia.
The five-time World Cup winners had not scored four goals in a knockout game at the tournament since 1998.
Here they played at times with the joy associated with the Brazilian national team, the players coming together to celebrate each goal by showing off their dance moves and their coach even joining in.
If they finished playing within themselves, their first-half display was superb and a fitting tribute to the great Pele.
The Brazilian legend had said he would watch the game from the Sao Paulo hospital to where he was admitted last week amid ongoing treatment for colon cancer, and supporters in Doha’s Stadium 974 unfurled a banner with a get well soon message to him.
All of it was a chastening experience for Son Heung-min and South Korea, who have still never won a World Cup knockout match outside their own country.
Tite made 10 changes to the Brazil team after rotating his squad for the 1-0 loss to Cameroon which came after qualification for the last 16 had been secured.
Danilo also returned from injury at left-back, while Eder Militao was the only player to keep his place and shifted across to right-back.
With Alisson Becker back in goal and Thiago Silva and Marquinhos playing too, this was Brazil’s first-choice defense but their forward quickly put the tie to bed.
The opener came from their first shot on target in the seventh minute as Raphinha burst away from Kim Jin-su on the right and his ball across goal came to the feet of Vinicius who coolly picked his spot.
They then won a penalty as Richarlison was caught by Jung Woo-young and Neymar duly beat Kim Seung-gyu — his last six goals for Brazil have now all come from the spot.
Alisson was then called into action to tip over a vicious long-range effort from Hwang Hee-chan, but Brazil then scored their third in style just before the half-hour mark.
Richarlison juggled the ball on his head three times just outside the area before laying it off to Marquinhos and then continuing into the box to get on the end of Silva’s pass which he slotted home for his third goal at this World Cup.
Paqueta then got their fourth nine minutes before the break with a first-time finish as he connected with a Vinicius ball held up from the byline.
They could have added more in the second half had they not taken their foot off the pedal, although Raphinha was denied on more than one occasion by the goalkeeper.
Korea though deserve credit for keeping going and they were rewarded inside the final quarter-hour as substitute Paik brought down a headed clearance and sent in a ferocious shot from 25 meters that brushed off Silva to beat Alisson.
The Brazil goalkeeper was then taken off for the final 10 minutes to be replaced by Weverton, while Neymar was also withdrawn with Tite’s mind on Croatia.


Croatia beat Japan on penalties to reach World Cup quarter-finals

Croatia beat Japan on penalties to reach World Cup quarter-finals
Updated 05 December 2022

Croatia beat Japan on penalties to reach World Cup quarter-finals

Croatia beat Japan on penalties to reach World Cup quarter-finals
  • Mario Pasalic struck the winning penalty after Dominik Livakovic had saved three of four Japanese penalties as Croatia won the shoot-out 3-1
  • Ivan Perisic had pulled Croatia level in the 55th minute of normal time following Daizen Maeda’s opener for Japan just before the break

DOHA: Croatia reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Monday with a dramatic 3-1 penalty shoot-out win over Japan after a tense last-16 clash ended 1-1.

Mario Pasalic struck the winning penalty to send Croatia through after Dominik Livakovic had saved three of four Japanese penalties.

Ivan Perisic had pulled Croatia level in the 55th minute of normal time following Daizen Maeda’s opener for Japan just before the break.
Croatia now face either Brazil or South Korea in the last eight and continued midfield icon Luka Modric’s stay at his fourth and likely final World Cup.
Japan’s bid to reach the last eight for the first time in their history came to a crushing end after another display of the sort which saw off Spain and Germany on their way to topping Group E.
However they could not claim one more big European scalp in the shape of the 2018 finalists and go home in the second round, as they did four years ago, after having three of their penalties saved.
Japan could easily have been ahead within three minutes when Shogo Taniguchi glanced a header wide from point-blank range, and 10 minutes later Daizen Maeda came close to turning in Junya Ito’s brilliantly placed low ball from the right flank.
In the meantime Perisic had let off a shot from a tight angle which led to a goalmouth scramble, but had Croatia scored they risked the goal being ruled out for what looked like a clear push on Takehiro Tomiyasu.
Bruno Petkovic then wasted a great opportunity in the 25th minute, strolling through almost unopposed onto a long through ball only to dawdle and fail to get a pass off to Andrej Kramaric who was charging into the box.
Kramaric was then too slow to latch on to Perisic’s dangerous flick-on and from there Japan took control, and the lead.
Daichi Kamada had already blasted over after a superb passing move when in the 43rd minute Maeda fired in the opener after Ritsu Doan’s cross was knocked down by Maya Yoshida.
Japan looked the better team and ready to inflict more damage but out of the blue Croatia’s most dangerous player Perisic levelled the scores with a bullet header from Dejan Lovren’s deep cross.
Almost immediately afterwards Wataru Endo responded by having a good strike tipped over the bar by Dominik Livakovic, before Shuichi Gonda pulled off the save of the match to keep out Modric’s beautifully-struck, dripping shot.
Modric was replaced nine minutes into the first half of extra-time in which Japan had the best chance, Kaoru Mitoma’s effort well tipped away by Livakovic.
With penalties drawing close, one final chance fell to Modric’s replacement Lovro Majer, who dragged his shot wide, but his team prevailed in the shoot-out to end the Blue Samurai’s entertaining adventure.


Enrique set Spain players ‘homework’ of 1,000 penalties ahead of World Cup

Enrique set Spain players ‘homework’ of 1,000 penalties ahead of World Cup
Spain's coach Luis Enrique attends a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha. AFP
Updated 05 December 2022

Enrique set Spain players ‘homework’ of 1,000 penalties ahead of World Cup

Enrique set Spain players ‘homework’ of 1,000 penalties ahead of World Cup
  • “Over a year ago, in one of the Spain camps, I told them they had to get here with at least 1,000 penalties taken,” Enrique said on Monday

DOHA: Spain coach Luis Enrique set each of his players the “homework” of practicing 1,000 penalties ahead of the World Cup, saying he is convinced they are not a lottery.
The 2010 world champions face Morocco in the last 16 on Tuesday, with the threat of extra-time and penalties looming in the knockout phase of the tournament in Qatar.
Spain beat Switzerland on penalties at last year’s Euro 2020 but were eliminated on spot-kicks by Italy in the semifinals.
“Over a year ago, in one of the Spain camps, I told them they had to get here with at least 1,000 penalties taken,” Enrique said on Monday.
“I imagine that they have done their homework. If you wait until getting here to practice penalties... (it won’t be enough).
The Spaniard insisted spot kicks were “not a lottery.”
“It’s a moment of maximum tension, a time to show your nerve, and that you can shoot the penalty in the way you have decided, if you have trained it a thousand times,” he said.
“It says a lot about each player. It’s trainable, manageable, how you manage the tension. It’s increasingly less luck — the goalkeepers have more influence.
“We have a very good goalkeeper, any of the three can do very well in this situation. Every time we finish training I see a lot of players taking penalties.”
The Spain coach also responded to criticism over the team’s style of play — their commitment to playing out from defense sometimes puts them under pressure in dangerous areas.
Japan earned a shock 2-1 win over Spain, with their first goal coming after the European team lost the ball on the edge of their box and Ritsu Doan slammed home.
“Every team has their weapons,” said Enrique. “We want to get the ball in the best way possible to the forward,“ 
“If we have to hit a long ball, we’ll hit it. The interpretation has to be done on the pitch.”
He said he did not agree with Spain’s critics.
“It doesn’t make sense to say that against Japan if we hoofed it away to clear our lines we wouldn’t have let in the first goal,” he said.
“We also wouldn’t have scored any goals if we kept kicking it long. We will keep playing the ball out from the back, it’s what we want.”
Enrique confirmed that Cesar Azpilicueta had recovered from his knock against Japan and all 26 players would be fit to train on Monday evening ahead of the game.