France advance to Women’s Euros quarterfinals by beating Belgium

France advance to Women’s Euros quarterfinals by beating Belgium
France’s Kadidiatou Diani after scoring the opening goal during the Women Euro 2022 Group D soccer match between France and Belgium, at the New York Stadium, Rotherham, England, on Thursday. (AP)
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Updated 15 July 2022

France advance to Women’s Euros quarterfinals by beating Belgium

France advance to Women’s Euros quarterfinals by beating Belgium
  • France clinched the top spot in Group D with a game to spare after back-to-back victories

ROTHERHAM, England: Griedge Mbock Bathy headed France into the quarterfinals at the Women’s European Championship in a 2-1 victory over Belgium on Thursday.

Janice Cayman had brought Belgium back into the game by canceling out Kadidiatou Diani’s early headed goal before Mbock Bathy nodded into the net in the 41st minute.

France clinched the top spot in Group D with a game to spare after back-to-back victories. The second quarterfinal qualification place is still up for grabs between the other three teams with Iceland on two points in second place after drawing 1-1 with Italy, who are on one point with Belgium.

The group concludes on Monday with Italy playing Belgium and Iceland facing France.

In the northern English city of Rotherham, France found it far tenser than the 5-1 rout of Italy in their opener despite scoring in the 6th minute. Sakina Karchaoui made a surging run down the left and her cross was headed in by Diani.

Karchaoui was proving to be a menace down the left and once again floated a ball into Diani but this time her header was turned onto the post by goalkeeper Nicky Evrard from point-blank range.

Belgium leveled against the run of play when Cayman poked past the onrushing goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin but France restored their lead when Mbock Bathy met Clara Mateo’s cross.

France remained in control in the second half and Belgium had Evrard to thank for avoiding a heavier defeat when she made a fine save to deny Ouleymata Sarr.

Belgium were reduced to 10 players in the 89th when Amber Tysiak received a second booking for handling. But Evrard once again denied France as she got down low to save the resulting penalty from Wendie Renard.

In Manchester, Iceland took the lead through Karolina Lea Vilhjalmsdottir inside three minutes with the first chance of the game. Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir’s long throw caused panic in the Italy penalty area and Vilhjalmsdottir unleashed a shot that flew inside the post.

The match turned on two chances within a minute just after the hour mark. Alexandra Johannsdottir had a golden chance to grab a second for Iceland but she could only poke her close-range shot wide.

Italy then went down the other end and skillful play from Barbara Bonansea on the left flank ended with her picking out Valentina Bergamaschi in the center of the box to apply the finish for the winner in the 62nd minute.

Bonansea almost found the winner but goalkeeper Sandra Siguroardottir tipped the ball onto the inside of the post.

Colleagues DeChambeau and Lahiri embracing LIV Golf’s debut in Asia

Colleagues DeChambeau and Lahiri embracing LIV Golf’s debut in Asia
Updated 8 sec ago

Colleagues DeChambeau and Lahiri embracing LIV Golf’s debut in Asia

Colleagues DeChambeau and Lahiri embracing LIV Golf’s debut in Asia
  • LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok takes place Oct. 7-9 at all-new Stonehill
  • A new 14-tournament LIV Golf League will launch in 2023 with 48 players, 12 franchises

BANGKOK: LIV Golf makes its eagerly awaited Asian debut in Thailand next week, and Crushers GC captain Bryson DeChambeau and teammate Anirban Lahiri have spoken of their excitement in bringing the fresh format to a new audience.

Forty-eight of the world’s best golfers, including 12 major champions and four former world No. 1s, are set to tee off at the all-new Stonehill, the first stop in Asia this season ahead of a trip to Saudi Arabia for the LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah, the seventh of eight events this year.

The LIV Golf Invitational Bangkok takes place Oct. 7-9.

“The game of golf is global, that is first and foremost,” said 2020 US Open Champion and Crushers GC Captain Bryson DeChambeau. “As I have traveled to Dubai, and won overseas, and played in the UK and did well — even as an amateur at college, I played the World Amateur Championship in Japan, I played the Australian Masters and Australian Open as an amateur. And playing those events, you realize that golf is not just this small little thing in the States. You realize it is a global game.”

This summer, LIV Golf announced that the LIV Golf League will officially launch in 2023 with 48 players and 12 established team franchises competing in a 14-tournament schedule. The full slate of events, to be announced in the future, is expected to expand LIV Golf’s global footprint across North and Latin America, Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe.

LIV Golf has also made a $300 million, 10-year investment in the Asian region through the creation of The International Series — a program of events with larger prize purses on the Asian Tour in venues such as Thailand, Singapore, Korea, Egypt and Morocco, as well as England so far this season.

The Crushers GC roster has featured a broad range of international stars such as England’s Paul Casey and Richard Bland, India’s Anirban Lahiri, South African stars Shaun Norris and Justin Harding, and Australian Travis Smyth.

DeChambeau believes that this approach will appeal to more markets and improve the game.

“I looked at this opportunity. I got Anirban on the team and Paul Casey on the team, and it is great to have international players on the team so we can grow internationally and that’s my goal,” said DeChambeau. “So many people don’t know this great game and having created amazing relationships, I want to provide that opportunity moving forward and that’s what I think team Crushers and LIV Golf can do, and that is what we are trying to accomplish and expand, and grow this opportunity to the max.”

Lahiri, a star in his native India, finished second in his LIV Golf debut in Boston following a dramatic three-way playoff with Chile’s Joaquin Niemann and the eventual victor, Johnson. He spoke about the excitement that has already picked up in his home country and across Asia after being onboard with LIV Golf for just one month.

“One perception from back home is that people are looking at the golf and they are excited about having one of their own playing on this stage. People are excited about LIV going to Asia,” said Lahiri. “At least 20 people I know from India are flying to Bangkok and that’s just from India, not Singapore or Malaysia and everywhere. Golf is huge in Asia.

“People are viewing this as something that could be a lifeline going forward. Not just what they are doing with the Asian Tour, but they are going to get to see the players they want to see. They are loving the broadcasts and it is overwhelmingly positive. I’m very happy that so many people are positive about what is going on.”

Lahiri explained how the new format and the broadcast on YouTube will enable fans to see more of the action.

“Even if I’m in middle of the field, you are still going to see me hit a few shots, and there is still a narrative if you follow my team,” Lahiri added. “The people who follow me will also follow (the team) because it affects me. And that’s where the team aspect builds the fan base. The whole dynamic works well, especially in the countries where golf is growing. People are still trying to get interested and involved with the sport, and this platform does a lot more for engagement.”

e& partners with Manchester City to support young UAE footballers

e& partners with Manchester City to support young UAE footballers
Updated 22 min 57 sec ago

e& partners with Manchester City to support young UAE footballers

e& partners with Manchester City to support young UAE footballers
  • The Talented Player Program looks to develop those aged 11-16

ABU DHABI: The company e&, formerly known as Etisalat Group, announced on Wednesday its continued partnership with Manchester City’s Football Schools to support the development of young players.

First launched in 2019, the Talented Player Program provides a platform for those aged 11 to 16 across Abu Dhabi and Dubai to fulfil their potential under the guidance of expert coaches from City Football Schools. The TPP has seen over 50 players transition in the last three years into elite environments.

With the support of e&, the technology and investment conglomerate, the program will help young players travel for training at partner clubs around the world.

“Since the Manchester City Football School launched in 2011 in Abu Dhabi, it has seen over 10,000 players take part in around 50,000 sessions and the Talented Player Program has been a hugely successful part of our delivery in the UAE,” said Simon Hewitt, senior manager football education MENA.

“Through the program, players have signed for professional academies in the UAE, UK, Italy, Spain and Egypt, including one player at our very own Manchester City,” said Hewitt.

“We are excited that this platform opens new horizons for players to excel and with the support of e&, we are confident that we will see more success stories in the years to come.”

Etisalat has been the Official Telecommunications Partner of Manchester City since 2009, with the agreement recently extended for a sixth term.

Room for improvement: 5 things learned as Arab teams have mixed results in World Cup warm-up matches

Room for improvement: 5 things learned as Arab teams have mixed results in World Cup warm-up matches
Updated 28 September 2022

Room for improvement: 5 things learned as Arab teams have mixed results in World Cup warm-up matches

Room for improvement: 5 things learned as Arab teams have mixed results in World Cup warm-up matches
  • Tunisia suffer against Brazil, Qatar remain consistent, lack of Saudi goals becoming concern

RIYADH: The last international break before the 2022 World Cup kicks off in Doha on Nov. 20 has just wrapped with the four Arab qualifiers of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Tunisia continuing to have mixed results in what could be their final warm-up matches.

Meanwhile, Egypt, who will miss out on the party in Qatar, are already looking ahead to the future.

Here are five things learned from the latest action.

1. If Saudi Arabia can score, they have a chance in Qatar

An obvious point, but the 0-0 draw with the US in Spain did mean a fourth straight friendly without a goal for the Green Falcons. However, the performance was an improvement on the 0-0 draw with Ecuador on Friday, and the two 1-0 losses to Colombia and Venezuela in June.

The defense prevented the US, with plenty of talented players, from creating clear chances and it was a hard-working display all around. The Saudis did not create too many clear-cut scoring opportunities, but there was an improvement in their overall attacking display.

None of the chances that did come along were taken and while there are absences such as Salem Al-Dawsari and Salman Al-Faraj that make a difference, it is a concern.

Coach Herve Renard does not have a Robert Lewandowski or a Lionel Messi to score at will, and he needs his stars fit if there is to be a chance against Argentina, Poland, and Mexico.

Taken in isolation, however, and not after three blank returns, the result and the performance against the Americans were encouraging and with more preparation games to come (unlike some other teams at the World Cup) there is still a little time to get firing in an offensive sense.

2. It could have been worse for Tunisia

Losing to Brazil is no disgrace for any team but it is never nice to be hit with a  5-1 defeat. However, Tunisia were simply blown away by the in-form five-time champions.

There was much to cheer about in the 18th minute as Montassar Talbi equalized Raphinha’s opener but within seconds, Richarlison had restored the lead and soon after Neymar scored from the spot. By 40 minutes it was 4-1 and when Dylan Bronn was red carded before the break, it looked really bleak for the Carthage Eagles.

Brazil eased off in the second half and it was a chastening experience for Tunisia who were coming off the back of some positive results of late.

They had their moments going forward and saw a goal disallowed which could have changed things but, in the end, Brazil were just too good. At least it is unlikely that the North Africans will face such a talented team in Qatar even against defending champions France, or Denmark and Australia.

3. Qatar improve against Chile but need more

After losing to Canada in a poor performance last week, Qatar improved to draw 2-2 with Chile. Their first-half performance was a continuation of the previous match, lacking energy, invention, and focus as Alexis Sanchez’s well-worked goal gave the South Americans a deserved lead at the break.

In the second half, Qatar took advantage of a defensive mistake to equalize through Akram Afif and then a thunderbolt from Hassan Al-Haydos gave them a lead that they could not hang on to.

At this stage of preparation, it was another concerning performance overall.

This is not the well-drilled and fluid Qatar team that strolled to the 2019 Asian Cup title. That is now three poor halves out of four and the goals against Chile came from mistakes and a moment of brilliance rather than sustained pressure.

It could be that the Maroons are so focused on the tournament and games against Ecuador, Senegal, and the Netherlands that are less than two months away that it is hard to perform in friendlies, but it is time to find the old intensity.

4. Morocco and Ziyech moving forward

The second game in charge for coach Walid Regragui ended in a 0-0 draw with Paraguay but the tactician will not be too concerned as his team did enough to win but just could not quite find the goal in a high-tempo clash.

At the back, the defense was tested by the lively Miguel Almiron of Newcastle United but held firm to keep a second clean sheet in four days following their 2-0 win over Chile.

Hakim Ziyech, recalled to the side after his fall-out with the previous coach, was the standout. The Chelsea winger hit the inside of the post with a curling shot from outside the area and put a couple of chances on a plate for team-mates. He also created Ryan Mmaee’s goal that was narrowly ruled out for offside.

Overall, it was a fine performance from the Atlas Lions who are feeling much better about their national team than a couple of months ago and will be looking forward to Belgium, Croatia, and Canada.

5. Egypt looking good for 2026

It cannot be easy for Egypt as they watch their rivals prepare for the first World Cup in the region, but fans are feeling happier than before.

New coach Rui Vitoria has promised that there will be qualification for the 2026 tournament and while it is obviously very early days, the signs are good with two 3-0 wins in the first two games in charge for the Portuguese boss.

Supporters were delighted to see Mohamed Salah score twice in the first win over Niger and while the Liverpool man withdrew from the second game, the same score line was recorded against Liberia. There are tougher tests to come but it seems that a small corner has been turned.

It has been a roller-coaster year for the national team with penalty shootout defeats in the Africa Cup of Nations final and World Cup qualification under Carlos Queiroz and a new coach Ehab Galal, who was quickly fired after a 4-1 loss to South Korea in June.

Some stability and progress are needed and while this is just a start, it is a good one. Missing out on the 2022 World Cup was tough to take but the road to 2026 has already begun.

Ons Jabeur and Emma Raducanu confirm for Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Ons Jabeur and Emma Raducanu confirm for Mubadala World Tennis Championship
Updated 28 September 2022

Ons Jabeur and Emma Raducanu confirm for Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Ons Jabeur and Emma Raducanu confirm for Mubadala World Tennis Championship
  • Fresh from reaching the Wimbledon and US Open finals, the Tunisian world No. 2 will take on the British No. 1 this December in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: World No. 2 Ons Jabeur, the first Arab to reach a Grand Slam final, will return to Abu Dhabi this December to defend her Mubadala World Tennis Championship crown.

The tournament organizers have confirmed the Tunisian, who reached the Wimbledon and US Open finals this year, will take on British No. 1 Emma Raducanu on the first day of the championships on Dec. 16.

Last year, Jabeur became the first Arab to contest and win the annual Mubadala World Tennis Championship at Zayed Sports City. The 28-year-old faced Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic in the headline women’s match and came from a set down to claim a memorable 4-6, 6-3, (10-8) victory, to the delight of a raucous crowd inside the International Tennis Centre.

“Playing in Abu Dhabi is always exciting,” Jabeur said ahead of her appearance at the three-day championship, which runs from Dec. 16 to 18.

“I had a fantastic experience there in 2021 and I don’t want to lose the opportunity to defend my championship title this year. Aside from the match itself, I am most excited to see my fans there. I find them extremely special as they have supported me throughout every competition I have participated in this year.”

On the opposite side of the net will be Raducanu, who triumphed at the US Open last year to become the first British female to win a Grand Slam singles title since 1977. She was also the first player to win the US Open women’s singles title without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014.

“I am thrilled to finally be making my debut in Abu Dhabi,” said Raducanu. “I’ve heard great things about the fans and how supportive they are, and I can’t wait to play in front of them all.”

John Lickrish, CEO, Flash Entertainment, added: “We promised we would bring the top players to compete in Abu Dhabi once again, and in Ons and Emma we have secured two of the sport’s biggest names.

“Ons is a crowd favorite and has enjoyed a tremendously successful year since winning the Mubadala World Tennis Championship last December. Likewise, I know Emma is also extremely popular and tremendously excited about making her debut here in the UAE. I’m sure there will be huge interest from the tennis community both in the UAE and the wider region.”

Verstappen on verge of second world title as F1 returns to Singapore

Verstappen on verge of second world title as F1 returns to Singapore
Updated 28 September 2022

Verstappen on verge of second world title as F1 returns to Singapore

Verstappen on verge of second world title as F1 returns to Singapore
  • To take the title this weekend, Verstappen must win the race with Leclerc finishing no higher than eighth or ninth

SINGAPORE: Red Bull’s dominant Max Verstappen can clinch a second world championship when the Singapore Grand Prix returns this weekend after a three-year absence because of COVID.

The flying Dutchman has a mathematical chance to seal back-to-back world titles under lights around the spectacular and demanding Marina Bay street circuit.

To do so, the 24-year-old must win the race — something he has never done in Singapore — and needs his closest rivals to falter badly.

If that does not happen, the championship fight will move on to the Japanese Grand Prix a week later. It looks a case of when, not if.

“You need a bit of luck for that as well,” Verstappen told Sky Sports of retaining his crown in Singapore.

“I don’t think about it.”

Verstappen opened up a 116-point lead in the drivers’ standings over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc following his victory at the Italian Grand Prix. He is 125 clear of third-placed Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

He needs to extend his lead to 138 points by Sunday’s chequered flag to be crowned with five races to spare — the earliest championship win since Michael Schumacher’s in 2002 with six GPs remaining.

Monza was Verstappen’s 11th victory in 16 races of a potentially record-breaking season.

He needs two more wins to equal the single-season mark of 13 jointly held by Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013).

“I want to go to Singapore and try to win that race as well,” Verstappen said.

“We are having a great season, so we should really try and appreciate it and enjoy the moment.”

To take the title this weekend, he must win the race with Leclerc finishing no higher than eighth or ninth — depending on who claims the extra point for the fastest lap — and Perez outside the podium places.

Much will depend on Saturday night’s qualifying for a grand prix that has been won from pole position seven times in its last 11 runnings.

The night race around the tight street track affords precious few overtaking opportunities and the stifling heat and humidity provide a test of stamina and reliability as much as driving ability.

Singapore’s climate always carries a threat of rain-induced chaos, as happened in 2017, when Vettel and Verstappen started on the front row only to crash out before the first bend.

Red Bull also look sure to wrap up the constructors’ championship — although they won’t do so in Singapore — but the race for second is still alive with Mercedes banking on a late-season revival to overtake early front-runners Ferrari.

The consistent George Russell is still in mathematical contention for the drivers’ crown in his first Mercedes season, though a Verstappen victory would end his hopes.

But the Silver Arrows are pushing hard and are 35 points behind Ferrari, who have suffered from a combination of reliability issues and strategic blunders.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has won four times in Singapore, but Russell was cautious about the pair’s chances of ending the team’s 2022 win drought.

“Singapore could be interesting,” said Russell.

“But historically it’s a circuit where Mercedes have struggled a little bit.”

Ferrari were buoyed by Leclerc’s second place at their home race at Monza two weeks ago and can attack Singapore with more confidence.

“I think we made a step ahead,” said team principal Mattia Binotto.

Carlos Sainz cut through the field to finish fourth for Ferrari in Italy, with his charge for a podium place scuppered only by a late safety car.

“It’s clear as well if you look at the other cars behind us, we made a step ahead,” said Binotto.

This will be Singapore’s first grand prix since the pandemic and signs are that the city-state is relishing having racing back.

Authorities have not released exact numbers, but ticket sales have already exceeded 2019, they say.