Ibrahimovic signs new deal to keep playing for Milan at 41

Ibrahimovic signs new deal to keep playing for Milan at 41
In this file photo taken on May 22, 2022 AC Milan’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic smokes a cigar during the winner’s trophy ceremony after AC Milan won the Italian Serie A match against Sassuolo, securing the championship. (AFP)
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Updated 19 July 2022

Ibrahimovic signs new deal to keep playing for Milan at 41

Ibrahimovic signs new deal to keep playing for Milan at 41
  • Milan released a brief statement on Monday announcing that Ibrahimovic’s contract was renewed to June 30, 2023

MILAN: Zlatan Ibrahimovic will still be playing for AC Milan when he’s 41 after renewing his contract for another year, giving the forward another tilt at the Champions League.

Ibrahimovic missed large portions of Milan’s Serie A-winning campaign with injury and won’t even be able to return to the field until the end of the year — two months after his 41st birthday — after undergoing knee surgery in May.

Milan released a brief statement on Monday announcing that Ibrahimovic’s contract was renewed to June 30, 2023.

The club and Ibrahimovic posted a video on social media, showcasing the forward’s highlights from both of his spells with the Rossoneri, with a voiceover from the Sweden international.

“In life you must always want to do more,” Ibrahimovic said. “One who is satisfied lies on the sofa and relaxes.

“I do not want this. I want to stand on my toes and walk on fire. Because like this I feel alive.”

Ibrahimovic has transformed Milan since returning to the Rossoneri at the end of 2019, shortly after the team was thumped 5-0 by Atalanta. He helped Milan rise back to the top of Serie A and end their 11-year wait for the title.

Although hampered by injuries last season, Ibrahimovic also made his presence felt off the field as he steered a young team to an improbable scudetto.

It was his second with the club, having also been there the last time Milan won the title, in 2011.

Ibrahimovic has also won trophies with Ajax, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United in a long and glittering career. However, one trophy missing from his brimming collection is the Champions League.

Milan’s return to the competition last season — after an eight-year break — was brief as the seven-time European champion was eliminated in the group stage.

“You must believe,” Ibrahimović continued in the video. “When you believe, things come true, one way or another.”


Chameleon Rodrygo eyeing Neymar’s No.10 spot for Brazil

Chameleon Rodrygo eyeing Neymar’s No.10 spot for Brazil
Brazil's forward Rodrygo reacts during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group G football match against Switzerland. AFP
Updated 13 sec ago

Chameleon Rodrygo eyeing Neymar’s No.10 spot for Brazil

Chameleon Rodrygo eyeing Neymar’s No.10 spot for Brazil
  • Substitute Rodrygo set up Casemiro’s late goal in their 1-0 win against the Swiss, which followed a 2-0 victory against Serbia in their World Cup opener
  • Casemiro believes Rodrygo, who plays for Real Madrid, has the talent to be Brazil’s next big star

DOHA: Rodrygo is the complete striker: the 21-year-old Brazilian can play on the left, the right, as a No.10 or as a false nine.
And after his decisive second-half performance against Switzerland on Monday he looks well-placed to finally earn his first start for the Selecao, maybe even in Neymar’s playmaker role.
Substitute Rodrygo set up Casemiro’s late goal in their 1-0 win against the Swiss, which followed a 2-0 victory against Serbia in their World Cup opener.
Brazil have already qualified for the last 16 ahead of Friday’s final Group G clash against Cameroon and coach Tite is likely to make changes, with Neymar still nursing an ankle injury sustained in their opening match.
Casemiro believes Rodrygo, who plays for Real Madrid, has the talent to be Brazil’s next big star.
“God gave him the gift of playing football. It’s beautiful watching him play,” the Manchester United midfielder, who used to play alongside Rodrygo at Madrid, said last week.
The five-time World Cup winners have an embarrassment of riches in the attacking department, even with Neymar injured and Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho left out of the squad.
Raphinha, Antony, Vinicius Junior, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Pedro and Richarlison are all providing competition for Rodrygo.
But the youngest player in Tite’s World Cup squad has one major advantage over the others.
“We’ve seen him playing as a false nine, a 10, the ‘Neymar” of Real Madrid, with the ability to play on the left and right,” Matheus Bachi, an assistant coach with Brazil, who is also Tite’s son, said recently.
“He’s a chameleon, but a chameleon who does all these functions very well.”
That versatility was evident when Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti started deploying Rodrygo in the center of the attack this season alongside striker Karim Benzema, rather than using his pace on the flanks.
“He’s a special forward, he can play in every position. He’s quick, intelligent off the ball and effective one on one,” said Ancelotti.
Rodrygo has seven goals and five assists in 19 club matches this season.
His two late goals off the bench for Real in the Champions League semifinal against Manchester City last season turned the tie on its head and the Merengue went on to lift the trophy.

- ‘Very smart’ -

Rodrygo’s versatility was well known at his first club, Santos — the same team that produced Pele and Neymar. 
He played as a No.10 in the academy but made his first team debut in 2017 on the left wing.
Neymar used to play on the left before he was moved into a more central position and back in 2017 Jair Ventura, who gave Rodrygo his Santos debut, decided to develop his abilities “on the right, in the center and as a false nine,” he told ESPN in 2019.
That ability to play across the forward line has served Rodrygo well.
His performances soon alerted Real Madrid and he moved to Spain in 2019.
“He’s extremely professional and educated. He’s very smart, you explain something to him once and he understands it immediately,” said Ventura, the son of ex-player Jairzinho, a World Cup winner in 1970 alongside Pele.
Since his Brazil debut three years ago, Rodrygo has made nine appearances, but all as a substitute.
He scored one goal in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Paraguay and now has one assist to his name too.
And he has no doubt that he could fill the void left by Neymar.
“I feel comfortable playing in every position up front. I’ve already played with the No.10 jersey in the junior categories but it’s only recently that (senior) coaches have started putting me there,” Rodrygo said recently.
“We already have our No.10 here, Neymar, but who knows for the future.”
The future may be now.


Unrepentant Suarez refuses to apologize for Ghana World Cup handball

Unrepentant Suarez refuses to apologize for Ghana World Cup handball
Uruguay's forward Luis Suarez gives a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha. AFP
Updated 22 sec ago

Unrepentant Suarez refuses to apologize for Ghana World Cup handball

Unrepentant Suarez refuses to apologize for Ghana World Cup handball
  • Suarez deliberately handled the ball on the line at that tournament to prevent a certain goal from Dominic Adiyiah’s header right at the end of extra-time

DOHA: Uruguay great Luis Suarez refused to apologize on Thursday to Ghanaians over his infamous handball at the World Cup 12 years ago.
The South Americans take on the Africans in a must-win Group H clash in Qatar on Friday that is a repeat of the notorious quarter-final in South Africa in 2010.
Suarez deliberately handled the ball on the line at that tournament to prevent a certain goal from Dominic Adiyiah’s header right at the end of extra-time.
Suarez was shown a red card but Asamoah Gyan missed the subsequent penalty and Uruguay went on to win the shoot-out and qualify for the semifinals.
Striker Suarez became an overnight hero in his homeland while Ghana missed out on becoming the first-ever African team to reach the World Cup semifinals.
Twelve years later, asked whether he knew that Ghanaians viewed him as the “devil,” Suarez said he had no regrets.
“I don’t say I apologize about that because I take the handball but the Ghana player missed the penalty, not me,” said Suarez, speaking in broken English.
“Maybe I can say I apologize if I tackle and injure a player and take a red card, maybe I can apologize. 
“But in this situation I take a red card, the referee said ‘penalty’. It’s not my fault because I did not miss the penalty, the player missed the penalty.”
There has been lots of talk since the World Cup draw was made about Ghana potentially seeking revenge and many of the African team’s fans have vented their ire at Suarez ahead of the crunch clash.
But Suarez insisted the game was in the past and that it makes no sense to talk about revenge.
“Those that are talking about revenge... were eight at the time, they have only seen it in images,” said the former Barcelona and Liverpool forward, now 35.
“You can’t misinterpret everything. When we played Portugal the players were talking about revenge for being knocked out (by Uruguay in 2018) but you can’t live in the past.”
Uruguay coach Diego Alonso said there was much more at stake for both teams than vengeance.
Uruguay must win to have any chance of progressing to the last 16 while Ghana could also be eliminated if they do not triumph.
“I don’t know how Ghana will approach it, whether or not it’s revenge,” said Alonso.
“For us it’s a decisive match, that’s what matters to us. We’re doing the best we can, respecting our opponents, but we don’t view it that way.”


Why leg before wicket remains cricket’s most contentious law

Why leg before wicket remains cricket’s most contentious law
Updated 45 min 8 sec ago

Why leg before wicket remains cricket’s most contentious law

Why leg before wicket remains cricket’s most contentious law
  • International, pro cricket has technology, experienced umpires but lower down sporting pyramid interpretation of LBW can suffer bias

It would be rare to find a cricketer at any level who has not fallen victim to a leg-before-wicket decision which he or she felt to be unjust.

Although caught is the most common form of dismissal, with 57 percent, LBW accounts for around 14 percent of dismissals, meaning that its importance should not be treated lightly.

This is placed into greater perspective because the decision rests with the umpire.

In today’s international cricket, umpires are supported and informed by technology and by an off-the-field third umpire who has access to the technology.

In professional cricket, professionally trained umpires make decisions without such support.

In club cricket, there are umpires, usually former players, who have obtained umpiring qualifications but there are many matches at a lower level where the umpires are also players in the match. This does raise the issue of potential bias, especially as the relevant law is open to significant interpretation.

The original cricket laws of 1744 did not contain a dismissal mode of LBW, only requiring no “standing unfair to strike” by strikers.

In those days, a curved bat was used to hit underarm deliveries, so the striker needed to stand at distance from the leg stump to provide an arc to swing at the ball. Thirty years later, the introduction of straight bats changed this stance and strikers were able to make strategic use of their legs to defend the wicket.

Revised rules in 1774 specified that the batsman was to be given out if he, “puts his leg before the wicket with a design to stop the ball and actually prevent the ball from hitting his wicket by it.”

In 1788, the word design was removed, and accidental obstruction added, while in 1823, the point of interception was widened from legs to any part of the body. These changes led to one commentator expressing the view in 1868 that the LBW law was, “the most perplexing and disagreeable of the whole code.”

There are many who hold this view a century-and-a-half later. Imagine a club cricket match in which players double as umpires in rotation.

The match is heading for an exciting conclusion, four runs to win and one wicket to fall. The away team’s captain is batting, the non-striker is a young man with no batting prowess, and the umpire is a member of the away team. He is very experienced and is known not to like the home team very much following years of fierce rivalry. In particular, he does not like the person who is about to bowl.

When the ball is delivered it pitches outside the off stump, unexpectedly cuts back sharply to the surprise of the away team captain, who thrusts his padded leg toward the off-side in the direction of the ball, which hits him on his front leg, but outside of a wicket-to-wicket line. There is a prolonged and vociferous appeal for LBW from the home team and supporters.

In this combustible situation, no one seems to have noticed that the ball has ricocheted off the batter’s pads and is about to reach the boundary.

This is substantial information for the player-umpire to absorb in a few seconds and, on his assessment, the outcome of the match will be decided. He has studied the laws of cricket intensely, but he is in a complete dilemma. He knows that law 36 requires that all of five circumstances need to apply for the striker to be given out. First, the delivery needs to be legal, which it is.

Second, the ball must pitch in line between wicket and wicket, or on the offside of the striker’s wicket, which it has. Thirdly, the ball has not touched the bat, but the striker has intercepted the ball with a part of his person, which is the case. Fourthly, the point of impact must be between wicket and wicket, which it is not. However, if the striker has made no genuine attempt to play the ball with the bat, then the point of impact is not only between wicket and wicket but also outside of the line of the off stump. Fifthly, the ball would have hit the wicket but for the interception.

It is not difficult to discern that, in this circumstance, any umpire would be taxed to make a just decision. When local rivalry, history, aligned umpires, and a tense finish combine, the context is quite different to international matches with neutral umpires. Nevertheless, the principles are the same. The first three criteria for dismissal have been met, but have the fourth and fifth ones? The umpire must determine if the striker made a genuine attempt to play the ball and that the ball would have hit the wicket.

The law does not define genuine. Does it mean anything other than a deliberate attempt to not play the ball? Without the support of technology, who can really be certain that the ball would have hit the wicket? Many times, I have seen a ball which had beaten the striker and looked certain to hit the wicket deviate or bounce over the top.

Our fictious umpire is left not only with these considerations but also the consequences of his decision. If he gives his captain out, he will incur the wrath of not only his captain but his whole team for a long time. The home team will delight in his discomfort. If he says not out, he will face the full wrath of the home team and accusations of bias and, even worse, cheating.

Prior to the introduction of neutral umpires to international cricket in 1992 and the later introduction of review technology, home umpires gave more visiting batters out LBW than home batters in Test matches.

Controversial LBW decisions still occur at international level, but with a much lower proportion than at club cricket level. There, the potential for bias and simmering controversy is ever present with the LBW law.


5 things we learned from Saudi Arabia’s loss to Mexico and Qatar 2022 exit

5 things we learned from Saudi Arabia’s loss to Mexico and Qatar 2022 exit
Updated 01 December 2022

5 things we learned from Saudi Arabia’s loss to Mexico and Qatar 2022 exit

5 things we learned from Saudi Arabia’s loss to Mexico and Qatar 2022 exit
  • The exhausted Green Falcons fall short of the round of 16, but depart with plenty of pride and the memory of their stunning win over Argentina

A dramatic, at times beautiful adventure, is finally over.

Saudi Arabia exited the 2022 World Cup on Wednesday night at Lusail Stadium, losing 2-1 to Mexico. It means a fourth place finish in Group D with three points from three games.

Below are five things we learned from another drama-filled day in Qatar and the campaign in general.

1. A wild ride comes to an end

Whatever happens, the players, the fans and the whole country will always have the historic 2-1 win over Argentina. It was the biggest story of the first round of games at the tournament and it really brought the World Cup to life. Unlike 2018 when the international football community barely realized that Saudi Arabia had been in Russia at all, the Asian powerhouse were talked about in all corners of the planet.

It was unfortunate that there were no more points to come. Saudi Arabia played well against Poland and did not deserve to lose 2-0, and perhaps did not really deserve to lose at all. When the dust settles, there will be an unending debate as to what would have happened had Salem Al-Dawsari’s penalty late in the first half had not been saved by Wojciech Szczesny (though the Al-Hilal star is in good company as Lionel Messi suffered the same fate on Wednesday). We will never know but there is no doubt that Saudi Arabia and their legions of fans can leave Qatar with their heads held very high.

Mexico were the better team and deserved to win but it was fitting that the campaign ended with a well-worked goal from Al-Dawsari deep inside injury time. Saudi Arabia helped give the world another remarkable and exciting game.

2. Injuries and suspensions were costly in the end

It was almost forgotten amid the thrills of that Argentina win that captain Salman Al-Faraj joined the celebrations on crutches and fullback Yasser Al-Shahrani was carried off in the final moments.

Key midfielder Abdulelah Al-Malki was suspended after picking up two yellow cards. It was then a major blow as central defender Ali Al-Bulaihi went off with what looked to be a hamstring injury. Who knows? Had the Al-Hilal man, who went off after being pushed, been on the pitch then the corner from which Mexico scored their opening goal may have been cleared.

There was nothing that anyone could have done about the Chavez free kick. It was a special set piece that will surely not be bettered at this World Cup, even if it was a pointless foul to give away. In the end, Mexico were too good and Saudi Arabia too depleted and too tired. Had coach Renard had a full and fit contingent of players to pick from, then surely the final game would have been closer. The boss did not have the deepest of squads to call upon when compared with some others and was always going to struggle once injuries and suspensions kicked in.

3. Salem Al-Dawsari a star, Kanno catches the eye

For a number of years, Arab News has waxed lyrical about the talents of the 31-year-old Salem Al-Dawsari and now everyone agrees. The Al-Hilal man caught the eye from the get-go and has been hailed around the world.

His goal against Argentina did not just win the game but was a beautiful strike in its own right. His technique and silky skills have played their part in making the World Cup an exciting one as he has shown that there is exciting talent in Saudi Arabia. The only negative is that he is on the wrong side of 30. But the 2026 World Cup is not that far away and now that he has equaled Sami Al-Jaber’s World Cup tally of three goals, he may want more.

Midfielder Mohamed Kanno also caught the eye of the international audience with his energy, running and ability to break up play. It was impressive for a player who has had little playing time at club level in recent months.

There were others too who made a name for themselves and they leave Qatar with reputations enhanced and in need of a well-deserved rest.

4. The World Cup will miss Saudi Arabia

It wasn’t just the win against Argentina that ignited the tournament, it was the presence of the tens of thousands of Saudi Arabian fans that created a magnificent atmosphere. As hosts Qatar struggled on the pitch, it almost felt like the games were being hosted over the border in Riyadh, Jeddah or Dammam. In every game, the fans came to fill the stadiums and create the sort of buzz and excitement that every tournament needs.

They came to support their team and were rewarded with some unforgettable experiences and moments. There is still a lot of football to be played and while the Green Falcons were eliminated in the first round, if there was a tournament for best fans then the country would be going all the way to the final.

The fans have given the world a taste of Saudi Arabian football culture and passion just as the team have done on the pitch and that is what the World Cup is all about.

5. Mexico’s elimination means more history for Saudi Arabia

It was always going to be the case that Mexico were much improved from their first two games against Poland, a goalless draw, and a 2-0 loss to Argentina. They had failed to score and failed to impress. There was much more invention, energy and ambition in this game, as you would expect as they were in a do-or-die situation.

El Tri were on top in the first half and played much of the second half in sight of the Saudi Arabian goal. They had plenty of chances to get the additional goal that would have been enough to take them past Poland into second place.

The Green Falcons have helped make history. Mexico last failed to get past the group stage in 1978. Saudi Arabia may have lost but they did, in a way, eliminate the CONCACAF powerhouse at the first round for the first time since the previous century. Saudi Arabia leave in good company after taking part in another thrilling match.


Australia defender Degenek on World Cup mission to stop Messi

Australia defender Degenek on World Cup mission to stop Messi
Australia's defender Milos Degenek celebrates winning the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group D football match against Denmark. AFP
Updated 30 sec ago

Australia defender Degenek on World Cup mission to stop Messi

Australia defender Degenek on World Cup mission to stop Messi
  • The defender, who made his World Cup debut in Australia’s 1-0 group win over Denmark on Wednesday, said Messi is his hero but all sentiments will be thrown aside when they meet on Saturday

DOHA: Australia will put their bodies on the line to stop Lionel Messi and spring a surprise against Argentina in the World Cup last 16, tough-tackling Milos Degenek warned on Thursday.
The defender, who made his World Cup debut in Australia’s 1-0 group win over Denmark on Wednesday, said Messi is his hero but all sentiments will be thrown aside when they meet on Saturday.
“You know I have always loved Messi, I think he is the greatest to have played the game,” said the 28-year-old.
But he added: “It’s not an honor to play against him because he is just a human, as we all are. It is an honor to be in the round of 16 of a World Cup. That is the honor in itself.”
Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan has kept two clean sheets in a row in successive 1-0 victories to take the Socceroos into the knockouts for only the second time in their history.
They will be heavy underdogs against Argentina, but Degenek said: “We have to believe and we have to be confident in our abilities to stop every attack.
“Whether that is going to be possible or not, I am not sure, but I know we are going to give 110 percent to stop everything that goes toward Matty’s goal.”
Degenek knows that Argentina, who bounced back from a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in their opener, will be desperate to give Messi a first World Cup title in what will surely be his last attempt.
“For us, it is to stop that. Unfortunately I am a big fan of his but I would love to win the World Cup more than for him to win the World Cup,” said Degenek, who plays for Columbus Crew in the MLS.
Australia revealed that the mother-in-law of another defender, Bailey Wright, had died during the night but he will stay with the squad.
The Sunderland player came on as a substitute against Denmark and devoted the win to her.
“It’s not something you can wish upon anyone,” said Degenek.
“He knows that we are his second family, we are going to be behind him.”
Degenek said it highlighted the stresses that footballers go through behind the scenes.
“It is a lot more emotions, a lot more things involved in football than just playing,” Degenek said.