Formula E’s Alberto Longo sees bright future ahead for all-electric series

Exclusive Formula E’s Alberto Longo sees bright future ahead for all-electric series
Formula E’s popularity continues to rise year on year, and Formula E’s Alberto Longo pointed out that this was just the beginning. (fiaformulae.com)
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Updated 26 July 2022

Formula E’s Alberto Longo sees bright future ahead for all-electric series

Formula E’s Alberto Longo sees bright future ahead for all-electric series
  • Co-founder, chief championship officer tells Arab News about return of fans to Formula E, why Season 8 has been most exciting yet, what Gen3 car will bring in 2023

RIYADH: Formula E’s Season 8 is nearing its finish line, with only two race weekends remaining. As the 11 teams descend on London for rounds 13 and 14 on Saturday and Sunday, there is a case to be made for the current campaign being the most exciting since the all-electric, single-seater series launched in 2014.

For Alberto Longo, co-founder and chief championship officer of Formula E, the season has been a triumph after the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic over the last two years.

He told Arab News: “I think it has been fantastic the way that we have received fans back into Formula E. That I would say is the highlight, I think motorsport without fans is not motorsport. It was encouraging to see people in Diriyah, people in Mexico, a lot of people came to watch our races, which is fantastic.”

Longo believes the new sporting formats introduced to Formula E have resulted in dramatic title races for the drivers and the teams.

“I think we have another very competitive season in which we have four or five drivers that could actually win the championship.

“The sporting format, and especially the qualifying format, has demonstrated that we chose the right option. We had so many options on which way to go, I think we did take the right decision there.

“It is very entertaining from the minute they go out of the garages,” he said.

With two race events of the season remaining — London, on July 30 and 31, and Seoul, from Aug. 13 to 14 — Stoffel Vandoorne of Mercedes-EQ leads the drivers’ championship with 155 points, followed by Edoardo Mortara of ROKiT Venturi on 144. Mitch Evans of Jaguar Racing is third on 139 points, and Jean-Eric Vergne of DS Techeetah fourth with 128.

Mercedes-EQ lead the team standings on 238 points with ROKiT Venturi and DS Techeetah both on 228.

Despite both titles hanging in the balance, attention is already turning to what promises to be a landmark Season 9, which will kick off in Mexico City after four years (2018, 2019, 2021, and 2022) of Saudi Arabia hosting the opener with the Diriyah E-Prix.

Longo noted that putting the race calendar together was similar to puzzle solving.

“The decision behind (opening in Mexico) was basically because we are introducing for the first time ever the Gen3 car. The Gen3 preparations didn’t allow us to start in December. We needed to shuffle the whole calendar and squeeze it and put it into seven months.

“Basically, we are racing in the biggest cities in the world. There are only certain weekends that we can use those cities,” he added.

Pre-season testing will take place between Dec. 11 and 14, and Mexico City’s opening race will be on Jan. 14. Saudi Arabia’s double-header of night races will remain a fixture of the season, taking place on Jan. 27 and 28.

Longo said: “For sure Saudi wanted to have the weekend that they were racing at. And that for me was my priority. I always call our friends from Saudi first and they wanted that date.

“I basically keep on shaping the calendar based on the two or three races that are always fixed in it. And one of them obviously is Saudi. The other one is Monaco; it has to be on a specific day.

“I think going to Mexico in the first round is good because we will start with a lot of people watching the race, with a crowd of 50,000 people there. And then we go to the fantastic venue of Diriyah with two night races. I think it’s a very, very strong start to the season,” he added.

After the introduction of the Jakarta E-Prix in Indonesia this year, Season 9 will see yet another new venue in Asia: The Indian city of Hyderabad.

“We’re a global championship, so we intend to be on every single continent. And we have done that almost from year one in the championship, and that’s something that we’re very proud of. Asia is a key market for us, as you can imagine,” Longo said.

However, the introduction of China, which has been on the cards for some time, will have to wait.

“Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we still are not very confident that we can actually do the race there. There are still a lot of travel restrictions to China. Unfortunately, there are no major events happening there at the moment,” he added.

The Gen3 car was unveiled before the Monaco E-Prix at the end of April and Longo is excited at what it will bring to the championship.

He said: “You can expect a nimbler car, a more racing car, obviously quicker. The technology has allowed us to make a lighter car. Mixed together, all that has created a beast, I just love that car. It’s going to be much quicker, and it’s going to allow way more overtaking.

“It’s a car that is capable of producing or generating 40 percent of the total energy that it uses during the race. It’s a unique piece of technology.”

Formula E’s popularity continues to rise year on year, and Longo pointed out that this was just the beginning.

“Let me give just one figure: 13 million live viewers in Indonesia. There are not many sports events in the world that can do that. Only one single country, we managed 13 million people watching Formula E. That’s outstanding. For me as the co-founder of the championship, I feel so proud.

“There is a lot more to do, don’t get me wrong. I think we are just like 5 percent there. We still have to grow 95 percent, and there is a lot of work to do. But you obviously have to feel very proud of what has been done,” Longo added.

An indication of Formula E’s yearly progress since 2014 can be seen in the new cities introduced to the calendar as well as the addition of manufacturers, now including the likes of Maserati and McLaren.

Above all, for Longo, are those who sit behind the wheel.

He said: “Drivers are key for us; I think the level of drivers that we have in Formula E is better than any other motorsport championship. I see other championships with megastars, and we would love to have those stars as well. But I feel the quality of the 22 drivers of Formula E, I don’t see anywhere else.

“You can feel it in the races, that almost anybody can win. We have created a championship in which we give value to the driver. I think we are humanizing motorsport, because before that, whoever had the best car was the one winning. In Formula E, it doesn’t happen that way. It’s the driver who makes the difference,” he added.


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.


Devin Booker hits for 51, fuels Suns’ 132-113 rout of Bulls

Devin Booker hits for 51, fuels Suns’ 132-113 rout of Bulls
Updated 01 December 2022

Devin Booker hits for 51, fuels Suns’ 132-113 rout of Bulls

Devin Booker hits for 51, fuels Suns’ 132-113 rout of Bulls
  • Jordan Clarkson had a season-high 33 points and five assists, and Utah snapped a five-game losing streak

PHOENIX: Devin Booker scored a season-high 51 points in just three quarters, Deandre Ayton had 30 points and 16 rebounds and the Phoenix Suns stretched their winning streak to six games with a 132-113 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.

Booker scored 25 points in the first half and had 26 more in a sublime third quarter. After a contested 3-pointer splashed through the net, “MVP! MVP!” chants broke out across Footprint Arena, and the 26-year-old is certainly making an early season case.

The two-time All-Star had a steal late in the third before sprinting downcourt and flushing home a dunk for his 50th and 51st points. He added six assists and four rebounds. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter with the Suns holding a healthy lead.

Booker shot 20 of 25 from the field, going 6 of 7 from 3-point range. It was his second straight 40-point game. He had 44 in a victory at Sacramento on Monday night.

The Bulls struggled on defense the entire night. DeMar DeRozan led Chicago with 29 points. Zach LaVine added 21.

NUGGETS 120 ROCKETS 10

Jamal Murray scored 26 points, Nikola Jokic had 10 of his 12 assists in the first half and Denver won their fourth straight by beating Houston.

Jokic added 17 points and nine rebounds in just 27 minutes. Aaron Gordon scored 20 points and Bruce Brown had 18 for Denver, which never trailed in beating Houston for the second time in three days.

Kevin Porter Jr. scored 23 points and Alperen Sengun had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who fell behind 6-0 and 13-2 and trailed by as many as 33 points.

The Nuggets built a 74-47 halftime lead with Jokic taking just two shots. He instead spent most of the half passing to Murray and other open teammates for easy buckets.

JAZZ 125 CLIPPERS 112

Jordan Clarkson had a season-high 33 points and five assists, and Utah snapped a five-game losing streak.

Collin Sexton added 21 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Jazz. Lauri Markkanen chipped in 23 points and nine rebounds. Jarred Vanderbilt added 14 points and 12 rebounds.

John Wall finished with a season-high 26 points off the bench to lead Los Angeles. Reggie Jackson added 15 points for the Clippers, who lost despite outscoring Utah 65-22 in bench points.

CELTICS 134 HEAT 121

Jayson Tatum had eight 3-pointers and scored a season-high 49 points, and Boston held off hot-shooting Miami.

Tatum scored the Celtics’ first six points and had 41 points after three quarters. He finished 15 of 25 from the field, 8 of 12 from 3-point range and 11 of 12 from the line. He also grabbed 11 rebounds.

Jaylen Brown finished with 26 points following a one-game absence due to neck stiffness. Malcolm Brogdon added 21 points, connecting on five of Boston’s 22 3-pointers in the game. Boston shot 55 percent (46 for 83) and has won five straight and 14 of its last 15.

Max Strus finished with 23 points and five 3-pointers for the Heat. Bam Adebayo also added 23 points before being ejected in the closing seconds following a pair of technical fouls. Miami, which shot 52 percent (47 for 90) overall, was 18 of 40 from beyond the arc.

BUCKS 109 KNICKS 103

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 37 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, and Grayson Allen made the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 30 seconds left after his superstar teammate fouled out, leading Milwaukee past New York.

Allen made only one 3-pointer, but it was the only one the Bucks needed after Antetokounmpo had carried them for so long.

He fouled out with a minute left and the Bucks leading by two. Mitchell Robinson made one free throw and the Knicks got the rebound when he missed the second, leading to a free throw by Jalen Brunson that tied it with 47 seconds remaining. After Allen’s 3-pointer, RJ Barrett missed a 3 for the Knicks and the Bucks closed it out from the free throw line.

Jrue Holiday had 22 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Bucks.

Barrett scored 26 points, Julius Randle added 18 and Brunson had 17 for the Knicks.

NETS 113 WIZARDS 107

Kevin Durant scored 39 points and Brooklyn extended its winning streak to three games by beating Washington.

Durant was 13 for 20 from the field and hit all 11 of his free throws in 37 minutes after scoring a season-high 45 points Monday night in a victory over Orlando.

Kyrie Irving added 27 points and Joe Harris had 14. Brooklyn has won five in a row at home.

Kristaps Porzingis had 27 points and 19 rebounds for Washingon. Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma each had 25 points for the Wizards, who have lost four of their last five games.

PELICANS 126 RAPTORS 108

Zion Williamson had 33 points, four steals and two blocks, and Trey Murphy added six 3-pointers and 26 points as New Orleans beat Toronto.

The Pelicans shot 52.3 percent from the floor on 45-of-86 shooting, had 28 assists and led by as many as 31 points midway through the third quarter.

Four other Pelicans scored in double figures: Jonas Valanciunas had 16 points and 13 rebounds, rookie Dyson Daniels added 14 points and nine assists, Herb Jones had 12 points and Larry Nance Jr. 10.

Toronto was led by Gary Trent Jr., who scored 35 points, and Pascal Siakam with 23.

CAVALIERS 113 76ERS 85

Caris LeVert scored 22 points off the bench, Darius Garland had 21 points and nine assist and Cleveland routed Philadelphia.

Donovan Mitchell added 18 points and six assists for Cleveland, which led by a season-high 33 points in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers are 9-1 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the third-best home mark in the NBA.

All-Star center Joel Embiid led Philadelphia across the board with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists, and Shake Milton scored 14 points. The 76ers had their three-game win streak snapped in the opener of a three-game trip.

Philadelphia’s starting backcourt of All-Star James Harden and Tyrese Maxey remains out with injuries. The Cavaliers played without All-Star center Jarrett Allen, who missed his third consecutive game with a low back bruise.

TIMBERWOLVES 109 GRIZZLIES 101

Anthony Edwards had 29 points, five steals and three blocks to lead Minnesota over Memphis in the first game of an extended absence for injured Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns.

Jaylen Nowell added 24 points off the bench and D’Angelo Russell had 15 points and 10 assists for the Timberwolves, who forced a season-high 27 turnovers by the Grizzlies and snapped a three-game losing streak despite being outrebounded 59-29 in a sloppy but spirited matchup.

Ja Morant scored 24 points and Jaren Jackson Jr. had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who lost their cool down the stretch with successive ejections for Dillon Brooks and Morant. Grizzlies rookie David Roddy finished 13 points and five rebounds in his native city.

HAWKS 125, MAGIC 108

Trae Young had 30 points and 14 assists and Atlanta snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over Orlando.

Dejounte Murray added 27 points and Clint Capela finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds after a dominating first quarter in which Atlanta built an 11-point lead.

Franz Wagner had 22 points and six rebounds for Orlando, which lost its sixth straight. Paolo Banchero added 20 points and five assists.

Led by Capel and Jarrett Culver (12 rebounds), Atlanta had a 49-33 rebound advantage.

THUNDER 119 SPURS 111

Rookie Jalen Williams scored a season-high 27 points and Oklahoma City overcame a 20-point second-half deficit to hand San Antonio their ninth straight loss.

Lu Dort scored 23 points and Josh Giddey added 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder. Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the league’s No. 3 scorer with 31.1 points per game, sat out with a bruised hip.

Devin Vassell scored 25 points and Keldon Johnson added 19 for the Spurs.


Lewandowski celebrates ‘happy defeat’ as Poland go through to next round

Lewandowski celebrates ‘happy defeat’ as Poland go through to next round
Updated 01 December 2022

Lewandowski celebrates ‘happy defeat’ as Poland go through to next round

Lewandowski celebrates ‘happy defeat’ as Poland go through to next round
  • That late Saudi goal ensured Poland finished as runner-up in Group C, ahead of Mexico on goal difference

DOHA: Robert Lewandowski left the field with a huge smile on his face after blowing kisses to fans and hugging teammates.

You’d never know his team just lost a crucial World Cup game 2-0 to Argentina.

But Poland scraped into the knockout stages of the tournament, despite Wednesday’s loss to the South American champions, after Salem Aldawsari’s stoppage-time goal for Saudi Arabia in a 2-1 defeat to Mexico.

That late goal ensured Poland finished as runner-up in Group C, ahead of Mexico on goal difference, to set up a last 16 game against France on Sunday.

“You can say it’s a happy defeat,” said Lewandowski, who failed to even have a shot on target. “I’m not happy with the way we played. Of course not. We can’t be happy with the game itself.”

Poland had been thoroughly outplayed by Argentina with Lewandowski an ineffective isolated figure as his team was pegged back for the duration of the game. Argentina had 24 attempts at goal, 13 on target. Poland had three, none on target.

“We didn’t want to take any risk and, you know, we achieved our result because we reached the next round,” Lewandowski said with a smile. “Even though we lost, we can be happy.”

Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz said his team’s lack of attacking threat wasn’t Lewandowski’s fault.

“I’m not attacking anyone from the team, but we didn’t help him to score,” Michniewicz said. “If (Lionel) Messi played for us and Robert played for Argentina, Robert would have scored five goals. Robert needed to get assistance and the match was played in our half. There were so many players covering him.”

Poland had goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to thank for a string of saves — including a first-half penalty from Messi — and Karol Swiderski for a goal-line clearance that avoided a heavier defeat.

Yet Poland’s players celebrated like they’d won, spraying each other with water bottles on the field.

It had been an anxious wait.

Poland’s game finished but Mexico was leading Saudi Arabia 2-0 and desperately pushing for the third goal that would have been enough to progress at Poland’s expense.

Both Poland and Mexico had four points, with two goals scored and two goals conceded each at that moment. Poland only had the edge by having fewer yellow cards than Mexico’s players.

Poland defender Bartosz Bereszynski covered his face. He couldn’t bear the tension.

Then Aldawsari scored for Saudi Arabia to end Mexico’s hopes.

“I guess it’s the first time I felt you can be happy after a loss,” Lewandowski said.

The Poland star is already looking ahead to Sunday’s game against France.

“It’s another favorite to win the world championship and we’ve nothing to lose,” he said. “We know what kind of players they have but we have to enjoy it and do our best. We have to fight … France will be a huge challenge and we have to play better than today.”


Maradona would be ‘super happy,’ says Messi

Maradona would be ‘super happy,’ says Messi
Updated 01 December 2022

Maradona would be ‘super happy,’ says Messi

Maradona would be ‘super happy,’ says Messi
  • Messi, who still needs a World Cup winner’s medal to cement his legacy as one of the sport’s greatest players, believes Argentina are moving up through the gears

DOHA:  Lionel Messi believes Diego Maradona would be “super happy” after he led Argentina into the World Cup last 16 on Wednesday thanks to a 2-0 win over Poland.

Messi became his country’s most capped player at the tournament with a 22nd appearance surpassing his legendary compatriot who died just over two years ago.

“I learned it recently, I didn’t know it. It’s a pleasure to be able to continue to achieve these kinds of records. I think Diego would be super happy for me, because he always showed me a lot of affection, he was always happy when things went well for me,” said Messi.

Despite missing a penalty — his 39th career failure from the spot — the Argentina captain said he was “happy” with this “big match.” 

“We achieved our first objective, which was to get out of the group after starting the way we did (a shock 2-1 loss against Saudi Arabia),” said Messi.

“I was really frustrated to have missed the penalty, because I knew that a goal could change the whole match, that it makes you play in a different way. But I think that from the penalty I missed, the team came out stronger.”

Messi, who still needs a World Cup winner’s medal to cement his legacy as one of the sport’s greatest players, believes Argentina are moving up through the gears at precisely the right time.

“After the first goal, everything went our way. We started doing again what we had been trying to do since the start of the World Cup, but which we hadn’t been able to achieve for various reasons.

“Having been able to do it today, it gives us confidence for the future.”

Next up for Argentina is a last 16 clash against Australia on Saturday.

“We know that now everything will be very difficult. That whoever the opponent, it will be complicated. We have seen recently, at our own expense, that any opponent can play a good game and win.”


Green Falcons depart the World Cup with bittersweet memories of Lusail Stadium

Green Falcons depart the World Cup with bittersweet memories of Lusail Stadium
Updated 01 December 2022

Green Falcons depart the World Cup with bittersweet memories of Lusail Stadium

Green Falcons depart the World Cup with bittersweet memories of Lusail Stadium
  • Despite exiting Qatar 2022 at the site of their historic victory over Argentina, the Saudi players and supporters showed why they will be badly missed at the tournament

DOHA: Saudi Arabia will leave this World Cup having developed a love-hate relationship with Lusail Stadium. This striking architectural masterpiece is where their World Cup sprang to life in sensational fashion with that stunning win over Argentina in their opening game, which will be remembered for generations.

Sadly, after losing to Poland in game two, they could not follow up the triumph over Argentina with victory against Mexico in game three, and so it was that at Lusail Stadium on Wednesday their campaign came to a somewhat anticlimactic end.

But both before and after the game the Saudi fans showed why they will be so badly missed during the remainder of the tournament. Despite the defeat, they were in joyous spirits after the game, spilling out onto Lusail Boulevard to celebrate what was their modern footballing coming of age.

Walking — or should that be running — to Lusail Stadium before the game in a mad dash after witnessing Australia make history at Al-Janoub Stadium, one could be forgiven for thinking there were as many fans outside as inside.

Lusail Boulevard was looking resplendent as ever, with the flags of the competing nations flying overhead as tens of thousands of fans mingled and the match got underway.

As I arrived shortly after kick-off, the screams and cheers could be heard some distance from the stadium, leaving one to wonder what exactly was happening and which set of fans were making all the noise. As numerous and vocal as the Saudi fans were, the Mexican fans matched anything they had to offer.

There was so much green inside Lusail that it was hard to know which team had the greatest support because, once again, the atmosphere generated by both sets of fans was incredible.

Despite their win over Argentina and an impressive showing against Poland in defeat, the Green Falcons were under the pump for most of the first half against a Mexican side that clearly meant business. Mexico knew they needed goals to have any hope of advancing and they came out with only one intent.

Missing a host of first-team regulars, victory was always going to be a tall order for Herve Renard’s side and that is exactly how the first half played out. The Green Falcons managed few advances into the forward third of the pitch, at least few that threatened, and so the biggest cheers were reserved for lunging tackles and desperate saves.

Still, at the break the Saudis were still alive. While the score remained 0-0 they stood a chance, and with Salem Al-Dawsari there is always reason to be optimistic.

Lusail Stadium has instantly become an iconic World Cup Stadium. From its stunning, shimmering gold facade to the steep banks of seats in the grandstands that have the near-90,000 fans sitting right on top of the action, it will provide an incredible setting for the final in a little over two weeks.

But tonight, Mexico did to Saudi Arabia what the Saudis did to Argentina on matchday one, scoring two goals in a four-minute spell inside of the opening 10 minutes of the second half that ended the contest and silenced the normally vociferous Saudi fans.

But while those wearing Saudi green had lost their voice, those in Mexican green had found theirs. Beating drums, screaming chants, waving flags; the Mexican fans brought Lusail Stadium to life and the party did not end with the full-time whistle.

The great shame for the rest of the tournament is that both teams were eliminated, because the World Cup has lost two of its most passionate sets of fans.

But as the party continued on Lusail Boulevard long after full time we were reminded that the World Cup is not only about success on the pitch — it is also about the experience, the atmosphere and uniting the world.

As I looked around at the Saudi fans in Mexican hats, and fans from all over the world mingling and sharing the experience, I’m reminded that tonight there truly were no losers.