England’s summer of love for the Lionesses reaches Euro 2022 finale

England’s summer of love for the Lionesses reaches Euro 2022 finale
England's coach Sarina Wiegman celebrates with England's midfielder Jill Scott after winning at the end of the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 semifinal match against Sweden at the Bramall Lane stadium, in Sheffield, on July 26, 2022. England won 4-0. (AFP)
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Updated 30 July 2022

England’s summer of love for the Lionesses reaches Euro 2022 finale

England’s summer of love for the Lionesses reaches Euro 2022 finale
  • On top of a sold-out Wembley, a crowd of 7,000 is set to congregate to watch the final on big screens in London’s Trafalgar Square

LONDON: England manager Sarina Wiegman has fulfilled her goal of using Euro 2022 to fuel the nation’s passion for women’s football and victory in Sunday’s final against Germany would consummate the burgeoning love affair.

A tournament that has smashed attendance records will get a fitting finale with a crowd of 87,000 expected at Wembley to set a new high for a final at a European Championship in either the men’s or women’s game.

Anticipation is reaching fever pitch in England as the Lionesses look to end their wait to win a first major tournament.

Wiegman’s team are unbeaten in 19 games since the Dutch coach, who led the Netherlands to Euro glory on home soil five years ago, took charge in September.

On top of a sold-out Wembley, a crowd of 7,000 is set to congregate to watch the final on big screens in London’s Trafalgar Square.

There have even been calls from leading politicians for a national holiday “day of celebration” should a 56-year wait for either England’s men or women to win a major football tournament come to an end at the weekend.

Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson encouraged England to “bring it home,” while Prince William expressed the pride of the nation.

“We believe in you and will be with you all the way!” the Duke of Cambridge said on Twitter.

Such support for the sport shows how far women’s football in England has come since it was banned by the Football Association for nearly 50 years until 1970.

England’s presence as a force in the women’s game has long been on the cards.

The Lionesses faltered at the semifinal stage in each of the last three major tournaments.

At club level, the riches of the men’s Premier League have allowed the big clubs to invest heavily in turning the Women’s Super League into a destination for the world’s best players.

“For English women’s football this is a great moment. It’s not only a month’s work, this is years and years of work, investment, passion and commitment,” said Arsenal women’s Swedish manager Jonas Eidevall.

Fittingly it is Germany, the European nation that for so long led the drive in professionalism and standards for women’s football that stand in the way of England’s history bid.

Germany have never lost in any of their previous eight finals at the Euro, including a 6-2 thrashing of England in the 2009 final.

“It’s a classic game,” said Germany boss Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. “It will be an incredible final.”

The hope for many is that the impact lasts long after the final whistle under the Wembley Arch.

Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright called on the authorities to seize the momentum of goodwill around the game to ensure girls have just as much access to football as boys in schools.

The return of a European Championship final to the home of English football just 13 months after the climax to Euro 2020 was marred by chaotic scenes and violence as supporters stormed the turnstiles also offers women’s football the chance to show how its culture differs from the men’s game.

Of the 488,000 to have attended matches at Euro 2022 so far, 47 percent have been female with nearly 100,000 children, according to figures released by UEFA.

“You can see the audience is children and happy people,” said Sweden manager Peter Gerhardsson in the aftermath of his side’s semifinal defeat.

Wiegman got her wish for a nation to be hooked. Now they are waiting for one more win.


A tale of two creases as latest revisions to Laws of Cricket come into effect

A tale of two creases as latest revisions to Laws of Cricket come into effect
Updated 8 sec ago

A tale of two creases as latest revisions to Laws of Cricket come into effect

A tale of two creases as latest revisions to Laws of Cricket come into effect
  • Although it ceased being the game’s governing body in 1993, the Marylebone Cricket Club continues to be responsible for debating and drafting Laws

On Oct. 1, 2022, nine revisions to the Laws of Cricket will become effective. These constitute the third edition of the 2017 re-coding, the seventh set since the Laws were first drafted in 1744.

Although it ceased being the game’s governing body in 1993, the Laws’ copyright remains with the Marylebone Cricket Club, based at Lords in London.

The MCC’s Laws sub-committee is responsible for debating and drafting, in close consultation with the Cricket Committee of the International Cricket Council, the game’s governing body. It may appear curious that the game’s governing body is neither the owner nor the drafter of its rules, but recognisable benefits of the MCC’s continuing responsibility is its neutrality. The Laws of Cricket apply to all levels of the game, from Test matches down to village greens and city parks. 

As such, they should be applied evenly. In my experience, at club level, the changes that have been made since 2000 have not been. 

This may reflect an ignorance of the changes by those who stand as umpires; at the top levels of club cricket, umpires are qualified and au fait with the most recent Laws. At lower levels, though, players take turns to umpire, making judgements about the fate of their own teammates. This is a situation which can, and does, cause friction and bias, especially if the individual concerned is not aware of the latest amendments.

Seven of nine of the 2022 revisions are straightforward, but two contain potential pitfalls. Law 41.16, classed under Unfair Play, has always carried the potential to be controversial. It addresses the issue of the non-striker leaving his or her ground early, determined as the time between when the bowler starts to run up and the instant when the ball would normally be expected to be delivered — a grey definition. If the bowler sees that the non-striker is out of ground, then he or she has the option to break the wicket and for the non-striker to be given out on appeal. There have been only 53 recorded instances in first class and professional cricket.

It has been customary for the bowler to warn the non-striker rather than break the wicket, but there has been a small rise in cases of bowlers not observing this tradition. In an attempt to normalize this means of dismissal, clause 41.16 has been moved to Law 38: Run Out. It is unlikely to dampen the controversy which it generates. On Sept. 24, only days before the re-classification became effective, a women’s One Day International between England and India was finely poised, England needing 17 runs to win with one wicket remaining. The match ended when an Indian bowler, in her delivery stride, turned to break the wicket, with the non-striker out of her crease. It is ironic that the match was played at Lords, where the change was incubated, opening the issue up again.

The second amendment, which may be the cause of future controversy, relates to the definition of a wide delivery. Law 22.1.2 states that “the ball will be considered as passing wide of the striker unless it is sufficiently within reach for him/her to be able to hit it with the bat by means of a normal cricket stroke.” At club level, there can be a tendency for subjectivity to be applied to the assessment of what constitutes a wide. In some competitions and in all professional one-day and T20 cricket, any ball bowled down the leg-side is deemed a wide. However, particularly in T20, there has been increasing tendency for batters to move laterally across the crease before the bowler delivers the ball. The MCC felt it unfair that a delivery might be called wide if it passes where the batter had stood as the bowler entered his/her delivery stride.

In order to address this possibility, Law 22.1.1. now states that “If the bowler bowls a ball … the umpire shall adjudge it a Wide if, according to the definition in 22.1.2, the ball passes wide of where the striker is standing or has stood at any point after the ball came into play for that delivery, and which also would have passed wide of the striker standing in a normal batting position.” 

This is rather a lot to take in for any umpire, and certainly for ad-hoc ones in club cricket, even if they read and understand it. There is scope for misunderstanding.

It is also a taxing matter for the bowler. One example is when the striker steps away outside of the leg stump and then steps back in when the ball is bowled. Observing this activity, the bowler may have adjusted the line of delivery towards where the striker had temporarily moved, only to see the ball pass down the leg side, from where the striker had moved at the last second. If the umpire deems that delivery a wide, the bowler will have every right to feel aggrieved. It is difficult enough for many club cricketers to deliver the ball accurately and consistently to where they intend, let alone adjust that line in an instant.

Lateral movement across the crease has not yet infiltrated too much at lower levels. It is not known if cricket’s lawmakers have considered an alternative solution, that of disallowing excessive lateral movement across the crease and insisting that the striker stands still awaiting delivery of the ball. This may need consideration if the amendment causes too much controversy. It is too early to know how these two revisions will affect the playing and umpiring of the game or their potential to generate ill-feeling. 

It ought not to be difficult for a non-striker to stay within ground, in the knowledge that failure to do so can lead to being legitimately run out. Equally, it should not be difficult to legislate that a striker stands still until the ball is being delivered.


No respite for Bayern players with Leverkusen game looming

No respite for Bayern players with Leverkusen game looming
Updated 40 min 25 sec ago

No respite for Bayern players with Leverkusen game looming

No respite for Bayern players with Leverkusen game looming
  • Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann welcomed Germany players Thomas Müller, Joshua Kimmich, Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala and Serge Gnabry back
  • Bayern’s players took their poor form to the Germany team

BERLIN: The international break provided little respite for Bayern Munich’s struggling stars ahead of the team’s high-stakes Bundesliga game against Bayer Leverkusen on Friday.
Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann welcomed Germany players Thomas Müller, Joshua Kimmich, Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala and Serge Gnabry back to training on Wednesday after what proved to be a frustrating two games with the national team.
The rain they encountered in Munich matched the mood.
Bayern, after four games without a win in the Bundesliga, had been hoping that Germany’s Nations League games against Hungary and England would help reinvigorate their players and restore confidence ahead of a busy schedule of domestic and Champions League games.
Instead, Bayern’s players took their poor form to the Germany team, which lost 1-0 at home to Hungary, then drew 3-3 with England after throwing away a two-goal lead.
Bayern captain Manuel Neuer and midfielder Leon Goretzka missed the Germany games due to coronavirus infections, but both were back on the training field for Nagelsmann on Tuesday.
Nagelsmann had said he was going to use the break to think “about everything” after Bayern ended their run of three draws with a loss in Augsburg, the team’s first defeat of the season.
Only a convincing performance on Friday will ease the pressure on the coach, who seemed to be at a loss to explain his team’s slump. Bayern next face a visit to Borussia Dortmund for “der Klassiker” the following weekend.
Leverkusen also need to make amends after their disappointing start. Gerardo Seoane’s team are in crisis after just one win from seven league games so far.
“Both teams are in a similar situation – each at their own level. Both are dissatisfied with the results, but both also show many positive signs,” Seoane said.
“Bayern Munich had an incredible number of scoring chances in every game. We don’t need to talk about quality.”


Sebastien Loeb ready for battle in Morocco as Rally-Raid title race heats up

Sebastien Loeb ready for battle in Morocco as Rally-Raid title race heats up
Updated 29 September 2022

Sebastien Loeb ready for battle in Morocco as Rally-Raid title race heats up

Sebastien Loeb ready for battle in Morocco as Rally-Raid title race heats up
  • BRX’s French driver holds one-point lead over Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar

AGADIR: Sebastien Loeb is set for another tense battle with Nasser Al-Attiyah as he looks to build on his lead in the World Rally-Raid Championship when the Rallye du Maroc gets underway on Saturday.

Loeb, driving one of three Prodrive Hunters entered by Bahrain Raid Xtreme, holds a slender one-point advantage over Al-Attiyah as the inaugural W2RC series resumes in Agadir after a seven-month break.

Partnered by Fabian Lurquin, nine-time World Rally champion Loeb and the rest of the BRX team recently covered 2,500 km of testing in Morocco, in temperatures close to 50 C, a demanding preparation not only for the Rallye du Maroc, but also the 2023 Dakar Rally.

“We had a good feeling with the car and it was reliable, too, so everything is working well,” said Loeb.

“At the moment we are leading, but we know Nasser will be fast in Morocco and the gap is very small. So we have to fight hard to get some more good points for the title.”

Loeb finished runner-up to Al-Attiyah in this year’s Dakar before grabbing the championship lead from the Qatari in Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in March.

Argentina’s Orly Terranova and Spanish co-driver Alex Haro, who finished fourth in the Dakar, are also back in action with BRX in Morocco, while Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit will be partnered by Alex Winocq in a third Prodrive Hunter.

After being diagnosed with cancer in March and battling through treatment, BRX’s Nani Roma rejoined the team months ahead of schedule for testing in Morocco, having already been instrumental in the development of the Hunter.

The two-time Dakar winner has been equally involved in the development of the world’s first all-terrain hypercar, based on the Hunter rally car, which is being built in limited numbers to the individual specifications of select supercar enthusiasts.

Roma will be demonstrating and testing the Hunter hypercar for prospective buyers in Dubai in November. He will continue to work with BRX throughout the team’s rally program, which continues with the Andalucia Rally, the final round of the W2RC, from Oct. 18-21.

However, it is too late in the schedule for Roma to compete with the team in Morocco and Spain next month, and Dakar in January 2023.

From Agadir, Rallye du Maroc heads out for six stages covering 1,575 km and featuring more sand than seen in previous years. The BRX cars will again be using sustainable Eco-Power fuel, which reduces CO2 emissions by 80 percent.

Gus Beteli, the BRX team principal, said: “Following a very positive test in Morocco, we’re very much looking forward to being back rallying against the competition, the clock and the desert.

“Seb, Orly and Guerlain have further improved the package we have through not leaving any angle unexplored for this World Championship push. These are busy but exciting times at BRX.”


Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans

Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans
Updated 29 September 2022

Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans

Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans
  • All visitors aged over six would have to produce negative COVID-19 tests before taking flights to Qatar for the tournament

DOHA: Coronavirus vaccinations will not be mandatory for the million-plus fans going to the World Cup in Qatar this year, authorities in the Gulf state said on Thursday.

All visitors aged over six will have to produce negative COVID-19 tests before taking flights to Qatar for the tournament that starts November 20, the authorities said in new health guidelines.

The 29-day tournament will be the first major global sporting event with fans since the eruption of the Covid pandemic in December 2019.

The Qatar organizers and world football’s governing body FIFA have said they want the event to be a sign that the world is getting over the devastating pandemic.

But they have warned that health guidelines will change if the threat blows up again.

Fans will have to wear masks in public transport in Qatar and anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 “will be required to isolate in accordance with Ministry of Public Health guidelines,” the health ministry said.

The ministry added that it may force players, referees and officials to stay in a secure “bio-bubble” if coronavirus cases take off “to allow for the safe operation and continuation of the event.”


Saudi Arabia take on Bahrain in opening qualifier of ICC U-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Division 2

Saudi Arabia take on Bahrain in opening qualifier of ICC U-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Division 2
Updated 29 September 2022

Saudi Arabia take on Bahrain in opening qualifier of ICC U-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Division 2

Saudi Arabia take on Bahrain in opening qualifier of ICC U-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Division 2
  • Top two teams of qualification campaign in Oman will advance to final 2023 Asia Qualifier with place in 2024 World Cup at stake

Saudi Arabia on Thursday morning take on Bahrain in their opening fixture of the ICC U-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Division 2 — Asia qualifiers taking place in Oman.

The youngsters from the Kingdom will then face the hosts on Saturday, Oct. 1, before concluding their Group A matches with a fixture against Bhutan on Monday, Oct 3.

The eight-team qualification campaign also includes Hong Kong, Qatar, Singapore and Thailand, who make up Group B, and will feature 16 matches over nine days.

The top two teams will then advance to the 2023 Asia Qualifier alongside already-qualified Kuwait, Malaysia, Nepal and the UAE, with a place at the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024 at stake.

The Saudi squad landed in Muscat on Wednesday after concluding a 45-day intensive training camp in Riyadh in preparation for the World Cup qualifiers.

“We have carried out a talent hunt across the Kingdom and came up with 25 players, and coach Kabir Khan has done a good job training the boys.” said Tariq Ziad Sagga, CEO of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF). “The squad has an average age which is below 17, and we count on them [to be part of] future national teams.”

“We hope to qualify to the second round of the qualifications,” he added.