Al-Nassr boost season hopes with win over Zaragoza in Marbella

Al-Nassr boost season hopes with win over Zaragoza in Marbella
Al-Nassr should present a formidable challenge in the coming months. (Twitter: @AlNassrFC_EN)
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Updated 02 August 2022

Al-Nassr boost season hopes with win over Zaragoza in Marbella

Al-Nassr boost season hopes with win over Zaragoza in Marbella
  • Stylish 2-1 victory by Riyadh giants gives coach Rudi Garcia cause for optimism as he looks to improve on last season’s third-place finish in the Saudi Pro League

Too much should not be read into pre-season friendlies, but few could blame Al-Nassr’s fans for getting excited after their team picked up an impressive 2-1 win over Zaragoza in the Spanish resort of Marbella on Monday, thanks to two goals from Sami Al-Najei.

The victory does not necessarily mean that the title is coming back to the Yellow corner of Riyadh for the first time since 2019, but it does show that the team looks to be on the right track under a new coach and with some major signings.

Certainly fans of the second-tier Spanish side did not take kindly to being beaten by Saudi Arabian opposition. On social media, supporters expressed their outrage, saying that certain players should never wear the shirt of the team that won the 1995 European Cup Winners Cup again. Local media were scathing in their comments, lamenting mistakes at both ends of the pitch.

Little credit was given to Al-Nassr, but that is to be expected. Fans back home will not worry too much since this was a fine performance under new coach Rudi Garcia. The former Lyon and Marseille boss is still getting to grips with life in the Kingdom, as well as his task of trying to steer the team from third last season to first in the coming campaign.

The signs are encouraging. The visitors made it difficult for the Spanish team, worked hard, and for what is still only their second pre-season game (after a 2-2 draw against Las Palmas last Friday), looked relatively cohesive. It was encouraging to see the aggressive intent of Al-Nassr when faced with a European opponent on home soil, and given the players he has at his disposal, there is nothing stopping Garcia building a formidable attacking unit in Riyadh.

Al-Najei opened the scoring with seven minutes remaining in the first half. The midfielder took possession in the center-circle, sent the ball wide and when the Spanish defense failed to clear the cross, he was there to slot the ball home with a low shot.

Then, just after the hour, it was 2-0. Sultan Al-Ghannam’s ball into the area was controlled by Al-Najei, who then turned his defender and beat the goalkeeper at the near post. If one French coach in Garcia would have been happy with the move, so would another — Saudi Arabia boss Herve Renard.

Soon after Garcia made wholesale changes to his team on a warm evening in southern Spain and while Zaragoza pulled a goal back, the Saudi side saw out the game to take the win.

The result will fade in the memory once the season gets up and running, but the confidence that comes from such a win should stand Al-Nassr in good stead. The new signings performed well.

Goalkeeper David Ospina was injured coming out of his area early in the game and the Colombian stayed down for a worrying couple of minutes before carrying on. Just weeks after arriving from Napoli, Ospina barely put a glove wrong and his presence made a difference. As the former Arsenal man spends more time with the defense, the understanding should grow.

Al-Nassr beat off a number of European clubs to sign Ghislain Konan from French club Reims. The Ivory Coast international left-back looked defensively solid against Zaragoza — who had come from behind to defeat Al-Shabab 2-1 on the previous day — but also got forward whenever possible. It is early days, but the 26-year-old could be one of the signings of the season.

There is still more to come. New signing Gustavo has joined the training camp, but the former Bayern Munich and Marseille midfielder has yet to take the field with his team-mates. Talisca, the Brazilian who was one of the stars of last season, arrived in Spain later than the others, but has also started training. Pity Martinez has looked sharp, and after struggling with injuries in the past, having a full pre-season this time should stand the Argentine playmaker in good stead. All in all, the foreign contingent is looking very potent, indeed.

Add that to the solid domestic spine in the team, with Al-Ghannam, Abdullah Madu, Adbulelah Al-Amri, Ali Lajami and match winner Al-Najei all hoping to make the Saudi starting 11 at the World Cup, and Al-Nassr should present a formidable challenge in the coming months.

A pre-season win, even one against a Spanish team in Spain, might not translate into immediate success back home, but it does mean that Al-Nassr fans will have woken up on Tuesday looking forward to the new season a little bit more.


Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury

Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury
Updated 07 October 2022

Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury

Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury
LEVERKUSEN: Iran forward Sardar Azmoun is a doubt for the World Cup after picking up an injury while warming up for Bayer Leverkusen.
The Bundesliga club said late Thursday that the 27-year-old Azmoun is expected to miss six to eight weeks after tearing a muscle in his right calf in the warm-up before Tuesday’s 2-0 loss at Porto in the Champions League.
Iran’s World Cup campaign begins against England on Nov. 21 in Doha, four days before playing Wales in Ar-Rayyan. The Iranians’ final game in Group B is against the United States on Nov. 29 in Doha.
Azmoun, who joined Leverkusen in January from Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg, has one goal in 17 Bundesliga appearances for the team. He has yet to score this season.
Azmoun has 41 goals in 65 appearances for Iran, including 10 goals in World Cup qualifying.

View from Newcastle: On-field success and promise of successful future a year on from era-defining takeover

View from Newcastle: On-field success and promise of successful future a year on from era-defining takeover
Updated 29 min 53 sec ago

View from Newcastle: On-field success and promise of successful future a year on from era-defining takeover

View from Newcastle: On-field success and promise of successful future a year on from era-defining takeover
  • Backed with top-quality talent in the transfer market, Eddie Howe has transformed the team’s performances after years of underachievement under Mike Ashley’s regime
  • Next on the agenda for the owners is a revamp of the club’s facilities and development of the region

NEWCASTLE: It was said to be the takeover to end all takeovers. No deal had even come close, not even the mega-rich buyouts of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain by Dubai and Qatar-based investors.

It was a deal that promised so much for a fanbase so willing, and a club so ripe for the picking — but has it delivered?

Here we take a look at what has actually changed in the 12 months on Tyneside since the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia takeover of Newcastle United, as seen through the eyes of fans — with hints of what’s to come through the words of PIF chief and Magpies’ chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan.

So what has changed?

So much in many ways, and yet so little in others — although the last bit must be caveated with the word pending.

This takeover, and the preamble to its being, can be divided into two very distinct categories — what the deal can bring for the football club, and what it can bring to the wider community in the northeast of England.In a football sense, Newcastle United is a club transformed.


#LISTEN: Black & White Podcast on all things Newcastle FC


Long gone are the days of flirting with relegation back to the Championship, England’s second tier, a place United stooped to twice during previous owner Mike Ashley’s reign. Now, a fresh optimism that European football can return to St. James’ Park, something seen just once in more than a decade and a half.

And how has that been achieved — well, just by trying to run Newcastle like a proper, functioning Premier League football club, not the dysfunctional mess Sports Direct tycoon Ashley presided over.

Jobs and roles that were previously filled by just one person, now have teams of operatives. Key positions such as chief executive and director of football have been stocked with well-qualified personnel.

There is a real sense that from the boardroom to the dugout and on to the pitch, every person at the club is pulling in the same direction, has the same end goal — and the goal is, of course, success and silverware on Tyneside.

Manager Steve Bruce was replaced with a self-confessed workaholic and “football geek” Eddie Howe.

His fresh, modern approach to the game could not be more at odds with his ex-Manchester United predecessor’s old pals, 1990s football playbook. And it was something the players, many of those starring now were already here before the takeover, have commented on.

There is a clear style of play, an identity about Howe’s Newcastle — when has that ever been said about Newcastle in recent years?

Howe is squeezing the best out of some cast aside by Bruce, such as Fabian Schar and others, while complementing them with flashes of new-found brilliance from Bruno Guimaraes et al.

Signing the likes of Bruno has been one of the biggest changes, too. The summer of 2021 was one of pain and frustration as United failed to capitalize on a decent end to the 2020-21 campaign under Bruce, by signing just one player permanently, Joe Willock. And he was a player who was already at the club on loan.

Since that window, about £200 million has been splashed out on various rising stars from across the Continent. United broke their transfer record to sign Alexander Isak, who was very much on Man City’s radar, I’m told, had any hiccups occurred in the deal to sign Erling Haaland last summer.

The small but important details have not been overlooked either. The need to improve the training ground, so often a source of embarrassment, even for United managers, has already been addressed, with much more to be completed during the winter break for Qatar World Cup, during which United are expected to spend some time in Saudi. A new facility, on the boundaries between leafy Gosforth and Brutalist 1960s new town Killingworth, is in the pipeline.

Club legend Alan Shearer has been honored, not once but twice. That was unthinkable under Ashley, who had sacked the former England captain. His statue moved back on to club land and the bar formerly of his name, returned to its former glory, one befitting of a player who netted 206 goals for the football club.

Care and attention after years of neglect has not gone unnoticed by the receptive Geordie public, who now fill out the ground again, only years after Ashley was forced to give away 10,000 free season tickets in order to keep attendances high.

And that brings me on to the second part of this — what has the deal done for the region.

Well, beyond training ground hints, the answer, at this stage, is very little.

That, however, is definitely set to change. Investment is afoot, it’s understood, with the owners’ plans likely to see cash and potentially jobs flood to the region.

For now, though, that side of the deal is yet to really come to fruition, hence the idea of pending.

The fans’ view “Imagine what this will look like in two years’ time?”

Newcastle has always been famous the world over for the undying, unwavering love of its fans. And 12 months to the day since tens of thousands of them flocked to St. James’ Park, their cathedral on the hill, to mark the passing of the Ashley regime and the rebirth of the sleeping giant on the Tyne, they remain at the very heart of the club’s success moving forward.

“The last year has demonstrated what every Newcastle United fan knew all along. We knew that with the right owners the football club and the city would take off,” said Alex Hurst, of NUFC fanzine True Faith.

“We knew that the club would once again become integral in the lives of millions of people.

“After years of the club being talked down and mocked, the rest of the league and wider football media has had to come to terms with their beloved six becoming seven. Newcastle United have dominated two transfer windows and beaten much of the Premier League since the takeover, despite years of neglect and an almost non existent infrastructure away from the pitch. Imagine what all of this will look like in two years’ time?

“This was supposed to be the hardest part for owners, fans and footballers. Everything has gone to plan so far. Everything.  This twelve months has been special but I think everyone in football is aware, they’ve seen nothing yet.”

As his words detail, Hurst is unequivocal in his view that this deal has had an inherently positive impact on what it means to be associated with Newcastle United.

That’s a view echoed by YouTuber and NUFC Matters podcast host, Steve Wraith.

“When I stood at Molineux in October 2021 in the rain watching another abject display from Steve Bruce’s beleaguered Newcastle team, never could I have imagined that we would be in the position that we now find ourselves in,” he said.

“The takeover of our club by PIF and partners was something our supporters had craved throughout 14 years of misery under Mike Ashley’s ownership.

“In the last 12 months we have retained our premier league status with a hungry new manager in Eddie Howe and made shrewd signings such as Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn, Bruno Guimaraes and a club record signing in Alexander Isak.

“More importantly the new owners have given the supporters hope and with that hope have reunited the fanbase.

“A club disunited for over a decade can once again proudly call itself Newcastle United.”

The future — what next for Newcastle United?

We will leave this to the man who basically holds the keys to the kingdom, the man co-owner Mehrdad Ghodoussi called “boss” on Twitter on Thursday evening, Al-Rumayyan. Often seen as a bright, smiley face in the directors box at SJP and sometimes with a black and white flag in his hand, Al-Rumayyan and PIF, have been welcomed into the club by the people of the region with open arms.

After 15 years of a financial tyrant, resistance was never expected to be encountered — one of the reasons it was such an investable project.

So many predicted the club would be run like PSG or City. So far, it hasn’t. This isn’t about Galactico signings, more medium to long-term deals, improvement from the grassroots up. Every deal must have value for money. Too many sporting ‘projects’ have poured cash down the drain, not under Al-Rumayyan and PIF’s watch.

So why Newcastle and why the Premier League?

“So football is part of the 13 sectors that PIF are interested in. Football is certainly one of the most important sports, whether here or globally, it’s the number one sport,” said Al-Rumayyan.

“Why the EPL? Why the English League? Because it’s currently the greatest league in the world. It has no challengers.

“There are 20 teams, three that will suffer relegation, and three that will be promoted from the second tier. What distinguishes the English league is that any of the 20 teams could beat even the strongest team. The level of competition is extremely high.”

Bang for the buck was, and always is, the main consideration for PIF when investing in any project. NUFC is no different.

Al-Rumayyan explains: “When we looked at it, we considered the financial aspect.

“By the way, it wasn’t the first ‘offer’ that came our way from a club. We looked at clubs in Italy, in France, in Britain. So for example, in Britain, a club approached us to own 30 percent without having any say in its running.”

That is understood to be Manchester United.

He continues: “For £700 million sterling. But we bought Newcastle, 100 percent ownership was offered to us. But the party that brought us the opportunity, Amanda Staveley and her husband, said ‘we like it so much, we’d like to be with you’. Then the Reuben family, who are one of the biggest property developers, said ‘we’d like to come with you’. They were one of the leading developers in Newcastle, and I said excellent, let them join. So now they have skin in the game.

“We bought the club for a total of £350 million sterling compared to the 70 million for only 30 percent, or the 3.5 billion for Chelsea.

“So my potential is to go from 350 million to at least 3.5 billion, that’s 10 times the money. If I’d bought Chelsea, how high could the value go? 4 billion? 5 billion? So it’s pure investment, that’s the first thing.

“Number two, Newcastle is one of few one-club cities. Most cities have several clubs. The whole of Newcastle is behind you, 950,000 people, and more than 1 million in the wider region, are all fans. We have about 52,000 seats at the stadium, all sold out.”

And is there potential for wider investment in the northeast of England?

“When you look at it from every angle, there is potential. The chief strategists for international investments are looking at the property and infrastructure developments that we will be involved in in that area,” said Al-Rumayyan.

“So the potential in terms of investment is huge, and at the same time it gives us a platform going forward for sports investment.”

What of the club’s on-field ambitions? Al-Rumayyan addressed that very subject in a club statement released to fans on the eve of the one-year deal anniversary.

And what’s certain is, PIF is aiming BIG. They’re not here to take part, they’re here to take over.

“We told you that we wanted to build, over time, a consistently successful team. And we told you that we were focused on long-term success,” he stated.

“There is still a long way to go, but each season is a building block toward our objective – to challenge for trophies both domestically and in Europe. The Club we are building is made up of people who understand our long-term vision, and who understand the patience and persistence that it will take to achieve those goals.”

While that rhetoric will get the juices flowing for Newcastle fans, it feels like only the opening stanza of a wonderful, PIF-orchestrated symphony on Tyneside.

Ask any United fan and they’d tell you they’d be happy with one trophy in their lifetime, bearing in mind the club has not won a major domestic honor since 1955. Just one? That’s the bare minimum for those at the top of the football club — and Newcastle and its fans are all for it.


The view from Saudi: a year of momentous change at Newcastle United

The view from Saudi: a year of momentous change at Newcastle United
Updated 30 min 7 sec ago

The view from Saudi: a year of momentous change at Newcastle United

The view from Saudi: a year of momentous change at Newcastle United
  • On and off the pitch, standards and expectations have been raised

On the eve of the first anniversary of the Newcastle United takeover, club Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan delivered a special open letter to the club’s fans.

“The first game after the takeover will live long in my memory,” he said recalling the home game against Tottenham on Oct. 17, 2021 and the “feeling of pride at holding the black and white scarf entering the stadium.”

So much has happened since that day, and I was lucky to experience many of those moments both in Newcastle and at home in Saudi Arabia.

Here are my main takes from a memorable year.

Hope returns

When Keith Patterson, a popular Newcastle fan who helped push the takeover, was asked about the biggest change at the club after the Saudi-backed purchase, he replied simply: “Hope.”

That there is the hope of winning a trophy — something that could not be envisioned a year ago — is a sign of just how ambitious Newcastle United, both the club and its fans, have become.

It might not come this season, but now there is real hope that a first trophy since the 1969 Fairs Cup is on the way.


#LISTEN: Black & White Podcast on all things Newcastle FC


Pre-season sets tone for new campaign

Winning the Premier League is not the target for Newcastle right now, and supporters know that a far more realistic target is winning a domestic cup at Wembley or reaching Europe next season.

The club’s intentions were clear from the pre-season camps in Austria and Portugal, which saw impressive displays against Benfica and Atlanta in particular.

With an improved, settled squad in place, the feel-good factor of the summer has carried over into the season.

Intelligent recruitment

The January transfer window set a high bar for Newcastle’s recruitment, with Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn, Bruno Guimaraes and Chris Wood joining on a full-time basis.

And things have only improved since then, with the summer window seeing the likes of Nick Pope, Sven Botman and Alexander Isak joining Eddie Howe’s squad.

During the summer, fans were impatient for big-name signings, but the management’s vision was different, with Howe prioritizing individuals with the right personality for his team before anything else.

Off the pitch, recruitment has also been meticulous, the club biding their time to get the right people in place. From signing Howe himself, to adding Sporting Director Dan Ashworth, CEO Darren Eales and others, Newcastle now has a management team that is the envy of most clubs.

A promising start to the Premier League season

The start to the 2022-23 season could not be more different from that of last season, when Newcastle failed to win any of their first 14 fixtures.

This time around, Newcastle kicked off with a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest and after eight matches find themselves seventh in the league and eyeing Europe.

The 11 points have come from two wins, five draws and only one narrow loss to Liverpool. Some of those draws could have been wins as well, and while a lot of hard work still awaits Howe and his squad in the coming months, no one is complaining about this positive start.

Upcoming challenges off the pitch

Newcastle’s to-do list remains a long one, and one of the challenges — a welcome one — is how to meet the demands of fans.

St. James’ over-52,000 capacity could be sold several times over for every match. There has even been talk of a brand-new stadium with an 80,000 capacity.

In theory, that may solve a problem, but in reality, it will initiate a bigger one. St. James remains the heart of the city, and its location is culturally and financially precious.

Far more likely is redeveloping this historic home.

Mehrdad Ghodoussi, part-owner of Newcastle United, has made it clear that the club is in talks with the city council to try and expand St. James’ capacity.

Leaving the stadium, he said, would be “like tearing your soul out.”

He added: “There are a lot of things that need to happen first. If we can get it to 60,000 or 65,000, it will be amazing, and we’ll look at every possibility.”


Chicherit takes victory in Morocco, Loeb responds with stage win for Bahrain Raid Xtreme

Chicherit takes victory in Morocco, Loeb responds with stage win for Bahrain Raid Xtreme
Updated 07 October 2022

Chicherit takes victory in Morocco, Loeb responds with stage win for Bahrain Raid Xtreme

Chicherit takes victory in Morocco, Loeb responds with stage win for Bahrain Raid Xtreme
  • Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi took fourth place overall in another Toyota Hilux, while Qatar’s Al-Attiyah now leads in world title race

AGADIR: Guerlain Chicherit took his Prodriver Hunter to a milestone victory in the Rallye Du Maroc today as Sebastien Loeb produced a brilliant last-stage win for Bahrain Raid Xtreme.

Partnered by fellow-Frenchman Alex Winocq, Chicherit extended his overnight lead to reach the finish in Agadir with a 10-minute, 55-second margin over Orlando Terranova and Alex Haro in their BRX Prodrive Hunter.

After being forced to retire from the penultimate leg with steering problems, BRX star Loeb produced the perfect response alongside co-driver Fabian Lurquin, setting the fastest time on the final leg to keep alive his title hopes in the World Rally-Raid Championship, or W2RC.

Second fastest on the day, having led the rally since the end of Tuesday’s third stage, Chicherit went into the record books by securing a maiden rally victory — surely the first of many — for the impressive Hunter.

Significantly, all three Prodrive Hunters completed the rally running on sustainable Eco-Power fuel, which reduces CO2 emissions by 80 percent.

Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah is the new W2RC leader after finishing third overall in his Toyota Hilux, just over 29 minutes adrift of Chicherit and almost 19 mins away from runner-up Terranova. Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi took fourth place overall in another Toyota Hilux.

Loeb had been firmly on course to extend his lead in the W2RC when he started the previous day’s stage, lying third overall, with a lead of almost 23 minutes over Al-Attiyah.

But 127 km into the stage, he was halted by steering problems, which eventually forced his retirement for the day, with the BRX team working through the night to put the Prodrive Hunter back in action today.

The final leg, which returned the Rallye Du Maroc to Agadir, was as challenging as it was spectacular: 185 km of special stage and 189 km of liaison, all along the Atlantic coast, finishing with a 10 km beach run along the famous Plage Blanche.

From the start, Loeb had his sights on maximum W2RC points as the stage winner, setting the pace on the first 30 km and gradually increasing his lead over Chicherit at 93 km, 249 km and 274 km, before cruising home along the white beach with 1 minute, 8 seconds to spare.


High-flying Saudis face Kuwait, test 2023 Asian U-17 Championship

High-flying Saudis face Kuwait, test 2023 Asian U-17 Championship
Updated 07 October 2022

High-flying Saudis face Kuwait, test 2023 Asian U-17 Championship

High-flying Saudis face Kuwait, test 2023 Asian U-17 Championship
  • A couple of big wins over Myanmar and Maldives leave the young Green Falcons top of their group and on course for next year’s finals

Saudi Arabia’s young footballers continue to set high standards and are once again eyeing an age group tournament success.

The Young Falcons thrashed Maldives 9-0 on Wednesday in the second qualification game of the 2023 Asian U-17 Championship to stay on top of Group D and on course for a place at next year’s tournament.

Following the 6-0 defeat of Myanmar in the opening round two days previously, the most recent win keeps the Saudis three points ahead of India in second and Kuwait in third, the opponents in the next two games. Only the 10 group winners are guaranteed qualification, along with the six best-placed runners-up. With the start Saudi Arabia have made — as well as the advantage of playing all four group games in their home city of Alkhobar — the odds are looking good.

Perhaps the result of the team coming off a two-week training camp in the eastern city of Dammam, scoring goals has been no problem with 15 in two games so far, a strike rate that clocks in at a goal every 12 minutes. They have been spread around the team nicely too. Ramiz Al-Attar has contributed three with Talal Haji, Nawaf Al-Jadaani and Nawaf Al-Janahi all managing two each.

It has been the perfect start, but the real tests come on Friday and Sunday. The first is against Kuwait who lost 3-0 to India on Wednesday. It was a disappointing performance from the Blues who defeated Maldives and Myanmar before their loss and will almost certainly be out of the running, even for second place, if they lose to Saudi Arabia.

If coach Adbulwahab Nasser Al-Harbi’s men can take the three points on Friday, then a draw will almost certainly be enough against an improving India to take top spot. Given Saudi Arabia’s goal difference, it is also likely that just one win from the final two games will earn the youngsters at least a place in the tournament as one of the best runners-up.

Al-Harbi will be looking for four wins out of four, however. There is some pressure to do so. Saudi Arabia’s U-23 team won the Asian Championship in June, and the U-20 team lifted the Arab Cup in August, defeating Egypt in the final, and then went on to finish top of their group in qualification for the 2023 Asian Championships. The ambitions of the U-17 team are not just to qualify for the continental event but to win it wherever it takes place (the host has not yet been named).

Saudi Arabia have lifted the trophy, in its former guise as the Asian U-16 Championships in the inaugural meeting in 1985, and then repeated the feat in 1988. The best showing since then was a place in the semifinals in 1992, a record that is not good enough for one of the continent’s powerhouses. Other Arab winners are Oman, who have managed to do so twice, with Qatar champions in 1990 and Iraq triumphant in 2016. These teams, and others from the region, are all in action in the coming days.

In Group A, Japan look set for first place, leaving hosts Jordan, Syria and Turkmenistan fighting it out for that coveted second-placed spot. With Syria facing the impressive Japanese next, Jordan have a chance to move clear if they can defeat Turkmenistan. The UAE won their first two games in Group B, including a thrilling come-from-behind 4-3 win over a struggling Palestine team, but a 3-2 defeat to Indonesia leaves the situation looking uncertain heading into Friday’s crunch clash with Malaysia.

Group C is an all-Arabian affair. Oman are currently top as the only team with maximum points. Yet the next game is against Qatar in second, a meeting of two past champions, and this will go a long way to determining who qualifies. If Oman win, the group will likely be theirs. Lebanon are bottom with one point from the first three games, and Bahrain and Iraq both need to win their remaining games if they are to have a chance.

There is still a long way to go in Group E, though Yemen had a great start with an 8-0 demolition of Bhutan and face a big task against Singapore. Yet it could be the following game against hosts Bangladesh that decides what happens. A win there and Yemen should join Saudi Arabia in next year’s U-17 Championships, though Kuwait and India will still have something to say about that.