Modeste header sees Dortmund win away at Hertha

Modeste header sees Dortmund win away at Hertha
Borussia Dortmund’s Anthony Modeste celebrates scoring their first goal with Dortmund’s coach Edin Terzic during their Bundesliga match against Hertha BSC at Olympiastadion, Berlin on Saturday. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 August 2022

Modeste header sees Dortmund win away at Hertha

Modeste header sees Dortmund win away at Hertha
  • Modeste headed in a cross from Salish Ozan in the 32dn minute to put Dortmund 1-0 up
  • The goal was Modeste's eighth against Hertha in 11 appearances

BERLIN: French striker Anthony Modeste thanked Dortmund manager Edin Terzic after his first-half goal gave his side a narrow 1-0 win away at Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
Modeste headed in a cross from Salish Ozan, who also arrived from Cologne this summer, in the 32dn minute to put Dortmund 1-0 up.
Modeste, who is known for his theatrical celebrations which often involve dancing and even props, ran emotionally to Dortmund manager Edin Terzic and embraced him after scoring.
Speaking to Sky after the match, Modeste credited his winner to Terzic.
“I’m so glad to score my first goal. It took its time, but it was really important.”
“I’ve copped so much (since arriving at Dortmund), but the manager was always there for me.”
Dortmund, who suffered heavy criticism after throwing away a 2-0 lead in the 88th minute to lose 3-2 to Weider Bremen last Saturday, endured a nervy end to the match but held on to record their third win of the season.
The goal was Modeste’s eighth against Hertha in 11 appearances.
Dortmund have scored 10 goals in competitive fixtures this season, each from a different scorer.
Elsewhere, Union Berlin moved alone on top of the table, at least until Saturday’s late game, after a 6-1 win away at Schalke.
Braces from Heraldship Becker and Sven Michel, along with strikes from Morten Thorsby and Janik Haberer gave Union a dominant victory.
The Berlin club, who will begin their first ever Europa League campaign in September, are unbeaten (four wins and a draw) after five competitive games in 2022-23.
Berlin coach Urs Fischer did not want his team to get carried away with the “lucky” win.
“Our 3-1 half-time lead was lucky. Sc halke were better, more aggressive and more agile than us,” the Swiss manager told Germany’s SID.
“What was good was that we were more efficient.”
RB Leipzig gained their first Bundestags win of the season with a 2-0 home victory over Wolfsburg.
Leipzig’s French forward Christopher Nkunku converted a penalty after five minutes to open the scoring.
Former Chelsea striker Timo Werner, who started from the bench after an infection, set up Nkunku’s second in the 90th minute to relieve some pressure from Leipzig coach Domenico Tedesco.
Bayer Leverkusen picked up their first points of the season with a 3-0 win away at Mainz.
Leverkusen, who had scored just one goal in three Bundesliga games and had already been eliminated from the German Cup, scored three first-half goals, including a brace for Dutch wing back Jeremie Frimpong.
Hoffenheim won their third game of the season with a hard-fought 1-0 home victory over Augsburg, thanks to a first-half goal from Dennis Geiger.
In Saturday’s late game, Bayern Munich have the chance to reclaim top place if they beat the visiting Borussia Moenchengladbach.


Belgium star Hazard quits international football

Belgium star Hazard quits international football
Belgium's national football team forward Eden Hazard gives a press conference ahead of the upcoming Fifa World Cup. AFP
Updated 48 min 41 sec ago

Belgium star Hazard quits international football

Belgium star Hazard quits international football
  • The Real Madrid forward, 31, made the announcement on social media, saying “a page turns today"

DOHA: Belgium star Eden Hazard announced his retirement from international football on Wednesday, days after the team crashed out of the World Cup in the group stage.
The Real Madrid forward, 31, made the announcement on social media, saying “a page turns today.”
“Thank you for your unparalleled support,” he posted on Instagram. “Thank you for all this happiness shared since 2008. I have decided to put an end to my international career. The succession is ready. I will miss you.”
The Belgium team tweeted: “All the best, captain.”
Hazard, who played as an attacking midfielder or winger, made his Belgium debut in 2008 as a teenager and collected a total of 126 caps, scoring 33 goals.
He was the standard-bearer of Belgium’s much-vaunted “golden generation,” which reached the semifinals at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The team are still ranked second in the world by FIFA but many of their players are in their 30s and they finished third in Group F behind Morocco and Croatia.
Hazard, who was the team’s skipper, made a surprise admission during the tournament in Qatar, saying the team’s best chance to win the World Cup had come and gone.
The forward moved from French club Lille to Chelsea in 2012 and became one of the standout stars in the Premier League, winning the trophy twice.
He sealed a big-money move to Real Madrid in 2019 but, hampered by injury, has struggled to repeat the form he showed in England.
Belgium were stalked by rumors of in-fighting in Qatar and a number of the country’s other stars including Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois have likely played their final World Cup matches.
In the aftermath of their exit, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez announced he was leaving his job.


Morocco fans in London celebrate World Cup win over Spain

Morocco fans in London celebrate World Cup win over Spain
Updated 07 December 2022

Morocco fans in London celebrate World Cup win over Spain

Morocco fans in London celebrate World Cup win over Spain
  • North African country is first Arab nation to reach World Cup quarterfinals
  • London’s Edgware Road erupts in celebration after victory

LONDON: Jubilant Morocco fans poured onto the streets of central London on Tuesday night to celebrate their team’s historic win over Spain in the last 16 of the World Cup.

Becoming the first Arab nation to reach the quarterfinals of a World Cup, Morocco beat the 2010 champions in a penalty shoot-out in which keeper Yassine Bounou saved all three of Spain’s shots before Paris Saint-Germain defender Achraf Hakimi slotted home.

Footage on social media showed elated crowds of people around Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus and Edgware Road dancing and waving Moroccan flags after the result.

Describing the scenes on Edgware Road, 21-year-old student Jahmell-Hasan Rhys Campbell told The Guardian: “It was incredible. There were lots of flags everywhere. Not just Moroccan flags but flags of almost every African nation.

“The cars were beeping every second, people were dancing in the street and hanging out of their car windows. It was such a surreal experience. (There were) easily around 300 people.”

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI issued a statement sending his “heartfelt congratulations” to the team, noting that the players had given “their all and blazed a trail throughout this great sporting event.”

He added that they represent the “hopes and dreams of Moroccans in Morocco, Qatar, and all over the world,” as they ready themselves for a last-eight meeting with Portugal on Saturday.


Ronaldo a bystander as Portugal find magic touch at World Cup

Ronaldo a bystander as Portugal find magic touch at World Cup
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo watches from the bench during the Qatar 2022 World Cup round of 16 match against Switzerland. AFP
Updated 07 December 2022

Ronaldo a bystander as Portugal find magic touch at World Cup

Ronaldo a bystander as Portugal find magic touch at World Cup
  • The superstar forward was largely a spectator as the side he has captained for so long threw off the shackles and romped to a 6-1 victory over Switzerland in the World Cup last-16 on Tuesday

DOHA: Cristiano Ronaldo first found himself unloved and unwanted by Manchester United. Now the unthinkable has happened — he has been dumped by Portugal.
The superstar forward was largely a spectator as the side he has captained for so long threw off the shackles and romped to a 6-1 victory over Switzerland in the World Cup last-16 on Tuesday.
Young striker Goncalo Ramos, brought in for Ronaldo, scored a stunning hat-trick and at least competed with his illustrious teammate for the headlines.
Ronaldo came to the World Cup seeking respite after his troubled spell at Old Trafford this season, where he had become a peripheral figure under new manager Erik ten Hag.
Those frustrations boiled over last month in an explosive TV interview in which he lashed out at the club and the coach, leading to an inevitable parting of the ways.
The 37-year-old landed in Qatar to the usual fanfare, once again the focus of fawning attention from the world’s media.
Things even went to script in Portugal’s first game, when he scored the opener from the penalty spot in a 3-2 win against Ghana, becoming the first man to score goals at five World Cups.
But things went downhill from there. He huffed and puffed through games against Uruguay and South Korea but failed to find the net and Portugal were less than the sum of their considerable parts.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos, who masterminded the side’s triumph at Euro 2016, finally took the decision to leave his star man out against the Swiss and was vindicated in spectacular fashion.
Portugal turned on the style, with Benfica’s Ramos, 21, netting three times in a free-flowing attacking performance.

- Ronaldo chants -

With the match long since won, chants of “Ronaldo” echoed around the cavernous Lusail Stadium in Doha and he was cheered as he warmed up on the sidelines.
Santos gave the crowd what they wanted with about 15 minutes of normal time to go.
Ronaldo smashed a free-kick into the wall moments after coming on and minutes later had the ball in the net after a fine finish, but was well offside.
He even had to cede the limelight to fellow substitute Rafael Leao, who scored a stunning goal in stoppage time to complete the rout — another glimpse of the enviable riches at Santos’s disposal.
The coach, who has been in charge since 2014, insisted he had complete faith in all his forward in the afterglow of the win, which sets up a quarter-final against Morocco.
“Andre (Silva) is a great player who plays further forward, Cristiano is more fixed — he stays in a more determined area toward the box,” he said. “Goncalo (Ramos) has different characteristics.
“He is very dynamic and that is what he ended up showing us. It is nothing new — he already came on in two matches but Andre also played in the last match. 
“I have three players I fully trust. For each match I will use which player I see best for my strategy.”
Santos even suggested five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo could still be a starter in Qatar.
But for all of his coach’s placatory words, Ronaldo — who has a record 118 goals in men’s international football — will surely once again be left out of the line-up for Saturday’s quarter-final.
He will also be painfully aware that he is clubless, as rumors swirl over a lucrative move to Saudi side Al-Nassr.
If, as expected, he is kicking his heels on the bench during the Morocco match, he will have plenty of time to brood over his situation and remember he was the future once.


Saudi football fans in Doha join Morocco World Cup celebrations

Saudi football fans in Doha join Morocco World Cup celebrations
Part of the celebrations at the Saudi House in Doha. SPA
Updated 07 December 2022

Saudi football fans in Doha join Morocco World Cup celebrations

Saudi football fans in Doha join Morocco World Cup celebrations
  • “We, the Moroccans, are proud of the Saudi public’s support for us in the final qualifiers for the Qatar World Cup," Moroccan fan said

DOHA: Saudis on Tuesday joined Moroccan football fans celebrating in Doha the north Africans becoming the first Arab team to reach the World Cup quarterfinals.

Visitors to the Saudi House area, located on the Qatari capital’s corniche, watched on a giant screen Morocco’s dramatic 3-0 penalty shootout win over Spain in the round of 16 match.

The Saudi House pavilion, set up for the duration of the tournament to showcase the Kingdom’s rich culture and footballing history, was a sea of Saudi and Moroccan flags as fans from around the world witnessed the Atlas Lions’ victory.

Saudi fan, Mohammed Al-Hamid, described the result as marking an historic day in sport for Arabs in general and Moroccans in particular.

He added that many Saudis had backed Arab teams competing in the World Cup either by attending matches or watching games on giant screens.

Moroccan fan Nader bin Saeed, said: “We, the Moroccans, are proud of the Saudi public’s support for us in the final qualifiers for the Qatar World Cup.

“Here, in the Saudi House, we feel that we are one people united by many customs and traditions, and we have many citizens who work in Saudi Arabia, as well as our Moroccan professionals who play in the Saudi league.”


Pass-masters Spain fail World Cup test, face identity crisis

Pass-masters Spain fail World Cup test, face identity crisis
Spain's players react during a penalty shootout at the end of the Qatar 2022 World Cup round of 16 match against Morocco. AFP
Updated 07 December 2022

Pass-masters Spain fail World Cup test, face identity crisis

Pass-masters Spain fail World Cup test, face identity crisis
  • The north African side made history by reaching the quarter-finals for the first time, while Spain gazed forlornly back at theirs and must now wonder if it is time to move on

DOHA: Spain arrived in Qatar with grand dreams of winning a second World Cup, fully convinced in their style of play, but departed early Wednesday, ruminating on an identity crisis.
La Roja last lifted a major trophy a decade ago at Euro 2012, while they have not won a single knockout game at the World Cup since triumphing in South Africa in 2010.
Luis Enrique’s side huffed and puffed but could not blow Morocco’s sturdy house down in the last 16 on Tuesday, falling 3-0 on penalties after 120 goalless minutes.
The north African side made history by reaching the quarter-finals for the first time, while Spain gazed forlornly back at theirs and must now wonder if it is time to move on.
They attempted over 1,000 passes against Morocco but ended up with nothing to show for it, forcing Yassine Bounou into only one save before the shootout.
There he made two more and Spain were eliminated in the last 16 again, just as they were in Russia four years ago.
“We dominated the game but we lacked a goal,” lamented Luis Enrique.
“We could have been more effective in the final third, but I am more than satisfied with what my players did.
“They represented perfectly what my idea of football is.”
When Xavi and Andres Iniesta ruled the world, opponents were largely still too naive to know to stop them, and they had too much quality to be fended off for long.
Now only truly elite club sides like Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City can succeed by dominating the ball entirely — with perhaps the world’s best striker, Erling Haaland, as the spearhead.
Against Morocco, Luis Enrique left his top scorer Alvaro Morata on the bench, opting instead for Marco Asensio, whom he trusts more not to lose the ball.
The coach buys “the complete pack” when it comes to possession football, for better or for worse.
That means there is no Plan B, with Nico Williams’s pace and directness on the right flank as much of a nod as Luis Enrique will give to other ideas.
Players he left at home like strikers Iago Aspas and Borja Iglesias might have been able to offer more of a challenge to Morocco’s excellent rearguard.

- No stars -

An element of Spain’s plan may be borne of necessity.
As good as midfielders Pedri and Gavi are, they still lack a decisive, regular match-winner.
In the absence of a Kylian Mbappe, a Lionel Messi, a Neymar, or even a Harry Kane, the coach might believe ball domination and associative play is his team’s best weapon, even if it misfired in the desert.
Luis Enrique showed at Barcelona that when he had two of those forward, plus Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, he was willing to play in a different way, relinquishing control and allowing the forward to wreak havoc as his side rolled with the punches.
“We had agreed not to take possession — not out of fear,” said Morocco coach Walid Regragui, looking back at his side’s victory.
Instead he made sure his midfield trio cut passing lines and left Spain with soft domination, which rarely resulted in danger for his side.
Spain’s 7-0 thrashing of Costa Rica at the start of the World Cup was long forgotten by the end, one of the rare occasions where everything falls into place that perhaps keeps La Roja believing in their method.
The coach’s contract expires in the coming weeks and he will discuss his future with Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales next week. 
Whether the 52-year-old stays or leaves will be an indication of Spain’s path ahead.
If Luis Enrique is still the coach for Euro 2024, expect him to double down on his strategy, while hoping players like Ansu Fati can step up to become the decisive weapon in the final third the team is lacking.
Should he depart, Spain might start looking at other strategies, at least against opponents savvy enough to keep from being enveloped by La Roja’s passing web.