Champions League revamp ‘already a success,’ says PSG’s Al-Khelaifi

Champions League revamp ‘already a success,’ says PSG’s Al-Khelaifi
PSG manager Luis Campos (L) and President Nasser Al-Khelaifi during a training session on the eve of football match between PSG and Juventus Turin outside Paris on Sept. 5, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 06 September 2022

Champions League revamp ‘already a success,’ says PSG’s Al-Khelaifi

Champions League revamp ‘already a success,’ says PSG’s Al-Khelaifi
  • The expansion of UEFA’s flagship competition has coincided with TV rights for European club competitions jumping more than 40 percent from 2024

OEIRAS, Portugal: Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said Monday the sharp rise in Champions League TV rights shows the overhaul of the competition’s format from 2024 is a “success already.”

“The sales for the new format in the US have increased without even Spanish language 150 percent, and the UK and France increased a lot also,” said Al-Khelaifi, a main opponent of the aborted Super League project.

“I think it shows this new format is already a success even before it has started,” he told a video conference organized near Lisbon by the Portuguese FA.

From 2024 the group stage will be expanded to feature 36 clubs, up from 32, with all teams together in one pool and playing eight matches, instead of eight groups of four teams.

It is the first significant change to the competition in two decades and will shake up a first phase that has become too predictable.

“Football needs to be developed in a way that it respects small, medium and big clubs,” said Al-Khelaifi, who is also chairman of the European Club Association, which has nearly 250 members from across the continent.

The expansion of UEFA’s flagship competition has coincided with TV rights for European club competitions jumping more than 40 percent from 2024.

Global deals have been agreed worth €15 billion for the three seasons to 2027, or €5 billion annually.

Asked about the financial model of clubs like PSG or Manchester City, backed by mega-rich Gulf owners, Al-Khelaifi said “football needs investment to grow” and called out the “disastrous debt” of some clubs.

He criticized clubs which are supposed to belong to the fans but whose supporters “control nothing,” allowing those in power to pass on huge debts to their successors once they have served their terms.

“This is what we should worry about because that’s a big danger,” he added, in a thinly-veiled dig at Barcelona, who remain committed to launching a Super League and have debts in excess of a billion euros.


Saudi Arabia has not put in a formal bid to host the Fifa World Cup

Saudi Arabia has not put in a formal bid to host the Fifa World Cup
Updated 12 sec ago

Saudi Arabia has not put in a formal bid to host the Fifa World Cup

Saudi Arabia has not put in a formal bid to host the Fifa World Cup

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has not submitted an official bid to host the FIFA World Cup, the tourism ministry said on Wednesday.

“Saudi Arabia is always considering to host a number of large sporting events, as part of promoting sport and tourism in the Kingdom in line with Saudi Vision 2030,” the ministry tweeted.

The Kingdom has hosted a number of major sporting events in Saudi Arabia including Formula 1, football and heavyweight boxing title fights.

Saudi Vision aims to reform the Kingdom on a number of fronts including in tourism, culture and innovative  technologies with a view to reorient the country’s economy away from a dependence on oil exports.


Bale makes early exit for Wales against England at World Cup

Bale makes early exit for Wales against England at World Cup
Updated 51 min 54 sec ago

Bale makes early exit for Wales against England at World Cup

Bale makes early exit for Wales against England at World Cup
  • Bale had been largely ineffective in the opening half, with only seven touches as England dominated possession

AL RAYYAN, Qatar: If it was Gareth Bale’s final game for Wales, it ended rather unceremoniously.
The Wales captain was substituted at halftime of the team’s match against England at the World Cup on Tuesday because of an injury.
While it was unclear when Bale was hurt, it appeared he was struggling late in the first half of the team’s final Group B match. He was replaced by Brennan Johnson.
Wales crumbled once Bale went off. England scored about five minutes into the second half and added another goal a minute later, finishing with a 3-0 victory.
Wales went into the match at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium needing a victory for a chance to advance to the knockout round in the team’s first World Cup appearance since 1958. Instead, the Welsh are headed home.
Bale had been largely ineffective in the opening half, with only seven touches as England dominated possession.
The 33-year-old Bale, who made his senior debut with Wales in 2006, leads the team in all-time appearances with 111 and in goals with 41.
The forward came to Qatar dogged by questions about whether his time with the national team was coming to an end. Asked a day before the match, Bale curtly replied “Nope.”
Following the World Cup, the next match for Wales is a European Championship qualifier against Croatia in March.
Bale’s World Cup had started with promise. In a 1-1 draw with the United States to open the tournament, Bale pulled Wales even with a late penalty. A 2-0 loss to Iran put Wales in danger of elimination.
But time seems to be catching up with Bale, who won five Champions League trophies over nearly a decade at Real Madrid. He now plays for Los Angeles FC.
Bale helped Wales reach the semifinals at the 2016 European Championship before the team lost to eventual champion Portugal. Wales qualified for last year’s pandemic-delayed Euro 2020, where it lost to Denmark in the round of 16.
After nine years with Real Madrid, Bale came to the United States this past season to play for LAFC in Major League Soccer, signing a deal worth just under $2.4 million.
He was limited to only two starts because of injuries but helped LAFC win the MLS Cup when he scored the game-tying goal deep into stoppage time of extra time against the Philadelphia Union. LAFC prevailed in a penalty shootout for its first championship.
It was Bale’s third goal with LAFC and his first since Aug. 6 against Real Salt Lake. At 128 minutes, it was also the latest goal scored in MLS’ 27 seasons.


England advance after beating Wales 3-0 at World Cup

England advance after beating Wales 3-0 at World Cup
Updated 30 November 2022

England advance after beating Wales 3-0 at World Cup

England advance after beating Wales 3-0 at World Cup
  • England will next face Senegal in the round of 16
  • Wales finished in last place in the group and has been eliminated

AL RAYYAN, Qatar: Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden both scored Tuesday to put England into the last 16 of the World Cup with a 3-0 victory over Wales.
England coach Gareth Southgate opted to add both players in the starting lineup for the team’s final Group B match and they responded with all three goals — two from Rashford and the other from Foden.
England will next face Senegal in the round of 16. Wales finished in last place in the group and has been eliminated.
Southgate had faced calls to freshen up his team after the 0-0 draw with the United States. He brought in Rashford and Foden into a new look attack and it worked.
England had the game wrapped up just after halftime with Rashford scoring from a free kick in the 50th and Foden adding another in the 51st. Rashford got his second after a weaving run in the box in the 68th.
Wales captain Gareth Bale was forced off at halftime with an injury.


Pulisic sinks Iran as US advance in World Cup duel

Pulisic sinks Iran as US advance in World Cup duel
Updated 30 November 2022

Pulisic sinks Iran as US advance in World Cup duel

Pulisic sinks Iran as US advance in World Cup duel
  • Christian Pulisic swooped to score the decisive goal in the 38th minute
  • The Americans will face Group A winners the Netherlands in the knockout phase

DOHA: Christian Pulisic fired the United States into the last 16 of the World Cup on Tuesday as the Americans downed Iran 1-0 in their politically charged grudge match.
Chelsea star Pulisic bundled home the do-or-die Group B game’s only goal on 38 minutes to set up a second round clash with Group A winners the Netherlands on Saturday.
The victory was no less than US coach Gregg Berhalter’s youthful side deserved in what was only the third international football clash between the bitter ideological rivals.
The build-up to a pulsating showdown had been marked by steadily escalating tension, with Iran’s Football Federation on Sunday demanding FIFA sanction US Soccer for posting a modified version of their country’s flag on social media.
But despite an electrifying atmosphere at Doha’s Al Thumama Stadium, Tuesday’s game played out without controversy as the US avenged their 1998 World Cup defeat to Iran to send the Asian qualifiers crashing out of the tournament.
Iran’s fans had roared their team onto the field at the start of the game amid a deafening cacophony of air-horns and cheers from the crowd of 42,127.
But despite the intimidating reception it was the Americans who looked more comfortable, quickly establishing their dominance.
US captain Tyler Adams and Juventus’ Weston McKennie controlled proceedings in midfield to leave Iran struggling to gain foothold.
The US signalled their attacking ambition after only two minutes, Pulisic surging forward menacingly before being dispossessed.
That was a shape of things to come as they laid siege to the Iranian goal.
Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah shot over the bar and Pulisic just failed to get enough power on a header after a cross from Antonee Robinson.
Fullback Sergino Dest was a constant threat down the right flank for the Americans, whipping a cross over in the 17th minute that Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand could only parry.
After sustained US pressure, the breakthrough finally came in the 38th minute.
A brilliant crossfield pass from McKennie picked out Dest down the right.
The AC Milan defender headed back across goal and Pulisic was on hand to bravely finish.
There was alarm for US fans with Pulisic needing sustained treatment after a heavy collision with Beiranvand but it was the Iranians and their noisy fans who were left winded by the goal.
The crowd instantly became more subdued and the US twice came close to doubling their lead before half-time.
Josh Sargent and Tim Weah combined well with a dazzling counter-attack but the final ball went astray.
Then in injury time McKennie’s sublime pass found Weah who finished brilliantly past Beiranvand only to be ruled just offside.
Knowing that an equalizer would send them into the second round, the Iranians stepped up the pressure in the second half.
But substitute Saman Ghoddos squandered two gilt-edged chances to get his team into the match, heading over from close range before blazing a shot over the bar on the 65th minute with the whole goal to aim at.
Saeid Ezatolahi curled a long-range shot over the bar soon afterwards as the Americans continued to live dangerously.
Iran threatened again inside the final 10 minutes when Ali Karimi just failed to get on the end of a teasing cross by Ezatolahi.
A diving header from Morteza Pouraliganji whistled just wide in injury time and then Mehdi Taremi had calls for a penalty after a tangle with Cameron Carter Vickers waved away as to leave American nerves jangling before their team hung on for a famous win.


Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday

Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday
Updated 29 November 2022

Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday

Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday
  • Green Falcons complete training session at Sealine Resort Stadium

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s national football team on Tuesday completed a final training session ahead of their last FIFA World Cup group stage clash against Mexico on Wednesday at Lusail Stadium in Qatar.
The Green Falcons trained at the Sealine Resort Stadium under the supervision of coach Herve Renard.
Training included warm-up exercises before players were divided into two groups for tactical work.
Defender Mohammed Al-Breik was supervised by medical staff as the 30-year-old continued a treatment program for a calf muscle injury.
The team was expected to leave its facility on Tuesday night and head to Doha as part of its preparations for the match the following day.
Saudi Arabia is in Group C alongside Argentina, Mexico and Poland.