Emirati powerboat ace Al-Mansoori set for title showdown in Portugal

Emirati powerboat ace Al-Mansoori set for title showdown in Portugal
Mansoor Al-Mansoori is aiming to secure the world F2 title in Portugal. (Photo: Team Abu Dhabi)
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Updated 14 September 2022

Emirati powerboat ace Al-Mansoori set for title showdown in Portugal

Emirati powerboat ace Al-Mansoori set for title showdown in Portugal
  • ‘This is why we race’: Team Abu Dhabi star in countdown to 2022 UIM F2 World Championship decider

ABU DHABI: Team Abu Dhabi’s Mansoor Al-Mansoori is ready for the biggest challenge of his powerboat racing career as he bids to clinch the 2022 UIM F2 World Championship in Portugal at the weekend.

The Emirati driver heads into the final round of the season in Vila Velha de Rodao on Sunday holding a slender three-point championship lead over Sharjah Team’s Sami Selio, with Germany’s Stefan Hagin just one more point away in third place.

It all adds up to a thrilling climax to the title race, and a big test of nerve and skill for the top three as they battle it out on the Tagus River circuit.

Al-Mansoori said: “This is why we race, for the chance to take the title in the final event of the season, with only a few points between us.

“It couldn’t be much closer, or more exciting, and I’m looking forward to it because I have a great team behind me, and we’re ready for everything on the day.”

The UAE racer has already enjoyed one major title success since joining Team Abu Dhabi last year, sharing in the 2021 world endurance championship triumph with his team-mate in Portugal, Rashed Al-Qemzi.

Engine problems in Ribadouro last Sunday ended the three-times F2 world champion’s bid for a podium finish this season, but Al-Qemzi is still relishing the chance to repeat his win in Vila Velha de Rodao 12 months ago.

While Al-Mansoori, Selio, and Hagin battle it out for the title, they will also have to contend with the growing threat from Monaco’s Giacomo Sacchi, who took pole position followed by an impressive Grand Prix victory last weekend to move to fourth place in the standings.

If Al-Mansoori comes through the test to secure the F2 crown, it will be the 15th world title delivered by Guido Cappellini since taking charge as Team Abu Dhabi manager in February 2015.

The boats take to the water for free practice at 11.15 a.m. local time on Saturday, with the three-stage qualifying session getting underway at 3 p.m. The Grand Prix of Vila Velha de Rodao starts at 3.45 p.m. on Sunday.

UIM F2 World Championship leading positions

Mansoor Al-Mansoori (UAE) 40 points

Sami Selio (FINLAND) 37

Stefan Hagin (GERMANY) 36

Giacomo Sacchi (MONACO) 29

Edgaras Riabko (LITHUANIA) 23

Tobias Munthe-Kaas (NORWAY) 21

Rashed Al-Qemzi (UAE) 9

Sam Whittle (GREAT BRITAIN) 7

Fullkrug strikes late to salvage Germany World Cup draw with Spain

Fullkrug strikes late to salvage Germany World Cup draw with Spain
Updated 28 November 2022

Fullkrug strikes late to salvage Germany World Cup draw with Spain

Fullkrug strikes late to salvage Germany World Cup draw with Spain
  • Niclas Fullkrug — on only his third international appearance — lashed home an 83rd-minute equalizer
  • Alvaro Morata’s deft touch from Jordi Alba’s cross had put Spain ahead

AL KHOR; Qatar: Niclas Fullkrug’s late equalizer snatched Germany a morale-boosting 1-1 draw with Spain in a heavyweight World Cup clash on Sunday, leaving both sides’ hopes of qualifying for the last 16 still in the balance.
Alvaro Morata’s flicked finish had Spain on course to secure qualification from Group E, but the electric Jamal Musiala and Fullkrug combined to foil La Roja and restore some German pride.
Costa Rica’s surprise win over Japan earlier eased some pressure on Germany after their shock loss to the Asian side, but they were unable to capitalize for large periods in a battle for the ball against Spain.
The four-time world champions suffered a humiliating group-stage exit in Russia four years ago, and Morata’s strike at Al Bayt Stadium had them on the ropes, but Werder Bremen striker Fullkrug finished brilliantly to divide the points.
Spain lead Group E on four points, from Japan and Costa Rica on three each, while Germany have one, with a final round of matches to come.
The only World Cup group-stage clash to pit two former champions against each other lived up to its top billing in intensity and tactical intrigue, with both sides set on trying to dominate possession and press extremely high.
Germany coach Hansi Flick rejected suggestions his side had been distracted in their shock opening defeat by Japan because of their pre-game protest against FIFA “silencing teams” and the taut opening exchanges quickly ensured all focus was on the football.
Flick cut Kai Havertz from his line-up and deployed Thomas Mueller up front after their shocking opening-day capitulation, hoping for a quick reaction.
However, Spain almost took the lead in the seventh minute when Manuel Neuer palmed Dani Olmo’s powerful drive from range onto the woodwork.
It seemed like they were picking up where they left off after their 7-0 demolition of Costa Rica, but Germany steeled themselves, keeping Luis Enrique’s side at bay.
Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon relied on his footwork under pressure as La Roja sought to dominate possession.
One mistake handed Serge Gnabry an opportunity, but he fired wide.
Neuer erred with the ball at his feet too, with Germany similarly looking to build from the back, but Ferran Torres could not capitalize.
Antonio Ruediger powered home a header from a free-kick, but his celebration was cut short after VAR caught him half a step ahead of the Spanish defense, leaving the teams tied at the break.
Germany nearly struck after Joshua Kimmich won the ball back pressing extremely high, but Simon produced a fine save to deny him.
Just when Luis Enrique’s side seemed to have lost their grip on the game, they broke the deadlock.
Morata, on for Torres, finished clinically at the near post from an inviting low cross from Jordi Alba after 62 minutes.
It looked like it was enough for the 2010 champions, but Fullkrug — on only his third international appearance — decided otherwise, sneaking in behind substitute Alejandro Balde and lashing past Simon with seven minutes remaining.
Leroy Sane, on as a substitute after injury, might have won it late on for Germany but was forced extremely wide as he rounded Simon and could not find a finish or produce a cutback.
Spain face Japan on Thursday, while Germany play Costa Rica, needing to win and hoping La Roja do not lose.

Green Falcons resume preparations for match against Mexico

Green Falcons resume preparations for match against Mexico
Updated 27 November 2022

Green Falcons resume preparations for match against Mexico

Green Falcons resume preparations for match against Mexico
  • The players who had played against Poland were assigned recovery exercises
  • The players who had not played against Poland did warm-up exercises and drills

DOHA: The Saudi national team resumed their preparatory program at their residence in Qatar on Sunday for their match against Mexico on Wednesday, in the third and final round of the group stage of the World Cup.
On the pitch, coach Herve Renard divided the players into two groups. The first included those who mainly participated in the last match against Poland; he assigned them recovery exercises in the health club.
The training session for the second group, which was held at the Sealine Resort Stadium, began with warm-up exercises then the squares exercise.
After that, a two-group division was conducted on half of the pitch, to conclude the training session with stretching exercises.
Riyad Sharahili participated in group training after completing his recovery training.
Medical examinations conducted for Mohamed Al-Breik revealed that he had an injury to the calf muscle.
The Green Falcons will continue their preparations on Monday, with a training session at 6 p.m. at the Sealine Resort Stadium. It will be open to the media for the first 15 minutes.

Brazil confident Neymar will be back to lead championship bid

Brazil confident Neymar will be back to lead championship bid
Updated 27 November 2022

Brazil confident Neymar will be back to lead championship bid

Brazil confident Neymar will be back to lead championship bid
  • Doubts have even been raised in some quarters that Neymar might struggle to feature again at the tournament, which finishes with the final in Doha on Dec. 18. Defender Marquinhos, who is also a teammate of the forward at Paris Saint-Germain, said Neymar

DOHA: Brazil are confident that Neymar will return to lead their bid to win a sixth World Cup despite the world’s most expensive player suffering an ankle injury in their opening match in Qatar.

The Brazil captain came off late on in Thursday’s 2-0 win over Serbia with what was later diagnosed as a sprained ankle and has since been ruled out of their second Group G outing against Switzerland on Monday.

Doubts have even been raised in some quarters that he might struggle to feature again at the tournament, which finishes with the final in Doha on December 18.

But defender Marquinhos, who is also a teammate of the forward at Paris Saint-Germain, said Neymar has since been spending his days undergoing intensive physiotherapy in an attempt to recover full fitness as soon possible.

“At the time it was difficult for him and after the game he was sad which I think is normal given how much he has dreamt of this,” center-back Marquinhos said at a press conference in the Qatari capital on Sunday.

“Now, after the tests and the treatment, he is doing physiotherapy 24 hours a day which shows how much he wants to be back with us.

“We don’t know when, but we hope it’s as soon as possible.”

Brazil coach Tite insisted in the immediate aftermath of the win over Serbia that the 30-year-old Neymar would definitely play again at the tournament, but this time he was rather more measured when pressed on the subject of the superstar’s fitness, as well as that of right-back Danilo.

“I believe that Neymar and Danilo are going to play again at this World Cup. I do. But medically, clinically, I am in no position to say anything,” he admitted.

“I will keep doing so, not just for Neymar but also Danilo. I believe we are going to be able to use them again.”

A Brazil win against Switzerland at Doha’s Stadium 974 could be enough for them to secure a place in the last 16 with one group game to spare, depending on the result of the earlier Group G match between Cameroon and Serbia.

They would then play a last-16 tie on either December 5 or 6.

Danilo, the 31-year-old Juventus full-back, also suffered an ankle injury against Serbia and is expected to be replaced against the Swiss by either Real Madrid’s Eder Militao or the 39-year-old Dani Alves.

Yet it is the injury to Neymar that dominates all the talk in Brazil, a country which has become used to hanging on the fitness of its creative inspiration at the World Cup.

In 2014 he suffered a fractured bone in his back as Brazil beat Colombia in the quarter-finals and so missed the semifinal as the host nation went down 7-1 to Germany.

Four years ago he had to race to be fit in time for the World Cup in Russia and his impact on the tournament was

limited as the Selecao lost in the quarter-finals to Belgium.

This time he is the leader of a Brazil side that is nevertheless packed with quality in attack and who won their opening game thanks to a brace from the Tottenham Hostpur forward Richarlison.

“Obviously we wanted to have Neymar and Danilo. The coach wanted all 26 players available for the World Cup. But we are ready and confident that we can show how strong the squad is, that we are well trained and ready for whatever the tournament throws at us,” said Marquinhos.

“In a World Cup the team that starts the tournament is not always the team that finishes it, because of injuries or because some are playing better than others.

“Everyone has an important role to play.”

Morocco claim finest result in their history to beat Belgium

Morocco claim finest result in their history to beat Belgium
Updated 27 November 2022

Morocco claim finest result in their history to beat Belgium

Morocco claim finest result in their history to beat Belgium
  • The 2-0 win over the world’s No. 2 team surpasses famous 3-1 victory over Portugal in 1986, and leaves them needing a draw to reach round of 16

DOHA: Belgium are the second best team in the world, according to FIFA, but they were definitely second best to Morocco on Sunday.

The 2-0 win that went the way of the Atlas Lions was fully deserved and surely the most impressive World Cup result in the country’s history. It also leaves the side’s short-term future looking pretty healthy too. 

The second-half goals from Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal mean that Morocco have claimed four points from their first two games in Group F. A draw against Canada will put them in the last 16.

But whatever happens on Thursday, this was Morocco’s best ever day on the global stage.

Back in 1986, they became the first Arab (and African) team to make the second round of the World Cup. Then they topped the group with two 0-0 draws against Poland and England, before defeating Portugal 3-1. That dream ended with a narrow 1-0 defeat against eventual finalists West Germany.

Fast forward 12 years and Morocco found themselves in another tough group. They started with a 2-2 draw against a strong Norway team, a point followed by a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the mighty Brazil. In the final game, the North Africans, inspired by Mustapha Hadji, sparkled as they put Scotland to the sword, winning 3-0.

Ten minutes from the end they were heading into the next stage as Brazil were leading Norway 1-0, only for a late turnaround from the Scandinavians to give them a 2-1 win and that coveted knockout stage spot.

Knowledge of the past means that coach Walid Regragui will not be taking anything for granted against Canada, but history has already been made.

Beating Portugal 36 years ago was a fine result, but the Iberians were not at their best; Scotland 12 years later were stronger than now but still not a major power.

Belgium are different. Second in the world at present and third in Russia in 2018, this generation of Red Devils may have lost their luster to an extent, but the likes of Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City, Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, and Romelu Lukaku, on loan at Inter Milan, are generally regarded as world-class and play at elite clubs.

And yet Morocco were too good for them. With a defense that has not conceded a goal in five games since Regragui replaced Vahid Halilhodzic in August, they kept Belgium at bay fairly comfortably.

Hakim Ziyech was excellent, driving his team forward at all times.

There was such intensity and purpose from Morocco that they were far too much for the Europeans to handle.

The scoreline did not flatter the victors, and confidence will now be sky high.

In retrospect, Morocco’s 0-0 draw with Croatia in the opening game was the perfect start, providing the platform to move to the next level.

Many thought that a repeat of 1986, with two goalless draws in the opening games, would be the target, leaving victory in the final match with Canada as enough to qualify. It became quickly apparent that this was never the limit of Morocco’s ambitions.

Canada have already shown that they will be no pushovers: they have been energetic and hard-working, although perhaps lacking a cutting edge so far.

Morocco will be wary of taking their foot off the pedal, but their players will be well aware of the possibility of taking top spot in the group, as they did in 1986.

That is all about next week, though. Sunday was celebration day for the whole of Morocco, including their magnificent supporters in Qatar, after the biggest and best result in their World Cup history.

Tehran slams US football body after modified Iran flag posts

Tehran slams US football body after modified Iran flag posts
Updated 27 November 2022

Tehran slams US football body after modified Iran flag posts

Tehran slams US football body after modified Iran flag posts
  • US Soccer media officer Michael Kammarman: The intent of the posts was to show ‘support for women in Iran fighting for basic human rights’
  • Iran’s state-affiliated Tasnim News Agency said that the Iranian Football Federation will file a complaint against US Soccer to the FIFA Ethics Committee for ‘disrespecting the national flag’

TEHRAN: Tehran on Sunday slammed the US Soccer Federation after it briefly displayed the Iranian national flag on social media platforms without the country’s emblem in a show of support for anti-government protesters.

Iran’s government accused the American organization of removing the name of God from its flag and called for it to be “held responsible” for breaking FIFA rules.

The row has erupted in the run up to the two nations’ clash in a decisive World Cup match on Tuesday.

The USSF decision has added yet another political firestorm to the Middle East’s first World Cup which organizers had hoped would be spared off-the-field controversies.

Iran has been rocked by months of demonstrations against Tehran’s regime which have seen protesters from all walks of life burning pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and calling for the downfall of Iran’s theocracy.

Khamenei’s niece, a well-known rights activist, has called on foreign governments to cut all ties with Tehran over its violent crackdown on popular unrest.

A video of a statement by Farideh Moradkhani, an engineer whose late father was a prominent opposition figure married to Khamenei’s sister, was being widely shared online after what activist news agency HRANA said was her arrest on Nov. 23.

In the video, Moradkhani said: “Free people, be with us and tell your governments to stop supporting this murderous and child-killing regime.

“This regime is not loyal to any of its religious principles and does not know any rules except force and maintaining power.”

The clip was shared on YouTube by her brother, France-based Mahmoud Moradkhani on his Twitter account, and then by prominent Iranian rights activists.

In a statement on Sunday morning, the USSF said it had decided to forego the official Iranian flag on social media accounts to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.”

The Twitter account of the US men’s team displayed a banner with the squad’s matches in the group stage, with the Iranian flag only bearing its green, white, and red colors.

The same was seen in a post on its Facebook and Instagram accounts laying out the point totals so far in its group.

By Sunday afternoon, the normal flag with the emblem had been restored in the Twitter banner and the Facebook and Instagram posts with the altered flag had been removed.

The federation said: “We wanted to show our support for the women in Iran with our graphic for 24 hours.”

Its spokesman Neil Buethe would not say if the original decision had been cleared by USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone, a former national team player.

“This was a decision within the federation. I’m not going to get into who knew and who didn’t,” he said.

On whether there had been discussions with diplomatic entities, Buethe added: “There have been at certain times. I’m not going to talk about those, but, again, this is our decision not anyone else’s or pressure from anyone else.”

The USSF displayed the official Iranian flag in a graphic showing the World Cup Group B standings on its website.

The demonstrations challenging Iran’s government were sparked by the Sept. 16 death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by the country’s morality police.

Protests have since seen at least 450 people killed and more than 18,000 arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, an advocacy group following the demonstrations.

Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted Safiollah Fagahanpour, an adviser to the Iranian Football Federation, saying that the “measures taken regarding the Iran flag are against the law” of FIFA competitions.

“They must be held responsible. Obviously, they want to affect Iran’s performance against the US by doing this,” Fagahanpour added.

Iran’s flag has become a point of contention at the World Cup.

Apparent pro-government supporters have waved it, shouting at those demonstrating over Amini’s death.