Dortmund look to rebound from City disappointment with ‘insanely important’ Schalke clash

Dortmund look to rebound from City disappointment with ‘insanely important’ Schalke clash
Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham celebrates scoring their first goal with Mats Hummels during their Champions League match against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester on Wednesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 September 2022

Dortmund look to rebound from City disappointment with ‘insanely important’ Schalke clash

Dortmund look to rebound from City disappointment with ‘insanely important’ Schalke clash
  • "I'm proud of our performance but for me it goes hand in hand with some obligations," Kehl said
  • Dortmund gave one of the best displays of coach Edin Terzic's reign against City and looked set for an unlikely victory

BERLIN: Borussia Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl says his side have an “obligation” when they host Schalke in the 99th Ruhr derby of the Bundesliga era on Saturday.
While the derby is widely considered the biggest and most storied in German football history, the sides’ contrasting fortunes in recent seasons highlight the growing gap between them.
Speaking after his side’s narrow 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday, Kehl turned his focus to the “insanely important” game.
“I’m proud of our performance but for me it goes hand in hand with some obligations,” Kehl said late on Wednesday.
“It’s an insanely important game for us. (We need) to put in a really good performance again before the national team break.”
Dortmund gave one of the best displays of coach Edin Terzic’s reign against City and looked set for an unlikely victory thanks to a goal from Jude Bellingham, before late strikes from John Stones and former BVB striker Erling Haaland allowed the home side to snatch the win.
Even if the club went home with zero points, Kehl said Dortmund could take plenty out of the performance.
“If the team performs like they did today, then there can be only one winner on Saturday.”
While Dortmund may have gone toe-to-toe with the Champions League favorites in the lead-up to the bitter clash, Schalke come into the match on the back of their first Bundesliga win in 483 days — a 3-1 defeat of fellow Ruhr rivals Bochum.
Speaking on Thursday, Schalke coach Frank Kramer sought to get inside Dortmund’s head, saying the visitors would look to channel the spirit of fellow promoted side Werder Bremen who scored three late goals in four minutes to beat Dortmund 3-2 in August.
“Performing with determination and looking for a chance at any time — that’s what Bremen did in Dortmund and got the better of them,” Kramer said.
“They hit Dortmund where they didn’t expect it.
“We know it’s a special game. We want to rock it.”
Werder Bremen’s impressive rise under coach Ole Werner saw them promoted back to the Bundesliga at their first attempt — and it would have been close to impossible without Niclas Fuellkrug.
Fuellkrug and strike partner Marvin Ducksch scored 60 percent of Bremen’s goals in their promotion season.
While Ducksch has been quiet this season, Fuellkrug’s five goals in six matches, out of his team’s total of 12, has him atop the Bundesliga scoring charts.
His form is so strong he has an outside chance of making Germany coach Hansi Flick’s World Cup squad — a fact his club manager Werner is well aware of.
“Niclas is currently the most accurate striker Germany has. That shows how good he is and what quality he has. But the squad decision is made by others.”


Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak
Updated 9 sec ago

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak

Japan target fifth Asian title after World Cup heartbreak
NARITA, Japan: Japan will put their World Cup heartbreak behind them and focus on becoming Asian champions for a fifth time, captain Maya Yoshida said after the team returned home on Wednesday.
The Blue Samurai were eliminated from the World Cup on penalties by Croatia in the last 16 on Monday, denying them a first-ever place in the quarter-finals.
But the defeat did not stop hundreds of fans from traveling to an airport near Tokyo to welcome the players and coach Hajjime Moriyasu back from Qatar.
“We won’t stop here,” Yoshida said at a news conference after arriving.
“We will aim to become the best in Asia,” he added.
“Our fight will continue. As long as we keep playing football, we must keep fighting.”
The Asian Cup will also be held in Qatar after original host China dropped out due to its strict anti-Covid policies.
The tournament was set to be held in June and July 2023 but is now likely to be postponed until early 2024 to avoid Qatar’s fierce summer heat.
Japan won the most recent of their four Asian Cup titles the last time Qatar hosted the tournament, in 2011.
The Blue Samurai could not find a way past Croatia in the last 16 of the World Cup, but they stunned former champions Germany and Spain to top their first-round group.
“We couldn’t reach new heights but my players showed us a new era, and this is just the beginning,” said Moriyasu.
Among the crowd of fans waiting to welcome the team home at the airport was 55-year-old Takamichi Masui.
He said the wins over Germany and Spain were proof that “Japan has become a soccer powerhouse.”
Another fan, 37-year-old Takahiro Ichikawa, said that like captain Yoshida, he is only looking ahead.
“For now, I hope the national team will focus on pulling off a solid performance in the Asian Cup in Qatar,” he said.

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh
Updated 34 min 40 sec ago

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh

Eddie Howe and Newcastle United chiefs hold transfer summit in Riyadh
  • Club likely to strengthen the squad in the January window
  • The Magpies are in the Saudi capital for a training camp that includes a friendly against Al-Hilal

RIYADH: Towering palms, the tinkling of ivories, clinking of coffee cups and a warm winter sun hue about the Saudi skies, is not your usual location for a Newcastle United transfer summit.

It’s a far cry from the inner bowels of St James’ Park, where head coach Eddie Howe, along with the club’s minority owners, thrashed out a summer raid for one of the hottest prospects in the game, Sweden international Alexander Isak. Not since the Vikings have the European elites been so unsettled by a force from the north.

But Howe, meeting with club chiefs and the money men at the Public Investment Fund, spent his Tuesday evening in the Kingdom talking transfers with Al-Olaya the backdrop, the Four Seasons an opulent frame.

Beyond the ostentatious surrounds lies a steely determination, one funded in the Gulf, but driven with North East grit. A goal not publicly admitted, but privately discussed. A want to take Newcastle United into the promised land, the UEFA Champions League, a feat the club has not achieved on Tyneside in two decades.

Lying third in the Premier League, which is beyond even the wildest of Newcastle fans’ expectations, the prospect is not out of the realms of possibility.

But will that be boosted by another Magpies’ January transfer window raiding party? Howe says talks have started.

“I have had half an eye on January and the squad and how it looks,” he said, confirming the transfer talks with Newcastle chiefs.

“We need to be adaptable and prepared for what is always a difficult window. But if there is something we can do to improve the team, I, naturally as the manager, would like to look at that.”

Expectation may be that Newcastle will be bold in their moves with the likes of England international James Maddison, however such a switch has been played down by those in the know.

More likely is movements for players more in the Isak or Sven Botman mold, ready to attack the Premier League, but not at an English topflight premium. And key to this January regeneration will be the right players, at the right price and for the right reasons, if at all.

“Me, sitting here now, I am not expecting too much business, whether incoming or outgoing, but it is football and it is January so it’s unpredictable,” Howe told Arab News.

“We can’t predict what is going to happen with our own squad at times, in terms of fitness and availability, so we do need to be ready to act if we need to. The need for that will be minimized by keeping a fit and healthy squad of players.

“We look like, on paper, we have a very strong squad when everyone is fit. Everyone is not fit currently, and that has a bearing on what you look to do in January.

“Probably the squad, in my eyes, looks different to what it did in the summer because of how well players have done — and from my perspective, I can’t ignore that.”

On the level of those who may arrive, Botman and Isak have set the blueprint but financial fair play rules, until United’s commercial revenues are boosted significantly, will always be the elephant in the ever-expanding room.

Howe continued: “In my position you are keen to sign the best players you can — but those players come at a premium, as you know. Botman wasn’t cheap, Alex wasn’t cheap. Those are players who can influence the starting 11. Do we have the finances for that? I do not know. That might impact our options on that one.

“As a manager I am always looking to improve the team. I will never sit here and be content — I don’t think that is the right way to manage. My way to take the team to new heights is to improve through the training of the players we have. If we can’t get to a certain level then we need to find that in the transfer market. And, of course, you have to work within the guidelines of the club.”

Meanwhile, United’s trip, which started on Sunday and ends on Saturday, is being officially supported by, it’s been announced, Saudi telecommunications giant stc.

In a further boost to club revenues, stc have been named as the official digital partner of the tour and the news follows hot on the heels of Saudi Airlines’ sponsorship of the tour to the Middle East.

A club statement confirmed: “The partnership will provide stc with a digital presence at the Al-Hilal versus Newcastle United fixture, as well as an ongoing presence at St. James’ Park throughout the 2022/23 Premier League campaign, and supporters will have exclusive opportunities to win memorabilia and tickets.”

The NUFC’s chief commercial officer, Peter Silverstone, said: “Our ambition is to grow our supporter base in Saudi Arabia, a country whose young population includes a large, passionate and highly engaged football community.

“We are delighted to welcome stc to our growing family of partners and have them on board as our second strategic partner for the club’s visit to Saudi Arabia this December.

“stc digitally connects millions of individuals and businesses throughout the Middle East and their market knowledge, expertise and experience in sport partnerships will complement our drive to reach and engage with more people across one of our key markets. We look forward to working closely with stc.”


’No small teams anymore’, FIFA chief hails best group stage

’No small teams anymore’, FIFA chief hails best group stage
FIFA President Gianni Infantino gives thumbs-up during Qatar 2022 World Cup Group G match between Brazil and Switzerland. AFP
Updated 54 min 10 sec ago

’No small teams anymore’, FIFA chief hails best group stage

’No small teams anymore’, FIFA chief hails best group stage
  • “Fantastic atmosphere, great goals, incredible excitement, surprises, small teams beating big teams,” he said in comments released by FIFA on Wednesday

DOHA: FIFA President Gianni Infantino has hailed the group stage of the Qatar World Cup as the “best ever” and said the number of upsets and geographic breadth of the teams progressing indicated that football was becoming ever more global.
Former champions Argentina, Spain, Germany and Brazil all suffered shock group-stage losses and Africa, Asia and North America were represented in the last 16 along with traditional powerhouses South America and Europe.
Infantino said the matches — “played in beautiful stadiums” — had already attracted a TV audience in excess of two billion viewers.
“Fantastic atmosphere, great goals, incredible excitement, surprises, small teams beating big teams,” he said in comments released by FIFA on Wednesday.
“Well, there are no more small teams and no more big teams. The level is very, very equal.
“For the first time as well, national teams from all continents going to the knock-out phase, for the first time in history. This shows that football is really becoming truly global.”
Infantino has pushed through the expansion of the World Cup from 32 teams to 48 for the next edition, which will be held across 16 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026.
Infantino on Wednesday said he had been delighted with the number of fans crowding into the stadiums and fanzones in the country and thought the final TV viewership figures would exceed five billion.
“At the end [of the day], we simply want to give some joy and some smiles to people all over the world,” he added.
“That’s what football is about, that’s what the World Cup is about, and that’s what should also happen from now until the end.
“We have already seen some great action on the field, which, (ultimately), is the most important part of what you do.”


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 07 December 2022

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.