Bayern Munich in crisis, 4 Bundesliga games without a win

Bayern Munich in crisis, 4 Bundesliga games without a win
Bayern's Thomas Mueller gestures during the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Augsburg and FC Bayern Munich in Augsburg, Germany, on Sept. 17, 2022. (DPA via AP)
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Updated 22 September 2022

Bayern Munich in crisis, 4 Bundesliga games without a win

Bayern Munich in crisis, 4 Bundesliga games without a win
  • It’s not the first time Bayern have endured a hangover before the annual Oktoberfest celebrations

BERLIN: Munich’s Oktoberfest is in full swing but Germany’s most successful soccer club is in no mood to party.

Bayern Munich are in crisis after four consecutive Bundesliga games without a win.

Doubt, uncertainty, disbelief — and anger. They’ve all been evident at the club since Bavarian rival Augsburg defeated Julian Nagelsmann’s star-studded team 1-0 on Saturday.

There was muted enthusiasm from the team and officials as they donned their traditional Bavarian outfits to visit the Oktoberfest on Sunday — smiles for the cameras, but little cheer.

The 10-time defending champions had started the season brilliantly, clocking 15 goals and conceding just one in their opening three games for the best start any team has ever made to the Bundesliga.

Then it stopped.

Bayern haven’t won since — being held to three consecutive draws by Borussia Monchengladbach, Union Berlin and Stuttgart — before Saturday’s shock also brought an end to Bayern’s league-record of scoring in 87 consecutive games. Leipzig was the last team to hold Bayern scoreless in the Bundesliga on Feb. 9, 2020.

“In the first three, four or five weeks we didn’t allow the opponents any chance,” Bayern midfielder Marcel Sabitzer said, “but then suddenly everything was gone.”

It’s not the first time Bayern have endured a hangover before the annual Oktoberfest celebrations. Niko Kovac’s team lost before festival visits in 2018 and 2019, while Carlo Ancelotti was fired shortly after the team’s 2017 visit. Pep Guardiola was the last Bayern coach to oversee a win right before the Oktoberfest in 2015.

The event did not take place last year or the year before due to the unpredictable development of COVID-19 infections and restrictions.

Nagelsmann, who had been expected to lead Bayern to more than “only” the Bundesliga in his second season in charge, appears stumped, struggling for answers amid his team’s slump.

“I need to think about everything, about myself, the situation, about everything,” a visibly peeved Nagelsmann said in the post-game press conference on Saturday.

Nagelsmann bristled when he was asked if the team missed Robert Lewandowski, who switched to Barcelona in the offseason and has continued his goal-scoring ways in Spain.

“It’s all the same what I say,” Nagelsmann said. “If I say ‘no,’ then everyone will say ‘he doesn’t know the problem,’ and if I say ‘yes,’ you’ll all write ‘he misses Lewandowski.’ The answer doesn’t matter.”

But it’s clear that Bayern has a problem converting chances. The team had 19 efforts at goal against Augsburg — two of those from Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer — but in the end it was Neuer’s counterpart Rafał Gikiewicz who was celebrating several outstanding saves.

Bayern veteran Thomas Müller said he was “angry” after the third draw. After the fourth game without a win, he said, “we’re standing here stunned and devastated. It matches the weather, it’s getting darker.”

Sadio Mane is being criticized for the first time since joining from Liverpool. The Senegal star scored three goals in his first three Bundesliga appearances, but none since.

There has also been speculation about Nagelsmann’s future, with some linking former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel with the club. Tuchel is available after he was fired by Chelsea earlier this month.

But both Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn and club president Herbert Hainer said they were backing Nagelsmann and were not even thinking of a change.

“We’re completely convinced by Julian Nagelsmann and our whole team,” Hainer told local newspapers Münchner Merkur and TZ. “The season has just started and we know we have the potential to achieve our big goals.”

While Bayern are struggling in the Bundesliga, the team’s Champions League campaign is off to a winning start after victories at Inter Milan and at home over Barcelona.

Inter defender Robin Gosens is surprised by Bayern’s domestic troubles.

“When we played against Bayern, we all sat in the dressing room after the game and thought: ‘Wow, what intensity they have in their game,’” Gosens said Monday after joining the rest of the Germany squad for upcoming internationals. “It’s already the absolute top level in Europe and in the world. They took us by surprise, overran us and showed twice the intensity we did.”

There were warning signs, however, in Bayern’s 2-0 win over Barcelona last week, when the visitors created more chances and were only caught out by quick-fire goals after the interval.

Then came the first loss of the season at modest Augsburg.

The international break is giving Bayern’s players and officials time to think about the situation. The next game, against Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on Sept. 30, will show whether that was beneficial or not.


France brace for England showdown in World Cup quarterfinal

France brace for England showdown in World Cup quarterfinal
Updated 14 sec ago

France brace for England showdown in World Cup quarterfinal

France brace for England showdown in World Cup quarterfinal
  • Questions about how England will keep the deadly Mbappe quiet have dominated the buildup to the match

DOHA: Defending champions France take on England in a mouthwatering World Cup quarterfinal on Saturday that pits superstar Kylian Mbappe against a forward lineup packed with youthful zest.

The two European heavyweights, separated by just 20 miles (32 kilometers) of ocean, have surprisingly met just twice on the biggest stage, but not since 1982.

France, crowned world champions for the second time in Russia in 2018, eased past Poland in the last 16, with two goals from Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe and one from Olivier Giroud.

England beat Senegal 3-0, turning on the style for an ultimately comfortable win against the African champions after a shaky start.

Mbappe, 23, is the Qatar tournament’s top scorer, with five goals in just four starts, while Giroud’s strike against Poland made him France’s all-time leading goalscorer.

Questions about how England will keep the deadly Mbappe quiet have dominated the buildup to the match, which takes place in the desert setting of Al-Bayt Stadium.

England’s pacy rightback Kyle Walker, likely to have the task of shackling Mbappe on Saturday, is anxious to avoid the impression that the fleet-footed attacker is the only threat.

“I know he’s a top player but we’re not playing tennis. It’s not a solo sport, it’s a team game,” said the Manchester City defender.

“We know he’s a great player and that’s why he’s the focus of all questions. But let’s not forget (Olivier) Giroud, who has scored countless (goals), and (Ousmane) Dembele, for me just as good on the other wing.”

The France midfield has coped well in the absence of the injured N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, with Antoine Griezmann impressing, but if there is a potential weakness in Didier Deschamps’ lineup it could be in the fullback positions.

Jules Kounde and Theo Hernandez will face a tough test against whoever they face, with Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling all in the mix.

That wealth of attacking options means England will also have enviable game-changing options on the bench.

France midfielder Adrien Rabiot is predicting an open match.

“England are a team with similar characteristics to us, really quick players out wide, attacking full-backs and midfielders who like to get forward,” he said.

“But I am not sure we need to say that we have to be wary of them. They will also be very wary because we can cause them problems.”

Southgate is in a tricky position. Does he stick or twist? Does he let his young attackers off the leash or bolster his defensive options?

The England coach came under fire in the buildup to the World Cup after a miserable winless run even though he has credit in the bank from reaching the semifinals in 2018 and the final of last year’s Euro 2020.

England are joint top scorers in Qatar heading into the quarterfinals, with 12 goals from their four games.

Their standout player has been marauding teenager Jude Bellingham, who has formed an impressive partnership alongside the more defensive-minded Declan Rice.

Like France, England’s potential weakness is at the back, with central defender Harry Maguire vulnerable to pace.

Southgate said the match was the “biggest test we could face.” 

“They are world champions, with an incredible depth of talent and outstanding players. They are very hard to play against and score goals against,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic challenge. It’s a historic rivalry with great games from the past. It’s a brilliant game for us to be involved in and test ourselves against the very best.”


Injury fears cast a shadow across Newcastle victory over Al-Hilal in Riyadh

Injury fears cast a shadow across Newcastle victory over Al-Hilal in Riyadh
Updated 09 December 2022

Injury fears cast a shadow across Newcastle victory over Al-Hilal in Riyadh

Injury fears cast a shadow across Newcastle victory over Al-Hilal in Riyadh
  • United cruised to a comfortable 5-0 victory over the Saudi Pro League champions but injuries to Chris Wood and Joelinton could cause headaches for coach Eddie Howe
  • The Magpies are due to face Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup in just 13 days and return to Premier League action against Leicester City three days later

RIYADH: Newcastle United look set to return to the UK from their training camp in Saudi Arabia facing a striker crisis, with Chris Wood becoming the latest casualty during the Magpies’ victory over Al-Hilal in their friendly on Thursday.

Joelinton, who also left the game following a knock, grabbed a first-half double at the Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium before Miguel Almiron netted another brace and youngster Dylan Stephenson rounded off a 5-0 victory that ensured the Magpies lifted the Diriyah Season Cup.

But the bigger news from a United perspective was the injury to New Zealander Wood, who in the absence of Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak, looked set to lead the Magpies when senior football resumes following the World Cup break. United are due to face Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup in just 13 days and return to Premier League action against Leicester City three days later.

The severity of the injury to Wood is yet to be determined but a lengthy spell for him on the sidelines would be a disappointing and troublesome end to what has otherwise been an incredibly positive trip to Riyadh.

United fans will also be hoping that Brazilian wonder Joelinton’s departure from the game was simply precautionary, although the sight of him limping midway through the second half will cause concern.

United donned their third jersey, often dubbed the “Saudi kit,” for the match against the Saudi Pro League champions and handed a debut to Loris Karius in goal, with Eddie Howe keen to extend the former Liverpool keeper’s stay on Tyneside. Matt Targett and Karl Darlow missed out through illness.

This is the second visit by the Magpies to the Kingdom this year, after spending two weeks in Jeddah in January, and they have enjoyed a warm welcome in the capital. This was more than evident in the stands on Thursday where local and foreign fans wearing black and white could be seen scattered among the Blue Power, the vocal heart of the lively home faithful.

Jacob Murphy, Howe’s most-used player during his 13 months as head coach, came within inches of breaking the deadlock with the first meaningful attack of the match. He clipped the ball under Abdullah Al-Mayouf in goal but the keeper got a touch that just prevented the ball from crossing the line and he gathered at the second attempt.

Murphy then turned provider and Joelinton made no mistake with a powerful header after the winger dinked the ball in from the right.

While the final result betrayed the gulf in class between the sides, it was far from evident during a close first 45 and the visitors had Karius to thank for keeping things level early on. They will doubtless have been delighted to see him display some surprise sharpness, despite not having started a competitive game since February 2021.

Star player Odion Ighalo was the first to test Karius, with a low drive that was stopped by the United keeper. Al-Hilal caused the visitors some problems down the left but it was a move down the right that should probably have been rewarded with a penalty. Sven Botman felled the tricky Matheus Pereira but referee Alturais Khalid was not interested.

Just before the break the lead doubled as Joelinton beat Al-Mayouf after breaking clear of the Al-Hilal back line thanks to a precise through ball from Joe Willock.

Karius then had to be at his best once again to deny Andre Carrillo, tipping the ball around the post as the hosts ended the half as the dominant force.

Changes during the break, including the introduction of Almiron, one of the most in-form players in the English top flight, had an immediate effect when play resumed.

The Paraguayan clipped the bar with a trademark curling effort on 50 minutes, before he stole the ball from Carrillo, jinked past another defender and stroked home a third goal for the Magpies.

Elliot Anderson then hit the upright but his deflected effort rebounded clear of danger despite the lurking United forwards.

It seemed like only a matter of time before United added to their tally, though, and, sure enough, Almiron latched onto a cross-field ball by Sean Longstaff and volleyed it home to make it 4-0.

The last word was reserved for one of the Newcastle youngsters to come off the bench, as Ryan Fraser, also introduced as a substitute, squared the ball for Stephenson to tuck in his first goal at senior level.

Fireworks and ticker tape greeted Newcastle as they raised the golden trophy, which they will be hoping is the first of many under Saudi ownership and head coach Howe.

While trophies are the ultimate ambition, of course, in the shorter term Howe will be hoping for good news about the injuries to Joelinton and Wood, both of whom have proved to be crucial cogs in the Newcastle machine over the past year.


Saudi Husein Alireza the first Saudi athlete in the Olympic Museum

Saudi Husein Alireza the first Saudi athlete in the Olympic Museum
Updated 09 December 2022

Saudi Husein Alireza the first Saudi athlete in the Olympic Museum

Saudi Husein Alireza the first Saudi athlete in the Olympic Museum
  • Husein was approached by the museum earlier to include his story and take his oars he used at the Tokyo 2020 Games

RIYADH: Saudi rowing captain Husein Alireza was inducted into the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

The museum hosts exhibits from athletes whose background and stories they find to be unique and inspiring.

Husein was approached by the museum earlier to include his story and take his oars he used at the Tokyo 2020 Games, where he reached the quarterfinals in the Men's Single Sculls, to include them with their permanent exhibits.

A ceremony was held in Lausanne where he officially donated his oars to the museum, becoming the first Saudi athlete to be so honoured.

In attendance was his father and President of the Saudi Rowing Federation, Ali Alireza, members of World Rowing and other international federations.

“These oars have literally had my blood, sweat, and tears on them,” Alireza said.

“I'm so honored and grateful on this occasion and I'd like to thank the Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Olympic Committee for their unconditional support from the start of my journey.

“I want this to give inspiration to the youth and let them know you can do what I can do and you can do it better,” he added. 

Alireza is currently preparing for the World Rowing Championships to be held in Serbia in September 2023.


World Cup braces for quarter-finals as Spain sack coach

World Cup braces for quarter-finals as Spain sack coach
Updated 08 December 2022

World Cup braces for quarter-finals as Spain sack coach

World Cup braces for quarter-finals as Spain sack coach
  • A blockbuster set of quarter-finals gets under way on Friday when five-time champions Brazil face 2018 runners-up Croatia
  • On Saturday, Morocco will carry the flag for African football in their quarter-final clash with Portugal

DOHA: Brazil were gearing up for a showdown with Croatia while Argentina prepared to face the Netherlands as anticipation mounted Thursday on the eve of the World Cup quarter-finals.
After three weeks of pulsating action, just eight teams are left standing as the 32-nation tournament heads into the final rounds of knockout competition after a two-day break.
A blockbuster set of quarter-finals gets under way on Friday when five-time champions Brazil face 2018 runners-up Croatia.
That clash is the appetiser for another heavyweight World Cup collision between Lionel Messi’s Argentina and three-time losing finalists the Netherlands.
On Saturday, Morocco will carry the flag for African football in their quarter-final clash with Portugal before holders France face England in an eagerly anticipated showdown.
Wins for Argentina and Brazil on Friday would set up a titanic semifinal between the two South American heavyweights.
For now though Brazil are looking no further than Friday’s assignment against Croatia at the Education City Stadium in Doha.
“They have individual quality and collective quality as well as a resilience and persistence,” Brazil coach Tite said of Croatia.
“We are aware of their virtues but my focus is on maintaining our standards and whoever plays best will go through.”
Croatia captain Luka Modric said Thursday that his side were determined to progress beyond the last eight.
“We did a great thing by going to the quarter-finals, but regardless of that we would like to do more,” the Real Madrid midfielder said.
“We have to play our best match. And if we do that we have a chance of winning.”
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is optimistic that Angel Di Maria and Rodrigo De Paul will be available for his side’s clash against the Netherlands after injury issues.
His opposite number, Louis van Gaal, back in charge of the Dutch for a third spell, said his team would have to step up a gear to compete with the South American side, who beat them on penalties in the 2014 semifinal in Brazil.
“The tournament is actually starting tomorrow for real for us, although of course I don’t want to downplay the importance of other countries we were able to beat,” he said.
“But Argentina and Brazil, who we will possibly play in the next round, are quite different to the teams we beat in the group stage and last 16.”
On Saturday, all eyes will be on the battle between France and England at the Al-Bayt Stadium, the Bedouin tent-inspired structure located in the desert outside Doha.
England said Thursday that forward Raheem Sterling is set to return to the squad after initially leaving the team’s World Cup base following a break-in at his family home.
Sterling did not feature in England’s squad for the 3-0 last-16 win against Senegal and it would be a major surprise if the 28-year-old starts against France.
In Saturday’s other quarter-final, buoyant Portugal will be looking to end Morocco’s fairytale run to the last eight.
Portugal produced one of the most scintillating displays of the tournament by dismantling Switzerland 6-1 in the last 16 after coach Fernando Santos opted to drop Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo’s replacement, 21-year-old Goncalo Ramos, fired a brilliant hat-trick as Portugal ran riot.
According to reports in Portugal, Santos’s bombshell decision to drop Ronaldo prompted the 37-year-old superstar to threaten to walk out of the team camp.
But Ronaldo took to social media to stress the squad was rock solid after the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) issued a statement denying the reported bust-up with the former Real Madrid and Manchester United star.
“It’s a group too united to be broken by outside forces,” said Ronaldo.
“A nation too courageous to let itself be frightened by any adversary. A team in the truest sense of the word, which will fight for the dream until the end.”
Elsewhere on Thursday, Spanish football authorities dismissed coach Luis Enrique following the team’s shock elimination against Morocco, naming under-21s boss Luis de la Fuente as his replacement.
“Both the president, Luis Rubiales, and the sporting director, Jose Francisco Molina, have told the coach their decision,” the Spanish federation (RFEF) said in a statement.


LaLiga scores deal to win new audiences in Middle East

LaLiga scores deal to win new audiences in Middle East
Updated 08 December 2022

LaLiga scores deal to win new audiences in Middle East

LaLiga scores deal to win new audiences in Middle East
  • Joint venture with Galaxy Racer expected to generate over $3bn with each party holding a 50 percent stake
  • Deal establishes esports organization Galaxy Racer as LaLiga’s local partner in the region as well as on the Indian subcontinent

DUBAI: LaLiga has signed a 15-year deal with the world’s largest esports organization to boost the Spanish football league’s presence in the Middle East and North Africa.

The deal establishes Galaxy Racer as LaLiga’s local partner in the region as well as on the Indian subcontinent. The deal is expected to generate more than $3.16 billion, with each party holding a 50 per cent stake.

LaLiga wants new ways to boost its audience in the two regions, which have more than 1.3 billion people under the age of 30. It will also grant broadcast and media rights in the 29 countries covered by the deal.

This agreement was signed by LaLiga President Javier Tebas and Galaxy Racer Chairman Paul Roy. It comes as Qatar hosts the first World Cup to be held in the Arab world. 

Oscar Mayo, LaLiga Executive Director, said: “Signing this agreement is testament of our deep commitment to supporting the transformation of the sports media scene, and building on the passion for football in MENA and the Indian Subcontinent.

“Galaxy Racer’s experience will be vital in building fan loyalty to position LaLiga as a top brand for football and lifestyle.”

Roy said: “The MENA region and Indian subcontinent are considered (among) the fastest growing territories in sport and by partnering with LaLiga, a global leader in football, we are confident in our ability to work together to radically transform the sport league’s brand presence in these regions, while also fostering the next generation of young sport fans.”

“Several projects, including a documentary series, competitions, merchandise (and) live events are already in the pipeline.”

The agreement in the UAE will see a team of around 20 people working to build the brand and find new business opportunities. There will also be a five-person Board of Directors that includes CEO Maite Ventura. Luis Cardenas, Commercial Director for LaLiga MENA, will be the CCO.

Ventura said: “Galaxy Racer’s extensive experience in the region will serve as an important source of support towards our international strategy. The Middle East is growing as a dedicated sports hub and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar now is the best example of the power of the sport.”

Additionally, Galaxy Racer will launch a roster of creators who will focus on LaLiga and curate events to promote the LaLiga brand throughout the whole year. The creators will exclusively represent LaLiga, touring the world to promote both themselves and LaLiga to fans.