Portugal visits Czechs needing win in Nations League

Portugal visits Czechs needing win in Nations League
Switzerland’s Fabian Frei during training ahead of their UEFA Nations League match against Spain at La Romareda Stadium, Zaragoza on Friday. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 September 2022

Portugal visits Czechs needing win in Nations League

Portugal visits Czechs needing win in Nations League
  • Ronaldo is one of seven Portugal players who are only one yellow card from a suspension
  • A victory in Prague would mean that Portugal, regardless of the Spain-Switzerland result on Saturday, have the chance to finish top

PRAGUE: Portugal play the Czech Republic in the Nations League on Saturday with Cristiano Ronaldo’s team hoping to set up a showdown with Spain to decide who advance to the Final Four tournament.
Ronaldo, who will be looking to add to his international record of 117 goals, is one of seven Portugal players who are only one yellow card from a suspension that would rule them out of their final group game against Spain.
Spain lead Group A2 with eight points, one more than Portugal, with two games remaining. The Czechs are in third place with four points. Switzerland are last with three.
A victory in Prague would mean that Portugal — regardless of the Spain-Switzerland result on Saturday — have the chance to finish top when the Iberian neighbors meet in Braga on Tuesday.
But first Portugal must beat the Czechs for a second time after winning 2-0 in June. The Czechs have only one win in four group games.
“Since the beginning the goal has been to reach the final four,” Portugal midfielder Rúben Neves said.
Portugal were upset 1-0 in Geneva after Switzerland scored in the opening minute and held on the rest of the way. That was the only loss for Fernando Santos’ side in the tournament that also serves as preparation for the World Cup starting in November.
Portugal will be without suspended defender João Cançelo, while veteran central defender Pepe is injured.
“Pepe is extremely important, but we are lucky to have players with lots of talent,” Neves said.
The four group winners in the top tier advance to the Final Four tournament, scheduled for June 14-18. The teams finishing at the bottom of each group are relegated to League B.


Newcastle United score injury boost ahead of return to Premier League

Newcastle United score injury boost ahead of return to Premier League
Updated 10 sec ago

Newcastle United score injury boost ahead of return to Premier League

Newcastle United score injury boost ahead of return to Premier League
  • Four players rated as doubts likely to return to the field

 

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has revealed Newcastle United have received a quadruple injury boost ahead of their return to Premier League action against Fulham this weekend.

The Magpies travel to Craven Cottage on Saturday looking to record only their second top-flight win of the campaign — and will likely do so with four players who were rated as doubts within their ranks.

It is fair to say the international break has been one of worries and concerns on the injury front for head coach Howe, with strikers Alexander Isak and Chris Wood as well as Bruno Guimaraes all sent home early from national duty due to knocks.

However, where the situation once seemed grim, according to Howe, the outlook is now brightening with Callum Wilson, Elliot Anderson and Guimaraes all fit to start against the Cottagers. In a further boost, Allan Saint-Maximin, missing since August, is also understood to be close to a return to the squad, while Isak’s injury, picked up while with Sweden, is not thought to be serious.

“When the doctor was calling me, I didn’t want to take his calls anymore,” joked Howe from United’s Benton training base on Friday.

“It was a stressful period for three or four days, but thankfully it’s maybe not as bad as it first appeared.”

On Wilson, Howe said: “He’s trained for around 10 days with us now. He’s in a good place. Every time he comes back from an injury I’d say he does the work and doesn’t cut corners. He’s had a really long body of work with the sports science team and then trained with us. He looked good.

“It’ll be a huge boost for the players to have Callum in the group with his positive energy and laughter that he brings. He’s a big player for us. And with Alex picking up his injury as well, it was perfect timing for us.”

Guimaraes, too, who has missed two Brazil friendlies in France in the past seven days as a result of a thigh problem, is understood to be fit to play from the off in southwest London.

“Bruno has trained with us. I had a couple of difficult calls during the international break to say players had various things happen to various players,” Howe said.

“We were concerned for Bruno but he’s come back and the scan was good. He’s trained, and trained well. Obviously slightly disrupted for him because these two weeks were really important in terms of his training and getting his match sharpness back, but he’s physically fine. He’s in the squad.”

Fellow United talisman Saint-Maximin has been unavailable for selection due to a hamstring injury since the 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers in August.

And while he is yet to return to full training with the squad, Howe says that Saint-Maximin has a chance.

“Yeah, he’s doing well,” he said when asked about the player.

“He’s had a period away and come back. He’s close, very close. It’s how we view things.

“There are a lot of moving parts with us at the moment. I’m being vague because there are a lot of player situations that are slightly unclear as we go into the game. Allan will be one of them.”

While Anderson has also managed to shake off a slight knock and will likely make the bench, two players who are unlikely to do so are Isak and Wood. But their problems are not likely to keep them out for too long, according to Howe.

On record signing Isak, Howe said: “He picked up an injury training for Sweden, so he’s come back. The scan doesn’t look too bad so we’re not overly concerned it’s a long injury, but with any muscle injury there’s always a slight period where you have to be careful.

“He’s out running on grass so he’s looking good at the moment.

“Chris Wood came off with a rib problem. He took a knock in the game. Again, that’s another player we’ll make a very late decision on.”

Meanwhile, the Magpies have completed their first signing of the January window, with highly rated Australian forward Garang Kuol putting pen to paper.

And Howe admits he is delighted to win the race for the player who was courted by the likes of Barcelona.

United are understood to have paid Central Coast Mariners about $400,000 for the Southern hemisphere star.

“I’m very excited,” said Howe about the deal.

“He’s a young player with huge potential. It’s a show from myself and the club on where we want to go in terms of signing young players and trying to develop them in our system for them to be Premier League players in the future. He’s had a dramatic rise and he’s in a position that excites everybody. There needs to be some patience shown.

“Touch wood we’ll look after him, go out on loan and develop behind the scenes. Hopefully when he comes here, he can play a part in our future.”

The Egyptian-born teenager made his senior debut at 17 in 2021 and rose to worldwide prominence when he played a starring role as the 2022 A-League All Stars team that took on Barcelona in front of more than 70,000 spectators in Sydney earlier this year.

Kuol made his Australia debut against New Zealand during the most recent international break.

After making the move, Kuol said: “It’s unreal. As a young boy in Australia, the Premier League is the main thing that everyone watches but nobody actually thinks they’ll reach those heights. To be one of those people, to be in the position I am, it’s amazing.

“Now that I’ve signed for Newcastle, I want to train hard, play hard, hopefully go to the World Cup and come back here.”

The United executive who was instrumental in securing the transfer, sporting director Dan Ashworth, explained the signing and the club’s new philosophy.

Ashworth said: “Garang is a very promising young talent and we are excited that he’ll be continuing his development as a Newcastle United player.

“Our philosophy is to invest in our academy and in exciting young players for the future, as well as in players required to make an immediate impact in the first team.

“We wish Garang the best of luck in his remaining games with Central Coast Mariners and we hope to see him on the international stage again very soon.”


Portuguese coach suspended after harassment accusations

Portuguese coach suspended after harassment accusations
Updated 30 September 2022

Portuguese coach suspended after harassment accusations

Portuguese coach suspended after harassment accusations
  • Famalicão said they were suspending coach Miguel Afonso “until the truth of the facts is ascertained”
  • Público said that it had contacted Afonso but he declined to comment on the accusations

LISBON, Portugal: Portuguese soccer club Famalicão suspended the coach of its women’s team on Friday after a leading newspaper in Portugal published accusations of verbal sexual harassment by him of his players at a previous club.
Famalicão said that “in view” of the report published by Público newspaper that they were suspending coach Miguel Afonso “until the truth of the facts is ascertained.”
The club said they were putting themself at the “total disposition of all parties involved and the competent authorities to assist in obtaining the truth.”
The alleged verbal harassment of players, some of which were 19 years old at the time, reportedly took place while Afonso coached fellow Portuguese club Rio Ave during the 2020-21 season.
Público said that it had contacted Afonso but he declined to comment on the accusations.
In a statement, Rio Ave acknowledged that they had been “aware of some circumstantial comments reported by athletes regarding alleged inappropriate approaches by the coach.”
But, Rio Ave said they took no action because “the coach denied such situations and, at the request of the athletes, the matter was not followed up.”
Famalicão, in a separate statement preceding the suspension of Afonso, said that when they hired Afonso they were not aware of the accusations.


Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol

Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol
Updated 30 September 2022

Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol

Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol
  • Born in Egypt, Garang Kuol moved to Australia with his family as a refugee and joined the Mariners’ youth system in January 2021

LONDON: Newcastle have reached an agreement to sign teenage striker Garang Kuol from Australian A-League side Central Coast Mariners in January, the Premier League club announced on Friday.
Kuol, 18, made his international debut for Australia against New Zealand last week, becoming the youngest Socceroo since Harry Kewell in 1996.
Born in Egypt, Kuol moved to Australia with his family as a refugee and joined the Mariners’ youth system in January 2021.
He only made his A-League debut for the Mariners in April but made an immediate impression, scoring four goals in his first seven appearances as a substitute.
Kuol told Newcastle’s official website: “It’s unreal. As a young boy in Australia, the Premier League is the main thing that everyone watches but nobody actually thinks they’ll reach those heights.
“To be one of those people, to be in the position I am, it’s amazing.
“Now that I’ve signed for Newcastle, I want to train hard, play hard, hopefully go to the World Cup and come back here.”
Newcastle United sporting director Dan Ashworth said: “Garang is a very promising young talent and we are excited that he’ll be continuing his development as a Newcastle United player.
“Our philosophy is to invest in our academy and in exciting young players for the future, as well as in players required to make an immediate impact in the first team.”


Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc

Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc
Updated 30 September 2022

Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc

Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc
  • Saudi driver will be joined by German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz in third round of World Rally Raid Championship

AGADIR: Saudi world champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi has completed last-minute preparations ahead of the 22nd edition of the Rallye du Maroc, the third round of the World Rally Raid Championship.

Al-Rajhi, will be accompanied by German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz, the replacement for Michael Orr, who was injured in an accident at Baja Poland three weeks ago.

Crossing the desert from Agadir, in the southwest of Morocco, to Tan Tan and Al-Ayoun on the Atlantic coast will represent a new challenge for Al-Rajhi.

Day one of the rally will be a qualifying stage, while the race will last six days in five stages from Oct. 1-6. Competitors will cover a total of 2,319 km, including 1,583 km of special stages on the sand, gravel tracks and golden dunes.

The Yazeed Racing team faces a busy period until the end of the year, with Al-Rajhi  competing in three championships, including the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship.

The international events are the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Baja and the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship, in which Al-Rajhi currently ranked third.

Al-Rajhi and von Zitzewitz tested the new Toyota Hilux over two days around the Moroccan city of Erfoud, which is known for its high sand dunes and varying terrain.

The Belgian team Overdrive prepared a new car similar to the vehicle that crashed in Baja Poland. The car is equipped with a V6 engine and twin turbocharger, unlike the one used in Aseer Rally few days ago.

“I’m looking forward to the Morocco rally a lot,” Al-Rajhi said.

“I thank my team for doing an amazing job as usual. We are looking forward to winning this rally and there is nothing stopping us from doing so. We need to focus and develop appropriate strategies to advance and collect points.

“Our challenge in the Morocco rally requires endurance and effort from man and machine. We have a long race ahead of us in the Moroccan deserts, and we hope that God will guide us on our way.”

Von Zitzewitz is looking forward to the challenge.

“Yazeed and I, along with the Overdrive team, believe we have what it takes to win the rally,” he said. “We have all the factors to win, and I pray that God will be on our side. The world of motorsport is unpredictable.”


Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets

Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets
Updated 30 September 2022

Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets

Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets
  • The giveaway will take place on the official FIFA partner’s Twitter account

RIYADH: Coca-Cola is giving fans in Saudi Arabia a chance to see their favorite teams on football’s biggest stage with the opportunity to win thousands of 2022 FIFA World Cup match tickets.

With Saudi Arabia’s participation at Qatar 2022 less than two months away, Coca-Cola, an official sponsor of the tournament since 1978, will provide the opportunity to claim the tickets on its official Twitter account in the coming weeks.

In addition, Coca-Cola will bring the original FIFA World Cup trophy to the Kingdom in November where thousands of fans will have the opportunity to see football’s most prized possession.

The FIFA sponsors also revealed they have plans to invest in development programs for local Saudi talent and will soon be making an announcement on this.