Spieth goes 5-0 as Americans rule Presidents Cup again

Spieth goes 5-0 as Americans rule Presidents Cup again
US Team members are pictured with the Presidents Cup on Sept. 25, 2022 after defeating the International Team in Charlotte, North Carolina. (AFP)
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Updated 26 September 2022

Spieth goes 5-0 as Americans rule Presidents Cup again

Spieth goes 5-0 as Americans rule Presidents Cup again
  • The International team lost at least four players who defected to Saudi-funded LIV Golf and were deemed ineligible by the PGA Tour

CHARLOTTE, US: The Americans won the Presidents Cup again, no asterisk needed.
Sure, the International team lost at least four players — maybe more — who defected to Saudi-funded LIV Golf and were deemed ineligible by the PGA Tour.
It had eight rookies asked to play a new format before 40,000 flag-waving fans chanting for the home team. And the Internationals have never won on American soil since these lopsided matches began in 1994.
No matter.
The Americans are tough to beat right now in any cup, under any circumstances. 
Jordan Spieth made putts from all over Quail Hollow and capped off a 5-0 week, Xander Schauffele delivering the cup-clinching point and lit up his big cigar, and the Americans won the Presidents Cup for the ninth straight time.
Anyone surprised?
“I think that the biggest challenge for us this week was staying within ourselves and not letting the outside noise get to us,” Spieth said. “We saw notes ... put up all over the place that we were supposed to win and we’re favorites and all that.
“What was so cool — which has been very consistent in the previous few Cups that I’ve been involved in — is everyone’s really, really good at what they do.”
The plucky International team still made them work for it.
Spieth and Patrick Cantlay were in control of their matches and set the tone. Even so, the Internationals kept it interesting, a resilient effort considering they were down 8-2 going into the weekend.
But then Tony Finau flipped his match, Collin Morikawa played like a two-time major champion, Schauffele delivered the winner and another celebration was on.
International captain Trevor Immelman referred to the LIV disruption as one of many hurdles facing his team. And he reacted strongly to any notion his 12 players — only three of them among the top 25 in the world — never had a chance.
“When you consider that we were 8-2 down on Friday evening, this team is no joke, and I’m sick and tired of it being spoken of as a joke,” Immelman said. “We love this event, and we love our team. And we cannot wait to run this back and have another shot.”
The Internationals showed plenty of fight. They just don’t have a cup to show for it.
That stays squarely in the hands of an American team that was coming off a record romp over Europe in the Ryder Cup last year before another one-sided crowd.
Even the American newcomers produced, starting with Max Homa. He rallied from 3 down by winning four straight holes and then holding off Tom Kim for a 1-up victory that gave Homa a 4-0 week in his Presidents Cup debut.
The final score was 17 1/2-12 1/2, not quite the rout it was at Liberty National in 2017 when this US team started to take shape.
US Captain Davis Love III paid tribute to Immelman for having to fill out his team three weeks ago after British Open champion Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann were among the latest batch to join the rival LIV Golf series.
This was a mismatch. The Internationals still made a game of it, and at one point the matches were tight enough that a shocker at Quail Hollow was still possible. But they needed everything to go right, and it didn’t.
“Trevor and his team did an incredible job of rising to the occasion,” Love said.
Love had all 12 players ranked among the top 25 in the world ranking, and just like last year at Whistling Straits in the Presidents Cup, most of them played like it.
“We really don’t have to do much,” Love said. “All we have to do is not mess it up.”
Spieth was in the second match out and made putts from 25 feet, 20 feet and 30 feet for par after driving into the water and 45 feet that made Cameron Davis feel hopeless. He closed out the Australian on the 15th hole.
Spieth became only the sixth player to win all five matches in the Presidents Cup, winning all four of his team matches with Justin Thomas.
Spieth, a three-time major champion and former No. 1 player in the world, first qualified for US teams when he was 20. But he had never won a singles match — 0-3 in the Presidents Cup, 0-3-1 in the Ryder Cup.
And then he fell 2 down after two holes before turning it around in a big way.
“I was more nervous than I should have been because I wanted to get that monkey off my back,” Spieth said. “When you get off early on a Sunday, they’re looking for red on the board. And it feels good to provide it.”
Thomas was trying to join him, but he lost to Si Woo Kim in a match that came down to 10-foot birdie putts on the last hole.
Cantlay put red American numbers on the board quickly for a 3-up lead over Adam Scott and had lost only two holes in a 3-and-2 victory.
For Scott, it was another dose of disappointment. His first Presidents Cup was in 2003 in South Africa that ended in a tie. He has played on every team since then, all losses.
Still, he saw enough out of a scrappy team and the shield on their shirts with which they are starting to identify to not lose all hope.
“It still hurts not to win,” he said. “I think the big difference I felt the last couple years is what’s going on in our team room, what’s going on between the captains and the players, the caddies, everybody involved on our team. I think good things are really starting to happen in that environment.
“A cup is coming our way soon.”


Tyson Fury retains WBC heavyweight title

Tyson Fury retains WBC heavyweight title
Updated 14 sec ago

Tyson Fury retains WBC heavyweight title

Tyson Fury retains WBC heavyweight title

— More to follow.


FIFA’s shortsightedness in World Cup expansion could make Qatar 2022 the last ‘classic’ tournament

FIFA’s shortsightedness in World Cup expansion could make Qatar 2022 the last ‘classic’ tournament
Updated 03 December 2022

FIFA’s shortsightedness in World Cup expansion could make Qatar 2022 the last ‘classic’ tournament

FIFA’s shortsightedness in World Cup expansion could make Qatar 2022 the last ‘classic’ tournament
  • As a competitive Qatar 2022 group stage ends, Arab News looks at why expansion in four years’ time might backfire

LONDON: Competitive teams. Fair, hard-fought competition with no chance of blow-out scorelines or one-sided matches. A gripped, captivated global viewership of billions.

It is the “Holy Grail trifecta” for sport governing bodies the world over in their quest for audiences, viewing figures and lucrative sponsporships. And, even with all their arrogance and bravado, especially for the most powerful of the lot — FIFA.

Finally, in the ongoing World Cup in Qatar, as the group stage closes and the high-drama of knockout football gets underway, the FIFA bigwigs might have finally found a winning formula.

But, in true FIFA fashion, in four years’ time the governing body will be throwing the baby out with the bathwater and tinkering, fine-tuning and meddling at the most inopportune moment.

The 1998 tournament in France was the first to feature the now-established 32-team format that fans have grown to know, love and plan their lives around for the quadrennial six-week run of a FIFA World Cup.

Eyebrows were raised back then. Even more so as Spain thumped Bulgaria, Netherlands hammered South Korea and Argentina dismantled Jamaica. Letting in the so-called “also-rans” was watering down the tournament, reducing the quality and cheapening the product, said the naysayers.

“24-team tournaments just work,” they bemoaned. “Look at the quality of the European Championship (at the time an intense, high-drama 16-team battle to be continental champions),” they cried. “The smaller teams will just devalue the competition,” they howled.

But, FIFA stuck to its guns and in the ensuing two decades since has produced three World Cups arguably very near the top of most people’s lists of “favorite World Cups,” especially within the big-spending, sought after millennial generation. Germany’s fiesta of football in 2006 stands out for this writer, in particular.

Of course, the mathematical, logical argument of 32 going into 16 was also a major factor in FIFA’s decision-making. Long gone were the complicated best-third-placed teams equations to work out and unfair criteria of tournaments past. It was now a case of: “Finish in the top 16 spots, you progress.”

And so, 24 years on from France’s shock triumph over Brazil in a home tournament, the benefits are being reaped in the Middle East.

We have seen one of the most memorable group stages of a World Cup in living memory in Qatar. Saudi Arabia beating Argentina, Japan toppling Germany, Morocco looking like world-beaters on their way to topping their group, more Asian teams in the Round of 16 than South American sides for the first time.

The list goes on.

FIFA’s 32-team format this year has gripped the world and, bar an anomalous seven-goal demolition of Costa Rica by Spain proving the exception rather than the rule, fans tuned in to every game truly pondering who might come out on top — even in so-called “David vs. Goliath on paper” clashes.

As the old adage goes, the game is not played on paper.

So, much like the Euros losing some of its magic and allure when UEFA expanded its showpiece tournament to 24 teams in 2016, it is likely that the type of memories-of-a-lifetime made in Doha will fade away when FIFA expands to 48 teams in US, Canada and Mexico’s 2026 tournament.

Adding another 16 teams, some most likely playing in their first World Cup, has the danger of making the tournament too protracted, too long and too complicated.

FIFA’s quest to “spread the game as wide as possible,” giving nations a chance of playing on the biggest stage and delivering millions more people the joy of watching their national heroes taking to a World Cup pitch is a laudable, noble one.

But, with all due respect to any nations competing, would TV audiences or (more importantly for FIFA) wealthy sponsors with deep pockets want to provide financial backing or tune in for a Dominican Republic vs. Hungary match? Take a day off for a Finland vs. Sierra Leone match? Or set the alarm clock for a potential blow-out match between France and Haiti?

FIFA has a difficult task of making the World Cup as egalitarian as possible, while maintaining the captivating, high-drama competition that has already marked out Qatar 2022 for high praise.

Perhaps, rather than throwing more teams into the mix, an overhaul of the whole qualification procedure would work? Or, maybe, addressing the obvious imbalance in favor of UEFA’s European monopoly of qualification berths for each tournament might help?

Whatever the solution for FIFA, having finally hit the nail on the head with a winning product in the World Cup finals itself, as another well-known saying goes … “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”


Brazil soccer legend Pele has respiratory infection, but remains stable

Brazil soccer legend Pele has respiratory infection, but remains stable
Updated 03 December 2022

Brazil soccer legend Pele has respiratory infection, but remains stable

Brazil soccer legend Pele has respiratory infection, but remains stable
  • The medical team diagnosed a respiratory infection, which is being treated with antibiotics
  • The 82-year-old will remain hospitalized for the next few days to continue treatment

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian soccer legend Pele was diagnosed with a respiratory infection but remains in a stable condition, a medical report showed on Friday.
“The medical team diagnosed a respiratory infection, which is being treated with antibiotics. The response has been adequate, and the patient, who remains in a common room, is stable, with general improvement in health status,” said the report from hospital Albert Einstein.
The 82-year-old will remain hospitalized for the next few days to continue treatment, his medical staff added.
Pele was admitted to the hospital in Sao Paulo on Tuesday to reevaluate his treatment for cancer after he had a tumor removed from his colon in September 2021.
On Thursday, the former forward posted a photo on Instagram thanking his supporters for the positive messages he has received.


England bond over cards ahead of Senegal World Cup clash

England bond over cards ahead of Senegal World Cup clash
Updated 03 December 2022

England bond over cards ahead of Senegal World Cup clash

England bond over cards ahead of Senegal World Cup clash
  • Werewolf, a game of roleplay and deduction, has become a popular pastime for the squad between games “
  • It’s about being the best liar,” said midfielder Declan Rice

DOHA: For a nation that has frequently flattered to deceive at soccer’s major tournaments, a card game that relies on the art of deception is strengthening the bond among England’s players ahead of their match against Senegal in the World Cup round of 16.
Werewolf, a game of roleplay and deduction, has become a popular pastime for the squad between games.
“It’s about being the best liar,” said midfielder Declan Rice. “The villagers have got to snuff out the wolves and the wolves have got to lie and tell everyone why they are not a wolf. There is a lot of teamwork, ganging up.”
Whatever England are doing at their base in Qatar, it’s working so far.
They play Senegal on Sunday after topping Group B and tying Spain as leading scorers in the tournament so far with nine goals.
No other team picked up more than the seven points England recorded on their way to the knockout round and they are only one of three still undefeated.
Yet the message from coach Gareth Southgate and captain Harry Kane this week has been about maintaining focus and standards.
Belgium and Germany were high-profile departures from the group stage, while defending champion France, along with Argentina, Spain, Brazil and Portugal have all been on the wrong end of upsets.
And to think England’s 0-0 draw with the United States was considered enough of a shock that it prompted loud jeers from Three Lions fans after that match last week.
“I think it’s always difficult when you see big teams or big players in teams that don’t have the success that you want or don’t live up to the expectation of a nation or where they see themselves,” said defender John Stones. “We don’t ever want to fall into that category. I think that is great motivation for us as a reminder — you never want to take anything for granted or who you are playing against.”
England may be considered a major soccer nation, but their only tournament success came when they hosted and won the World Cup in 1966.
The years since have been pitted with disappointment and underachievement.
There has been an upturn under Southgate, who led the team to the semifinals of the World Cup in Russia in 2018 and to the final of last year’s European Championship, which they lost on penalties to Italy.
The bond he has developed among the players is seen as a key factor in England’s improvement.
Southgate is also meticulous about his planning, from psychological help to deal the pressure of taking penalties to even the most minor details.
At a team meeting this week, players were reminded about leaving their socks out the “right way” for the kitmen to collect after training.
“We get on each other for things like that because we have created those standards,” said Stones. “If you start getting sloppy with the little things, the bigger things start to get sloppy very easily. Any one percent or two percent of things that we can do to get better … obviously those are small things, but they matter to us.”
So there should be no danger of England taking Senegal lightly.
The African Cup of Nations winner finished second in Group A behind the Netherlands. That was despite suffering the pre-tournament disappointment of star striker Sadio Mane being ruled out.
“They’re knockout games now: if you win, you get to stay here; if you lose, you go home,” said Senegal coach Aliou Cissé. “There’s no need to overthink things, every team is at the same level.
“Our squad is experienced today, they’ve gone through a lot together and they know how to prepare for this type of game now, in competitions like this one,” he added.


Argentina, Netherlands eye quarters as World Cup last 16 kicks off

Argentina, Netherlands eye quarters as World Cup last 16 kicks off
Updated 03 December 2022

Argentina, Netherlands eye quarters as World Cup last 16 kicks off

Argentina, Netherlands eye quarters as World Cup last 16 kicks off
  • Business end of the tournament kicks off with 16 teams dreaming of plotting a path to the final in Doha on December 18

DOHA: Australia take on Lionel Messi’s Argentina in a David v Goliath World Cup showdown while the United States look to ambush the Netherlands as the World Cup knockout rounds get under way on Saturday.
After a group stage full of twists and turns, the business end of the tournament kicks off with 16 teams dreaming of plotting a path to the final in Doha on December 18.
The USA and the Netherlands open the second round at the Khalifa Stadium on Saturday, with the Americans aiming to advance to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2002.
Coach Gregg Berhalter’s USA squad booked their spot in the last 16 with a 1-0 win over Iran to secure second place in Group B behind England.
While the Dutch possess the greater historical pedigree, reaching three previous World Cup finals, the USA head into the knockout rounds brimming with confidence.
“It’s a great opportunity, but it’s not something that we’re going into it thinking it’s an honor,” Berhalter said.
“We deserve to be in the position we’re in.”
The US face a Dutch team who finished first in Group A ahead of Senegal, Ecuador and Qatar without really showing their best form.
The Netherlands’ veteran coach Louis van Gaal is wary of the threat posed by the energetic Americans, describing Berhalter’s team as one of the best in the tournament.
“They have an excellent team, I would say even one of the best teams,” said Van Gaal.
“It’ll be a tough match but it’s nothing we can’t overcome. We also have a good team.”
In Saturday’s other knockout game, South American giants Argentina face an Australia side who confounded all expectations by getting out of a Group D that included defending champions France, Denmark and Tunisia.
However Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is not ready to take anything for granted having already seen his team suffer a shock loss to Saudi Arabia earlier in the tournament.
“Whether or not they are inferior to us remains to be seen,” Scaloni said. “Forget who is theoretically favorites and let’s play football.”
Australia coach Graham Arnold meanwhile said he expects the Socceroos to raise their game once more against the star-studded Argentines.
“Playing against that type of talent, and that name I think resonates right across the world — it’s a football nation and it is inspiring to play against them,” Arnold said.
The conclusion of the group phase on Friday marked the departure of four more teams from the 32-nation tournament.
South Korea battled their way into the last 16 after a last-gasp winner in a 2-1 win over Portugal which in turn eliminated Uruguay, 2-0 victors over Ghana.
Tottenham forward Son Heung-min produced a brilliant assist for Hwang Hee-chan to score the goal that secured a 2-1 victory.
The Korean players then watched the final minutes of Uruguay’s match on a mobile phone as they waited for their place in the last 16 to be confirmed.
Uruguay, leading 2-0 against the Africans, needed one more goal to go through but fell agonizingly short despite piling on the pressure, crashing out by virtue of goals scored.
Uruguay’s campaign ended in disarray with veteran Luis Suarez in tears on the substitutes bench while striker Edinson Cavani angrily knocked over a pitchside VAR monitor as he left the field — an apparent protest at several decisions which went against the team.
Switzerland edged a bad-tempered encounter with Serbia to progress, winning 3-2 to earn a meeting with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.
Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka was at the center of a melee between players form both sides after a clash with Serbian defender Nikola Milenkovic.
Brazil won Group G despite dropping nine players from their starting lineup and losing 1-0 to Cameroon with Vincent Aboubakar heading in a stoppage-time winner to claim a memorable win that could not prevent the African side being eliminated.