No respite for Bayern players with Leverkusen game looming

No respite for Bayern players with Leverkusen game looming
Bayern’s Thomas Mueller gestures during their German Bundesliga match against FC Augsburg in Augsburg on Sept. 17, 2022. (AP/File)
Short Url
Updated 29 September 2022

No respite for Bayern players with Leverkusen game looming

No respite for Bayern players with Leverkusen game looming
  • Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann welcomed Germany players Thomas Müller, Joshua Kimmich, Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala and Serge Gnabry back
  • Bayern’s players took their poor form to the Germany team

BERLIN: The international break provided little respite for Bayern Munich’s struggling stars ahead of the team’s high-stakes Bundesliga game against Bayer Leverkusen on Friday.
Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann welcomed Germany players Thomas Müller, Joshua Kimmich, Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala and Serge Gnabry back to training on Wednesday after what proved to be a frustrating two games with the national team.
The rain they encountered in Munich matched the mood.
Bayern, after four games without a win in the Bundesliga, had been hoping that Germany’s Nations League games against Hungary and England would help reinvigorate their players and restore confidence ahead of a busy schedule of domestic and Champions League games.
Instead, Bayern’s players took their poor form to the Germany team, which lost 1-0 at home to Hungary, then drew 3-3 with England after throwing away a two-goal lead.
Bayern captain Manuel Neuer and midfielder Leon Goretzka missed the Germany games due to coronavirus infections, but both were back on the training field for Nagelsmann on Tuesday.
Nagelsmann had said he was going to use the break to think “about everything” after Bayern ended their run of three draws with a loss in Augsburg, the team’s first defeat of the season.
Only a convincing performance on Friday will ease the pressure on the coach, who seemed to be at a loss to explain his team’s slump. Bayern next face a visit to Borussia Dortmund for “der Klassiker” the following weekend.
Leverkusen also need to make amends after their disappointing start. Gerardo Seoane’s team are in crisis after just one win from seven league games so far.
“Both teams are in a similar situation – each at their own level. Both are dissatisfied with the results, but both also show many positive signs,” Seoane said.
“Bayern Munich had an incredible number of scoring chances in every game. We don’t need to talk about quality.”


Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday

Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday
Updated 55 min 47 sec ago

Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday

Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday
  • Green Falcons complete training session at Sealine Resort Stadium

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s national football team on Tuesday completed a final training session ahead of their last FIFA World Cup group stage clash against Mexico on Wednesday at Lusail Stadium in Qatar.
The Green Falcons trained at the Sealine Resort Stadium under the supervision of coach Herve Renard.
Training included warm-up exercises before players were divided into two groups for tactical work.
Defender Mohammed Al-Breik was supervised by medical staff as the 30-year-old continued a treatment program for a calf muscle injury.
The team was expected to leave its facility on Tuesday night and head to Doha as part of its preparations for the match the following day.
Saudi Arabia is in Group C alongside Argentina, Mexico and Poland.


Koulibaly sinks Ecuador to fire Senegal into World Cup knockouts

Koulibaly sinks Ecuador to fire Senegal into World Cup knockouts
Updated 29 November 2022

Koulibaly sinks Ecuador to fire Senegal into World Cup knockouts

Koulibaly sinks Ecuador to fire Senegal into World Cup knockouts
  • The Netherlands' dominant victory over Qatar meant only a win would see Senegal through to the knockouts
  • Senegal manager Aliou Cisse promised before the game his experienced side "would not overthink" the occasion

DOHA: Kalidou Koulibaly sent Senegal into the World Cup knockouts for just the second time in their history with the winner in Tuesday’s dramatic 2-1 win over Ecuador.
The Netherlands’ dominant victory over Qatar meant only a win would see Senegal through to the knockouts from Group A, while Ecuador would have progressed with a draw.
Senegal opened the scoring through Ismaila Sarr’s penalty late in the first half, but despite managing to keep Ecuador captain Enner Valencia quiet throughout, Brighton’s Moises Caicedo levelled in the 67th minute before Koulibaly sent his team through and Ecuador home.
Senegal manager Aliou Cisse promised before the game his experienced side “would not overthink” the occasion and it was the Africans who opened the game furiously, with Everton’s Idrissa Gana Gueye lashing the ball just wide of an open goal after only three minutes.
Less than a minute later, Ecuador goalkeeper Hernan Galindez needed to bail out his side’s high backline, sliding in to stifle a counter well outside his box.
On the 10 minute mark, Senegal’s Boulaye Dia found himself one-on-one with Galindez, but he cut the ball just wide of the post.
Seemingly sparked into life by Senegal’s fierce opening, Ecuador pushed forward and won a free-kick 30 meters from goal, with the South Americans taking the opportunity for a rare breather before Valencia slammed the ball into the wall.
After the furious opening exchanges, both sides began to settle and the first half looked set to end goalless before Ecuador defender Piero Hincapie clattered into Sarr, giving referee Clement Turpin no choice but to point to the spot.
Sarr stepped up and coolly dispatched a fine spot-kick past Galindez, maintaining eye contact with the keeper as the ball went in.
Ecuador started the second half fresher and more determined, perhaps reassured that the Netherlands’ dominance over Qatar meant they only needed a draw to go through.
From a free-kick, defender Felix Torres rose high to head the ball on to Caicedo, who was waiting at the far post and slammed the ball home.
Senegal struck back immediately and in almost identical fashion, with Koulibaly lurking unmarked at the far post following a free-kick which was deflected into his path by Hincapie.
Coming into the match on a yellow card, Gueye picked up a second-half booking and will miss Senegal’s last-16 game against the winners of Group B.


Netherlands see off sorry Qatar to reach World Cup last 16

Netherlands see off sorry Qatar to reach World Cup last 16
Updated 29 November 2022

Netherlands see off sorry Qatar to reach World Cup last 16

Netherlands see off sorry Qatar to reach World Cup last 16
  • The Netherlands put one foot in the next round inside the first half-hour as Gakpo scored in a third straight group game
  • Qatar suffered the ignominy of becoming the first home team in World Cup history to finish the group stage without a point

AL KHOR, Qatar: Cody Gakpo scored again as the Netherlands booked their place in the World Cup last 16 as group winners with a straightforward 2-0 victory over hosts Qatar on Tuesday.
The Netherlands, needing just a point to be sure of progressing, put one foot in the next round inside the first half-hour as Gakpo scored in a third straight group game.
Frenkie de Jong added another in the 49th minute as the Dutch cruised through in a flat atmosphere at the Al Bayt Stadium.
Qatar, already eliminated before kick-off, suffered the ignominy of becoming the first home team in World Cup history to finish the group stage without a point.
Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side ended with seven points at the top of Group A, while Senegal joined them in the knockout phase as runners-up after beating Ecuador 2-1.
The Oranje will next take on the second-placed team from Group B for a quarter-final spot at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday.
England currently top that section and face Wales later on Tuesday, while the United States play Iran. All four teams are still in the hunt for qualification.
“We did what we needed to do,” said Netherlands coach Van Gaal.
“We’re group winners and we’ll most likely be playing a number two team, probably USA or Iran, and they’re playing tonight and we can watch them tonight.”
The Dutch have made a solid start as they look to put the disappointment of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia firmly behind them.
Qatar signed off from their long-awaited home World Cup with a whimper, securing their place in the record books as the worst ever hosts on the pitch.
“I think that we’ve played against a great team, probably one of the big favorites to go very far in this competition,” said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez.
“It was a very tough game for us but I believe the team managed to compete at a very high level for many minutes.”
Van Gaal was able to give Memphis Depay his first start of the tournament as the Barcelona star continued his return to full fitness after a hamstring injury.
It did not take the Dutch long to slice through the Qatar defense, although Daley Blind could only scuff a fourth-minute attempt straight at goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham.
The opening goal arrived in the 26th minute as Davy Klaassen played in Gakpo after a neat move also involving Depay.
The PSV Eindhoven winger drove forward and drilled a low strike into the bottom corner from the edge of the box to score his third goal of the tournament.
The three-time World Cup runners-up took advantage of shoddy Qatar defending to double their advantage four minutes after the break.
Depay was denied from close range by Barsham but De Jong reacted quicker than a ponderous Pedro Miguel to poke the ball home from barely a yard out.
Substitute Steven Berghuis thought he had added a third midway through the second half, only for his goal to be ruled out after a VAR check for a handball by Gakpo in the build-up.
There was brief excitement for the remaining home supporters late on when Mohammed Muntari prodded the ball into the net, but the whistle had long since gone for a foul on Virgil van Dijk.
The Netherlands almost piled more misery onto Qatar in stoppage time when Berghuis’ excellent curling strike from range hit the crossbar.


Belgium hold players’ meeting after poor start to World Cup

Belgium hold players’ meeting after poor start to World Cup
Updated 29 November 2022

Belgium hold players’ meeting after poor start to World Cup

Belgium hold players’ meeting after poor start to World Cup
  • Belgium arrived in Qatar as the No. 2-ranked team and one of the tournament favorites
  • The team need to beat Croatia in their final group game on Thursday to guarantee advancing to the last 16

DOHA: Belgium’s squad held a meeting where players aired their “honest” views about how the team can salvage their World Cup campaign, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said Tuesday.
Belgium arrived in Qatar as the No. 2-ranked team and one of the tournament favorites, but were unconvincing in a 1-0 win over Canada before losing to Morocco 2-0 on Sunday.
The team need to beat Croatia in their final group game on Thursday to guarantee advancing to the last 16.
Courtois and Belgium captain Eden Hazard played down reports of infighting in the squad that surfaced after the Morocco game.
Courtois did say, however, he and his teammates had a frank exchange of views at their training base in Al Rayyan on Monday.
“I did not feel like there were issues, but it is always good to have a meeting all together so everybody can share their thoughts,” the Real Madrid goalkeeper said Tuesday.
“This way, everything is sorted and I think that the best thing we can do is to be honest, because on the pitch we have to fight for each other. So being honest is the most important thing.”
There has been plenty of focus on a seemingly off-the-cuff comment by Kevin De Bruyne, the star of the team, in a pre-tournament interview with British newspaper The Guardian.
In it, De Bruyne was asked if Belgium can win the World Cup and he was quoted as saying: “No chance, we’re too old.” Against Canada, Belgium had six players in their 30s in the starting lineup, with four of them having accrued more than 100 international appearances.
One of them is Jan Vertonghen, who appeared to make a reference to De Bruyne’s remark when speaking after the loss to Morocco.
“Where did it go wrong?” Vertonghen said. “We probably also attack badly because we are too old, that must be it now, surely?”
Hazard said he had spoken to De Bruyne and that his long-time teammate “believes in us more than ever.”
“Sometimes in an interview, you say funny things you don’t really mean,” Hazard said. “I think he just wanted to say that we are older than four years ago. And he is right, we are older.
“Everybody is older. The defenders. Us, the midfielders. Thibaut is older than four years ago, it is what it is. I think Kevin is the first to have confidence in this group, otherwise he would not be here.”
Hazard urged his team to play with “no fear” against Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runner-up.
“In two days, it could be our last game, so we have to play with desire to win,” he said. “If we go together on the pitch, 11 players, we can beat Croatia. I know it is going to be difficult, because every game in this World Cup is difficult, but we can do it. With the team we have, we can do it.”


Mexico face early World Cup exit against Saudi Arabia

Mexico face early World Cup exit against Saudi Arabia
Updated 29 November 2022

Mexico face early World Cup exit against Saudi Arabia

Mexico face early World Cup exit against Saudi Arabia
  • Mexico have reached the round of 16 at the last seven World Cups
  • El Tri sit at the bottom of Group C ahead of a must-win match against Saudi Arabia

DOHA: Mexico are going to have to suddenly find goals — and perhaps even several of them — to extend their knockout-round streak at the World Cup.
Mexico have reached the round of 16 at the last seven World Cups, tied for the longest current streak with Brazil. But in Qatar, El Tri sit at the bottom of Group C ahead of a must-win match against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday at Lusail Stadium.
The last time Mexico played at soccer’s biggest tournament and didn’t advance out of their group was in 1978.
But it’s not quite as simple as winning: El Tri must also get help. They’ll need Poland to beat Lionel Messi and Argentina at the exact same time at Stadium 974.
That’s the easiest way forward for Mexico. Beyond that, it gets complicated. If Mexico do their job and win but Argentina, one of the tournament’s favorites, also win, then goal difference comes into play.
The problem is, Mexico have no goals yet in Qatar.
In fact, El Tri haven’t scored in 384 straight minutes at the World Cup, dating back to their second group match at the 2018 tournament in Russia.
“We believe in our chances. We hold on to our chances,” said veteran Mexico midfielder Andres Guardado, who is appearing in his fifth World Cup. “And obviously we will try until the very end.”
The drought was extended Saturday with a 2-0 loss to Argentina. Neither team scored in the Mexico’s opener against Poland.
Mexico haven’t been eliminated from the group stage since the tournament in Argentina 44 years ago. El Tri didn’t qualify for the 1982 World Cup in Spain, and were banned from the 1990 event in Italy for using overage players at an under-20 tournament.
Since then, Mexico have advanced to the round of 16 in their last seven appearances — but no further. El Tri came to Qatar looking to play in an elusive “quinto partido” — a fifth game — for the first time since Mexico hosted the tournament in 1986.
“In the next game we have no more chances,” Mexico forward Henry Martin said. “We have to score the goals that we can, and not worry what happens in the other game.”
With the lack of goals, the criticism of Mexico coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino grew. He had already been questioned over some of his choices, including his decision to leave all-time leading scorer Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez off the team.
Hernandez, who now plays for the LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer, scored the team’s last goal in a 2-1 group-stage victory over South Korea in Russia. LAFC forward Carlos Vela, who also fell out of favor in the national team, scored the other.
Martino could be looking for a new job if Mexico doesn’t advance after playing Saudi Arabia, a team that pulled off one of the tournament’s biggest upsets ever when they beat Argentina 2-1 in their opener.
“Not getting through would leave a lot of frustration,” Martino said Tuesday. “We need the goals to win, that is what it takes to keep us here.”
Saudi Arabia couldn’t pull off another upset Saturday when they fell to Poland 2-0. The Saudis reached the round of 16 back in 1994, the team’s World Cup debut, but haven’t made it past the group stage since.
“We will play to the last second of this tournament and we will not give up,” Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard said.
Nawaf Al-Abed sustained an ankle injury against Poland and it was unclear if he would be available against Mexico.