US face Netherlands at FIFA Women’s World Cup in repeat of final

Update US face Netherlands at FIFA Women’s World Cup in repeat of final
General view of graphics screens of the draw during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 draw in Auckland, New Zealand, on Oct. 22, 2022. (Photosport via AP)
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Updated 23 October 2022

US face Netherlands at FIFA Women’s World Cup in repeat of final

US face Netherlands at FIFA Women’s World Cup in repeat of final
  • Led by veteran forward Megan Rapinoe, the US are top of the FIFA rankings and going for a third crown in a row,

AUCKLAND: Holders and four-time champions the United States will face the Netherlands in the group phase of next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in a repeat of the 2019 final.
Megan Rapinoe’s United States will also meet debutants Vietnam and a play-off winner at the finals in Australia and New Zealand, following the draw in Auckland on Saturday.
European champions England, the pre-tournament favorites together with the Americans, will play China, Denmark and one of Senegal, Haiti or Chile.
Led by veteran forward Rapinoe, the US are top of the FIFA rankings and going for a third crown in a row, having beaten the Dutch 2-0 in the 2019 final.
Germany, Sweden, France and Spain will also be sides to watch out for when the World Cup is staged at 10 stadiums in New Zealand and Australia from July 20 to August 20, 2023.
The opening match will be co-hosts New Zealand against former champions Norway in Auckland.
With 32 teams — divided into eight groups of four — it will be the largest FIFA Women’s World Cup since the tournament began in 1991.
The US will meet minnows Vietnam to start their campaign, then up next will be the Dutch. Their other game will be against Portugal, Cameroon or Thailand.
“We’re excited about the match-ups. It’s a pretty tough group, but at the same time it’s going to be good games, especially against Holland,” said United States coach Vlatko Andonovski.
“The Dutch are very good, they have always been one of the top teams, they won the previous Euro and got into the final of the last World Cup.
“I expect a huge challenge for us.”
Andries Jonker, the Netherlands coach, called the clash with the Americans “huge for them and us, it’s a really big challenge.”
“If you want to win this trophy, you have to beat them,” he added.
American two-time World Cup winner Carli Lloyd led the draw with former England striker Ian Wright among those helping out at a ceremony attended by about 800 people at Auckland’s Aotea Center.
The ceremony, with England coach Sarina Wiegman and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern among the guests, opened with a nod to New Zealand and Australia’s Indigenous culture.
Ardern calls the 2023 World Cup “the world’s largest women’s sporting event ever.”
Beforehand, FIFA president Gianni Infantino criticized television broadcasters who have offered “100 times less” to screen the Women’s World Cup compared to the men’s.
Global interest in the World Cup is anticipated to be at an all-time high, with women’s football enjoying a surge in popularity in some countries.
The Women’s Euros final in July between hosts England and rivals Germany at Wembley drew 87,192 spectators, a record for both a men’s or women’s European championship.
Chloe Kelly scored in extra-time to give England a breathless 2-1 victory in front of a sell-out crowd and their first major title in women’s football.
Wiegman’s side backed that up with a 2-1 win over a young US team, in front of another bumper crowd at Wembley Stadium, earlier this month.
The US then lost to Spain in another friendly.
While women’s football is booming in countries such as England and is already well-established in France, some nations are only just getting started.
The Philippines, Morocco, Republic of Ireland, Vietnam and Zambia will all be competing at the Women’s World Cup for the first time.
A play-off tournament in February will decide who takes the remaining three spots of the 32.
Australia and New Zealand will host one semifinal each, with the August 20 final at the 83,000-capacity Stadium Australia in Sydney.


Group A: New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Switzerland.

Group B: Australia, Ireland, Nigeria, Canada.

Group C: Spain, Costa Rica, Zambia, Japan.

Group D: England, Group B playoff winner, Denmark, China.

Group E: US, Vietnam, the Netherlands, Group A playoff winner.

Group F: France, Jamaica, Brazil, Group C playoff winner.

Group G: Sweden, South Africa, Italy, Argentina.

Group H: Germany, Morocco, Colombia, South Korea.

(With AP)

Still time for Newcastle to strike January deals, says Howe

Still time for Newcastle to strike January deals, says Howe
Updated 30 January 2023

Still time for Newcastle to strike January deals, says Howe

Still time for Newcastle to strike January deals, says Howe
  • The Magpies have already signed Anthony Gordon from Everton for $55m
  • Signing of Gordon has divided fans, as the player is one who polarizes with his on-field antics

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe admits it could be a busy end to the January transfer window for Newcastle United although he accepts incomings are far from guaranteed.

The Magpies have completed the $55 million signing of England under-21 forward Anthony Gordon from Everton but face a race against time to bring in the two further players Howe has set his sights on.

They have agreed on a nominal fee to take youngster Harrison Ashby from West Ham United but are set to lose both Jonjo Shelvey and Karl Darlow to Nottingham Forest and Hull City respectively.

That leaves a two-player gap in the Magpies’ 25-man Premier League squad, with Ashby and Gordon both sitting outside of the group.

Howe is keen to make sure he replaces Shelvey at least, although he is far from certain the right player will be available to plug the gap.

Speaking ahead of the second leg of the club’s Carabao Cup semifinal with Southampton, Howe said: “From a football decision perspective, we will see what we can do in the market to try to bring a player. There’s no guarantee on that. With other transfers, we will try and see what we can do. In terms of permanent signings, that will be very difficult. We will look at a loan situation, but it has to be the right player.”

Howe also revealed that he did not want to lose Shelvey despite some persistent injuries this season.

“It will be very difficult to keep Jonjo currently, with where he wants his career to go,” said Howe. “We can keep players who want to leave. There is nothing to say that every player that wants to leave you have to let go. But you have to take every situation independently and try to judge everything, judge what is best for him and the club.”

Howe acknowledged that Shelvey has had talks with Premier League rivals Nottingham Forest.

“Jonjo has been a huge player for this football club over the last seven years. He has been an important part of my squad since I have been here,” he said.

The transfer window in England closes at 11 p.m. GMT on Tuesday.

The signing of Gordon has divided fan opinion, especially as the player is one who polarizes with his on-field aggression and antics.

He also went on strike to force the move through — and Howe has addressed the player’s mental state ahead of a potential first appearance in the Premier League at the weekend.

“For someone of his age, we’re going to need to really support him and guide him through this move,” said Howe, who will not be able to play Gordon against Saints as he is cup-tied.

“Certainly, from the person that I met yesterday, I was hugely impressed by how he handled it. It’s a big day. I’ve been there as a player,” the Newcastle coach added. “You go to a new club, and it can be daunting. I thought he was excellent in everything that he had to encounter, meeting new teammates, meeting new coaching staff, getting a lot of information, trying to settle in.”

Gordon, who was also interested in Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, said Newcastle were the only club for him.

“Since I heard of the interest, I was always convinced Newcastle were for me,” he said. “I think the fan base and the city really suits me as a person, the way the team are playing under the gaffer at the minute really suits me, and the club just look like they're heading in the right direction.

“I feel like it’s a really big step,” Gordon added. “People haven’t seen what I’m capable of yet. I think under the gaffer, and the way the club’s going, I can really excel here.”

Riders from 12 nations to tackle opening round of FIA Bajas World Cup in Saudi

Riders from 12 nations to tackle opening round of FIA Bajas World Cup in Saudi
Updated 30 January 2023

Riders from 12 nations to tackle opening round of FIA Bajas World Cup in Saudi

Riders from 12 nations to tackle opening round of FIA Bajas World Cup in Saudi
  • Multi-category event takes place in Hail on Feb. 2-4
  • Mohammed Al-Balooshi of the MX Ride Dubai team heads the field on his TM 450

HAIL: Thirty-one motorcycles, five quads and competitors from 12 nations have entered this weekend’s Saudi Baja-Hail, the opening round of the 2023 FIM Bajas World Cup, in addition to four riders taking part in a national event running behind.

While two-time event winner Mohammed Al-Balooshi of the MX Ride Dubai team heads the field on his TM 450, two other former Hail winners feature on the international entry.

Al-Balooshi’s brother, Sultan, also represents the MX Ride Dubai team and is a two-time former winner of the longer Hail International Rally (2018 and 2019), while Saudi rider Mishal Al-Ghuneim reached the top step of the podium on a Husqvarna in 2021.

There is strength in depth across the entry, with several riders more than capable of challenging for victory, while others will be hopeful of scoring points in the FIM Womens’ and FIM Veterans’ categories.

Young Jordanian rider Abdullah Abu Aishah (KTM) has pushed Al-Balooshi close on several occasions in the past and will be hopeful of starting his FIM challenge in winning style. He finished fifth on the 2022 Saudi Baja last November, behind the triumphant Al-Balooshi, Kuwait’s Abdullah Al-Shatti (Kawasaki), Al-Ghuneim and fellow Saudi Anass Al-Reheyani. All three of those rivals will challenge for top honors again this weekend.

FIM Junior hopeful Alex McInnes is seeded at four and the Briton is more than capable of finishing on the podium, while Qatar-based Australian was sixth last year and will be aiming for a top three finish. Other international riders likely to challenge for top honors are Kiwi Philip Wilson, Australia’s Andrew Houlihan and the British duo of Barry Howe and Brett Hunt.

The neighboring State of Qatar will be represented by Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani (Gas-Gas), Mohammed Al-Kaabi (KTM), Mahanna Rashid Al-Naimi (Honda) and Abdulrahman Al-Sheeb (KTM). Yaghoob Azadi will ride a Rasen Racing Team Husqvarna in the national category.

Kuwait’s Sarah Khuraibet (Duust Rally Team Husqvarna) and Indian rider Sarah Kashyap (Beta) will decide the outcome of the Womens’ category.

Last year’s quad winner Haitham Al-Tuwaijri faces Saudi rivals Hani Al-Noumesi, Abdulaziz Al-Atawi and Sultan Al-Masoud, as well as the UAE’s Abdulaziz Ahli, to decide the honors on four wheels.

The Baja is being managed by the Saudi Motorsport Company in conjunction with the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) and the Ministry of Sport. The event is running under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, the president of the SAMF, and in partnership with Abdul Latif Jameel Motors.

McIlroy comes out on top of bitter rival Reed in Dubai

McIlroy comes out on top of bitter rival Reed in Dubai
Updated 30 January 2023

McIlroy comes out on top of bitter rival Reed in Dubai

McIlroy comes out on top of bitter rival Reed in Dubai
  • McIlroy had fallen behind arch-rival Reed after a bogey on the 15th hole
  • The Northern Irishman bounced back with birdies on the 17th and 18th to prevail over Reed by a single shot

DUBAI: Rory McIlroy prevailed in a nail-biting finish over Patrick Reed, the man he “prefers not to acknowledge” after a spat between the two, in the rain-delayed $9 million Dubai Desert Classic on Monday.
It was the first time McIlroy has won the first start of his new season and is his 15th DP World Tour victory in 231 starts.
It was also his third Dubai Desert Classic victory in 13 appearances.
He will remain world number one, after Spaniard Jon Rahm failed to win the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour on Saturday.
McIlroy and Reed went into the tournament after a row when Reed reportedly threw a tee toward McIlroy on the practice range in Dubai.
The two have been at odds since McIlroy criticized players, including Reed, who joined the rival Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit.
McIlroy, who lost this tournament last year on the final hole when his second shot found the water and he ended up making a bogey, had fallen behind Reed after a bogey on the 15th hole.
However, the Northern Irishman made amends with birdies on the 17th and 18th in a round of four-under par 68.
McIlroy finished on 19-under par, while Reed, starting the day four shots behind the Northern Irishman, made a crucial bogey on the 16th and a par on the drivable par-4 17th hole in his round of 65.
Australian Lucas Herbert, champion in 2019, closed with a six-under par 66 to take solo third place at 16-under par 272.
England’s Callum Shinkwin, who started with three bogies in his first six holes playing in the lead group with McIlroy, made six birdies after that to shoot a 69 and take solo fourth place at 273.
The DP World Tour stays in the UAE for a fourth consecutive week and will head to the northern emirate of Ras Al Khaimah this week for the $2 million RAK Championship.

Women’s football tournament in Saudi Arabia motivates Pakistani player to strive for more

Women’s football tournament in Saudi Arabia motivates Pakistani player to strive for more
Updated 30 January 2023

Women’s football tournament in Saudi Arabia motivates Pakistani player to strive for more

Women’s football tournament in Saudi Arabia motivates Pakistani player to strive for more
  • Saudi Arabia won the 4-nation friendly tournament, while Pakistan finished second
  • Sardil said she faced many difficulties to become a defender of the Pakistani national team

KARACHI: When Sahiba Sardil returned from playing the first women’s football tournament in Saudi Arabia last week, an experience she says has motivated her to strive for more, she received a hero’s welcome at home.

Sardil, a defender of the Pakistani team, was in the Kingdom for a four-nation friendly tournament held from Jan. 11 to 19 featuring Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Comoros and Mauritius. The South Asian country finished the competition as a runner-up, with the host coming out as champion.

When she arrived home in Mauripur, a small fishing town near the seaside metropolis Karachi, she was greeted with much fanfare. People from the community gathered and adorned her with garlands, while others played drums and waved the Pakistani flag as they marched alongside the football player.

“It was a great experience. I will always remember those 10 days,” Sardil told Arab News on Sunday.

“Saudi Arabia and the welcome I have received here at home have motivated me to work harder and go further.”

Sardil said she faced many difficulties before making it to the national team. 

The 21-year-old had started her football journey playing with male cousins in a dusty space, where there was only one goalpost and another one had to be marked with stones placed on the ground.

She also grew up in a conservative area, where it was common for young girls to stay within the confines of their homes. Her father initially had “strict rules” for the women in their household but eventually gave in and allowed Sardil to join a football academy three years ago.

“I didn’t reach the national team and this position so easily…I had to bear so much,” she said.

Sardil’s father, a fisherman who would often be away for months at a time, is now her biggest supporter.

“The respect that I have received today, the support I have received, is because of my father,” she said.

Now that she is home after her first international competition, Sardil recalls the games in the Kingdom with fondness and said she had adored the Saudi team the most. 

“To go to Saudi Arabia, to play outside of Pakistan was a huge honor for me,” Sardil said. “We felt really good playing against them. It felt as if we were playing football properly.”

13 Major champions to compete in the Aramco Saudi Ladies International next month

13 Major champions to compete in the Aramco Saudi Ladies International next month
Updated 30 January 2023

13 Major champions to compete in the Aramco Saudi Ladies International next month

13 Major champions to compete in the Aramco Saudi Ladies International next month
  • Field includes multiple winners Anna Nordqvist and In Gee Chun
  • Event takes place at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City from Feb. 16-19

The Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by the Public Investment Fund has confirmed there would be a total of 13 Major champions competing in this year’s event, with a prize purse of $5 million up for grabs.

Major winners include three-time champion and last year’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner In Gee Chun, multiple Major champion Anna Nordqvist, world No. 7 Lexi Thompson and defending champion Georgia Hall.

These 13 Major champions, who hold 18 Major titles between them, are part of a star-studded field that is set to be the event’s strongest lineup, with more top stars set to be announced over the following weeks.

The Aramco Saudi Ladies International is the third stop in a record-breaking 2023 LET season, featuring 30 events across 21 countries with a total prize fund of $38 million.

The groundbreaking event made waves around the world last year following the announcement of its commitment to women’s golf through a prize purse boost to $5 million, which is the largest outside of the Majors and matches the men’s event, the PIF Saudi International.

World No. 8 Chun picked up the third Major title of her career when she took home the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship title last year, winning by a stroke over Lexi Thompson and Minjee Lee. It was an impressive performance, especially in the tournament's first round, as the South Korean put up an eight-under-64 score to equal the largest first-round Major lead in women’s golf history.

She also performed well at the 2022 AIG Women’s Open, narrowly losing out on the title to Ashleigh Buhai — who will also be competing at the tournament — in a four-hole sudden-death playoff.

The 28-year-old secured her previous Major title in 2016, winning the Evian Championship. She spectacularly captured the title, finishing with a score of 21-under-par, which is the lowest winning score recorded in a Major tournament in golf.

This will be the first time Chun will compete in Saudi Arabia, where she will hope to make a solid start to her 2023 season.  

“I’m excited to finally visit Saudi Arabia. I’m also looking forward to an event that is expected to elevate women’s golf in all parts of the global community. It will definitely be a great early season challenge with a very strong field competing.”

Another Major winner and top 10 player competing at the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF is America’s Thompson. The world No. 7 ended her three-year title drought by winning the LET’s Aramco Team Series individual title in New York. In addition to the win in her home country, the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship titleholder also notched seven top 10 finishes in 2022.

As a player who has openly voiced her thoughts on equality in the game of golf, Thompson said: “Equal pay in golf has been something that all of us in the women’s game have wanted for so long, so seeing that huge prize purse increase at the Aramco Saudi Ladies International to match the men’s tournament was extremely heartening. For us, it’s always been about feeling equal and we are all focused on growing the game to leave in a much better place for future generation of female golfers.”

Crowd favorite and defending Champion Hall is also making a return to the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, where she created many fond memories last year by winning the Aramco Saudi Ladies International.

The world No. 24 and 2018 Ricoh Women’s British Open winner added: “It was great to win early in the season last year and I hope to defend my title this year. I’m a fan of the place and enjoy playing on this course as it suits my game well.

“Playing in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East gives me much confidence as I’ve done well in past competitions. The treatment we get during event week is absolutely top-notch and makes it much easier to put up great performances on the course for the fans.”

On the prize purse boost, the 26-year-old added: “It’s a massive boost for the women’s game, and it also goes beyond golf as it’s what women in sport deserve. We are all thoroughly grateful to Golf Saudi for what it’s doing for women’s golf.

“I’ve personally seen how the Aramco Team Series and Aramco Saudi Ladies International events have grown and developed every time I’m here, and I’m confident that it will continue on this path.”

Other Major champions who are competing at the event:

Ashleigh Buhai (2022 AIG Women’s Open)

Patty Tavatanakit (2021 ANA Inspiration)

Kim A-Lim (2020 US Women’s Open)

Hannah Green (2019 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship)

Jeong Eun Lee6 (2019 US Women’s Open)

Danielle Kang (2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship)

Lydia Ko (2016 ANA Inspiration; 2015 Evian Championship)

Hyo-Joo Kim (2014 Evian Championship)

Ji Eun-Hee (2009 US Women’s Open)