World Cup could mean redemption for Brazil forward Neymar

World Cup could mean redemption for Brazil forward Neymar
Brazil’s Neymar during a training session at the Continassa sporting center in Turin, Italy, Thursday. Brazil will compete in Group G at the 2022 World Cup. (AP)
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Updated 18 November 2022

World Cup could mean redemption for Brazil forward Neymar

World Cup could mean redemption for Brazil forward Neymar
  • Neymar enters the World Cup — which he doesn’t rule out as being his last one — as one of the most in-form players

DOHA: When Neymar was preparing to play for Brazil at his first World Cup back in 2014, the hype surrounding him was considerable.

He had just moved from Santos to Spanish club Barcelona as one of the most promising young players in the world. And he had impressed early on with the Catalan club, quickly gaining the status of star in the world of soccer.

The common questions surrounding Neymar at the time were about when — not if — he would be crowned the best in the world.

Fast forward eight years, though, and things have changed considerably. The Brazilian remains one of the top players in the world, but he has failed to fully meet the expectations that came along his high-profile move to Europe.

Neymar lost visibility after joining Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, and it’s been a while since he has been in consideration for the best player of the year awards.

His performances with Brazil in World Cups have mostly disappointed since the 2014 tournament at home, when he was carried off on a stretcher because of a back injury in the quarterfinals. At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Neymar crouched on the field and stared in disbelief as the Belgium players celebrated their victory over Brazil in the last eight.

He was crucial for Brazil when the country won its first Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, a feat that was celebrated widely nationwide and earned him widespread praise.

But at 30 years old, the questions surrounding Neymar ahead of the World Cup in Qatar are a bit different.

Did he make a mistake by leaving Barcelona to join PSG? Is he being overshadowed by Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe? Is he past his peak?

But for Neymar, the only question that really matters is whether he can come through for Brazil and lead the national team to their first World Cup title in 20 years.

“I don’t want to let this World Cup get away from me,” Neymar said earlier this year. “I don’t want to let this opportunity slip through my hands. I’m doing everything possible to prepare for it, physically and mentally. It is my biggest dream right now. I’m focused on winning this title.”

This year’s World Cup could mean redemption for Neymar, and if he does find a way to lead Brazil to the title in Qatar, his name will most likely be back at the top of the award lists.

“I’ll give my life at the World Cup,” Neymar said in a chat with former Brazil midfielder Diego Ribas. “It’s a unique moment. I’ve been through two World Cups and I now how it works. Everything happens really fast, and if you are not at your 100 percent, if you are not prepared, the opportunity passes by you.”

Neymar, who said as a youngster his dream was to be the best player in the world, has been doing well this season again and is one of the leaders of a PSG team that hope to finally win their first Champions League title. He enters the World Cup — which he doesn’t rule out as being his last one — as one of the most in-form players.

“He is flying right now,” Brazil coach Tite said.

Neymar apparently hasn’t been affected by the recent fraud trial regarding his 2013 transfer from Santos to Barcelona, where he and his father are among those accused of hiding the real cost of the transfer. He is facing a prison sentence of more than two years if found guilty, though some of the charges against him have been dropped.

Tite is undoubtedly relying on Neymar to take the helm and lead Brazil in Qatar, hoping that his talent — and now his maturity — will finally make the difference and give the national team a chance to win their first World Cup title since 2002, when Neymar was still only 10.

And hopefully for Brazil, instead of leaving the field on a stretcher like in 2014 or watching opponents celebrate like in 2018, Neymar will end his World Cup run by lifting the trophy for his team and his people.


Saez eyes Saudi Cup Jockeys Challenge prize

Saez eyes Saudi Cup Jockeys Challenge prize
Updated 18 sec ago

Saez eyes Saudi Cup Jockeys Challenge prize

Saez eyes Saudi Cup Jockeys Challenge prize
  • Leading US jockey jets in alongside Brazilian female rider Jeane Alves
Luiz Saez will ride in the International Jockeys Challenge at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh on Feb. 24, the opening day of The Saudi Cup meeting.

Born in Panama, where he rode 37 winners before relocating to the USA, Saez will be returning to the scene of his second placing in the 1351 Turf Sprint presented by stc aboard Casa Creed last year, and is also set to ride the William Mott-trained seven-year-old once again.

Saez, said: “I’m having a good year so far and am really looking forward to the Saudi trip. The IJC looks like a great group of jockeys, so it should be fun!

“I finished second on Casa Creed in the 1351 Turf Sprint last year and am all set to ride him again in that race, so hopefully he can go one better. The turf was lovely, so I’m pleased to see there are two races on the turf this year in the IJC too.”

Saez, who also rode at the inaugural Saudi Cup meeting in 2020, will be joined by leading Brazilian female rider and two-time champion apprentice, Jeane Alves.

Alves became the first woman to win a G1 contest in Brazil, winning the 2015 Grande Premio Jockey Club Brasileiro, and has since gone on to ride across the world, including the UK, UAE, Belgium, Sweden and Macau. The 2023 IJC marks Alves’ first trip to Saudi Arabia.

Alves, said: “I am delighted to be invited to ride in the International Jockeys Challenge at The Saudi Cup meeting. I’m excited to be riding against some of the world’s best Jockeys, like Joao Moreira, who was one of my inspirations when I started, and of course, the legend, Frankie Dettori.”

Each of the four IJC races carry a prize fund of $400,000, with a further $100,000 reward for winning the challenge itself.

The 14 jockeys are made up of seven international female riders, five international men and two local men with the jockeys receiving 15 percent of prize money won in each of the four races.

The confirmed riders are:

Caitlin Jones (AUS)

Chantal Sutherland (USA)

Delphine Santiago (FR)

Victoria Alonso (ESP)

Jeane Alves (BRA)

João Moreira (BRA)

Bauyrzhan Murzabayev (KAZ/GER)

Frankie Dettori (ITY/GB)

Yuga Kawada (JPN)

Luis Saez (USA)

Andre Carrillo played through pain barrier to help Al-Hilal defeat Flamengo

Andre Carrillo played through pain barrier to help Al-Hilal defeat Flamengo
Updated 47 min 55 sec ago

Andre Carrillo played through pain barrier to help Al-Hilal defeat Flamengo

Andre Carrillo played through pain barrier to help Al-Hilal defeat Flamengo
  • Peruvian star was injured in win over Wydad, leaving his place in lineup against Brazilian club in doubt

Al-Hilal’s Peruvian star Andre Carrillo has revealed how he played with a painful injury during the Saudi club’s sensational 3-2 win against Flamengo in the FIFA Club World Cup semifinal on Tuesday night.

Carrillo had suffered an injury which saw him limp off the pitch in the previous match against Wydad, casting doubt on his ability to take part in the Tangiers semifinal.

“My participation was still not confirmed in the morning, and I did the impossible in order to take part in the match,” he said.

“I endured the injury and insisted on participating. I asked the medical staff for a pain-killing injection to participate in such an important meeting.”

In Saturday’s final Al-Hilal will meet the winner of the second semifinal between Egypt’s Al-Ahly and Spain’s Real Madrid, taking place on Wednesday night in Rabat.


Andy Murray gets wildcard entry for Dubai Tennis Championships

Andy Murray gets wildcard entry for Dubai Tennis Championships
Updated 08 February 2023

Andy Murray gets wildcard entry for Dubai Tennis Championships

Andy Murray gets wildcard entry for Dubai Tennis Championships
  • For second successive year, 3-time Grand Slam champion returns to the ATP 500 event, set to run from Feb. 26 to March 4 at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium

DUBAI: British tennis legend Andy Murray has confirmed his participation at this month’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, accepting a second-consecutive wildcard and adding yet more quality to a men’s field that already features eight of the world’s top 20 male players.

The annual two-week championships, which starts with the yearly WTA event, is scheduled to run from Feb. 19 to March 4.

While capturing three Grand Slam titles is a huge part of Murray’s successful tennis career, the Scot reached world No. 1 in 2016 and made history at that year’s Olympic Games when he became the only player to win back-to-back gold medals in tennis singles.

A two-time finalist in Dubai, Murray defeated Fernando Verdasco in 2017 to lift the trophy, before a series of injuries saw him slip down the world rankings.

Murray — who at the 2012 US Open became the first British male in 77 years to win a Grand Slam — accepted a wildcard to return to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium last year. Making his first appearance at the ATP 500 event since his triumph five years earlier, he reached the Round of 16 and will be looking to improve on that this time around after some encouraging performances at last month’s Australian Open.

“Coming back to Dubai brings with it a lot of good memories, not least 2017 and the final with Fernando,” said two-time Wimbledon champion Murray, who also reached the final in Dubai in 2012. My form is improving and my game is getting better, so the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships provides another great opportunity for me to continue to climb back up the rankings.”

Murray joins a stellar field that includes new world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is chasing a sixth Dubai title, last year’s champion Andrey Rublev, 2021 US Open winner Daniil Medvedev, Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev, and world No. 7 Felix Auger-Aliassime, among others.

“We are delighted to welcome Andy back to Dubai,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Everybody knows how important a figure he is in British tennis and, as we have seen in the seven previous times he has competed at our event, he always attracts a strong and passionate support base. He accepted our wildcard last year and was a credit to the tournament and we are very happy he has accepted our invite once again.”


We wish Al-Ahly success, but will respect any opponent in FIFA Club World Cup final, says Al-Hilal defender Abdulhamid

We wish Al-Ahly success, but will respect any opponent in FIFA Club World Cup final, says Al-Hilal defender Abdulhamid
Updated 08 February 2023

We wish Al-Ahly success, but will respect any opponent in FIFA Club World Cup final, says Al-Hilal defender Abdulhamid

We wish Al-Ahly success, but will respect any opponent in FIFA Club World Cup final, says Al-Hilal defender Abdulhamid
  • Egyptian giants will face European champions Real Madrid in the second semifinal on Wednesday night in Rabat
  • Al-Hilal stunned Brazil’s Flamengo 3-2 to become first Saudi team to reach the competitions final

Al-Hilal left-back Saud Abdulhamid has insisted that the Saudi team will treat whoever they meet in the FIFA Club World Cup final with equal respect, even if he has slight preference for fellow Arab club Al-Ahly over European champions Real Madrid.

“We deserved to beat Flamengo, and such matches show the personality of the big teams, and are decided on small details, and we were able to defeat Flamengo with these details,” he said.

Egyptian giants Al-Ahly will face Real Madrid on Wednesday night in Rabat for the right to meet Al-Hilal in Saturday’s final.

“We always hope for a win for us as Arabs, but we will honor whoever comes,” Abdulhamid said.

Al-Hilal’s win avenged defeat in the semifinal of the 2019 edition of the competition against the same opponents. It was also the first time that a Saudi team has reached the final of the Club World Cup and the first victory by an Asian team over a Brazilian club.


Al-Hilal coach Diaz: Flamengo were surprised by our skill and tactics

Al-Hilal coach Diaz: Flamengo were surprised by our skill and tactics
Updated 08 February 2023

Al-Hilal coach Diaz: Flamengo were surprised by our skill and tactics

Al-Hilal coach Diaz: Flamengo were surprised by our skill and tactics
  • The Saudi and Asian champions overcame the Brazilian giants 3-2 to reach the final of the FIFA Club World Cup on Feb. 11

Al-Hilal coach Ramon Diaz has expressed delight at reaching the FIFA Club World Cup 2022 final, after his team defeated Brazilian giants Flamengo 3-2 in their semifinal at Tangiers Stadium in Morocco.

“We are all happy because Al-Hilal is the largest club in Saudi Arabia, and we are proud to represent it and of the successes that we are achieving,” the Argentine said during the press conference after the match.

Salem Al-Dawsari gave Al-Hilal a fourth-minute lead from the penalty spot before Pedro equalized on 20 minutes. In stoppage time of the first half, Al-Dawsari scored his second spot-kick of the match to give the Saudi team the lead at the break.

Luciano Vietto extended Al-Hilal’s lead on 70 minutes, before Pedro scored a consolation goal for the Brazilians in stoppage time.

Asked whether tension in the Flamengo team helped Al-Hilal record their famous victory, he said: “Perhaps they were surprised by the players’ skills and our way of playing. In the first half, they only created one attack, and it was a very intense tactical match.”

Diaz highlighted the contribution of fellow Argentine Vietto, who won both penalties during the match. “Vietto was the playmaker and excels at perpetrating the opposition team. He is developing a lot and is very important to us.”

Flamengo were reduced to 10 men when midfielder Gerson was sent off after giving away the second penalty of the night. The Brazilian club’s coach complained about the refereeing in the match, but Diaz dismissed that as the reason for his side’s win.

“We should not focus on the refereeing, we should focus on the way we played,” he said. “We saw a strong team that could not reach our goal often, and this is evidence of the quality of our team’s tactics and players. We were playing one against one instead of three against three, and we played a great match and dominated for majority of its course.”