Japan aims for World Cup knockout stage against Costa Rica

Japan aims for World Cup knockout stage against Costa Rica
Japan was the underdog against four-time champion Germany, but it will be a strong favorite in its next Group E match against Costa Rica. (AP)
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Updated 26 November 2022

Japan aims for World Cup knockout stage against Costa Rica

Japan aims for World Cup knockout stage against Costa Rica
  • Japan has never reached the quarterfinals at a World Cup, and that’s the aim this time
  • This is Japan’s seventh straight appearance, and it has reached the round of 16 on three occasions

DOHA, Qatar: How big was Japan’s 2-1 upset of Germany in the opening round of the World Cup?
Newspapers in Japan used the term “Daikimboshi” from sumo wrestling to describe the magnitude of the surprise: when a low-ranked wrestler overpowers a grand champion.
The victory has also been compared to Japan’s 34-32 upset of powerful South Africa in the 2015 rugby World Cup in England.
Japan was the underdog against four-time champion Germany, but it will be a strong favorite in its next Group E match against Costa Rica, where a victory could move Japan into the knockout stage with a game to spare.
A loss by Costa Rica on Sunday would eliminate it from advancing. Costa Rica faces Germany in its final match and Japan goes against Spain.
Costa Rica is reeling from a 7-0 thrashing against Spain in its opener, and it’s anyone’s guess how the Ticos will respond. With a population of just over 5 million, the tiny Central American country is appearing in its sixth World Cup. It reached the quarterfinals in 2014 in Brazil.
Japan has never reached the quarterfinals at a World Cup, and that’s the aim this time. This is Japan’s seventh straight appearance, and it has reached the round of 16 on three occasions, including in Russia in 2018. It lost 3-2 in stoppage time to Belgium after leading 2-0.
It was eliminated by Paraguay on penalties in 2010, and lost to Turkiye 1-0 in 2002 when the country co-hosted the event with South Korea.
Japan coach Hajjime Moriyasu has spoken often about going farther this time and breaking the “final-16 hex.”
Substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored late goals against Germany — they both play in Germany’s Bundesliga — to lead Japan to the upset. Asano got the winner in the 83rd minute, squeezing the ball behind German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from a very sharp angle.
Costa Rica was overwhelmed by Spain with only 28 percent of the possession. It would also face the same problem against Japan, which is able to hold the ball for long spells, and is also a quick, counterattacking threat.
“We couldn’t complete three or four passes,” Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suarez said of the Spain loss.
The Ticos will have to do much more against Japan.


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.”