Mexico face early World Cup exit against Saudi Arabia

Mexico face early World Cup exit against Saudi Arabia
Mexico’s forward Raul Jimenez takes part in a training session at the Al Khor SC in Al Khor, north of Doha on Tuesday, on the eve of their World Cup match against Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
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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.


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.”