Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday

Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday
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Saudi Arabia’s national football team during their final training session ahead of their last FIFA World Cup group stage clash against Mexico on Wednesday. (SAFF)
Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday
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Saudi Arabia’s national football team during their final training session ahead of their last FIFA World Cup group stage clash against Mexico on Wednesday. (SAFF)
Saudi team ready for World Cup clash with Mexico on Wednesday
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Saudi Arabia’s national football team during their final training session ahead of their last FIFA World Cup group stage clash against Mexico on Wednesday. (SAFF)
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Updated 29 November 2022

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.


Disappointment for captain Ronaldo as Al-Nassr lose 3-1 to Al-Ittihad in Saudi Super Cup semi

Disappointment for captain Ronaldo as Al-Nassr lose 3-1 to Al-Ittihad in Saudi Super Cup semi
Updated 27 January 2023

Disappointment for captain Ronaldo as Al-Nassr lose 3-1 to Al-Ittihad in Saudi Super Cup semi

Disappointment for captain Ronaldo as Al-Nassr lose 3-1 to Al-Ittihad in Saudi Super Cup semi
  • The winners will face Al-Feiha, who recorded a surprise 1-0 victory over Al-Hilal in day’s other last-four clash, in Sunday’s final
  • Al-Hilal will now shift their focus to the opening game of their FIFA Club World Cup campaign, against Wydad AC of Morocco, on Feb. 4

Cristiano Ronaldo will have to wait a while to lift his first Saudi silverware, after Al-Nassr fell to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Al-Ittihad in their Saudi Super Cup semi-final on Thursday. The victors will meet Al-Feiha, who recorded a surprise 1-0 victory over Al-Hilal earlier in the day, in the final on Sunday.

Ronaldo, who was handed the captain’s armband for his second game with the league leaders, could have no complaints about the result. Al-Ittihad scored twice during an impressive first-half performance, and Nuno Santo’s side managed to hold on fairly comfortably after Anderson Talisca pulled one back for Al-Nassr midway through the second half.

Al-Ittihad took the lead after 15 minutes with almost their first attack of the game. Abdulrahman Al-Aboud exchanged passes with Abderrazak Hamdallah on the left side and then delivered a perfect low cross that Romarinho slotted home past goalkeeper Agustin Rossi, on loan from Boca Juniors and making his debut as a stand-in for the injured David Ospina.

Romarinho celebrates scoring his team’s first goal. (@ittihad) 

The Tigers visibly grew in confidence following the goal and looked like adding to their lead as they cut through the Al-Nassr back line time and time again. The Riyadh side struggled to bring Ronaldo into the game but then, just before the half-time, it looked as if the former Real Madrid star would open his Al-Nassr account.

A cross from the right found the skipper in the area and though he climbed high above the Al-Ittihad defense, his header from close range was straight at goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe.

Seconds later, Al-Ittihad extended their lead. Pity Martinez was robbed of possession on the right side and Romarinho broke free to float a perfect cross to the far side of the area. Hamdallah sent an equally perfect header back the way the ball had come and into the corner of the net.

Al-Nassr improved in the second half but still struggled to create clear chances. Ronaldo came close after 65 minutes but the five-time Ballon D’or winner sent his free-kick from just outside the left corner of the penalty area narrowly over the bar.

Shortly thereafter, Talisca put the Riyadh side back in the game as he fired home Luiz Gustavo’s low cross from the left. The Al-Nassr onslaught that might have been expected following the goal never really materialized, however, and Al-Ittihad sealed their place in the final in injury time thanks to a breakaway goal from Muhannad Al-Shanqeeti.

In May Al-Hilal lost the King’s Cup final to Al-Feiha after a penalty shootout. In Thursday’s game they did not even get that close.

The only goal of the game came after 21 minutes. Victor Ruiz had the ball in the middle of the Al-Hilal half and his perfect reverse through-pass split three defenders allowing Paulinho to run into the area, where the Brazilian calmly placed the ball to the left of goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf.

Paulinho celebrates the winning goal against Al-Hilal.  (@Alfaihaclub)

Just four minutes later, Al-Hilal were handed a perfect chance to get back on level terms. Abdullah Al-Hamdan, given a rare start by coach Ramon Diaz, dribbled into the right corner of the penalty area, where he was tripped by Ricardo Ryller. Up stepped Salem Al-Dawsari but he slammed his shot against the base of the left-hand post, though goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic, who did so much to help his team to victory in the King’s Cup, seemed to suggest he got a hand to it.

Al-Hilal had perhaps an even better opportunity immediately after the restart but, with the goal at his mercy, Al-Hamdan lifted the ball over from the edge of the six-yard box. Shortly after, the unmarked Saleh Al-Shehri headed wide from a good position. The blue wave continued to push forward but to no avail.

“Losing and saying goodbye to our chances of winning the Saudi Super Cup is painful,” said Al-Hilal striker Moussa Marega. “We must learn from the defeat and put it right in the future.”

Al-Feiha now have a chance to claim their second major silverware, while Al-Hilal must quickly shift their focus to another knockout tournament; the Asian champions will kick off their FIFA Club World Cup campaign against African title-holders Wydad AC of Morocco on Feb. 4.


‘New teams, new brand’: Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle looks ahead to Diriyah E-Prix double-header

‘New teams, new brand’: Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle looks ahead to Diriyah E-Prix double-header
Updated 27 January 2023

‘New teams, new brand’: Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle looks ahead to Diriyah E-Prix double-header

‘New teams, new brand’: Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle looks ahead to Diriyah E-Prix double-header
  • Reigle talks exclusively to Arab News about Season 9, the new Gen3 car and what the future holds for the all-electric series

In the end, it proved all right on the night.

Almost 40,000 raucous fans turned up to welcome Formula E’s Gen3 era in Mexico City two weeks ago, and this weekend Riyadh will host the Diriyah E-Prix double-header.

“Mexico was fantastic,” Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle said. “I guess I have to start by saying there’s no denying that there was a pretty high degree of anxiety as we came into the race, for a host of reasons. First of all, it’s the first race to the season, so inevitably it’s a mix of excited emotions and anxious emotions.

“We’re talking top tier sport drivers, team principals, the manufacturers that want to win — so good that sense of anticipation, but this year that was ramped up, because it’s a brand new car, Gen3, which is a big leap forward.

“And we really push the limits in terms of the car,” he added. “We reduced the weight by 60 kg, we increased the power by 100 kilowatts, a lot of changes under the hood, so to speak, as well as new tires and a new battery. So there were some pretty well cataloged challenges that the teams faced in the testing period.”

After four successful years of Gen2, Formula E seems to have been given a reboot.

“From a purely commercial perspective, we launched our new brand identity,” Reigle said. “We had three new teams coming in, you had Maserati joining, in partnership with Monaco Sports Group, you had McLaren coming in, and then Cupra, coming back with the ABT team. New teams, new brands, just everything was new, and it was really successful.”

On Friday and Saturday the action moves to Saudi Arabia with rounds 2 and 3 of Formula E Season 9 taking place under the lights in Diriyah, increasingly a favorite destination for the drivers.

“I was at dinner last night — we did a charity fundraiser, gala dinner, and I was at the table with Andre Lotterer (of Avalanche Andretti),” said Reigle. “I wasn’t trying to tee him up. We had a group of guests and I asked ‘Andre, so what’s your favorite circuit in Formula E and motorsport?’ This guy has won Le Mans three times and raced in a lot of places. Without skipping a beat, he said Diriyah. It’s fast, high-speed corners, it’s really challenging to drive. The setting is amazing and it’s a night race, and sport, especially the electric cars and motorsport, just looks cool at night.

“The drivers love it.”

Reigle’s first race as CEO was Diriyah in 2019, and he has overseen the sport’s growth in the ensuing three years, which, of course, included the COVID-19 pandemic.

The future, he says, “is electric.”

Reigle added: “If you think about sports that didn’t exist 20, 30 years ago, and are big today, there’s very, very few. There’s really only one that has broken into the top, top tier, and it’s probably UFC. It was started in the 90s, kind of bubbled around, and then it got bigger and bigger.

“And Formula E has that opportunity,” he added. “We’ve got the top drivers, we’ve got a lot of the top manufacturers and teams — all the conditions are there. We’ve got these great venues. The question is do we have the fan base?”

The turnout in Mexico — “a big moment” — as well as the Gen3 car and changes in racing format, would suggest that increasingly, Formula E does.

Then there is the stellar lineup of drivers.

“People want to watch the best compete against the best,” Reigle said. “The good news for Formula E is that we already have a very high caliber of stars. Because of the way we grew up, we don’t have pay drivers, we don’t have guys whose dad owns the team. It’s all top tier professionals — guys who have won Le Mans, who have been in Formula One, who have won in DTM and who built their careers in Formula E.”

Reigle highlighted the career path of Dutch driver Nyck De Vries — Formula E champion in 2021 and now signed to Formula One’s Scuderia AlphaTauri — as an example of the high standards in electric racing. Other examples are Mitch Evans and Jake Dennis, the winner in Mexico City.

“Last year we did Indonesia for the first time and we had 60,000 people,” said Reigle. “MotoGP, that’s their only really international sporting event, now we’re adding to that. So you’ve got these big opportunities in emerging markets.

“This year we’re adding Hyderabad, Cape Town — we’re heading to Sao Paulo and Portland. Those are big markets that we’re going to open up, which is really exciting.

“If in three years, we’re not adding a few more cities, I’ll be disappointed.”


Making Miracles to miss out on Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup

Making Miracles will miss out on The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup 2023
Making Miracles is one of the favorites for Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup 2023
Updated 26 January 2023

Making Miracles to miss out on Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup

Making Miracles will miss out on The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup 2023
  • Horse with an impressive track record in the Saudi field has claimed five titles

RIYADH: Making Miracles, slated as one of the favorites to win The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup 2023, will now not take part in the race.

Thanks to his experience in the Saudi races and becoming a remarkable asset of the White and Blue Stable owned by Prince Saud bin Salman. Making Miracles was initially expected to particpate in this year’s renewal of the cup, which will take place at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Janadriyah next Friday and Saturday.

The British horse was born in 2015, and when he turned four began to write a rich history for his stable.

Making Miracles previously claimed three international class 2 cups, including two races at Hajjduk track and Handicap track, alongside winning a round in the “At the Races” event in 2018. His most famous win was The Chester Handicap in 2019.

Making Miracles gained his fame in the Saudi races after he claimed five titles, including three rounds in the first-class races, winning the Open race of The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup 2022 and the Crown Prince Cup two times in a row.

Making Miracles also came fourth in The Saudi Cup 2022 and was placed second in The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup 2021 before finishing second in The Jockey Club Cup in the same season.

The British horse currently has a rating of 114 degrees and is also one of the favorite horses of veteran rider Alexis Mourinho, who last year led him to win The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup. Total career winnings for Making Miracles have reached $2.13 million (SR 8 million).

Prince Saud bin Salman’s stable includes the biggest and most expensive Saudi Cup championships. He managed in record time to win the Founder’s Cup three times in a row, The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup and The Crown Prince Cup twice in a row, the King Fahd Cup, King Faisal Cup and Prince Muhammad bin Saud Cup.


NEOM McLaren drivers looking to shine in ‘home’ Formula E double-header in Riyadh

NEOM McLaren drivers looking to shine in ‘home’ Formula E double-header in Riyadh
Updated 26 January 2023

NEOM McLaren drivers looking to shine in ‘home’ Formula E double-header in Riyadh

NEOM McLaren drivers looking to shine in ‘home’ Formula E double-header in Riyadh
  • Season 9’s Diriyah E-Prix will see two night races on Friday and Saturday

RIYADH: NEOM McLaren Formula E drivers Rene Rast and Jake Hughes are relishing the opportunity of racing at this weekend’s CORE Diriyah E-Prix double-header, hoping to make Saudi Arabia proud in NEOM’s “home” races.

The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship returns to Riyadh for Rounds 2 and 3 of Season 9 on Friday and Saturday with Rast and Hughes to put on strong performances at the night races.

It will be the first time the drivers and the team will be competing in Saudi Arabia since NEOM’s strategic partnership with McLaren to become the title partner of the McLaren Formula E teams.

During a virtual media roundtable with regional media, Rast, of Germany, who returned to Formula E for Season 9 after racing in Season 6 and 7, said: “Diriyah is one of my favorite tracks and provides some good overtaking but also very challenging where you can’t make any mistakes.

“We have only been in Saudi Arabia for a few days but we visited the place and I am really impressed with the facilities in NEOM and what they are doing. Given its partnership, this race makes it more special and I hope we can do well and hope there’s a lot of support for McLaren this week.”

His team-mate Hughes, who competed in Formula 2 and was a reserve and development driver during Seasons 7 and 8 with the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team, is eager for a good performance.

He said: “It’s my first time racing this season and lot of drivers have spoken highly of the track so I’m really looking forward to it. As a team, we have two ‘home’ races given McLaren is a British team. We know there will be a lot of guests coming from NEOM to watch the races and their support as well the crowd’s will be really good. Hopefully we can entertain them and win them some trophies, which would be great.”

NEOM McLaren’s Team Principle Ian James is looking forward to the races. He said: “After a satisfying first round of the season for the team in Mexico City, just over a week ago, I’m looking forward to continue the racing in Saudi Arabia this coming weekend. It’s always great to go racing, but there’s some extra anticipation around this particular race weekend for us as a team, as it’s the home race for our Title Partner NEOM.”

Sattam Al-Hozami, CEO of Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, also addressed the local media and emphasised the importance of how staging Formula E races is contributing to the Kingdom’s growth and as a sporting destination hub.

He said: “We are extremely happy with the partnership we have with Formula E. Today, fans in Saudi Arabia have began to take an interest in motorsport thanks to the staging of the Formula E races and the competition is growing rapidly worldwide, which is really good for the sport in general. The Diriyah races are really popular as it’s the only track in what is a historical venue that takes place in the night, which makes the races more entertaining and fun for people to watch. We look forward to welcoming as many people this weekend.”

The 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix is a double-header of races, which will take place on a street circuit surrounding the UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the most picturesque locations on the 16-race calendar and the only night races in the Formula E season. 

It will be the first time that fans in Saudi Arabia will see the all-new GEN3 — the fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race car ever built. Capable of 200mph/322kph, the 22 drivers will push the world’s most advanced electric racing car to the limit as they navigate the 21-turn, 2.495 km circuit.


Victoria Alonso vying to add Saudi Cup’s International Jockeys Challenge to family trophy cabinet

Victoria Alonso vying to add Saudi Cup’s International Jockeys Challenge to family trophy cabinet
Updated 25 January 2023

Victoria Alonso vying to add Saudi Cup’s International Jockeys Challenge to family trophy cabinet

Victoria Alonso vying to add Saudi Cup’s International Jockeys Challenge to family trophy cabinet
  • 20-year-old Spanish jockey will ride in Saudi Arabia for first time on Feb. 24
  • Victoria Alonso: Riding in the IJC at The Saudi Cup is a dream come true; I really want to savor this great experience riding against the world’s best jockeys

RIYADH: Jockey Victoria Alonso, who hails from a heralded sporting dynasty, will be the second Spanish female jockey to compete in the International Jockeys Challenge at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh on Feb. 24, the opening day of The Saudi Cup meeting.

The 20-year-old, who has 55 career wins to her name, finished sixth in the Spanish jockey rankings last year and comes from a family of sporting excellence, both in professional football and horse racing.

Six members of the Alonso family across three generations have played professional football, with three of them representing the Spanish national football team, while they have also played for Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid at club level.

Her cousin is ex-Chelsea and current Barcelona defender Marcos Alonso, while her father, Cesar Alonso, played football for Rayo Vallecano before turning to racing, first as an amateur jockey and then as a trainer.

She said: “I am very proud to be continuing my family’s involvement in top-level sport. Not only are most of them professional footballers but they are all big fans of horse racing and proud of me. I follow their achievements, as they do mine.

“All my family are aware of what I do in horse racing, and I have their full support. Both my parents will be there (at The Saudi Cup).”

After being confirmed as a participant in the IJC, she said: “Riding in the IJC at The Saudi Cup is a dream come true. I really want to savor this great experience riding against the world’s best jockeys and am ready to give it everything that I have. I want to thank all those people who have made it possible.

“The experience is going to be very exciting and totally unique on a professional and personal level, and I hope that it will launch me and give me some great international exposure,” she added.

Alonso has experience of riding on both dirt and turf in Spain and France and has been praised for her ability to judge pace from any position in the field.

She said: “I have continued to learn, picking up a lot of experience both in Spain and France. I am happy to have finished in the top six jockeys in Spain, even though I had less rides than any of the other top 10 jockeys.”

She joins Delphine Santiago as the latest jockeys to be confirmed for this year’s IJC. French jockey Santiago, the fourth female rider to be announced in this year’s IJC line-up, has forged a successful career in her native France that has seen her crowned the country’s leading female jockey on 10 occasions. Alongside Alonso, she joins Frankie Dettori, Chantal Sutherland, Joao Moreira, and last year’s winner Caitlin Jones in taking part in the 2023 running of the event.

The International Jockeys Challenge features four handicap races, each run for $400,000, with a further $100,000 prize fund for the challenge itself.

The 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.