Big day at World Cup looms for France, Poland goalkeepers

Big day at World Cup looms for France, Poland goalkeepers
Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, left, and French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in action at the World Cup in Qatar. (AFP)
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Updated 04 December 2022

Big day at World Cup looms for France, Poland goalkeepers

Big day at World Cup looms for France, Poland goalkeepers
  • Lloris is a naturally quiet and courteous leader of this talented France team
  • Szczęsny is the only goalkeeper at this World Cup to have saved two spot kicks — one against Saudi Arabia and the second against Lionel Messi

DOHA: It’s a huge day for goalkeepers with big reputations when defending champion France face Poland in the round of 16 at the World Cup on Sunday.

Hugo Lloris will tie a national team record for Les Bleus four years after lifting the trophy as captain. Opposite number Wojciech Szczęsny is a penalty-saving, wise-cracking No. 1 who seems to be enjoying the tournament more than any other player.

Both get a stage to shine at Al Thumama Stadium trying to deny two of the most feared forward in Qatar — Kylian Mbappe and two-time FIFA player of the year Robert Lewandowski.

“The key to stopping Mbappe? It’s me,” Szczęsny quipped when Poland’s place in the knockout bracket was confirmed.

Lloris will face Lewandowski in an international game for the first time when he matches France’s record of 142 appearances held by Lilian Thuram, the right back in the 1998 world champion team.

“It’s quite something and I’m very honored,” Lloris said Saturday. He was in the same France squad as Thuram as an uncapped 21-year-old in 2008 though was never played with him.

France coach Didier Deschamps, who played often with Thuram and was captain in the 1998 final in Paris, paid tribute to them.

“They have shown exemplary professionalism for the national team,” Deschamps said Saturday.

Lloris is a naturally quiet and courteous leader of this talented France team and he praised Szczęsny, who he previously faced at opposite ends of the north London rivalry between Tottenham and Arsenal.

“He’s playing a magnificent tournament,” Lloris said. “Poland deserve to be here at this stage and they’ve got a great goalkeeper as well.”

Szczęsny is the only goalkeeper at this World Cup to have saved two spot kicks — one against Saudi Arabia and the second against Lionel Messi. Szczęsny himself conceded the latter one for brushing the Argentina great’s face with his glove when stretching for a cross. It was scoreless at the time in a game Argentina won 2-0 on Wednesday.

Szczęsny’s told the story of how he bet Messi during a lengthy video review that the penalty wouldn’t be awarded, only adding to his quirky time in Qatar.

The character of the 32-year-old Juventus goalkeeper, who is set to play his 70th game for Poland, is no surprise to long-time teammates.

“It’s not that Wojciech Szczęsny started to be such a great goalkeeper in this tournament — he’s been a great goalkeeper for years,” forward Arkadiusz Milik said Saturday through an interpreter. “It’s not a coincidence that in his career he played for wonderful clubs.”

Poland likely will need Szczęsny and Lewandowski to excel in their first knockout game at a World Cup since 1986. Since that 4-0 loss to Brazil, France won both their world titles and also was a beaten finalist.

Deschamps highlighted Lewandowski’s qualities as clever, technically gifted and knows how to use his body intelligently against defenders.

“He didn’t get a lot of the ball in the group stage, but with just one chance he can be very dangerous,” the France coach said.

Giving Poland some hope is that France lost in the round of 16 last year at the European Championship against Switzerland. Mbappé had the decisive penalty saved in a shootout after a 3-3 draw.

“We talked about that a lot,” said Lloris, who couldn’t stop any of the five Swiss spot kicks that night in Bucharest. “You have to be confident, but if a penalty is well taken, then the goalkeeper has no chance of stopping it.”

In Qatar, Szczęsny might be just the one to prove that wrong.


Real Madrid ease past Al Ahly to reach Club World Cup final

Real Madrid ease past Al Ahly to reach Club World Cup final
Updated 09 February 2023

Real Madrid ease past Al Ahly to reach Club World Cup final

Real Madrid ease past Al Ahly to reach Club World Cup final

RABAT: Real Madrid reached the Club World Cup final with a 4-1 win over Egypt’s Al Ahly on Wednesday in Morocco, thanks to Vinicius Junior, Fede Valverde, Rodrygo and Sergio Arribas’s goals.
The European champions took the lead just before half-time with a Vinicius chip and then Valverde smashed in the second soon after the break.
Madrid endured a nervier spell than they would have liked after Ali Maaloul earned the 10-time African Champions League winners a foothold in the game from the penalty spot.
Luka Modric missed a late penalty for Los Blancos, perhaps distracted by laser pointers shone at his face from the stands, with Mohamed El Shenawy saving his effort.
Rodrygo added a cool finish in stoppage time after a slick combination with Dani Ceballos and youngster Arribas wrapped up the win.
Madrid will face Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal, who beat Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo, in Saturday’s final.
“I thank my team-mates who are helping me in this moment, which is not so good,” said Valverde, who is reported to be suffering some personal problems away from the game.
“They are always there to give me some words of encouragement.
“It was very special to score the goal and celebrate with them, now we have to rest and work well to win the final.”
Carlo Ancelotti’s side, record four-time Club World Cup champions, hoped the tournament would be a welcome distraction from their domestic struggles.
On Sunday they fell eight points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona, suffering a 1-0 defeat at Real Mallorca.
However the Spanish giants struggled to get going at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat, without injured stars Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois among others.
Ancelotti was able to start defender David Alaba for the first time since injury.
Al Ahly, who beat MLS side Seattle Sounders and Auckland City on the way to the semifinals, stayed tight at the back and Madrid toiled to break them down.
Vinicius fired wide from a tight angle and Rodrygo hit the post with a dinked effort after pressing well to win the ball back.
Just when it seemed like former Austria coach Marcel Koller’s side were poised to reach half-time with honors even, Mahmoud Metwaly miskicked, allowing Vinicius to rob him and run through on goal.
The Brazilian carefully lofted the ball over El Shenawy to break the deadlock, welcome respite after his hounding by Mallorca players at the weekend and suffering further racist abuse.
Valverde doubled Madrid’s lead at the start of the second half, taking one fine touch to control a loose ball in the box and then blasting home with his second.
The Uruguayan has not been playing well since returning from the World Cup and Madrid will hope his first goal since November can help him find the rich vein of form he was enjoying before the tournament.
Madrid were denied a penalty to wrap the game up when Vinicius was felled in the area but VAR did not correct the referee’s decision to award a corner.
Then Eduardo Camavinga, playing at left-back again, was penalized for tripping Hussein El Shahat in the box at the other end and Maaloul sent Andriy Lunin the wrong way from the spot.
Afsha should have levelled for the underdogs but powered a golden chance over the bar after receiving a cut-back in the middle of the box.
Al Ahly, unbeaten all season in the Egyptian Premier League, were made to pay when Rodrygo and substitute Arribas struck in stoppage time to seal Madrid’s victory.
After dropping away from Barcelona in La Liga and losing in the Spanish Super Cup against their eternal rivals in January, Madrid took a step away from crisis talk with this victory.
Their next goal is lifting the second trophy of their season on Saturday against Al-Hilal, having won the European Super Cup in August.


FIFA rules panel to debate more stoppage time in games

FIFA rules panel to debate more stoppage time in games
Updated 08 February 2023

FIFA rules panel to debate more stoppage time in games

FIFA rules panel to debate more stoppage time in games
  • Changes agreed on March 4 can take effect next season
  • Organizers such as individual domestic leagues have not followed FIFA's example

ZURICH: The 10-plus minutes of stoppage time that were a regular feature of games at the World Cup in Qatar are back on soccer’s agenda.
FIFA’s rule-making panel known as IFAB put additional time on the agenda published Wednesday for its annual meeting next month. Changes agreed on March 4 can take effect next season.
Talks are scheduled on “possible measures to create fairer conditions for both teams in terms of the amount of time available in a match, with a particular focus on a stricter calculation of additional time.”
Games of 100 minutes became routine at the last World Cup as referees followed FIFA advice to add on more accurate amounts for stoppages due to goal celebrations, injuries, video reviews and substitutions.
The directive was part of a long-standing FIFA aim to create more active playing time on the field and give fans and viewers better value.
It led to record-setting long games at the World Cup with a slew of stoppage-time additions of more than 10 minutes early in the tournament.
Though a head injury helped to cause 14-plus minutes of stoppage time in the first half of England-Iran, there were more than 13 minutes added to the second half of Saudi Arabia’s stunning 2-1 win over eventual champion Argentina.
The United States’ 1-1 draw with Wales on the second day of the tournament kicked off at 10 p.m. in Doha and finished the next day once almost 11 minutes were added to the second half.
Organizers such as individual domestic leagues have not followed FIFA’s example, though some said they were unwilling to change policy midseason and would revisit the subject in the offseason.
FIFA trials at the Club World Cup in Morocco of live broadcasts during video reviews of communications between match officials will also be discussed at the IFAB meeting in London.
Other subjects include allowing an extra substitute for teams when a player sustains a suspected concussion, though not the emergency temporary replacements requested by the global players’ union FIFPRO and some head injury experts.
The IFAB panel includes representative of FIFA and the four British soccer federations. The voting structure weighted toward FIFA means soccer’s world body can veto any proposal.


Brittney Griner absent from USA camp, but keeping in touch

Brittney Griner absent from USA camp, but keeping in touch
Updated 08 February 2023

Brittney Griner absent from USA camp, but keeping in touch

Brittney Griner absent from USA camp, but keeping in touch
  • “She (Griner) wants to be a part of this like no one else,” Taurasi said
  • Griner has said she'll play for Phoenix again this season, although she's still an unsigned free agent

DUBAI: Brittney Griner texted her good friend Diana Taurasi on Tuesday asking how the USA Basketball training camp was going.
Griner was back in Arizona, choosing to skip the camp in Minnesota so she can be with her partner and recover from her time in a Russian jail.
She returned to the US in December after a dramatic prisoner swap.
“She wants to be a part of this like no one else,” Taurasi said. “So, she’ll get there eventually. She’ll find her footing.”
Taurasi said the two talk regularly now that Griner is home in Phoenix. They work out together as well as chat and text each other often.
“We’ve been on the court together working out. We’ve sat down and talked for hours,” Taurasi said. “It’s been really nice to reconnect. It’s good to see her smile. Good to give her a hug. Know she was alive and still had the ability to be thankful and happy.”
There was a time during Griner’s 10-month ordeal in Russia that the 40-year-old Taurasi wasn’t sure she’d ever see her friend again.
“Every single day we suffered and hoped she’d be back and not until I saw her did I really believe it. And just to see her smile, just to see her free, was really emotional for everyone,” Taurasi said. “And we knew, at the same time, the minute she got into that plane and we got to Phoenix, there was going to be a whole new set of challenges, a whole new reality, a whole new way of living life for BG.”
Griner has said she’ll play for Phoenix again this season, although she’s still an unsigned free agent. She hasn’t talked about her international future and potentially playing for the US at the Olympics next year in Paris. She has helped the US win two gold medals at the Olympics already.
USA Basketball coach Cheryl Reeve said Monday that she hasn’t talked to Griner yet, but the organization made it clear that she could take all the time she needed to decide if she wanted to play for the US again.
“We’ve missed her and when she’s ready we’ll welcome her back,” Reeve said.


Saez eyes Saudi Cup Jockeys Challenge prize

Saez eyes Saudi Cup Jockeys Challenge prize
Updated 08 February 2023

Saez eyes Saudi Cup Jockeys Challenge prize

Saez eyes Saudi Cup Jockeys Challenge prize
  • Leading US-based jockey jets in alongside Brazilian female rider Jeane Alves
  • Luiz Saez: I finished second on Casa Creed in the 1351 Turf Sprint last year and am all set to ride him again in that race

Luiz Saez will ride in the International Jockeys Challenge (IJC) 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.


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 08 February 2023

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.