Giroud and Mbappe guide France past Poland and into World Cup quarter-finals

Giroud and Mbappe guide France past Poland and into World Cup quarter-finals
Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring France’s third goal against Poland, Al-Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar, Dec. 4, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 04 December 2022

Giroud and Mbappe guide France past Poland and into World Cup quarter-finals

Giroud and Mbappe guide France past Poland and into World Cup quarter-finals
  • Mbappe’s lethal strike in the 74th minute killed off any prospect of a Poland comeback and he netted again at the death to move to nine goals in just 11 World Cup appearances
  • The threat of Robert Lewandowski was snuffed out by the French defense although the 34-year-old Poland captain did get the consolation of scoring a stoppage-time penalty

DOHA: Kylian Mbappe set up a history-making goal for Olivier Giroud and then scored two himself as holders France eased into the quarter-finals of the World Cup with a 3-1 win over Poland on Sunday.
Giroud’s opening goal a minute before half-time was his 52nd for his country, allowing him to pass Thierry Henry and become France’s all-time record marksman.
Mbappe’s lethal strike in the 74th minute killed off any prospect of a Poland comeback and he netted again at the death to move to nine goals in just 11 World Cup appearances, the second-most for a French player at the tournament.
At the other end the threat of Robert Lewandowski was snuffed out by the French defense although the 34-year-old Poland captain did get the consolation of scoring a stoppage-time penalty.
France, though, march on to the quarter-finals and remain on course to become the first team to successfully defend the World Cup since Brazil 60 years ago.
France were overwhelming favorites against a Poland side who had limped through the group stage, but the memory of their exit from Euro 2020 served as a warning.
France had been 3-1 up and cruising in that last-16 tie against Switzerland only to concede two late goals and end up losing on penalties, with Mbappe missing the crucial spot-kick.
Mbappe returned on Sunday as one of nine changes following their inconsequential defeat by Tunisia, with goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris also returning to win his 142nd cap.
That saw him equal the record for most France appearances held by Lilian Thuram, whose son Marcus came off the bench here.
It was a history-making occasion for France but what coach Didier Deschamps wanted above all was a routine victory and progression to the quarter-finals.
The sky should be the limit for a French side led by Mbappe, but it is not just him.
Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann were lively in a strong start amid a hushed atmosphere at Al Thumama Stadium.
The fans were happy to sit back and be thrilled as the big screen at one point showed that Mbappe had reached a top speed of 35 kilometers per hour.
France’s pace and pressing was too much for Poland as Przemyslaw Frankowski gave possession away, leading to Dembele crossing to the back post for Giroud to somehow put the ball wide.
Poland, who have not won a World Cup knockout match since 1982, recovered from a tentative start to almost go ahead in the 38th minute as Lloris blocked a shot by Piotr Zielinski and Jakub Kaminski’s follow-up was stopped on the line by Raphael Varane.
Those misses proved crucial as France seized the lead a minute before half-time.
Patient build-up play ended with Mbappe having a glance as he received the ball just outside the box before playing in Giroud who took a touch and finished into the far corner.
Poland were left to chase the game in the second half and they sent on Juventus striker Arkadiusz Milik to support Lewandowski for the final half hour.
However, their attack was simply no match for France, who picked off Poland to make it 2-0.
A Griezmann clearance was brought down by Giroud and he released Dembele whose ball into the middle was controlled before being blasted home by Mbappe.
It was an emphatic finish and was followed by another of a similar calibre from a Thuram assist in stoppage time.
Only Just Fontaine, who scored 13 in 1958, has scored more World Cup goals for France.
Lewandowski then pulled one back right at the end, converting a retaken penalty that was awarded for a handball by Dayot Upamecano.


World No. 3 Cameron Smith praises Saudi Arabia’s growth ahead of Asian Tour flagship event

World No. 3 Cameron Smith praises Saudi Arabia’s growth ahead of Asian Tour flagship event
Updated 01 February 2023

World No. 3 Cameron Smith praises Saudi Arabia’s growth ahead of Asian Tour flagship event

World No. 3 Cameron Smith praises Saudi Arabia’s growth ahead of Asian Tour flagship event
  • Three NFL stars join Wednesday’s PIF Saudi International for Pro-Am and special charity match

JEDDAH: Reigning Open Champion Cameron Smith has praised Saudi Arabia’s growth since his first visit in 2021 as he prepares to kick off his golf season at the $5 million PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers.

After enjoying the off-season back home, the Australian is ready to launch is 2023 campaign.

“It feels really good to be getting the season started,” Smith said. “The course here is a really good test. Usually gets quite gusty and really windy around here, so you have to really control your ball. And the course looks fantastic as well.”

He added: “It’s nice to get out and see different parts of the world to help grow the game. This is my third time here, and you can see what’s been done just in those three years. It’s awesome.”

The world No.3 will hope to improve on his past two visits to Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, a course he has previously found challenging in the wind.

“It’s a really tough golf course, I think, off the tee,” he said. “That’s probably where I struggle the most in my game. When it gets a little breezy, those fairways become pretty tight, and there’s a couple of shots out there that are really uncomfortable for me.

“I spent a little bit of time today focusing a bit more on the driver, and seeing some shapes and maybe some lower shots with 3-wood just to get the ball in play,” said Smith. “It’s a really solid golf course. You obviously have to play well to win, but you have to navigate your way around and hole some putts.”

Three legends of the NFL were also enjoying their first visit to Saudi Arabia to attend the PIF Saudi International this week.

Brice Butler, Patrick Peterson and Eric Ebron played in the Pro-Am on Wednesday alongside 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel and also competed in a three-hole charity match against defending champion Harold Varner, raising money for Al-Iman Association and the Saudi Cancer Foundation.

Following the charity match Peterson said: “Golfing with Harold was awesome. I appreciate the invitation and being able to play with some friends that I’ve known for a while. It’s awesome, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. The course was awesome.”

Ebron added: “Great fun, had an awesome opportunity to come out here to Saudi to play some golf with Harold and my friends. It’s my first time over here and it’s been an awesome experience.”


Saudi riders continue to make progress in AlUla

Saudi riders continue to make progress in AlUla
Updated 01 February 2023

Saudi riders continue to make progress in AlUla

Saudi riders continue to make progress in AlUla
  • Azzam Al-Abdulmumin played his part in a five-man breakaway during the 159.5km 3rd stage from Manshiyah Station to Abu Rakah
  • The breakaway was eventually reeled in and Soren Waerenskjold of the Uno X Pro Cycling team claimed the stage victory

ALULA: Saudi riders were to the fore in a thrilling third day of the Saudi Tour, encompassing the stunning cycling terrain of AlUla.

Azzam Al-Abdulmumin played his part in a five-man breakaway, which tried to stay ahead of the chasing peloton during the 159.5km stage from Manshiyah Station to Abu Rakah.

The breakaway was eventually reeled in, with just under 50km to go, and Soren Waerenskjold of the Uno X Pro Cycling team claimed the stage victory in Abu Rakah.

This is the first time that the Saudi Cycling Federation team has competed in the Saudi Tour, taking its place in the field alongside seven UCI World Tour teams, six UCI Pro teams and two Asian UCI Continental teams.

Al-Abdulmunim, Hassan Al-Jumah, Murthada Al-Shaghab, Hani Al-Mrhoon and Abdulaziz Al-Hashim are all gaining invaluable experience in the world-class peloton.

Salem El-Salem, a key member of the Saudi Cycling Federation coaching team, is delighted that the cyclists can use the Saudi Tour and AlUla as a benchmark in their development.

He said: “It is a very tough level for the team, but this is Saudi and we are Team Saudi so we have this incredible opportunity for the riders and federation to work and improve.

“We have prepared very well but it is a different level. In general, we are doing very well and I hope this will continue.

“This is just the start and the Saudi Tour in AlUla is the perfect place for us to look at everything and check exactly what we need — we have put together a four-year schedule and we are now on year one, and we are taking things step by step.”


Japan’s ‘King Kazu’ joins Portuguese side at 55

Japan’s ‘King Kazu’ joins Portuguese side at 55
Updated 01 February 2023

Japan’s ‘King Kazu’ joins Portuguese side at 55

Japan’s ‘King Kazu’ joins Portuguese side at 55
  • Miura, known as ‘King Kazu’ in his homeland, made his debut in 1986 with Brazilian side Santos
  • Miura turns 56 on February 26 and has said he wants to keep playing until he is 60

TOKYO: Japanese football star Kazuyoshi Miura extended his decades-long playing career on Wednesday less than a month before his 56th birthday, joining Portuguese second-division outfit Oliveirense on loan.
Miura, known as “King Kazu” in his homeland, made his debut in 1986 with Brazilian side Santos and has played 37 seasons as a professional.
His move to Portugal will see him play in a sixth country after stints in Brazil, Japan, Italy, Croatia and Australia.
Last season he played for Japanese fourth-tier side Suzuka Point Getters — managed by his older brother Yasutoshi — on loan from J-League team Yokohama FC.
Yokohama’s parent company acquired a majority stake in Oliveirense in November.
“Even though this is a new place for me, I’ll work hard to show everyone the kind of play I’m known for,” he said in a statement released by Yokohama.
Miura scored two goals — one from the penalty spot and one header — in 18 appearances last season for Suzuka, who finished ninth in the table.
He will line up at Oliveirense alongside Christian Kendji Wagatsuma Ferreira — a Brazilian of Japanese descent who was given the nickname “Kazu” as a youth player.
Miura turns 56 on February 26 and has said he wants to keep playing until he is 60.
One of Asia’s best-known footballers in the 1990s, he helped put the game in Japan on the map when the professional J-League was launched in 1993.
He left Japan for Brazil in 1982 and signed a contract with Santos in 1986.
Miura made his Japan debut in 1990 and was famously left out of his country’s squad for their first World Cup finals appearance in 1998, despite scoring 55 goals in 89 games for the national side.


FIFA aims at sexual offenses in updated ethics code

FIFA aims at sexual offenses in updated ethics code
Updated 01 February 2023

FIFA aims at sexual offenses in updated ethics code

FIFA aims at sexual offenses in updated ethics code
  • The code, said the governing body of world football, is intended "to enhance protection of football integrity"
  • It also targets match fixing and clubs that fail to pay transfer fees

LAUSANNE: FIFA has toughened its disciplinary proceedings for cases of sexual assault or harassment in a revised Code of Ethics that was announced and came into force on Wednesday.
The code, said the governing body of world football in a press release, is intended “to enhance protection of football integrity.”
It also targets match fixing and clubs that fail to pay transfer fees.
“The changes are aimed at improving the protection of certain parties to proceedings before FIFA’s judicial bodies, while providing FIFA with further instruments against illegal, immoral or unethical methods and practices,” said the release.
The revised code removes the 10-year limitation period on prosecuting sexual offenses.
The changes make the possible victims “parties to the relevant proceedings, who enjoy all procedural rights, such as that of being notified of the relevant decision and being entitled to appeal it.”
The code also obliges “member associations and confederations to notify FIFA of any decisions rendered on sexual abuse and match-fixing.”
A series of sexual assault scandals in recent years, notably in Gabon, Haiti, the United States and Afghanistan, forced FIFA into disciplinary proceedings, particularly in cases where the local authorities refused to act.
FIFA said it would appoint an independent integrity expert to investigate match fixing and coordinate with the public authorities in assessing potential offenses, and propose “appropriate disciplinary measures.”
FIFA said it was extending transfer bans on debtor clubs that do not comply with decisions by its Football Tribunal and could charge 18 percent interest on unpaid debts.


Saudi Arabia’s hosting of 2027 AFC Asian Cup is an idea whose time has finally come

Saudi Arabia’s hosting of 2027 AFC Asian Cup is an idea whose time has finally come
Saudi Arabia has been named as host of the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.
Updated 01 February 2023

Saudi Arabia’s hosting of 2027 AFC Asian Cup is an idea whose time has finally come

Saudi Arabia’s hosting of 2027 AFC Asian Cup is an idea whose time has finally come
  • With thriving domestic league, successful national teams and clubs, Kingdom will finally host continent’s biggest international competition

Saudi Arabia has been named as host of the 2027 AFC Asian Cup, and incredibly, will hold the continent’s biggest international for the first time.

Less than a month after Cristiano Ronaldo arrived to play for Al-Nassr, and two since the Saudi national team’s fine performances at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the news cements the country’s status as a major hub of the world’s most popular game on the largest continent.

It was always likely that Saudi would get the official nod as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) conducted its congress in Bahrain’s capital of Manama.

Five countries initially threw hats into the ring. Iran and Uzbekistan withdrew and then, after China — still in lockdown and pursuing a zero-COVID-19 policy — relinquished hosting rights from the 2023 tournament, Qatar stepped in as a substitute.

That meant India was the only remaining rival and when New Delhi bowed out in December, it cleared the way for Saudi Arabia to host the tournament for the first time in its history.

It is an idea whose time has finally come.

The pandemic played a wider part, too. With the disruption caused to competitions, both of the club and country variety, during the outbreak, Saudi Arabia proved to be a competent, flexible and reliable host whether the games were World Cup qualifiers or AFC Champions Leagues matches.

The work done, often at short notice, was appreciated by the AFC. After the confederation got its fingers burnt by the situation in China, it is not a surprise that cities such as Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam are seen as safe choices as well as places that deserved a first chance to host Asia’s biggest sporting event.

There is more to it than that, however. The reputation of Saudi Arabian football is higher now than it has maybe ever been. The national team is still basking in the warmth of the global sensation produced with November’s World Cup win over eventual champions Argentina. It was a stunning victory. With a little more luck then Herve Renard’s men could easily have found themselves in the last 16 especially if Salem Al-Dawsari’s penalty had been converted against Poland.

The performances showed that there is talent in the country with the likes of Saud Abdulhamid linked to big moves in Italy and elsewhere.

The Saudi Professional League has long been one of the strongest in Asia but in recent years has grown in strength, depth and stature. There is regularly more than one representative in the latter stages of the Asian Champions League. Al-Hilal are the defending champions — and have won two of the last three — and now have a record number of four continental titles as well as international stars such as Odion Ighalo and Moussa Marega. On Saturday, the Blues kick off a third FIFA Club World Cup campaign in the space of three years.

While there is a growing core of talent in the country, as the World Cup exploits and last June’s U23 Asian Championships triumph have shown, the league is home to some of the best foreign players and coaches in Asian football.

Al-Ittihad have former Tottenham Hotspur boss Nuno Santo in charge and a whole host of talented foreign players including Moroccan marksman Abderrazzak Hamdallah, Egyptian rock Ahmed Hegazi and talented Brazilians such as Igor Coronado and Romarinho.

Al-Shabab tore up the group stage of the Champions League and even second tier Al-Ahli have Pitso Mosimane in charge, the man who has won three African Champions League crowns with Mamelodi Sundowns in his native South Africa and twice with Egyptian giants Al-Ahly. At the moment, the SPL is the most exciting and high-profile domestic competition on the continent.

And that was the case before Ronaldo signed with Al-Nassr. The Portuguese star is one of the best players in the history of the game with five Ballon d’Or awards and the same number of UEFA Champions League titles. It is not just about the talent of the former Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus legend, but the fact that he among the most recognizable people on the planet. His presence has just increased the spotlight shining on Saudi Arabian football.

It all means that the Asian Cup announcement is not only a natural decision, as Saudi Arabian football is in a great place at the moment on the pitch, but also confirms what is happening off the field. The tournament will be the biggest football event ever to take place in the country but there is a sense that there is more to come. The waiting is over and now, preparations can begin.