Croatia coach Dalic says Brazil World Cup squad ‘scary’

Croatia coach Dalic says Brazil World Cup squad ‘scary’
Croatia's coach Zlatko Dalic watches his players from the touchline during the Qatar 2022 World Cup match against Japan. AFP
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Updated 06 December 2022

Croatia coach Dalic says Brazil World Cup squad ‘scary’

Croatia coach Dalic says Brazil World Cup squad ‘scary’
  • The coach said on Tuesday he was proud of his team for showing the character and mentality to get this far in Qatar, but knows that Brazil will be a whole different proposition

DOHA: Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic called Brazil’s squad “scary” but says his team are not big underdogs in Friday’s quarter-final against the World Cup favorites.
Dalic’s side, runners-up at the 2018 World Cup, beat Japan on penalties on Monday to guarantee at least their third best finish at the tournament.
The coach said on Tuesday he was proud of his team for showing the character and mentality to get this far in Qatar, but knows that Brazil will be a whole different proposition.
“Brazil has (over) 200 million people, we only have four million, so we’re a bit like the suburb of a city in Brazil,” Dalic said.
“It will be a different game than against anyone we have played so far because Brazil likes to play football.
“If we are looking at it realistically, Brazil is the best team at the tournament, they have a great choice of players, a great squad, it’s scary, so it’s a great test for us.”
Dalic said “it doesn’t get better” than playing Brazil at a World Cup.
“Maybe we’d rather it was in the final than the quarter-final though,” he added.
“We want to give maximum effort — we won’t surrender before the game. We want to counter Brazil’s quality with our own and we want to play football against them.”
Croatia have refreshed their squad in the four years since the last World Cup, with only a handful of veterans remaining, including captain Luka Modric and winger Ivan Perisic.
Dalic said this generation should not be compared to the team beaten by France in the final in Russia because they largely included players sprinkled across elite club sides.
“We have already earned a historic result after getting silver in 2018 and bronze in 1998, this is our third best Croatian result at a World Cup,” said Dalic.
“I wouldn’t draw comparisons to the team from 2018, when you look at our players then, they played for clubs like Barcelona, Inter (Milan), Juventus, Liverpool, Real Madrid of course.
“When you compare it to today, we have six players from the Croatian first division, it’s a different team.
“But I take my hat off to this generation, because they are playing great.”
Brazil thrashed South Korea 4-1 on Monday with one of the best performances of the tournament so far, but Dalic thinks that his team can fight their corner against the five-time World Cup winners.
“Brazil are favorites, you can tell they have a great atmosphere in the team, they have top world-class players, Neymar is back from injury,” added Dalic.
“We have to be very smart in our approach. We can’t open up too much against Brazil, but we also can’t sit back.
“It’s not 50-50, but we are not some big underdogs.”


Russian Olympic chief says athletes must compete without restrictions

Russian Olympic chief says athletes must compete without restrictions
Updated 31 January 2023

Russian Olympic chief says athletes must compete without restrictions

Russian Olympic chief says athletes must compete without restrictions
  • "Russians must participate exactly on the same conditions as all other athletes," Stanislav Pozdnyakov said
  • IOC said last week it was examining a "pathway" for Russians to take part in the summer Games next year

MOSCOW: The head of Russia's Olympic Committee said Tuesday that athletes representing Russia must not be subjected to different conditions from those of other countries, amid a growing row over their participation in the 2024 Paris Games.
"Russians must participate exactly on the same conditions as all other athletes. Any additional conditions or criteria are unwelcome, especially any that have political overtones, which are completely unacceptable for the Olympic movement," Stanislav Pozdnyakov said, according to Russian news agencies.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said last week it was examining a "pathway" for Russians to take part in the summer Games next year, probably as neutral athletes rather than under their national flag.
Russia and its ally Belarus, which allowed its territory to be a stage ground for the offensive, have been sidelined from most Olympic sports since Russian forces invaded Ukraine last February.
That announcement sparked an immediate backlash from Kyiv, with a Ukrainian presidential aide accusing the IOC of being a "promoter of war".
Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Paris Games if Russians are allowed to take part.
Pozdnyakov said his organisation welcomed efforts by the IOC to allow Russian athletes to compete.
"But as for additional conditions, we strongly disagree. The Olympic Charter states that all athletes must participate on an equal footing," he added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia's participation in the Paris Olympics would amount to showing that "terror can allegedly be something acceptable".
Zelensky also last week said he had invited IOC president Thomas Bach to visit the frontline Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, "so that he can see for himself that neutrality does not exist".
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Monday that of the 71 medals that Russian competitors won at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, 45 were won by athletes who were members of the Central Sports Club of the Russian Army, or CSKA.
"The army that commits atrocities, kills, rapes, and loots," Kuleba said. "This is whom the ignorant IOC wants to put under (the) white flag allowing (them) to compete."
The Olympic Council of Asia, however, last week offered Russian and Belarusian athletes the chance to compete in this year's Asian Games, arguing that "all athletes, regardless of their nationality or the passport they hold, should be able to compete in sports competitions".
That was a significant move because it would allow athletes from those two countries to achieve qualifying standards they would need to compete in the Paris Olympics.
The IOC reiterated last week that the international federations for each Olympic sport were "the sole authority for its international competitions".


Faisal Salhab, Saud Al-Sharif make history as second and third Saudi golfers to turn professional

Faisal Salhab, Saud Al-Sharif make history as second and third Saudi golfers to turn professional
Updated 31 January 2023

Faisal Salhab, Saud Al-Sharif make history as second and third Saudi golfers to turn professional

Faisal Salhab, Saud Al-Sharif make history as second and third Saudi golfers to turn professional
  • National team stars looking to lead new generation of players into professional arena

JEDDAH: The PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers will provide the stage for the first steps into the professional game for Saudi golfers Faisal Salhab, 26, and Saud Al-Sharif, 23, after the pair announced their decision to turn professional ahead of the Asian Tour’s flagship event.

The duo become the second and third Saudi Arabian golfers to join the paid ranks, following in the footsteps of national teammate and friend, 36-year-old Othman Almulla.

All three will continue to be supported by Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation given the important role they play in demonstrating the benefits of the sport to the Saudi public, who now have more opportunities to try golf thanks to a number of mass participation programs and new access points.

Having had successful amateur careers, turning professional was the natural next step on the career pathway of Salhab and Al-Sharif, and should allow both players a platform to test their games against, and learn from, some of the world’s best players.

Salhab said: “This is another exciting step on our journey and where better to turn professional than in our home country at the PIF Saudi International?

“It has been a long journey to get to this point but the continued support of Golf Saudi, the Saudi Golf Federation, my coaching team, and friends and family has made all the difference.

“I want to thank them for everything and hope that I can continue my amateur success in the professional game, starting this week,” he added.

Al-Sharif echoed Salhab’s sentiments, adding: “Turning professional has been my goal since I first caught the golf bug as young kid, and I am so happy to have the opportunity to fully pursue golf as a career.

“There are so many people to thank but Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation have been integral to growing the game within the Kingdom and allowing both of us the opportunity to play golf and reach this point,” he said.

“I can’t wait to be on the road with Othman and Faisal testing ourselves against the best players and on the best courses, and hope that our story can help others to see and believe they can do the same and follow in our footsteps,” Al-Sharif added. “As well as winning on the international stage, we each share the dream of inspiring the next generation, and professional golf gives us the platform to do that.”

Both enter the professional game in impressive form, following December’s Saudi Open at Riyadh Golf Club, where Salhab clinched the overall title, with Al-Sharif, Saudi Arabia’s leading amateur, finishing second.

Following their first professional event at Royal Greens, both players will enjoy a full schedule of events on the Asian Tour, traveling from Saudi Arabia onto the International Series Oman and International Series Qatar, before venturing further east to the International Series in Thailand.

Almulla, who became the first-ever Saudi professional in 2019, praised his compatriots in taking the next steps in their careers, and hopes to be able to share advice as the two forge new paths.

“Turning professional is the biggest decision I’ve ever made and I couldn’t have done it without the amazing support I have received from everyone at Golf Saudi, the Saudi Golf Federation and my sponsors.

“Life on tour is a pretty demanding one, so I’m hoping that I can help the guys avoid some of my mistakes and do whatever I can to help them overcome some of the early challenges of turning professional,” he said.

“More than anything, I’m looking forward to competing on the world stage alongside my countrymen and, hopefully, seeing one of them lift a trophy in the very near future,” Almulla added.


Big-spending Chelsea set for busy end to transfer window

Big-spending Chelsea set for busy end to transfer window
Updated 31 January 2023

Big-spending Chelsea set for busy end to transfer window

Big-spending Chelsea set for busy end to transfer window
  • The final day of the window could be another busy one for Chelsea and their new American ownership
  • Seven players have arrived at Stamford Bridge this month, including Ukraine winger Mykhailo Mudryk

DUBAI: Chelsea have already spent more in the January transfer window — around $225 million — than every club in the top leagues in Spain, Italy, Germany and France combined.
The London team might not be finished.
The final day of the window could be another busy one for Chelsea and their new American ownership, with the club linked with a move for Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez and potentially looking to balance the books by offloading Jorginho and Hakim Ziyech.
Seven players have arrived at Stamford Bridge this month, including Ukraine winger Mykhailo Mudryk in a deal worth around $108 million and France center back Benoît Badiashile for $40 million.
This comes after Chelsea spent almost $300 million in Europe’s summer transfer window, the first under the new ownership fronted by Todd Boehly following the purchase of the club for $2.5 billion in May.
Chelsea have handed new players long contracts — as much as 8 1/2 years for Mudryk, for example — to allow the club to spread the cost of the signings over the length of the deal and comply with financial fair-play regulations.
British media reported Monday that Chelsea were willing to pay a British record fee of 105 million pounds ($130 million) to bring in the 22-year-old Fernandez, a World Cup winner with Argentina in December.
Jorginho has been linked with a move to Premier League leader Arsenal and Ziyech is reportedly close to joining Paris Saint-Germain on loan.
Chelsea will hope their latest spending spree helps the team climb the Premier League standings — they are currently in 10th place, 10 points off the top four — in a late attempt to qualify for the Champions League.
Other clubs that could be active are Tottenham, which appear set to sign Spain wing back Pedro Porro from Sporting in Portugal, and Nottingham Forest, with Newcastle midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and Atletico Madrid center back Felipe both pictured at the club’s training ground ahead of sealing moves.
CANCELO LEAVES CITY
Manchester City sent Joao Cancelo on loan to Bayern Munich for the rest of the season, with the Portugal fullback having fallen out of favor with manager Pep Guardiola since the World Cup.
The German champions have the option to make the transfer permanent for a fee of 70 million euros ($76 million).
Cancelo was one of City’s key players last season but Guardiola feels the team can do without the attacking, versatile defender after a recent tactical switch and the emergence of 18-year-old right back Rico Lewis.
MARQUINHOS TO NORWICH
Arsenal loaned out 19-year-old Brazilian Marquinhos midway through his first season at the league leaders. He has joined second-tier Norwich to get more first-team action.


Mekkonen returns to Dubai Marathon’s ‘life-changing’ streets

Mekkonen returns to Dubai Marathon’s ‘life-changing’ streets
Updated 31 January 2023

Mekkonen returns to Dubai Marathon’s ‘life-changing’ streets

Mekkonen returns to Dubai Marathon’s ‘life-changing’ streets
  • Former champion confirmed for Feb. 12 race after winning in 2014, finishing third in 2016

DUBAI: Former winner and unofficial junior world record holder Tsegaye Mekonnen will return to the scene of his greatest triumph when he lines up at the start of the 2023 Dubai Marathon on Feb. 12.

On his official marathon debut nine years ago, Mekonnen clinched first place as he clocked the fastest time by an 18-year-old runner in two hours, four minutes and 32 seconds, nine seconds shy of the course record and 69 seconds off the world record — a time he was on course to beat at the half-way split.

Twelve months earlier, the young Ethiopian had taken part in Dubai as a pacemaker so the whirlwind start to his marathon career was as unexpected as it was explosive. Two years later he was back running over the streets he described as “life-changing”, finishing third in the 2016 Dubai Marathon.

Still the youngest winner in the history of the Middle East’s oldest Marathon, Mekonnen has an impressive CV as a young runner with his 2014 Dubai victory being the third fastest time in history by an athlete making his full marathon debut.

Held under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the 2023 Dubai Marathon will see the World Athletics Gold Label race finally return to the sporting calendar after a three-year absence.

By his own admission, victory in Dubai was a life-changing experience for the now 27-year-old. “Winning in Dubai meant I was able to buy a house in Addis Ababa and I bought a car to be able to go to training,” he said. “I was also able to stop school and concentrate fully on running. It is definitely a completely different life for me now.”

Since that mercurial debut, Mekonnen scored a fifth-place finish at the 2014 London Marathon (two hours, eight minutes and six seconds), won the 2017 Hamburg Marathon (two hours, seven minutes and 26 seconds) and finished runner-up in the 2018 Shanghai International Marathon (two hours, nine minutes and 18 seconds).

Over the past few years, he has had to deal with injury as well as a lack of race opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the runner will return to Dubai eager to rekindle old memories on the flat and fast course that changed his life and had him dreaming of a future world record.


Farah says 2023 London Marathon will be his last

Farah says 2023 London Marathon will be his last
Updated 31 January 2023

Farah says 2023 London Marathon will be his last

Farah says 2023 London Marathon will be his last
  • Farah last ran in London in 2019, coming fifth, having finished third the year before

British athletics great Mo Farah has said this year's London Marathon will likely be his last as he contemplates the end of a brilliant career.
The 40-year-old is best known for his success on the track winning gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games, as well as several world titles across both distances.
And while his marathon career has reached nothing like the same heights, Farah is keen to run in London again after missing last year's edition even though he will be 40 by the time of the April 23 race
"It's been an amazing career and taking part in the London Marathon is a very big deal," he said in a statement issued by event organisers.
"I was gutted not to race last year and I just want to give it one more shot.
"It depends on my body. I just want to get to the start line and see what I can manage. I'm just taking one race at a time."
He added: "I'm not a spring chicken any more. You can't keep coming back in the right shape and, for me, I'd love to be able to finish it at home."
Farah has ruled out competing at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, but may yet try to finish his time as a British international at this year's World Championships in Budapest.
"I'm not going to go to the Olympics and I think 2023 will be my last year," he added.
"But if it came down to it towards the end of the year and you did get picked for your country, I'd never turn that down."
Farah last ran in London in 2019, coming fifth, having finished third the year before.
"So it's been a little while," he said. "But I'll be preparing well, I'll head out to Ethiopia and put in a lot of solid training and see what I can do when it comes to April."