Messi, Argentina beat Netherlands on penalties at World Cup

Messi, Argentina beat Netherlands on penalties at World Cup
Argentina is heading to the semifinals after a chaotic penalty-shootout victory over Netherlands that had just about everything on Friday. (AFP)
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Updated 10 December 2022

Messi, Argentina beat Netherlands on penalties at World Cup

Messi, Argentina beat Netherlands on penalties at World Cup
  • Messi is heading to the semifinals with Argentina after a chaotic penalty-shootout victory
  • It is only the second time Argentina has reached the last four since 1990

LUSAIL, Qatar: Lionel Messi started the match by delivering another football clinic. The Argentina superstar ended it sporting a bloodied top lip, shouting abuse to opponents and even blasting the referee.
And of course there were goals, too, for one of the greats of the game whose bid to win the World Cup for the first time is still on track.
Messi is heading to the semifinals with Argentina after a chaotic penalty-shootout victory over Netherlands that had just about everything on Friday.
Argentina took a 2-0 lead, conceded an equalizer in the 11th minute of second-half stoppage time to send the match to extra time at 2-2, and then won the shootout 4-3 amid a deafening noise inside Lusail Stadium.
Messi, who scored a penalty in regulation time, converted his penalty in the shootout while goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez made two saves to help Argentina secure a semifinal match against Croatia, which beat Brazil earlier Friday.
After Lautaro Martinez scored the clinching penalty, Messi — with his arms outstretched — sprinted toward the goalkeeper, who had fallen to the ground to the side of the goal, and lay on top of him.
“We had to suffer,” Messi said, “but we got through.”
Messi did, especially, in an often-violent match that featured 17 yellow cards — a record for a World Cup match — two of which went to Netherlands defender Denzel Dumfries, leading to him getting sent off after the game.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni called the game “ugly” and Messi was critical of the Spanish referee, Antonio Mateu, saying: “I don’t think he was up to the standard. He was very harmful for us.”
In a side of Messi rarely seen, he also broke off from his post-match interview on the field to shout abuse at the scorer of the Netherlands’ two goals, Wout Weghorst.
“What are you looking at, stupid?” Messi was heard saying.
Messi and his teammates hung around on the field for 20 minutes at the end, taking turns dancing and jumping up and down in front of Argentina’s celebrating, scarf-waving fans.
Messi said the late Diego Maradona was looking over the team.
“Diego is watching us from heaven,” Messi said of the former Argentina captain and coach who died two years ago. “He is pushing us. I hope it stays like that until the end.”
It is only the second time Argentina has reached the last four since 1990. In 2014, Messi was part of the team that lost to Germany in the final and he looks in the mood to get there again in a tournament that he is turning into his own personal highlight reel.
Messi delivered a mesmerizing piece of skill and vision to set up the opening goal for Nahuel Molina in the 35th minute. He twisted free in central midfield and burst forward, unbalancing Netherlands defender Nathan Ake and then delivering a no-look reverse pass for Molina to finish for his first international goal.
His penalty in the 73rd minute, which came after Marcus Acuna was tripped by Dumfries, was his fourth goal of the tournament and took him to 10 overall in the World Cup — tied with Gabriel Batistuta for the most for Argentina. Messi now has 94 goals in his 169 international games.
His team trailing 2-0, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal sent on two tall strikers — Weghorst and Luuk De Jong — and even told center back Virgil van Dijk to play up front. The game suddenly changed.
Weghorst glanced in a header from a right-wing cross in the 78th — five minutes after coming on — and then scored the latest second-half goal in a knockout-stage game at a World Cup.
Off a cleverly worked free-kick routine learned by Weghorst at his Turkish club, Besiktas, Teun Koopmeiners feigned to take a shot at goal from the edge of the area but instead played it short and low into the middle of the area. It deceived the Argentine defense as Weghorst took a touch, held off his marker and slotted home a finish on the stretch.
Enzo Fernandez hit the post near the end of extra time and was then the only Argentina player to fail to score in the shootout. Martinez’s saves were from attempts by Van Dijk and Steven Berghuis, after which he pulled his shorts high and danced a jig.
The loss ended the 71-year-old Van Gaal’s third stint in charge of the Netherlands. He was also the team’s coach at the World Cup in 2014 when Argentina beat the Dutch in a penalty shootout in the semifinals.
“Ever since we arrived here,” Van Gaal said, “we have been focused on penalties. We thought we were going to win the penalty shootout.”
SUSPENSIONS
Argentina defenders Marcus Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel will miss the semifinals after collecting second yellow cards of the tournament.


Man Utd finish off Forest to cruise into League Cup final

Man Utd finish off Forest to cruise into League Cup final
Updated 11 sec ago

Man Utd finish off Forest to cruise into League Cup final

Man Utd finish off Forest to cruise into League Cup final
  • United book their place in a first League Cup final for six years

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Manchester United will meet Newcastle at Wembley on February 26 in the League Cup final after a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest sealed a 5-0 semifinal aggregate victory.
Anthony Martial and Fred scored the goals for Erik ten Hag’s men in the final 17 minutes as United booked their place in a first League Cup final for six years.
The damage was done for the Red Devils in last week’s 3-0 win at the City Ground in the first leg as Ten Hag was able to rotate his squad with United still involved in four competitions.
Ten Hag made six changes from the side that beat Reading 3-1 in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday with Marcus Rashford among those left on the bench, but Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes did start despite the heavy schedule.
United failed to reach the heights of their first leg performance but were let off the hook by Forest in the first half as Brennan Johnson and Emmanuel Dennis missed big chances to reduce the visitors’ arrears in their first major cup semifinal since 1992.
Wout Weghorst opened his account for United when the sides last met and the giant Dutch striker was inches away from his first goal at Old Trafford as he headed Casemiro’s cross off the post just before half-time.
Ten Hag was handed a limited budget in the January transfer window after spending over £200 million ($247 million) in the summer with just the loan signings of Weghorst, Marcel Sabitzer and Jack Butland.
But the return of Jadon Sancho comes at just the right time to bolster United’s attacking options.
The England international had been sidelined since October due to a combination of mental and physical issues, but made his return just after the hour mark.
Rashford and Martial were introduced alongside Sancho and made an instant impact.
The Frenchman slotted home after Rashford’s initial effort was blocked to open the scoring.
Three minutes later it was 2-0 as this time Rashford teed up Fred for the simplest of finishes into an empty net.
A much tougher test lies ahead for Ten Hag’s men against high-flying Newcastle, but the former Ajax boss is just one game away from his first goal of ending United’s six-year trophy drought.


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.