Man United beat Forest 3-0, closes in on League Cup final

Man United beat Forest 3-0, closes in on League Cup final
Rashford, center, opened the scoring for United after six minutes. (Action Images via Reuters)
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Updated 26 January 2023

Man United beat Forest 3-0, closes in on League Cup final

Man United beat Forest 3-0, closes in on League Cup final
  • Wembley final against Newcastle or Southampton awaits United

Manchester United’s Premier League title hopes may be fading, but a first final under Erik ten Hag is now in sight.
A 3-0 away win in the first leg of the League Cup semifinals against Nottingham Forest on Wednesday put United in control ahead of the return fixture at Old Trafford next week.
Goals from Marcus Rashford, Wout Weghorst and Bruno Fernandes at the City Ground went some way toward easing the disappointment of the late 3-2 loss to Arsenal on Sunday, which dented United’s challenge at the top of the league.
Ten Hag, however, has moved a step closer to the club’s first silverware for six years.
A Wembley final against Newcastle or Southampton awaits United unless Forest can mount an unlikely fightback.
Newcastle leads Southampton 1-0 after the first leg.
“We have to play one game, we have to do the same,” Ten Hag said. “We have to prepare, make good game plan and the players have to be focused.”
Rashford opened the scoring for United after six minutes with a run from the halfway line before bursting past Joe Worrall and Remo Freuler in the box and finishing clinically.
It was the in-form England forward’s 10th goal in as many games since returning from the World Cup and his fifth in the League Cup this season. No player from Europe’s big five leagues has scored as many over that period.
Sam Surridge had a goal ruled out by VAR for offside before Weghorst, who signed on loan from Burnley this month, scored his first for his new club in the 45th.
Antony’s shot from the edge of the box was only parried by Forest goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and Weghorst reacted sharply to convert the rebound.
Fernandes rounded off the scoring in the 89th and likely ended Forest’s slim hopes of a comeback.
“We’ve put ourselves in this situation and we have to deal with it next week,” Forest manager Steve Cooper said.
United hasn’t won a trophy since 2017 when Jose Mourinho’s team lifted the League Cup and Europa League in his first season in charge.
Ten Hag is aiming to replicate that feat by delivering a trophy in his debut campaign after being appointed at the end of last season.
The former Ajax coach spoke this week of the importance of picking up silverware in his bid to return United to its former glories.
He questioned his players’ winning mentality after the defeat to Arsenal left his team 11 points off the league leader, but got the desired response against Forest.
“We lost the last game so we had to produce now and as a team we did,” United defender Lisandro Martinez said. “You can see when we do the right things we don’t concede goals. We controlled the game, but we still have many things to improve on and we have to keep going.”


Saudi riders continue to make progress in AlUla

Saudi riders continue to make progress in AlUla
Updated 37 min 15 sec ago

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.


President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation elected as FIFA Council member

President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation elected as FIFA Council member
President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, Yasser Al-Misehal.
Updated 01 February 2023

President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation elected as FIFA Council member

President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation elected as FIFA Council member
  • Yasser Al-Misehal joins the FIFA team on the day Saudi Arabia was confirmed as hosts of 2027 AFC Asian Cup

Riyadh: Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) President Yasser Al-Misehal has been elected as a Member of the FIFA Council at the 33rd AFC Congress 2023 held in Manama, Bahrain today. 

This marks a new milestone for football in the Kingdom as Al-Misehal becomes only the second Saudi elected Member to the prestigious FIFA Council, which is the main governing body of the FIFA organization.

The announcement was made on the same day that Saudi Arabia was confirmed as the host of the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

The term will run for four years and this election expected to bring with it new opportunities to the football sphere not only in Saudi Arabia but the Middle East and Asia.