Saudi Arabia teenagers crash out of Asia and world cups

Special Saudi Arabia teenagers crash out of Asia and world cups
Saudi Arabia lost 2-0 to Uzbekistan in the quarterfinal of the 2023 AFC U-17 Asian Cup. (Twitter/@SaudiNT)
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Updated 26 June 2023
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Saudi Arabia teenagers crash out of Asia and world cups

Saudi Arabia teenagers crash out of Asia and world cups
  • AFC quarterfinal loss to Uzbekistan also ended chances of appearing at the FIFA U-17 World Cup later this year
  • After Nawaf Al-Bishri saw a first-half penalty saved, the Central Asians eventually broke the deadlock with 11 minutes remaining

Saudi Arabia crashed out of the Asian Football Confederation’s U-17 Asia Cup on Monday with a 2-0 quarterfinal loss to Uzbekistan that also ended their chances of appearing at the FIFA U-17 World Cup later this year.

After Nawaf Al-Bishri saw a first-half penalty saved, the Central Asians eventually broke the deadlock with 11 minutes remaining via a strike that was officially recorded as an own goal from goalkeeper Mahmoud Al-Burayh. With six minutes remaining, it was all over as Dilshod Abdullayev added a second. With the last four from this continental championship in Thailand also earning berths in Indonesia for the global version in November, it is a double disappointment.

Yet this was far from a one-sided affair and was tightly contested for the most part. With Saudi Arabia boasting the best defense from the group stage with no goals conceded and Uzbekistan the lowest-scoring of all the quarterfinalists, most expected that the team in green would make most of the running.

In fact, the Saudi Arabian backline has a busier than usual opening period. Behruz Shukurullaev shot just wide from inside the area early on, and then a left-sided free-kick from Lazizbek Mirzayev was heading for the top of the Saudi goal before Al-Burayh tipped it away.

After 17 minutes, the young Green Falcons thought they were going to take the lead. Ozodbek Uktamov bundled over Nawaf Al-Jaadani on the left side of the area and up stepped Al-Bishri, one of the players of the tournament so far, but his low shot was saved by Muhammadyusuf Sobirov, diving to his right to make a fine save.

Saudi Arabia ended the half also denied by the goalkeeper. He saved well from a Talal Haji shot that bounced awkwardly and got up and down quickly to smother the danger from Al-Bishri from close range.

As the forward left the pitch to return to the dressing rooms, he was comforted by his teammates, but there were still 45 minutes to go. As expected, Saudi Arabia came out strongly at the start of the second half and put the White Wolves under some serious pressure, but neither side was able to create clear chances or could really get behind the opposition’s backline. The two goalkeepers both made saves from shots from outside the area but were looking reasonably comfortable.

And then with 11 minutes remaining, Uzbekistan took the lead. Ollobergan Karimov collected the ball on the left side of the area, cut in along the byline, and his low shot took a deflection off the goalkeeper at the near post and ended up bobbling over the line. 

It was a scrappy goal, but there was no doubt as to who scored the second in the 84th minute. A corner from the left was flicked on at the near post and found its way to Abdullayev in the center who made no mistake in lashing home a shot from close range.

That was that and it was a sad end for Saudi Arabia’s campaign, especially after they had looked so comfortable in the group stage. Now the youngsters will have to sit and watch the World Cup from their homes, but they at least did enough in Thailand to suggest that there are more tournaments to come in the future.


England captain Buttler set to miss 3rd T20 against Pakistan

England captain Buttler set to miss 3rd T20 against Pakistan
Updated 27 May 2024
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England captain Buttler set to miss 3rd T20 against Pakistan

England captain Buttler set to miss 3rd T20 against Pakistan
  • The 33-year-old struck a match-winning 84 as the hosts took a 1-0 lead in Birmingham on Saturday
  • He is set to miss Wednesday’s third T20 in Cardiff, with vice-captain Moeen Ali in line to lead England

LONDON: Jos Buttler has left the England squad ahead of Tuesday’s Twenty20 international against Pakistan to be with his wife, who is about to give birth to the couple’s third child.
The 33-year-old England captain struck a match-winning 84 as the hosts took a 1-0 lead in the rain-affected four-game series in Birmingham on Saturday.
But he is now set to miss Wednesday’s third T20 in Cardiff, with vice-captain Moeen Ali in line to lead England at Sophia Gardens instead.
This series, which concludes at The Oval in London on Thursday, is serving as a warm-up for the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and the United States, with reigning champions England starting their title defense against Scotland in Barbados on June 4.
England fast bowler Jofra Archer could be rested for the Cardiff match ahead of the Oval finale.
Archer has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
But the 29-year-old marked his long-awaited return to international cricket by taking two wickets as England beat Pakistan by 23 runs at Edgbaston following a washout at Leeds.
Archer, on his first international appearance for 14 months, and first on home soil since 2020, bounced back from an expensive first over, which went for 15 runs, to finish with 2-28.


Crafting champions: The artistry behind the ‘Ring of Fire’ trophy belt

Nasser Farsi, one of the master engravers from Farsi Jewelry House, is seen in action. supplied
Nasser Farsi, one of the master engravers from Farsi Jewelry House, is seen in action. supplied
Updated 27 May 2024
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Crafting champions: The artistry behind the ‘Ring of Fire’ trophy belt

Nasser Farsi, one of the master engravers from Farsi Jewelry House, is seen in action. supplied
  • Engraving tools with diamond tips and tungsten carbide tips were used, depending on the function
  • Each stroke of the engraving tool was not just a mark on metal, but also a tribute to the sport’s rich heritage and the warriors who have graced the ring

Riyadh: In the world of boxing, where legends are made and history is written with every punch, there exists a tangible symbol of triumph and glory — the championship belt.

And behind every iconic belt lies a story of craftsmanship and dedication, as exemplified by the artisans at Farsi Jewelry House, entrusted with engraving the trophy belt for the historic “Ring of Fire” fight between Britain’s Tyson Fury and Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, one of the master engravers from Farsi Jewelry House, Nasser Farsi, provided insights into the meticulous process that went into crafting the emblem of sporting greatness.

“We used engraving tools with diamond tips and tungsten carbide tips, depending on the function,” said the artisan, highlighting the attention to detail and precision required for such a task. From planning and drawing, to engraving and quality checking, every step was executed with the utmost care and precision.

The artisan is seen engraving the champion's name on the belt. supplied

The engraving of the host city and date, along with the champion’s name and the names of the boxing legends preceding them, imbues the belt with a sense of history and reverence. Each stroke of the engraving tool was not just a mark on metal, but also a tribute to the sport’s rich heritage and the warriors who have graced the ring.

Despite their expertise, the artisans faced challenges along the way, particularly with the unexpectedly strong metal used for the belt. “The most challenging part was that the metal used for the belt was much stronger than we expected. It was done in a superb quality metal,” Farsi said. However, the engravers overcame the challenge “by adding an additional step, which is micro hammering with a diamond tip,” ensuring that the final product surpassed expectations in quality and craftsmanship.

For the artisans at Farsi Jewelry House, the opportunity to contribute to such a high-profile event is a source of immense pride and honor. “It was such a privilege and honor for me personally as my work was literally writing down a historical moment,” Farsi said. The sentiment was echoed by his colleague for the task, Samuel Nacario, whose passion for boxing and martial arts made the experience “a dream come true.”

Samuel Nacario, one of the master engravers from Farsi Jewelry House, is seen in action. supplied

While the engraving was done in-house by Farsi’s team, the assistance and artwork of people like Nacario, who Farsi sees as a “teacher,” played a crucial role in bringing the project to life.

Though the cultural significance of Riyadh may not have directly influenced the belt’s design, the event’s hosting in the Saudi capital sent a powerful message to the world. “It was a message that we are way ahead of our plans to reach what was anticipated for Vision 2030,” said Farsi, highlighting the event’s broader significance in the context of the Kingdom’s cultural and economic aspirations.

The artisan hinted at future projects, promising further glimpses of his craftsmanship. While the details remain under wraps, one thing is clear — Farsi Jewelry House is poised to continue leaving its mark on the world of sports and beyond.

In the realm of boxing, where every victory is immortalized and every defeat serves as a stepping stone, the craftsmanship of Nasser Farsi stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of champions.

As the “Ring of Fire” trophy belt changes hands and journeys through the annals of history, one thing remains certain — it is more than just a belt; it is a symbol of excellence, perseverance and the indomitable spirit of the human endeavor.


Three things we learned from the Monaco Grand Prix

Three things we learned from the Monaco Grand Prix
Updated 27 May 2024
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Three things we learned from the Monaco Grand Prix

Three things we learned from the Monaco Grand Prix

MONTE CARLO: Charles Leclerc confirmed his potential as a world championship contender and raised more questions about Red Bull and Max Verstappen’s era of domination with his emotional home triumph on Sunday.
By winning a dull and processional Monaco Grand Prix with a flawless drive from pole position to chequered flag, while Verstappen started and finished sixth, the 26-year-old Monegasque lifted a monkey from his back as the Dutchman bemoaned his fate.
After a troubled weekend for the champion team, which saw second driver Sergio Perez crash out on the opening lap, AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the star-studded spectacle in the Mediterranean principality:
Ferrari team chief Fred Vasseur cut through the emotional aftermath of Leclerc’s victory to identify how important it can be for him in future races. “Firstly, everyone will stop asking him each year what will happen next time, what happens this weekend and blah blah blah.... It’s over now. It’s behind us all.
“He had a kind of weight on his shoulders for years here now. Sometimes, he made a small mistake, sometimes he was unlucky, like with a brake failure, and he was under pressure.
“Now, I think he can make a big step forward, for sure. His self-confidence and approach at other events will change.”
Vasseur spoke before his team began celebrations at Jimmy’z nightclub, but shortly after a tearful Arthur Leclerc, Charles’ younger brother, led widespread tributes by wishing their father Herve had been alive to see him win.
His victory was a realization of a family dream shared with their father Herve, who died in 2017, before Charles entered Formula One.
“I am so happy,” said Arthur, a Ferrari academy driver. “It’s the first time I cried seeing my brother win. It’s just such an incredible feeling and I just wish my father was there as well to see this moment.”
Leclerc is now only 26 points behind Verstappen in the drivers’ title race after eight of this year’s 24 races, while Ferrari are only 24 points behind in the teams’ contest. He may protest that it too soon to judge, but many believe Verstappen faces a fight ahead to keep his crown.
Max Verstappen and his father Jos issued clear signals that Red Bull have been caught by their rivals and now require emergency action if they are to remain the dominant team.
“We’ve had this problem since 2022,” said the three-time champion, referring to his car’s sensitivity to bumps and riding kerbs.
His father Jos Verstappen went further and suggested Red Bull’s era of dominance is over and the team need to reconsider their priorities after a period of controversies surrounding team boss Christian Horner’s alleged inappropriate behavior and the exit of technical chief Adrian Newey.
“The era when Red Bull had the dominant car really seems to be over now,” said Verstappen senior. “Maybe they should start focusing a bit more on racing and mutual communication again, rather than on other things.”
With Ferrari and McLaren winning races and closing in, and Mercedes advancing, Red Bull face a challenge on and off the track.

The future of the calendar’s most glamorous and historic event was the subject of fresh speculation after Sunday’s ‘snooze-fest’ race amid calls for F1 to revise some rules specifically to enliven the Monaco Grand Prix.
“I got myself a yoghurt and an espresso,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. “I’ve never done that in 12 years.”
“I should have brought my pillow,” said Verstappen. “How boring was that?“
Mercedes driver George Russell replied: “They need to change something... maybe compulsory pitstops...”
“Or a compulsory nap,” replied Verstappen.


Alexander-Arnold adamant tame finish cannot disguise Liverpool’s progress

Alexander-Arnold adamant tame finish cannot disguise Liverpool’s progress
Updated 27 May 2024
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Alexander-Arnold adamant tame finish cannot disguise Liverpool’s progress

Alexander-Arnold adamant tame finish cannot disguise Liverpool’s progress
  • When the Merseysiders won the English League Cup in February they were in contention for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies
LONDON: Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold has insisted Liverpool had a good season despite a lacklustre end to Jurgen Klopp’s last campaign in charge at Anfield.
When the Merseysiders won the English League Cup in February they were in contention for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies.
But Liverpool then lost to bitter rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup and then dropped out of the Europa League before fading in the race for the Premier League title during two damaging weeks in April.
As a result, Klopp was denied the fairytale finish to his Liverpool career but for Alexander-Arnold a third-place finish in the Premier League, and with it a return to the Champions League, was evidence of the club’s progress.
“It was a good season, built on last season, got better as a team, challenged for the title, took it far and we improved,” Alexander-Arnold told Liverpool’s website.
“Any time you improve means that it’s a good season. Take the positives and move forward and hopefully (do it) again next season.”
The 25-year-old, bidding to be a member of England’s Euro 2024 squad, suffered personal frustrations after two months out a knee injury.
“Of course it’s never nice to be injured. You want to play as many games as you can and help the team, but sometimes these things happen,” he added.
“It was a tough time, it was one that taught me to be patient and a time that was difficult. It just makes you stronger, appreciate the times when you’re fit and able to play games.”

Ancelotti has ‘really difficult’ decision to make in goal for Madrid ahead of Champions League final

Ancelotti has ‘really difficult’ decision to make in goal for Madrid ahead of Champions League final
Updated 27 May 2024
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Ancelotti has ‘really difficult’ decision to make in goal for Madrid ahead of Champions League final

Ancelotti has ‘really difficult’ decision to make in goal for Madrid ahead of Champions League final
  • Lunin was nursing a fever and was the only Madrid player who didn’t train on Monday as Madrid began its final week of preparations

MADRID: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti knows he will have a tough decision to make in goal for the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
Will he pick Andriy Lunin, who has played in goal nearly the entire season, or Thibaut Courtois, the veteran who has won the Champions League before but has just returned from injury?
“It’s really difficult,” Ancelotti said Monday. “Of course it’s really difficult, because both of them deserve to play this final. Lunin because he did a fantastic season, and Courtois because he is back from his injury and everyone knows the quality of Courtois. It’s a difficult decision but I think I’m going to take into the game this decision, no doubt.”
Lunin was nursing a fever and was the only Madrid player who didn’t train on Monday as Madrid began its final week of preparations. But Ancelotti said the 25-year-old Ukrainian was expected to be available for Saturday’s final in London.
The illness surely doesn’t help Lunin’s chances, though, and many had already expected Ancelotti to go with the more experienced Courtois despite his lack of minutes this season.
Courtois ruptured a left-knee ligament in August, just two days before the start of the season. The 32-year-old Belgian then also ruptured the meniscus in his right knee in March, when he was close to making a comeback.
He was sidelined until the beginning of this month, when he started in a 3-0 win over Cadiz, a victory that secured Madrid’s 36th Spanish league title.
Lunin was back in goal as Madrid beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals. He had saved two penalties in the decisive shootout win over Manchester City in the quarterfinals.
Lunin had earned the starting position over Kepa Arrizabalaga, the former Chelsea player who is Madrid’s other reserve goalkeeper. Ancelotti said Lunin was the best goalkeeper in the world right now.
Courtois has proven experience in finals, though, having won the 2022 Champions League with Madrid, the FA Cup with Chelsea, the Europa League with Atletico Madrid, and two Copa del Rey titles (one for Madrid, one for Atletico), among several other titles.
“Both deserve to play for various reasons,” Ancelotti said.
Ancelotti joked that he will wait as long as possible to announce the starting goalkeeper because otherwise the debate would be over, and “I like the debate.”