New-look Al-Nassr play out 0-0 draw against Paris Saint-Germain in Japan friendly

Special New-look Al-Nassr play out 0-0 draw against Paris Saint-Germain in Japan friendly
Al-Nassr’s Cristiano Ronaldo in action against Paris Saint-Germain during a friendly in Osaka, western Japan, Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (AP Photo)
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Updated 25 July 2023
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New-look Al-Nassr play out 0-0 draw against Paris Saint-Germain in Japan friendly

New-look Al-Nassr play out 0-0 draw against Paris Saint-Germain in Japan friendly
  • Cristiano Ronaldo had several chances in the second half, but neither team was able to break the deadlock
  • Alex Telles debuted off the bench and new midfielders Fofana and Brozovic looked very composed

Cristiano Ronaldo won hearts in Japan before kick-off and then helped Al-Nassr to a creditable 0-0 draw against Paris Saint-Germain in Osaka in a Tuesday exhibition.

In the lead-up to the clash at the Nagai Stadium, the 38-year-old had spoken a little of the language and played with local kids, creating two assists along the way.

The French champions provided tougher opposition but it was still an enjoyable occasion for all involved. Fans got a look at one of the legends of the game who showed off some of his skills, while Al-Nassr confirmed that they are a club of international stature as they moved their pre-season preparations up another level.

It was not just about the five-time Ballon D’or winner, though. Neymar was sat on the bench while Kylian Mbappe — the French star linked with Al-Nassr’s Riyadh rivals Al-Hilal — was left in France.

There was a new-look midfield for Al-Nassr, literally, as the team were sporting their new Nike kits, with Seko Fofana and Marcelo Brozovic lining up together, with recently appointed coach Luis Castro on the sidelines. The two players impressed.

The first to make an impact was, however, Nawaf Al-Aqidi, the 23-year-old goalkeeper, who in the opening moments got across his line well to save a fine free-kick from Carlos Soler that was creeping into the top corner.

It was an important save given that Al-Nassr were coming off heavy defeats to Benfica and Celta Vigo in a Portuguese training camp.

PSG continued to have the best of the opening exchanges but it was striking that Al-Nassr, even when under pressure, looked to build up play calmly from the back, and they were soon starting to make inroads into the French half even if the final ball was lacking.

The final shot was also lacking for PSG as teenage forward Noha Lemina shot wide with just the goalkeeper to beat midway through the first half.

It was then time for the Ronaldo show as the Portuguese star had attempts on goal with a shot on the turn and then a clever flick in the box that had goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma having to make a smart save, and then trying a bicycle kick that did not quite come off.

At the break it was goalless and so it stayed. As is common in such matches, there were a raft of second-half substitutions that robbed the game of its rhythm and slowed the tempo down. It seemed to suit the French team a little better.

Both teams pushed forward, with Al-Nassr’s new fullback Alex Telles coming off the bench, as they tried to give fans a goal to celebrate. It did not quite happen but there were plenty of positives for coach Castro to take.

After two heavy defeats, Al-Nassr gave a strong European team a good game. The defence was organized and looked fairly comfortable in possession, Ronaldo enjoyed himself and the new midfielders Fofana and Brozovic looked very settled and composed.

Brozovic will be looking forward to Thursday when the Yellows conclude their Japan visit with a game against Italian powerhouse — and his former club — Inter Milan in the same stadium.


Hungary coach Rossi blasts ‘passive’ flops after Euro defeat to Switzerland

Hungary coach Rossi blasts ‘passive’ flops after Euro defeat to Switzerland
Updated 57 min 47 sec ago
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Hungary coach Rossi blasts ‘passive’ flops after Euro defeat to Switzerland

Hungary coach Rossi blasts ‘passive’ flops after Euro defeat to Switzerland
  • Rossi’s side failed to live up to their pre-tournament billing as dark horses with a lacklustre display in Cologne
  • “We had a tactical misunderstanding. We didn’t cope and have time to press them. The first half was very bad. We were too passive,” Rossi said

COLOGNE, Germany: Marco Rossi slammed his Hungary flops after their Euro 2024 campaign started with a dismal 3-1 defeat against Switzerland on Saturday, warning it may be “impossible” to defeat hosts Germany in their next match.
Rossi’s side failed to live up to their pre-tournament billing as dark horses with a lacklustre display in Cologne.
They were rocked by first half strikes from Kwadwo Duah and Michel Aebischer, who both netted their maiden international goals.
Barnabas Varga’s second-half header gave Hungary hope, but Breel Embolo came off the bench to net in stoppage-time in his first international appearance since 2022.
“We had a tactical misunderstanding. We didn’t cope and have time to press them. The first half was very bad. We were too passive,” Rossi said.
“Switzerland are very experienced, with quality players all over the pitch. Against teams at this level, you run the risk of doing bad things. They made the most of our mistakes.”
Taking his share of the blame, as well as lambasting his players, Rossi said: “I’m not looking for guilty people. I’m the coach and need to take my responsibility.
“We had some short-comings in individual performances. There aren’t many strategies to stop individual mistakes.
“It’s hard to say anyone did well apart from two or three performances.”
Hungary’s defeat leaves them three points behind title contenders Germany and second placed Switzerland in Group A.
A loss against Germany on Wednesday would be a hammer blow to Hungary’s hopes of making the last 16, and Rossi admitted he is not confident of upsetting the odds.
“We play Germany in four days. I dare anybody to bet one Hungarian forint on us. As of today that looks impossible,” he said.
“Germany are a different team than the last Euros, they proved it against Scotland. In my opinion they are the biggest favorite of the European Championship.”
Switzerland have only lost one of their last 15 matches in all competitions and a win against Scotland in their next game on Wednesday would send them into the last 16.
There were 22 passes in the build up to Duah’s opener, the third-longest passing sequence leading to a goal at the Euros since 1980.
It was a welcome result for Swiss boss Murat Yakin, who had been under pressure after a rift with his players over tactical issues during the qualifying campaign.
“I trust myself. I have a strong team which is fundamental. We need mutual trust, so it is a satisfaction when we get a result like that. We can reach important goals,” Yakin said.
“We have prepared for three weeks and the players have the right spirit. I have a role in creating this atmosphere.
“I like to play chess. Yesterday I had a victim who lost twice to me. I like to compare football to chess and we got our tactics right.
“We used that formation for a particular reason. We surprised Marco Rossi at the beginning maybe. You have to make the most of our qualities.”
Scotland will be fighting to stay in the tournament when they face the Swiss and Yakin urged his team not to underestimate Steve Clarke’s men.
“It is a completely different game next Wednesday. It will bring more confidence to our game but we have to play better against Scotland,” he said.
“We have a lot to improve. The second half of the match didn’t go very well. We conceded too many chances.”


Football great Zidane kicks off Le Mans 24 Hours

Football great Zidane kicks off Le Mans 24 Hours
Updated 15 June 2024
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Football great Zidane kicks off Le Mans 24 Hours

Football great Zidane kicks off Le Mans 24 Hours
  • Zidane was wearing winter gear as he waved the ceremonial starter’s flag
  • The temperature was a chilly 15 degrees celsius with plenty of rain forecast until Sunday

LE MANS, France: French football great Zinedine Zidane acted as starter to get the mythic Le Mans 24 Hour race on its way at 1400GMT on Saturday.
Ahead of the 62 cars split into three categories on the grid lies the ultimate test of motorsport endurance — for the 186 drivers, their cars, mechanics and last but not least the crowd estimated at 250,000.
One major unknown for the 92nd edition was — despite being mid-June — the weather.
Zidane was wearing winter gear as he waved the ceremonial starter’s flag — a French tricolor with ‘24’ embossed in gold on it — handed to him by French soldiers who had abseiled down with it from a hovering helicopter.
The temperature was a chilly 15 degrees celsius with plenty of rain forecast until Sunday at 1400GMT when the winner will take the cherished chequered flag after around 350 laps of the iconic 13.6kilometer Sarthe circuit in the west of France near the medieval town of Le Mans.
There was nothing ancient about the gleaming machinery setting off led by the elite category Porsche Hypercar, in pole after qualifying on Thursday.
Ferrari are the defending title holders after claiming the centenary edition 12 months ago.
The Hypercar class is the most open in almost three decades with no fewer than nine different constructors presenting 23 cars.
In the early stages, Ferrari’s number 50 car led from the team’s 51 car, which won last year. A Porsche was in third.
Ferrari’s Formula One team principal Fred Vasseur predicted a close race.
“The fight is very, very tight, lot of good drivers.
“Twenty-four hours with this weather, very, very tight, we are just focused on ourselves.”


German police shoot to death an Afghan man who killed a compatriot, then attacked soccer fans

German police shoot to death an Afghan man who killed a compatriot, then attacked soccer fans
Updated 15 June 2024
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German police shoot to death an Afghan man who killed a compatriot, then attacked soccer fans

German police shoot to death an Afghan man who killed a compatriot, then attacked soccer fans
  • The 27-year-old Afghan citizen first attacked a 23-year-old compatriot with a “knife-like object”
  • The man later attacked a group of people watching the soccer game between Germany and Scotland

BERLIN: German police shot to death an Afghan man after he fatally attacked a compatriot and later wounded three people watching the televised opening game of the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in eastern Germany, police said Saturday.
The 27-year-old Afghan citizen first attacked a 23-year-old compatriot with a “knife-like object” in Wolmirstedt, a small town about 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of Berlin, on Friday evening, police said. The victim later died of his wounds.
The man later attacked a group of people watching the soccer game between Germany and Scotland in the yard of private house, injuring three German men, two of them seriously, police said.
Police said the assailant, still armed with the same object, also attacked officers called to the scene. Two of the officers shot and wounded the man, who died soon after in a hospital.
Police said the motive for the attacks was unclear. The Interior Ministry in Saxony-Anhalt state, which includes Wolmirstedt, said police had increased their presence across the state. The soccer tournament is taking place in cities across Germany and runs through July 14.


IOC issues first list of Russians and Belarusians eligible for Olympics

IOC issues first list of Russians and Belarusians eligible for Olympics
Updated 15 June 2024
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IOC issues first list of Russians and Belarusians eligible for Olympics

IOC issues first list of Russians and Belarusians eligible for Olympics
  • The athletes had to qualify for the Games and pass a double check, first by the international sports federations and then by the IOC
  • The athletes named on Saturday compete in four disciplines

LAUSANNE: A total of 14 Russian and 11 Belarusian athletes were included on Saturday by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on an initial list of “Individual Neutral Athletes” (AINs) eligible to compete in the Paris Games.
The athletes had to qualify for the Games and pass a double check, first by the international sports federations and then by the IOC, to prove they did not actively support the war in Ukraine or have any links with their countries’ armies.
The athletes named on Saturday compete in four disciplines.
Sixteen are wrestlers. The IOC has also approved two weightlifters, three trampoline gymnasts and four road cyclists, including Aleksandr Vlasov, who was fourth in the 2021 Giro.
“Our cyclists passed the ‘test’,” Vyacheslav Ekimov, the President of the Russian Cycling Federation told Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.
“The IOC allowed us to the Olympics, although I did not expect a different development. As for Vlasov, despite all his past statements, I think he will participate in the Olympics. And with great pleasure.” Ekimov said.
The President of the Russian Trampolining Federation, Nikolai Makarov told TASS he was not entirely happy.
“The fact that the IOC has decided to admit Angela Bladtseva to the Olympics is very good news,” he said.
“But I don’t understand why another one of our contenders for the only ticket — Yana Lebedeva — is not on the list. I hope that her name will be on the next list.”
Saturday’s IOC statement also listed taekwondo, but that section included no names.
“It is absolutely true — none of our taekwondists will perform at the Olympic Games in Paris,” Vadim Ivanov, Russia’s taekwondo head coach told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.
After initially banning the two countries’ athletes from world sport following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the IOC adjusted their regulations to allow their participation, under a neutral banner, subject to strict conditions and excluding team events.
Last March, the IOC said it was expecting 36 Russians and 22 Belarussians at the Paris Games “according to the most probable scenario,” and a “maximum” of 55 and 28 respectively.
That would be far fewer than the 330 Russians and 104 Belarusians that took part in the last Games in Tokyo in 2021.
The IOC will update its list as the final qualifying results come in.
There will be no track and field athletes. World Athletics has banned all Russians and Belarusians.
Other sports have reinstated them so late that their presence is uncertain.
On Friday, Yuliya Efimova, who has three Olympic breaststroke medals, became the first Russian swimmer to be granted neutral status for the Games although she has not yet swum a qualifying time. She also said she did not yet have a visa to travel to France.
While Moscow has finally decided not to boycott the Paris Games, some athletes may opt to. Russia’s gymnasts have said they will refuse to take part.
The neutral athletes will neither take part in the opening ceremony on the Seine nor appear in the official medal table.
In March, the IOC awarded them a dedicated flag, stamped with the letters “AIN” on an apple-green background, as well as a short composition without words, which will serve as their anthem if they win an Olympic title.
At the same time, the IOC set up the Individual Neutral Athlete Eligibility Review Panel (AINERP) to help decide which athletes to invite.
The expert panel “has been able to benefit from new information from various sources, in particular official lists of athletes affiliated to sports clubs of the armed and security forces, published on official websites in Russia and Belarus,” said the IOC.


Former Arsenal and Everton striker Campbell dies at 54

Former Arsenal and Everton striker Campbell dies at 54
Updated 15 June 2024
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Former Arsenal and Everton striker Campbell dies at 54

Former Arsenal and Everton striker Campbell dies at 54
  • Campbell, who died after a short illness, holds the record for most Premier League goals, 83, by a player never to win an international cap
  • “Everyone at Arsenal Football is devastated to hear of the death of our much-loved former player Kevin Campbell,” said Arsenal

LONDON: Ex-Premier League striker Kevin Campbell has died aged 54, his former clubs Arsenal and Everton announced on Saturday.
Campbell, who died after a short illness, holds the record for most Premier League goals, 83, by a player never to win an international cap.
“Everyone at Arsenal Football is devastated to hear of the death of our much-loved former player Kevin Campbell,” said Arsenal.
Campbell joined the Gunners as a schoolboy in 1985, making his first-team debut in 1988. He went on to play 228 times for Arsenal scoring 59 goals and winning a league title, an FA Cup, a European Cup Winners Cup and a League Cup.
“To actually play for the team I supported was a dream come true,” he said.
In 164 games for Everton he scored 51 goals, including nine in five games which saved them from relegation in 1999.
“Everyone at Everton Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of the Club’s most popular and much-loved former strikers, Kevin Campbell,” they said on their website.
Campbell, who also played for Leicester, Leyton Orient, Nottingham Forest, Trabzonspor, West Bromwich Albion and Cardiff, said one of his favorite memories in football was scoring the winner in the 2000 Merseyside derby, Everton’s last victory at Anfield for 22 years.
“It was at the Kop End and my view, which will live with me until the day I die, is the Blues in the Kop going crazy,” he said.
In January 2001, manager Walter Smith made Campbell Everton’s first black captain.
“He made me the first black captain of Everton, which is something that I’m so proud of,” Campbell said.
Campbell moved to West Brom in January 2005 and was part of their “great escape,” as they became the first club bottom of the Premier League at Christmas to survive.
His son, Tyrese Campbell, is a striker who has just been released by Championship side Stoke City after seven seasons at the club.
“The pain of this is indescribable and as a son you look at your dad as invincible,” said Tyrese Campbell in a message released on his behalf by journalist Alan Myers.
“He is my idol, the one I wanted to be when I grew up...I’ll miss you dad.”