AFC President Sheikh Salman praises ‘greatest-ever’ FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand

AFC President Sheikh Salman praises ‘greatest-ever’ FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand
The FIFA Women's World Cup trophy is pictured ahead of the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup final football match between Spain and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney on August 20 (AFP)
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Updated 21 August 2023
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AFC President Sheikh Salman praises ‘greatest-ever’ FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand

AFC President Sheikh Salman praises ‘greatest-ever’ FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand
  • Sheikh Salman highlights the strides taken by the Asian confederation’s 6 participating nations

Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa has praised world governing body FIFA, as well as federations in Australia, New Zealand and across Asia, for helping to ensure the “greatest” World Cup for women.

Australia’s historic fourth-place finish was the AFC’s best showing at the FIFA Women’s World Cup since Japan ended as runners-up in the 2015 edition in Canada. The Nadeshiko performed commendably in 2023 before bowing out to Sweden in the quarterfinals.

Sheikh Salman said: “The FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 was truly a celebration of the women’s game that will be cherished and remembered for years to come.

“The attention to detail and unparalleled organizational capabilities of Football Australia, New Zealand Football, the local FIFA subsidiary and FIFA have contributed to the staging of the greatest-ever edition in the tournament’s proud history.

“The foundations of the global women’s game have been strengthened through their incredible efforts and they have set the benchmark for future editions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup to emulate and surpass,” he added.

“At the same time, the performance of our record six Asian teams also deserves our wholehearted praise. From our worthy debutantes to our traditional powerhouses, our teams as well as our match officials continued to embody the AFC’s aspirations to stand proud with the world’s best.”

Sheikh Salman said the AFC Women’s Champions League set to kick off next year would be a further boost for the region.

“The performance of our teams, who are already consistently ranked amongst the best in the world, reiterate the undeniable potential that exists for women’s football in Asia.

“We have every faith that the strategic reforms, which include the introduction of the AFC Women’s Champions League from the 2024/25 season, will serve as the catalyst for Asia to produce more world-class players and teams in the coming decades.”


800 athletes from 45 nations set for IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi

800 athletes from 45 nations set for IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi
Updated 8 sec ago
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800 athletes from 45 nations set for IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi

800 athletes from 45 nations set for IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi
  • The event will run from Aug. 6-10 at Mubadala Arena in Zayed Sports City

ABU DHABI: Preparations are well underway for the 2024 IMMAF Youth World Championships from Aug. 6 to 10 at Zayed Sports City, the organizing committee has announced.

The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation championship, to feature 800 athletes from 45 countries, will be held in the UAE capital for the third consecutive year.

In 2021, the tournament attracted 331 athletes from 23 countries, and in 2022 featured 500 competitors from 42 countries. Last year there were 700 male and female athletes from 45 countries.

The next generation of MMA athletes will compete in three age categories: 12 to 13 (Youth C), 14 to 15 (Youth B), and 16 to 17 (Youth A).

In 2022, the UAE National Team debuted in the championship with 28 athletes, winning one gold, one silver, and two bronze medals.

Last year, the UAE team comprised 40 athletes and clinched four gold, four silver, and four bronze medals. Fahad Al-Hammadi (Youth A/70.3 kg division), Ghala Al-Hammadi (Youth B/40 kg division), Saif Alblooshi (Youth C/40 kg division), and Zamzam Al-Hammadi (Youth B/52 kg division) were among the gold medalists for the hosts.

This year, the team comprises 50 athletes who will undergo intensive training over the next few weeks to enhance their mental and physical readiness under the guidance of international coaches.

The IMMAF’s President Kerrith Brown said recently he was looking forward to the championships. “Returning to Abu Dhabi is always a pleasure for us. The level of commitment of the entire team is truly inspiring and we are happy to report another record-breaking attendance number for this year.

“We are excited to continue to build a safe pathway for youngsters to develop as athletes and human beings and everyone can expect increased efforts from the IMMAF to continue making safeguarding a priority as we expand our youth tournaments around the globe.”

Mohammed bin Dalmouk Al-Dhaheri, board member of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts Federation and chairman of the body’s Mixed Martial Arts Committee, said the UAE was honored to host the event.

“With less than two months remaining until the largest event that MMA fans worldwide look forward to, we are working hard to ensure that this edition comes out in the best possible way. The previous two editions saw great success and contributed to solidifying Abu Dhabi’s status as a much sought-after destination for major sporting events,” Al-Dhaheri said.


Afghanistan beat Bangladesh to reach T20 last four, Australia eliminated

Afghanistan beat Bangladesh to reach T20 last four, Australia eliminated
Updated 34 min 5 sec ago
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Afghanistan beat Bangladesh to reach T20 last four, Australia eliminated

Afghanistan beat Bangladesh to reach T20 last four, Australia eliminated
  • Afghanistan beat Bangladesh in dramatic eight-run victory in rain-affected clash in St. Vincent
  • Afghanistan will now face South Africa in first T20 World Cup semifinal in Trinidad on Wednesday 

Arnos Vale, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Afghanistan advanced to their first-ever T20 World Cup semifinal after completing a dramatic eight-run victory over Bangladesh in a rain-affected clash at the Arnos Vale Stadium in St. Vincent on Monday.

Defending a modest total of 115 for five on a bowler-friendly surface, Afghan captain Rashid Khan belied three rain stoppages, a slippery ball and a revised target of 114 off 19 overs to take four for 23 as Bangladesh, who themselves harbored faint hopes of making the last four, were dismissed for 105 off 17.5 overs.

An unbeaten 54 from opener Litton Das was threatening to take Bangladesh to victory and earn Australia the last semifinal spot on net run-rate.

But pacer Naveen ul Haq claimed the last two wickets — Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman — off consecutive deliveries in the penultimate over of the match to trigger delirious Afghan celebrations.

With India defeating Australia earlier in the day and advancing to the second semifinal against England in Guyana on Thursday, this result assured the Afghans of second spot in the group and eliminated the Aussies together with the Bangladeshis.

Afghanistan will now face South Africa in the first semifinal in Trinidad on Wednesday.


Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America

Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America
Updated 25 June 2024
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Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America

Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America
  • Colombia play Costa Rica in their second group game of the tournament on Friday, before wrapping up their first round campaign against Brazil on July 2

HOUSTON: James Rodriguez rolled back the years with a vintage performance to help Colombia open their Copa America campaign with a 2-1 victory over Paraguay in Houston on Monday.
Rodriguez, whose club career has languished in the decade since he rose to prominence with a dazzling performance at the 2014 World Cup, created both of his team’s goals in a deserved Group D victory at the NRG Stadium.
The 32-year-old midfielder, who has played just a handful of minutes for Brazilian club Sao Paulo in the two months leading into the Copa America, set up the opening goal for Colombia in the 32nd minute.
After finding space on the left flank, Rodriguez flighted a pinpoint cross to the far post to pick out Daniel Munoz, who beat Paraguay goalkeeper Rodrigo Morinigo with a firm downward header to make it 1-0.
Ten minutes later Colombia doubled their lead and again it was a goal engineered by the trusty left boot of Rodriguez.
This time the goal arrived from the opposite flank, with Rodriguez swinging in a wicked free-kick that was glanced in by Crystal Palace midfielder Jefferson Lerma.
That made it 2-0 at half-time to leave Colombia firmly on course to extend their unbeaten streak to 24 games.
Colombia continued to carve out the better chances in the second half, but Paraguay set up a nervy finish after Brighton and Hove Albion’s Julio Enciso pulled one back in the 69th minute.
Ramon Sosa crossed from the left and Enciso punished slack marking in the Colombia area to hook an angled first-time volley into the bottom corner past Camilo Vargas.
Colombia, however, controlled play after the Paraguay goal and looked the more threatening team.
The Colombians thought they had earned a penalty in the 84th minute when another teasing Rodriguez cross into the box ended with defender Yerry Mina appearing to be hauled down by Gustavo Velazquez.
Argentinian referee Dario Herrera pointed to the spot but subsequently overturned the decision after a VAR review.
Colombia play Costa Rica in their second group game of the tournament on Friday, before wrapping up their first round campaign against Brazil on July 2.
Brazil open their Copa America campaign against the Costa Ricans in Inglewood, California, later on Monday.


Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo

Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo
Updated 25 June 2024
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Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo

Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo

LEIPZIG, Germany: Mattia Zaccagni’s superb last-gasp strike fired Italy into the Euro 2024 knock-outs with a 1-1 draw against Croatia in a fraught Group B clash on Monday.

Italy progress in second place behind winners Spain and will face Switzerland in the last 16, while Croatia are on the verge of elimination but could still progress depending on other results later in the week.

With only two points it is unlikely Zlatko Dalic’s side will qualify as one of the four best third-place teams but it is still possible.

Croatia midfielder Luka Modric became the oldest goalscorer in the competition’s history with his strike after 55 minutes, just 33 seconds after Gianluigi Donnarumma saved the 38-year-old’s penalty.

It seemed enough for his team but Zaccagni whipped a brilliant strike into the top corner on the break in the 98th minute to send Italy through from what was dubbed a “group of death.”

After shipping five goals in the first two games, Dalic opted to shore up the midfield by bringing in Mario Pasalic and Luka Sucic amid four changes.

The coach also kept established trio of Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic despite their struggles in the 3-0 defeat by Spain and 2-2 draw against minnows Albania.

Luciano Spalletti’s Italy beat Albania 2-1 but were dominated by Spain in a 1-0 defeat and the coach shifted to a 3-5-2 formation, dropping Juventus’ Federico Chiesa.

Croatia dominated the opening exchanges against a defensive Italy side knowing a draw would send them through in second place behind group winners Spain.

On his first start at the tournament 21-year-old RB Salzburg midfielder Sucic forced a fine early save from Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma with a vicious drive from range.

Azzurri forward Mateo Retegui’s header was deflected narrowly wide at the other end on a rare forray forward, with the two-time winners happy to slow the game down and waste time at corners and throw-ins as early as the 20th minute.

Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic made a stunning stop to thwart Alessandro Bastoni, found by Nicolo Barella’s tempting cross, as the holders gained control without taking risks.

Dalic, who steered Croatia to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup final and semis respectively, threw on powerful striker Ante Budimir for the second half.

It gave his team a focal point and they looked instantly more threatening and swiftly reaped their reward.

Italy substitute Davide Frattesi handled Andrej Kramaric’s effort and after a VAR review Croatia were given a penalty.

Donnarumma clawed out Real Madrid midfielder Modric’s effort but the veteran could not be denied 33 seconds later.

The Italian goalkeeper made another fine save in the aftermath from Budimir as Croatia kept the pressure up and Modric smashed home the rebound from close range.

He beat the previous record for oldest Euros goalscorer set in 2008 by Austrian Ivica Vastic by 32 days.

Modric was replaced with 10 minutes to go and even some Italy supporters afforded the playmaker an ovation, while they nervously eyed the ever-advancing clock.

Croatia thought they had progressed but Zaccagni broke their hearts in the eighth and final minute of stoppage time.


Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out

Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out
Updated 25 June 2024
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Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out

Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out
  • It is the first time since 2008 that Spain have won all three group games at either a World Cup or European Championship

DÜSSELDORF, Germany: An early Ferran Torres strike gave Spain’s second-string side a 1-0 win over Albania on Monday as the three-time champions finished the Euro 2024 group stage with a perfect record and the defeat eliminated their opponents.
Barcelona winger Torres finished off a fine move in the 13th minute in Duesseldorf to puncture the atmosphere in a stadium filled with a majority of noisy Albanian fans.
However, this game was not a cruise for a Spain team showing 10 changes to the side which started their 1-0 win over Italy four days earlier.
Spain had already secured top spot in Group B, but Albania knew they realistically needed a win to go through and that made for a frantic encounter at times, particularly as they pushed forward in the second half.
Despite their best efforts, Albania go home after picking up only one point and finishing bottom of a difficult section.
It is a regression for them from their debut European Championship appearance in 2016, when they also went out in the first round but did manage to win a game.
Beating a Spain side who have probably been the most impressive so far in Germany was always going to be a big ask for Albania, coached by former Barcelona left-back Sylvinho.
It is the first time since 2008 that Spain have won all three group games at either a World Cup or European Championship.
Coach Luis de la Fuente can now turn his full attentions to a last-16 tie in Cologne on Sunday against an as-yet unknown third-place finisher.
Center-half Aymeric Laporte was the only Spain player to keep his place following the Italy game, with key midfielder Rodri suspended and everyone else given a breather.
Goalkeeper David Raya, defender Dani Vivian, left-back Alejandro Grimaldo and midfielder Martin Zubimendi, all largely untested at international level, came in.
There was also a start for Jesus Navas, who was part of the Spain teams that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, and who is now 38.
Even Laporte was removed at half-time, replaced by Robin Le Normand, while Lamine Yamal and Alvaro Morata also appeared in the second half.
Albania, ranked 66th in the world, knew it would be a big ask to beat Spain having lost all of their eight previous meetings.
Spain first threatened in the 12th minute when Mikel Merino’s header was saved by goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, and a minute later they were ahead.
Dani Olmo stepped into the space between the Albanian lines to receive a pass, and then fed a measured ball in behind for Torres to latch onto.
The former Manchester City player timed his run perfectly and finished with precision too, his first-time effort going in off the far post.
Torres has made a habit of scoring at these tournaments, having netted twice at the last Euros and twice at the 2022 World Cup.
It took Albania until the final minute of the half to test Raya, the Arsenal shot-stopper flying to his right to parry a powerful strike by Kristjan Asllani.
Joselu hooked a Grimaldo cross just wide moments after the restart for Spain, before the Albanian fans raised the noise levels as they became aware of events in the other match.
They were very close to equalising when substitute Armando Broja met an Asllani free-kick and tried to lob Raya, but the goalkeeper saved.
Asllani then fizzed an effort just wide, and Broja was again denied by Raya in stoppage time as Albania bowed out.