Ahmed Al-Ghamdi ‘does the math’ for late-career 2034 World Cup in Saudi Arabia

Ahmed Al-Ghamdi ‘does the math’ for late-career 2034 World Cup in Saudi Arabia
Ahmed Al-Ghamdi (#11) joined the Dammam-based Ettifaq club in 2020 after returning to Saudi Arabia from Canada. (X: @SaudiNT)
Short Url
Updated 14 November 2023
Follow

Ahmed Al-Ghamdi ‘does the math’ for late-career 2034 World Cup in Saudi Arabia

Ahmed Al-Ghamdi ‘does the math’ for late-career 2034 World Cup in Saudi Arabia
  • Al-Ettifaq forward will be 33 when FIFA World Cup likely comes to Kingdom
  • Former Al-Hilal, South Korean player Lee Young-pyo backs Saudi World Cup bid

RIYADH: Ahmed Al-Ghamdi has always dreamed big, but after news that Saudi Arabia was the sole bidder for the 2034 FIFA World Cup, all but guaranteeing the 48-team extravaganza will be played in the Kingdom for the first time, he is now aiming for the stars.

The midfielder, who plays under Steven Gerrard for Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League, only turned 22 in September. By the time the World Cup rolls around in 2034, he will likely have just turned 33; easily still young enough to be in consideration for the Green Falcons squad.

He told Arab News: “Obviously I did the math. Once they announced that they will be hosting the World Cup in 2034 I calculated how old I would be, and when I found out I would be 33, I got very excited because there’s still a big possibility to participate in the World Cup.

“To play in a World Cup on home soil in front of Saudi Arabian fans, and hopefully give good performances and maybe make history going to the further rounds in the World Cup, it will be truly amazing and something dreams are made of.”

Someone who knows what it means to play at a World Cup on home soil is South Korean star and former Al-Hilal fullback, Lee Young-pyo.

Lee, who spent two seasons at the Riyadh club between 2009 and 2011, was one of 23 players selected to represent his country at the 2002 World Cup, the first ever World Cup to be hosted in Asia.

It was at that tournament that the Taegeuk Warriors stunned the world with an improbable run to the semi-finals, dispatching the likes of Italy and Spain along the way. The scenes of hundreds of thousands of fans, all clad in red, spilling out onto the streets of Seoul in wild celebration with each passing victory live long in the memory.

Two decades may have passed since then, but the memories are still vivid for Lee.

He said: “Being able to play in the World Cup in my home country was a very special experience. The nation coming together in unity through football was something that stood out to me the most.”

Such a social celebration awaits Saudi Arabia in 2034.

Having already seen the country undertake substantial social reform over the past decade as part of Vision 2030, Al-Ghamdi was excited to see what another decade of development would do for his country, especially with the turbocharge of investment that will come from hosting the world’s biggest sporting event.

“As a proud Saudi, seeing the development of the country in the past decade or so, it’s been really amazing to see how Saudi Arabia has begun to open up to the world and introduce new things in society.

“And I feel because of this, Saudi Arabia deserves the opportunity to host the World Cup in 2034 to show the world what we’re capable of.

“A decade is still a long time away, and the country is improving on a daily basis. You can see vast improvement, so I’m excited to see where Saudi Arabia will be in the next decade by the time the World Cup comes around,” he added.

Having experienced first-hand the passion of Saudi fans for football throughout his two years at Al-Hilal, during which time he won two SPL titles with the Riyadh giants, Lee was nothing but supportive of Saudi Arabia hosting the tournament.

He said: “First of all, I think positively of the 2034 World Cup being held in Saudi Arabia.

“As I played in Saudi Arabia for two years, I realised how much the entirety of the nation loves and cares for the sport.

“Although there are many controversial opinions of the World Cup being hosted in the Middle East, the success of the 2022 Qatar World Cup shows how Saudi Arabia can achieve beyond what has been done,” Lee added.

He pointed out that like 2002 did for South Korea, hosting the tournament could catapult Saudi football to a new level.

“Although Saudi Arabia is one of the most prominent football teams in Asia, it still has a long way to go to achieve the top level of football.

“However, just like how the 2002 World Cup allowed South Korean football to grow a great deal, I believe that Saudi Arabia has the same potential to reach a higher level of football through the World Cup,” Lee said.

Having already tasted senior international football himself, Al-Ghamdi is one of a fresh generation that now has the prize of a home World Cup on the horizon.

This week, 16-year-old Talal Haji was named by Roberto Mancini in the senior team for the opening 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Pakistan and Jordan.

Every player 22 or under in Saudi Arabia now has even greater motivation to succeed in their career.

“Of course, I’ll put that as one of my benchmarks in my career, and hopefully I achieve it by that time, and it motivates me, and gives me a reason to go even harder, work more, give my best in all the games and practices.

“All the current generation are going to be aspiring to play in a World Cup in Saudi Arabia for the first time.

“So, I feel like the dreams and aspirations of everyone are going to exceed and when these factors exceed more is given, more investment, more effort, more attention, and, you never know where Saudi football will be by the time they host the World Cup.”


Pakistan win toss and bowl against Ireland in T20 World Cup

Pakistan win toss and bowl against Ireland in T20 World Cup
Updated 16 June 2024
Follow

Pakistan win toss and bowl against Ireland in T20 World Cup

Pakistan win toss and bowl against Ireland in T20 World Cup
  • Both teams have already been eliminated from tournament with India and USA taking top two group spots
  • Pakistani all-rounder Imad Wasim concedes team at “lowest point,” calls for “drastic change” in country’s cricket

LAUDERHILL: Pakistan captain Babar Azam won the toss and chose to bowl against Ireland in the final Group A match of the T20 World Cup at Central Broward Stadium on Sunday.
After the first three games at the venue were all abandoned because heavy rains caused a waterlogged outfield, the game looked set to start on time.
Both teams have already been eliminated from the tournament with India and the USA taking the top two group spots and places in the Super Eights stage.
Pakistan made one change from the team which beat Canada on Tuesday with seamer Naseem Shah making way for Abbas Afridi.
Ireland also made one switch with leg spinner Ben White prefered to seamer Craig Young.
While nothing is at stake in the contest, in terms of qualification, bottom-placed Ireland will be seeking their first win of the competition. Pakistan will be keen to finish above Canada in third place.


Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia crowned Australian Open badminton champion

Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia crowned Australian Open badminton champion
Updated 16 June 2024
Follow

Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia crowned Australian Open badminton champion

Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia crowned Australian Open badminton champion

SYDNEY: Malaysian Lee Zii Jia outlasted Japan’s Kodai Naraoka in the men’s singles final to be crowned Australian Open badminton champion Sunday, while Aya Ohori of Japan clinched the women’s title.
With many of the top-ranked players giving the tournament a miss, world number eight Lee took advantage to upset his sixth-ranked opponent 21-19, 11-21, 21-18 in Sydney.
It was his sixth career win on the BWF World Tour and came on the back of victory at the Thailand Open last month.
Ohori triumphed with a gutsy 17-21, 21-19, 21-16 come-from-behind beating of 35th-ranked Indonesian teenager Ester Nurumi Tri Wardoyo.
It was only her second title on tour, having won her first at the Thailand Masters this year.
In the men’s doubles final, China’s He Ji Ting and Ren Xiang Yu swept past Indonesian pair Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan 21-11, 21-10
But another Indonesian duo, Febriana Dwipuji Kusuma and Amallia Cahaya Pratiwi, broke through to win the women’s doubles, having lost previous finals at the Spain Masters and Thailand Open.
They recovered from a game down to oust Malaysia’s Lai Pei Jing and Lim Chiew Sien 12-21, 21-7, 21-13.
Chinese top seeds Jiang Zhen Bang and Wei Ya Zin overcame countrymen Guo Xin Wa and Chen Fang Hui in the mixed doubles decider by two-games-to-one.
The circuit moves to Fort Worth in the United States next.


Euro 2024: Kylian Mbappe and France aim to start with a win over on-form Austria

Euro 2024: Kylian Mbappe and France aim to start with a win over on-form Austria
Updated 16 June 2024
Follow

Euro 2024: Kylian Mbappe and France aim to start with a win over on-form Austria

Euro 2024: Kylian Mbappe and France aim to start with a win over on-form Austria

DUESSELDORf: World Cup runner-up France is one of the favorites for Euro 2024 and starts its campaign Monday in Dusseldorf against Austria. Poland and the Netherlands are the other teams in Group D. Kickoff is at 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT). Here’s what to know about the match.
Match facts
— France had a strong 2023 with eight wins from 10 games and only one loss, to Germany. Four games this year have already included a 2-0 loss — again to Germany — in a March friendly and a 0-0 draw with Canada last week in France’s last game before Euro 2024.
— France’s players have been speaking out on politics ahead of upcoming elections, with forward Marcus Thuram calling on French people to “fight daily” to keep the far right out of power. Teammate Ousmane Dembele urged people to vote ahead of the first round of elections June 30.
— Coach Ralf Rangnick has revitalized Austria since taking over in 2022 and turned down Bayern Munich to stay with the team.
— Austria comes into Euro 2024 on a seven-game unbeaten run with just three goals conceded during that time. A 2-0 win over Germany in November and a 6-1 demolition of Turkiye in March were the highlights.
Team news
— France midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni hasn’t played since he missed Real Madrid’s Champions League final with a foot injury. N’Golo Kanté played the defensive midfield role in France’s two pre-tournament friendlies, his first international games since 2022.
— Austria trained at full strength Friday in Berlin except for defender Gernot Trauner. Coach Ralf Rangnick said he was being rested but isn’t injured.
— Attacking midfielder Christoph Baumgartner says Austria’s attacking players will focus on helping out their defense by trying to put Kylian Mbappe and Dembele under pressure.
By the numbers
— Mbappe is on course to play his 80th game for France and a hat trick would take him to 50 career international goals. Mbappe scored in France’s last two games against Austria, a 1-1 draw and a 2-0 win, both in 2022.
— Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann will be only the fourth French player to make 130 international appearances if he plays against Austria.
— Austria midfielder Christoph Baumgartner has scored in each of the team’s last five games.
— Germany is familiar territory for Austria’s players. Eight of the starting lineup for its 1-1 friendly draw against Switzerland last week play for German clubs.
What they’re saying
“In just one week he reminded us all why he was one of the best midfielders in the world and we are very happy to have him with us.” — France forward Marcus Thuram on teammate N’Golo Kanté’s form after nearly two years away from the team.
“Now there’s a very special tingling feeling once again, of course. The anticipation is massive.” — Austria midfielder Christoph Baumgartner.


Grace Kim shoots 66 to take 5-shot lead in Meijer LPGA Classic

Grace Kim shoots 66 to take 5-shot lead in Meijer LPGA Classic
Updated 16 June 2024
Follow

Grace Kim shoots 66 to take 5-shot lead in Meijer LPGA Classic

Grace Kim shoots 66 to take 5-shot lead in Meijer LPGA Classic
  • Top-ranked Nelly Korda left Friday after missing her second straight cut following a stretch of six victories in seven events

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan: Grace Kim broke away late Saturday afternoon at Blythefield Country Club, birdieing four of the final six holes to take a five-stroke lead into the final round of the Meijer LPGA Classic.
Tied for the second-round lead with Ally Ewing, Kim shot a 6-under 66 to get to 17-under 199. The 23-year-old Australian won in a playoff last year in Hawaii for her lone LPGA Tour title. She lost a large lead in April in Los Angeles in the JM Eagle LA Championship.
“Gving myself another chance to I guess do it again and actually get it done,” Kim said. “I know I’m going to try my best for tomorrow and everyone else will. This golf course calls for lot of birdies and there are a lot of good players out here. ”
Ewing followed her second-round 63 with a 71 to drop into a tie for second with Lexi Thompson, Anna Nordqvist, Allizen Corpuz and Narin An.
“It was a little bit of a scramble today,” Ewing said. “I made some really good putts to just kind of hang in early.”
Thompson, the 2015 winner who has said this will be her last year playing a full schedule, played the final six holes on the front nine in 7 under in a 65. She has gone more than five years without winning.
“Just kind of got into a groove,” Thompson said. “This is a golf course you know you have to come out and play aggressive and make lots of birdies. Just came out feeling very comfortable, made a few good swings, and rolled in some putts.”
Nordqvist also shot 65. Corpuz had a 68, and An shot 69.
Kim had three straight birdies on the front nine on Nos. 5-7, dropped a stroke on the par-5 10th, then made the late charge with birdies on on the par-3 13th, par-5 14th, par-4 16th and par-5 18th.
“Obviously, I finished pretty strong, so hopefully I can just keep that going,” Kim said. “Have a good night meal. Watched a movie yesterday. That’s probably helped a little bit as well. Maybe do that again tonight and see. Fresh for tomorrow.”
Lilia Vu, a former No. 1 player and double major winner last year, was tied for 14th at 9 under in her return from a back injury that sidelined her since the Ford Championship in late March. She shot 68.
Brooke Henderson, the Canadian who won the event in 2017 and 2019, shot a 73 to drop into a tie for 24th at 7 under. Defending champion Leona Maguire was tied for 57th at 3 under after a 72.
Top-ranked Nelly Korda left Friday after missing her second straight cut following a stretch of six victories in seven events. She won at Blythefield in 2021 at a tournament-record 25 under.
The major KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is next week at Sahalee outside Seattle.


Italy recover from disastrous start to win Euro 2024 opener

Italy recover from disastrous start to win Euro 2024 opener
Updated 16 June 2024
Follow

Italy recover from disastrous start to win Euro 2024 opener

Italy recover from disastrous start to win Euro 2024 opener
  • Italy are in some ways an unknown quantity coming into this tournament, with the reigning champions having also missed the last two World Cups and failed to fully convince during qualifying

DORTMUND, Germany: Italy recovered from conceding the fastest goal in the competition’s history to get their defense of the European Championship title off to a winning start on Saturday as they came back to beat Albania 2-1 in front of a partisan crowd.
Nedim Bajrami stunned the Italians and delighted a huge Albanian support in Dortmund as he smashed in the opener after just 23 seconds, his strike pulverising the previous record for the quickest goal at the Euros of 67 seconds by Dmitri Kirichenko of Russia in 2004.
Yet Italy’s response to falling behind was quick too, as Alessandro Bastoni headed the Azzurri level on 11 minutes and Nicolo Barella’s glorious effort put them ahead just past the quarter-hour mark.
From then on Luciano Spalletti’s team looked much more assured, although they really should have won by a greater margin rather than face an anxious finale as Albania pushed for an equalizer.
Their performance — the first 23 seconds apart — was largely encouraging before an enticing showdown with fellow heavyweights Spain in nearby Gelsenkirchen next Thursday.
Whatever happens in that match, Italy are already well-placed to advance to the knockout phase of Euro 2024 from Group B, in which Spain defeated Croatia 3-0 earlier on Saturday in Berlin.
Italy are in some ways an unknown quantity coming into this tournament, with the reigning champions having also missed the last two World Cups and failed to fully convince during qualifying.
Only five of Italy’s line-up at kick-off here started the final of the last Euros three years ago, with a new-look team featuring Bologna center-back Riccardo Calafiori winning just his third cap.
Albania, though, are appearing at just their second major tournament having also gone to Euro 2016.
The novelty of the experience for them helps explain why the home of Borussia Dortmund was a sea of excitable Albanian fans decked in red and black who made up the vast majority of the crowd.
They could hardly believe it when their team, coached by the Brazilian former Arsenal and Barcelona left-back Sylvinho, opened the scoring almost straight from kick-off.
Italy’s Federico Dimarco took a throw from the left-back position but played it loosely back into his own box. Bastoni was caught on the back foot, and Bajrami — who plays in Italy for Sassuolo — pounced to control and fire past Gianluigi Donnarumma at the goalkeeper’s near post.
It was a similar start to Italy’s last European Championship match, when Luke Shaw put England ahead inside two minutes in the final at Wembley in 2021 before the Azzurri came back to win on penalties.
This time they drew level when Dimarco and Lorenzo Pellegrini played a short corner routine on the left before the latter crossed for Inter Milan center-back Bastoni to head in at the back post.
Italy had regained their composure and soon went in front on 16 minutes, a Jasir Asani clearance dropping straight to another Inter player in Barella, who made the cleanest of contacts at the edge of the area to send a first-time shot past goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha.
They should have added to their lead before the interval, with Davide Frattesi hitting the post after meeting a lovely reverse pass by Gianluca Scamacca in the box.
Scamacca was then denied by Strakosha, while Fedrico Chiesa curled a shot just wide on the hour mark.
Italy then sat back, but Albania did not manage another attempt on target and the second-lowest ranked nation in the competition could not find an equalizer despite their best efforts late on.
Substitute Rey Manaj came closest after getting in behind in the 90th minute, but he could not beat Donnarumma.