Mancini to pick only players ‘who will fight for their country’ at AFC Asian Cup

Special Mancini to pick only players ‘who will fight for their country’ at AFC Asian Cup
Roberto Mancini and Saleh Al-Shehri. (X / @SaudiNT)
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Updated 15 January 2024
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Mancini to pick only players ‘who will fight for their country’ at AFC Asian Cup

Mancini to pick only players ‘who will fight for their country’ at AFC Asian Cup
  • Saudi Arabia coach drops bombshell on eve of opener against Oman by saying three players declined to represent the Green Falcons
  • Mancini laid the responsibility of their omission firmly at the feet of Salman Al-Faraj of Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr pair Sultan Al-Ghannam and Nawaf Al-Aqidi

DOHA: Saudi Arabia’s Asian Cup campaign started with a bang on Monday even before a ball had been kicked as head coach Roberto Mancini told reporters that he had excluded three high-profile stars from his squad as they did not want to play.

In an explosive press conference just a day before the Green Falcons take on Oman in their opening Group F clash, Mancini laid the responsibility of their omission firmly at the feet of Salman Al-Faraj of Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr pair Sultan Al-Ghannam and Nawaf Al-Aqidi.

Al-Faraj and Al-Ghannam were not included in the preliminary list for the tournament, which Saudi Arabia last won in 1996, while goalkeeper Al-Aqidi was left out of the final list.

“All of these players didn’t want to come to the national team, they decided, not me,” a visibly annoyed Mancini replied when quizzed on his decisions.

“Salman in the first camp said he doesn’t want to play in the friendly game.

“Secondly, Sultan and Nawaf, I spoke with both before the list and I asked them if they were ready to come to the national team. Sultan told me that he was not happy: ‘Oh, I play or I don’t come,” added Mancini who led Italy to the 2020 European Championships and arrived in Riyadh to succeed Herve Renard in August.

“There is no one player who can decide if they play or not. I decide this.”

Al-Aqidi is one of the few Saudi Arabian goalkeepers to enjoy regular minutes on the pitch in a Saudi Pro League that is dominated by foreign shotstoppers. It was expected that the 23-year-old would be the main man between the sticks against Oman and then in subsequent Group F games with Kyrgyzstan and Thailand, but he has returned home.

“Nawaf told me, ‘OK, I will come,’ but the day after in Riyadh he said that he didn’t want to. I tried to talk to him and I put him on the list, he trained in the camp in Celine (in Doha, Qatar) but three days ago, he told the goalkeeper coach ‘I don’t want to stay here if I don’t play.”

“Nobody knows the first 11 for tomorrow,” Mancini said. “But I want to pick only players who want to fight for the country, now, I don’t want to talk about Salman, Sultan or Nawaf.”

The former Manchester City and Inter Milan boss, said that he had discussed the matter with Saudi Arabia Football Federation president Yasser Al-Misehal. He also added that he was more sympathetic to the viewpoint of older stars.

“I understand that veteran players do this. I can understand them, but I don’t understand a young player refusing to join or come. The national team is not a club,” he said. “It’s a strange situation, the first time I’ve faced this.”


Mbappe’s PSG punish 10-man Barca to reach Champions League semis

Mbappe’s PSG punish 10-man Barca to reach Champions League semis
Updated 4 sec ago
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Mbappe’s PSG punish 10-man Barca to reach Champions League semis

Mbappe’s PSG punish 10-man Barca to reach Champions League semis
  • The visitors started with determination and penned Barcelona back in their own territory, but it was the hosts who took the lead

BARCELONA: Kylian Mbappe struck twice as Paris Saint-Germain battled back to beat 10-man Barcelona 4-1 and book a place in the Champions League semifinals with a 6-4 aggregate triumph on Tuesday.
Raphinha fired Barcelona ahead early on but Ronald Araujo’s 29th-minute red card turned the tide in PSG’s favor, despite the Spanish champions leading by two goals following a 3-2 quarter-final first-leg win.
Ousmane Dembele and Vitinha levelled the tie for PSG and the deadly Mbappe hit a brace to put them into the final four for the first time since 2021.
The French champions have never won the trophy despite huge investment but demonstrated they have the attacking weapons in their squad to do so.
Five-time winners Barcelona were dreaming of a first semifinal return since 2019 but Araujo’s red card for pulling down the relentless Bradley Barcola undermined their grip on the tie.
PSG coach Luis Enrique, who led Barca to the 2015 Champions League, said he believed his team would turn things around despite never having managed to after a first-leg defeat, and so it proved.
The visitors started with determination and penned Barcelona back in their own territory, but it was the hosts who took the lead.
Explosive 16-year-old starlet Lamine Yamal ripped past Nuno Mendes and crossed to the near post where Raphinha turned home despite pressure from Achraf Hakimi.
It was the Brazilian winger’s third goal of the tie after his brace in Paris.
Robert Lewandowski fired another chance over the top for Barcelona before Barcola tilted the tie in PSG’s favor. The winger was a nightmare for his French compatriot Jules Kounde to handle.
Barcola teed up Mbappe but Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen denied him well, before Araujo was sent off for bringing him down.
The Uruguayan center-back pulled Barcola back as he burst into the area, leaving Barca with 10 men.
Dembele whizzed the resulting free-kick narrowly over, but soon found the net, as he did in the first leg.
The former Barcelona winger struck after 40 minutes from another Barcola cross, which raked across the area to the back post where Dembele was arriving to fire into the roof of the net.
Barcelona sacrificed Yamal for defender Inigo Martinez after Araujo’s red card and it left them with few outlets in attack.
With PSG controlling the game Barcelona soon paid the price for their inability to keep possession.
Vitinha was given far too much space on the edge of the box and he drilled into the bottom corner to put PSG ahead on the night.
Ilkay Gundogan hit the post at the other end for Barcelona before their coach Xavi was sent off for a show of dissent on the touchline.
The Catalans were losing their heads and Joao Cancelo clumsily fouled Dembele to hand PSG a penalty.
Mbappe, who had been kept quiet in the first leg, hammered it into the top corner for his 40th goal across all competitions.
The striker’s future may lie in Spain, with Real Madrid aiming to sign him in the summer at the end of his contract, and he made no friends in Barcelona by hopping the advertising hoardings and running toward fans to celebrate.
Another member of Barcelona’s backroom staff was dismissed after Gundogan had a penalty appeal waved away and it became clear the hosts had no response.
Mbappe wrapped up the win in the 89th minute after a fine Ter Stegen double save, leaving Barcelona the victims of another bitterly disappointing night in Europe.


Dortmund sink Atletico to reach Champions League semifinals

Dortmund sink Atletico to reach Champions League semifinals
Updated 4 min 24 sec ago
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Dortmund sink Atletico to reach Champions League semifinals

Dortmund sink Atletico to reach Champions League semifinals
  • Former winners Dortmund, fifth in the German top flight and struggling to qualify for next season’s Champions League, will next face PSG for a place in the final at Wembley on June 1

DORTMUND, Germany: Borussia Dortmund fought back to beat Atletico Madrid 4-2 in their quarter-final second leg on Tuesday, securing a 5-4 aggregate victory and a first Champions League semifinal since 2013.
Trailing 2-1 from the first leg, goals from Julian Brandt and Ian Maatsen had Dortmund 2-0 up at half-time.
Visiting coach Diego Simeone made three changes at half-time including bringing on Angel Correa and his energy told immediately, Mats Hummels conceding a poor own goal before the Argentine netted to put Atletico back ahead in the tie.
But those goals brought a sluggish Dortmund back to life, with Niclas Fuellkrug and Marcel Sabitzer each scoring in a three-minute period to send the Bundesliga club through.
Former winners Dortmund, fifth in the German top flight and struggling to qualify for next season’s Champions League, will next face Paris Saint-Germain for a place in the final at Wembley on June 1.
The home side should have been level in the tie after three minutes but Sabitzer took an extra touch with the goal beckoning, allowing Atletico to cover.
Just moments later, Atletico had a major chance of their own, as Alvaro Morata raced through one-on-one with the goalkeeper but chipped the ball well wide of the post.
Buoyed by an 80,000-strong home crowd trying to one-up last week’s atmosphere in the Spanish capital, Dortmund pushed and prodded, with Karim Adeyemi blasting straight at Jan Oblak.
Dortmund broke through after 34 minutes, Brandt collecting a Hummels chip and shooting on the turn, the ball bouncing through Oblak’s hands.
The home side were ahead in the tie just five minutes later, Maatsen threading in from an acute angle after he was given space to run in the Atletico box.
With Simeone sensing his chances of qualifying for the semis for a fourth time as Atletico boss slipping away, he shuffled his deck at half-time, making three changes including hooking the ineffective Morata for Correa.
Dortmund’s wobbles suddenly returned, letting the visitors back into the tie.
Hummels turned Mario Hermoso’s header into his own net from an Atletico corner under little pressure and with goalkeeper Gregor Kobel waiting to save.
Atletico smelt blood and could have levelled when Correa dragged the ball just wide.
The World Cup winner made up for his miss on 64 minutes when he cut through a penalty area crowded with yellow shirts and smacked the ball in, sending Atletico in front on aggregate.
The goal jolted Dortmund back into action and Edin Terzic’s men scored twice in three minutes to retake the overall lead.
Fuellkrug headed in a Sabitzer cross and the Austrian midfielder then got a goal of his own, shooting through the Atletico defense and into the bottom corner from the edge of the box, grabbing Dortmund a famous victory.


Riyadh Season becomes official partner of World Snooker Championship

Riyadh Season becomes official partner of World Snooker Championship
Updated 7 min 38 sec ago
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Riyadh Season becomes official partner of World Snooker Championship

Riyadh Season becomes official partner of World Snooker Championship

RIYADH: Riyadh Season will become the official partner of the  World Snooker Championship, Saudi entertainment chief Turki Alalshikh announced on Tuesday.

Riyadh Season and the World Snooker Tour signed an agreement to expand and develop the game in the Middle East and bring in more fans.

Additionally, Ronnie O’Sullivan, who has won a record 23 Triple Crown titles, will serve in an ambassadorial role in a three-year deal, announced on Tuesday. As part of this agreement guarantees that O’Sullivan will play in all WST events in Saudi Arabia and will also make special trips to the Kingdom to coach and foster aspiring talent.

Saudi Arabia hosted its first-ever WST event last month — Riyadh Season World Masters in Snooker — which was won by O’Sullivan.

That tournament will return as part of the next Riyadh Season this winter and will feature the world’s top ten players, and two others as wild cards.

The event will again feature the innovative golden ball, known as the Riyadh Season ball, which will give players a chance to score a world record break of 167 if they pot it at the end of a maximum 147.

Alalshikh, the head of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, confirmed that the prize for the ‘super maximum’ will be doubled to $1 million should anyone succeed in achieving the milestone.

“Riyadh Season is delighted to be a partner of the World Snooker Championship, which will start next Saturday and continues until May 6th at Crucible in Sheffield,” said Alalshikh.

WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: “We are honoured to work with HE Turki Alalshikh on his visionary plans for progress. We share his ambition of bringing snooker to many more fans across the Middle East, and to foster new talent and develop grassroots structures.


Erolcevik claims gold for Turkiye at Junior World Fencing Championships in Riyadh

Erolcevik claims gold for Turkiye at Junior World Fencing Championships in Riyadh
Updated 58 min 44 sec ago
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Erolcevik claims gold for Turkiye at Junior World Fencing Championships in Riyadh

Erolcevik claims gold for Turkiye at Junior World Fencing Championships in Riyadh
  • Ukraine’s Anna Maksymenko won the women’s U-17 Epee after defeating America’s Sharika Gajjala in the final
  • Algeria’s Ferial Salehi: ‘I did not have the opportunity to compete in Saudi Arabia, but it is a great honor to attend this championship in an official capacity’

RIYADH: Turkiye’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia Emrullah Isler crowned the men’s winners on the fifth day of the Junior World Fencing Championships at King Saud University’s Arena Hall in Riyadh.

Turkiye’s Doruk Erolcevik won the U-17 Epee gold medal, defeating Egypt’s Islam Osama in the final. America’s Alexander Bezrodnov and Italy’s Federico Varone claimed bronze medals.

Ukraine’s Anna Maksymenko won the women’s U-17 Epee after defeating America’s Sharika Gajjala in the final. Ukraine’s Emily Conrad and China’s Huishuang Jiang won bronze medals.

The Epee team competition concludes tomorrow. In the men’s event Saudi Arabia is represented by Ahmed Al-Fihani, Hassan Abid, Ahmed Hazazi and Yousef Albinali, while Fawzia Al-Khaybari, Dhay Alamiri, Yasmin Al-Saleh, and Dana Al-Saeed will represent Saudi fencing in the women’s event.

Algeria’s Ferial Salehi, a member of the executive board of the International Fencing Federation, said that Saudi Arabia, represented by the Saudi Fencing Federation, has impressed everyone with their organization of the event.

“I did not have the opportunity to compete in Saudi Arabia during my career, but it is a great honor to attend this championship in an official capacity.”


Buttler ton powers Rajasthan to record IPL chase of 224

Buttler ton powers Rajasthan to record IPL chase of 224
Updated 16 April 2024
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Buttler ton powers Rajasthan to record IPL chase of 224

Buttler ton powers Rajasthan to record IPL chase of 224
  • Chasing 224 for victory, Rajasthan looked in trouble at 121-6 in the 13th over but Buttler moved through the gears in his 60-ball blitz to achieve the target
  • Narine hammered 109 off 56 balls to guide Kolkata, who stay second in the 10-team standings, to 223-6

KOLKATA: Jos Buttler smashed an unbeaten 107 to trump Sunil Narine’s first T20 century as Rajasthan Royals pulled off a joint record IPL chase against Kolkata Knight Riders off the final ball on Tuesday.
Chasing 224 for victory, Rajasthan looked in trouble at 121-6 in the 13th over but Buttler moved through the gears in his 60-ball blitz to achieve the target with two wickets to spare at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.
Rajasthan equalled their own record from 2020 when they chased down 224 against Kings XI Punjab in Sharjah.
Buttler, who came in as an impact substitute, reached his second ton of the season in 55 balls with a six off Varun Chakravarthy at the start of the last over.
Buttler, struggling with cramp, then played out three dot balls before a two and a single on the final delivery ensured Rajasthan held on to top spot in the table with six wins in seven matches.
England’s Buttler, who hit nine fours and six sixes, moved ahead of Chris Gayle with seven IPL tons and is only behind Virat Kohli’s eight in the T20 tournament.
Buttler built key partnerships including 50 runs with Riyan Parag (34), 57 with Rovman Powell (26) and then an unbeaten 38-run stand with Avesh Khan (0 not out).
Spinners Narine, Chakravarthy and fast bowler Harshit Rana took two wickets each for KKR.
Narine hammered 109 off 56 balls to guide Kolkata, who stay second in the 10-team standings, to 223-6.
Narine put on 85 runs for the second wicket with Angkrish Raghuvanshi, who hit 30, and got together for a 51-run stand with Andre Russell.
Narine, playing his 504th T20 match, reached his ton from 49 balls with a six and a four off Yuzvendra Chahal for Kolkata’s third hundred in the IPL as he jumped for joy.
He was finally bowled by a Trent Boult yorker before he returned to a standing ovation.
Narine moved into the top three in the batting charts led by Royal Challengers Benguluru’s Kohli (361) with 276 runs.
Rinku Singh finished off the innings on a high with his unbeaten nine-ball 20 including a four and two sixes.