Schranz strikes as Slovakia beat Belgium at Euro 2024

Schranz strikes as Slovakia beat Belgium at Euro 2024
Slovakia’s Ivan Schranz, right, is congratulated by teammates after scoring against Belgium at Euro 2024 in Frankfurt, Germany, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo)
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Updated 17 June 2024
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Schranz strikes as Slovakia beat Belgium at Euro 2024

Schranz strikes as Slovakia beat Belgium at Euro 2024
  • David Hancko: ‘We didn’t win it by being better, but by being happier’
  • Romelu Lukaku missed a host of chances for Belgium and had two possible equalizers disallowed by VAR

FRANKFURT: Slovakia caused the first upset at Euro 2024 as Ivan Schranz fired the underdogs to a 1-0 win against Belgium on Monday.
Francesco Calzona’s side are 45 spots below third-placed Belgium in FIFA’s world rankings.
But they made a mockery of the supposed quality gap between the teams with a courageous performance in Frankfurt.
“We played against a great opponent. We gave it our heart. We didn’t win it by being better, but by being happier,” said Slovakia defender David Hancko.
“That makes the victory all the more gratifying. It’s amazing that we were able to do that.”
Slovakia coach Calzona, who also served as Napoli’s interim boss in the second half of last season, had admitted he would be “delighted” with a draw.
The Italian got more than he could have dreamed of as Schranz left Belgium reeling after ending his nine-game international goal drought.
Romelu Lukaku missed a host of chances for Belgium and had two possible equalizers disallowed by VAR.
Slovakia’s unexpected victory blew Group E wide open, just hours after Romania beat Ukraine 3-0 in Monday’s other match in that pool.
It was a bitter loss for Belgium, who are already in danger of once again failing to fulfil their potential at a major tournament.
Belgium’s golden generation has lost much of its lustre since they crashed out of the 2022 World Cup in the group stage.
The Red Devils fell at the quarter-finals in the last two editions of the European Championship, making a third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup the highwater mark of a talented but underachieving team once hailed as a potential dynasty.
Domenico Tedesco was appointed to replace Roberto Martinez in February 2023 and led Belgium on a 14-match unbeaten run heading into the Euros.
“I knew that eventually we would lose a game. Unfortunately it was today,” said Tedesco.
“The only thing that we didn’t do well was missing chances. We had plenty. It’s part of the game. Of course the players were disappointed,” added the Belgium boss.
Before what was billed as a last hurrah for Belgium’s veteran stars, Kevin De Bruyne had insisted they were ready to do “something good” in Germany.
But instead they reverted to type with a spluttering display that puts them under intense pressure to beat Romania in their second group game on Saturday.
Playing in a Belgian record 11th game at major tournaments, Lukaku should have bagged his 86th goal for his country in the second minute.
Jeremy Doku turned adroitly on the halfway line and accelerated menacingly into the Slovakia penalty area, where his cross was poked toward Lukaku by De Bruyne.
Lukaku looked certain to score but his close-range effort was straight at Slovakia keeper Martin Dubravka.
Lukaku threatened again moments later, only to let Doku’s pass run away from him.
Slovakia punished Lukaku’s profligacy in the seventh minute.
Doku’s wayward clearing pass allowed Robert Bozenik to cleverly backheel the ball to Juraj Kucka.
Koen Casteels saved Kucka’s strike but could do nothing about the rebound as Schranz fired home from an acute angle.
Lukaku endured a nightmare evening. He again took a woefully heavy touch to waste a good chance from Yannick Carrasco’s raking pass.
Belgium’s angst increased in the 56th minute when Lukaku was denied by Dubravka’s near-post save.
From the resulting corner, Amadou Onana looped a header over Dubravka and Lukaku slid in to score from a yard out, only for his celebrations to be curtailed as VAR ruled he was offside.
Belgium laid siege to the Slovakia goal but Dubravka saved well from Leandro Trossard and Lukaku volleyed into the side-netting before Johan Bakayoko’s shot was cleared off the line by Hancko.
In a fitting coda to a day to forget for Belgium, Lukaku blasted home in the 86th minute but the goal was disallowed for handball by Lois Openda in the build-up.


Saudi pole vaulter Al-Hizam aims to inspire Kingdom’s next generation with Olympic success

Saudi pole vaulter Al-Hizam aims to inspire Kingdom’s next generation with Olympic success
Updated 9 sec ago
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Saudi pole vaulter Al-Hizam aims to inspire Kingdom’s next generation with Olympic success

Saudi pole vaulter Al-Hizam aims to inspire Kingdom’s next generation with Olympic success
  • The 26-year-old earned his spot at the Paris Games after he placed among the top 32 competitors in his sport

Saudi Arabian pole vaulter Hussain Al-Hizam will, in every sense, be making a giant leap, when he makes his Olympic debut in Paris next month.

The 26-year-old, who hails from Al-Jubail in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, earned his spot at the Games through world rankings, after he placed among the top 32 competitors in his sport.

Since March, with weekly updates from World Athletics, Al-Hizam had been optimistic about his qualification prospects. Despite initially aiming for an automatic qualification, he is content with how he made the cut and has little fear of competing at the highest level.

“I am pretty confident that I have not reached my full potential and I believe that it could all come together on that day (in Paris), that I can shock everyone. I really believe that I can do that,” Al-Hizam told Arab News from Germany, where he is doing a full body check-up with his doctor before heading to France.

Al-Hizam says it is important to ensure he is fully performance-ready and is not leaving anything to chance.

Having missed out on the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Saudi athlete is determined to make his mark in Paris.

“I learned my lesson from missing the Tokyo Olympics. I should have been there, but I wasn’t following the new ranking system close enough and it was too late for me to qualify,” he said. “But I learned from that and now I am here. I am ready to show why I am here, that I can compete with the best of the best.”

Paris will be the pinnacle of Al-Hizam’s career, surpassing his performances at the 2022 and 2023 World Athletics Championships, where he finished 14th and 26th.

“I am excited to be here and to be heading to Paris, but my goal is to win an Olympic medal. That’s my focus. Enjoying the journey is part of it, but I must keep my eyes on the prize — winning an Olympic medal for my country. That is the moment,” he said.

On Aug. 2, he will compete in the qualifications against pole vault’s top 32 athletes, with a place in the top 12 the requirement to advance to the final two days later, when the top three spots will be up for grabs.

Al-Hizam is familiar with rivals but is more focused on himself.

“Pole vaulting is a solitary sport. Although I keep an eye on the other competitors, my real competition is me,” he said. “I focus on improving every time, faster, higher and more powerful than my last one — that’s what I want to achieve every time I go out there. And it will be the same in Paris. Yes, the stakes are higher, the stage larger, but it’s still the same sport and the same people I compete against all year round. So the game plan is to focus on me, my mindset and my performance.

“On the day, I will keep my pre-competition routine the same. I try to eat a normal breakfast. I am assuming it will be a morning event and as we are at the track for a long period, I will pack some snacks to take with me. It can be about four hours down by the track, so I need to keep my energy up while I am there.”

Al-Hizam also has several routines that help him stay relaxed ahead of competing.

“I like to listen to some piano music before a competition. It helps me feel calm and gives me body awareness when I listen to certain rhythms,” he said. “I don’t normally watch others compete … I spend time going over my body’s movements, what I need to do, what I want to do and envisioning. The pre-competition butterflies are key. It means I am excited and if I didn’t care about a competition, then I would just hang up my spikes.”

Al-Hizam knows that pole vaulting is not among Saudi Arabia’s top sports, like football or motor racing, but he hopes that he can show aspiring athletes — the ones who may not have been pushed to pursue track and field — that it is a worthy Olympic sport.

“I would like to think I am paving the path for the next generation, more so inspiring the parents of the young kids who want to take up track and field or another sport besides football, to push their kids, give them the opportunities, feed them healthy meals and teach them the discipline to become world-class athletes,” he said. “Because we belong here, and every four years there should be more and more athletes from my home competing on this stage — really competing, showing that just because we are relatively new to the scene doesn’t mean we should be underestimated — and winning medals at the Olympics is that exact statement.

“So, my goal in winning an Olympic medal isn’t just a personal feat. I hope that the young kids of Saudi will see me, just a kid from a small town who is able to compete with the rest of the world,” Al-Hizam said. “With countries that have a long and rich Olympic history, we have the same athletic body and competitive spirit as they do, and we deserve to be here.”


Saudi Esports museum opens at Boulevard Riyadh City

Saudi Esports museum opens at Boulevard Riyadh City
Updated 6 min 13 sec ago
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Saudi Esports museum opens at Boulevard Riyadh City

Saudi Esports museum opens at Boulevard Riyadh City
  • Museum documents the federation’s work since its inception and celebrates Saudi Arabia’s impact on the global gaming and esports industry

RIYADH: The Saudi Esports Federation Legacy Museum has opened at the SEF Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City.

The new museum documents the SEF’s history since it was formed in 2017 and celebrates the Kingdom’s impact on the global gaming and esports industry.

It features sections such as “Moments in Saudi Arabian Esports,”, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pictured announcing the Esports World Cup at the New Global Sport Conference last October. He is also shown emphasizing the significance of the gaming and esports industry and Saudi Arabia’s prominent role within it.

A “Kingdom Champions” area is dedicated to elite stars who have made global headlines through their esports exploits. Mosaad Al-Dossary is shown lifting the FIFAe World Cup 2018 trophy, while the Saudi national team is depicted celebrating their Overwatch World Cup crown in 2023. The women’s team is cheering Valorant glory in the Afro-Arab Esports League last year.

Other sections include a “Heroes” zone, a “Center of the Game” video display, and an interactive area called “Experience the Moment”.

Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “The unveiling of the Saudi Esports Federation Legacy Museum is a milestone moment in the history of our federation and Saudi Arabia’s gaming and esports journey. It celebrates and showcases the passion for gaming in our country and the phenomenal impact and success that Saudi Arabia has had on the global stage in a relatively short space of time.

“In a country that deeply cherishes history and tradition, it is an honor for us to lay a permanent marker on Kingdom soil epitomizing the modern Saudi Arabia.”

The museum is open seven days a week from 6pm until Boulevard Riyadh City closes each night. Admission is free of charge.

Turki Al-Fawzan, CEO of the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “Recognizing the achievements of the past is a vital part of ensuring progression in the future. The Saudi Esports Federation Legacy Museum provides inspiration for all who visit, especially those who play a role — or want to play a role — in capturing the full potential of gaming and esports in Saudi Arabia. Looking around the museum and seeing special moments dedicated to world-class, game-changing tournaments such as Gamers Without Borders, Gamers8 and the Esports World Cup is a thoroughly enjoyable and moving experience. We encourage all members of the public to visit the museum and relish the documentation of modern Saudi Arabian success.”

The museum has opened while Riyadh hosts the inaugural Esports World Cup, the largest gaming festival in the world which features a record-breaking prize pool of $60 million.

The eight-week long event, which runs until Aug. 25 at Boulevard Riyadh City, pits the world’s top clubs and players against each other across 22 global competitions in 21 leading games.

More than 1,500 players representing over 60 nationalities are battling out, with week three seeing competitions in the Dota2 Riyadh Masters, Counter Strike 2, and PUBG Mobile.


Brazil’s FURIA storm into Counter-Strike 2 quarterfinals at Esports World Cup

Brazil’s FURIA storm into Counter-Strike 2 quarterfinals at Esports World Cup
Updated 9 min ago
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Brazil’s FURIA storm into Counter-Strike 2 quarterfinals at Esports World Cup

Brazil’s FURIA storm into Counter-Strike 2 quarterfinals at Esports World Cup
  • The team entered the resurrection stage knowing that nothing short of a hat-trick of wins would see them progress

RIYADH: FURIA Esports has secured its place in the Counter-Strike 2 quarterfinals at the Esports World Cup, storming into the competition’s last eight with a series of stunning victories on Thursday.

Following defeat in the qualifying round, FURIA — one of Brazil’s most popular esports clubs with an internationally renowned fanbase — faced the resurrection stage knowing that nothing short of a hat-trick of wins would see them progress.

Crucially, they accomplished this feat, defeating American outfit Flyquest (13-5) and Sashi Esport of Demark (19-15) to set up a shootout with The MongolZ of Mongolia. With the quarterfinals awaiting one and elimination the other, FURIA proved too strong, sealing a 13-9 win to progress. The Brazilian team goes head-to-head with Germany’s MOUZ on Friday with the semifinals awaiting the victor.

Elsewhere on Thursday, Gaimin Gladiators and Team Liquid prevailed in their Dota2 Riyadh Masters upper bracket semifinals and the two now meet for a place in Sunday’s Grand Final over the weekend. On the other side of the draw, four clubs are contending for the other Grand Final place, including Team Falcons of Saudi Arabia.

Counter-Strike 2 and the Dota2 Riyadh Masters are running throughout Week 3 at the Esports World Cup, concluding on Sunday, July 21.


Campenaerts wins a 3-man sprint to take Tour de France stage as Pogacar keeps yellow jersey

Campenaerts wins a 3-man sprint to take Tour de France stage as Pogacar keeps yellow jersey
Updated 19 July 2024
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Campenaerts wins a 3-man sprint to take Tour de France stage as Pogacar keeps yellow jersey

Campenaerts wins a 3-man sprint to take Tour de France stage as Pogacar keeps yellow jersey
  • The Lotto Dstny rider celebrated his win with his partner and baby on a video call straight after the finish
  • The main contenders for the overall win, including Pogacar and his rivals Jonas Vingegeaard and Remco Evenepoel, finished 13 minutes and 40 seconds behind Campenaerts
  • With only three stages left, Pogacar has a comfortable lead of 3:11 over two-time defending champion Vingegaard

BARCELONETTE, France: Belgian rider Victor Campenaerts posted the biggest win of his career Thursday as he claimed the tough and hilly 18th stage of the Tour de France after a three-man sprint.

Two-time Tour champion Tadej Pogacar kept the race leader’s yellow jersey as the top of the overall standings remained unchanged with just three days of racing left.

Campenaerts spent most of the day at the front and jumped away from a breakaway group some 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the finish together with Frenchman Matteo Vercher and former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland.

Campenaerts, who won a Giro stage in 2021, patiently waited behind his rivals in the last kilometer and did not panic when Vercher attacked. He stayed in the wheel of Kwiatkowski, then launched his sprint from behind.

The Lotto Dstny rider celebrated his win with his partner and baby on a video call straight after the finish.

“After the (spring) classics, I had a very difficult time,” Campenaerts said, holding back tears. “I had a verbal agreement with the team about extending the contract and I got ignored for a long time and it was really difficult. I was on a long altitude camp but my girlfriend was there and she supported me every day, highly pregnant, and I was struggling to finish my training schedules. But I changed my mind, I have a bright future now still in cycling, I became a father and it was like blue skies, only blue sky.”

There was a flurry of attacks at the start of the rollercoaster 180-kilometer stage featuring five climbs as riders tried to break away before the first ascent, the Col du Festre. But the peloton rode at a high speed, thwarting all those early efforts.

About 20 riders finally managed to open a gap during that climb and were joined by Wednesday’s stage winner Richard Carapaz and other talented contenders for the stage win, including Ben Healy and Geraint Thomas.

With the best-placed rider in that large group already lagging nearly 34 minutes behind Pogacar overall, the pack let the break get away. The main contenders for the overall win, including Pogacar and his rivals Jonas Vingegeaard and Remco Evenepoel, finished 13 minutes and 40 seconds behind Campenaerts.

Earlier, Healy attacked twice from the leading group in the Cote de Saint-Apollinaire but his move eventually backfired as the Irishman got dropped when others upped the pace. A pivotal moment came in the Cote des Demoiselles when Kwiatkowski accelerated to move away and was later joined by Campenaerts and Vercher. The trio collaborated well as counter-attackers looked hesitant and reacted too late to catch them.

With only three stages left, Pogacar has a comfortable lead of 3:11 over two-time defending champion Vingegaard. Tour debutant Evenepoel is lagging 5:09 off the pace.

The battle between Pogacar, Vingegaard and Evenepoel is expected to resume on Friday. At less than 150 kilometers, the 19th stage to the ski resort of Isola 2000 is short, but tough. Riders will climb above 2,000 meters three times, including the climb to the summit of La Bonette, the highest road in France at an altitude of 2,802 meters.
 


Israel clear to play in Olympic soccer tournament after FIFA postpones decision on possible ban

Israel clear to play in Olympic soccer tournament after FIFA postpones decision on possible ban
Updated 19 July 2024
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Israel clear to play in Olympic soccer tournament after FIFA postpones decision on possible ban

Israel clear to play in Olympic soccer tournament after FIFA postpones decision on possible ban

ZURICH: FIFA has postponed a decision on a Palestinian proposal to suspend Israel from international soccer because of the conflict with Hamas, clearing the way for the Israeli men’s national team to play at the Paris Olympics.
Soccer’s world governing body had been set to make a decision Saturday at an extraordinary council meeting after asking for an independent legal assessment of the Palestinian proposal two months ago. That decision would have come just four days before the start of the Olympic soccer tournament, where Israel has been drawn into a group with Japan, Mali and Paraguay.
However, FIFA said Thursday that it had pushed back the timeline because “more time is needed to conclude this process with due care and completeness” — meaning a decision is now set to come after the Olympics have finished.
FIFA said both parties had made requests for extensions “to submit their respective positions” and that the independent assessment will now be shared with FIFA by Aug. 31 at the latest.
The men’s Olympic final is set to take place on Aug. 9.