After enthralling Karachi leg, Pakistan resume England rivalry in Lahore today

Pakistan's captain Babar Azam (L) plays a shot as England's wicketkeeper Phil Salt watches during the fourth Twenty20 international cricket match between Pakistan and England at the National Cricket Stadium in Karachi on September 25, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 28 September 2022

After enthralling Karachi leg, Pakistan resume England rivalry in Lahore today

  • Pakistan beat England in last T20I to level seven-match series 2-2
  • England win toss, put Pakistan to bat first in fifth T20I

ISLAMABAD: England won the toss and put Pakistan to bat on Wednesday in the fifth T20 international match of the seven-match series in Lahore. 

The two sides are playing each other at the Gaddafi Stadium after Pakistan levelled the series 2-2 with last week's enthralling win. 

"Looks a good wicket, don't think it's going to change," Moeen Ali, England skipper, said at the toss. "Most important is to win the game, fantastic series so far. Great to be a part of, got to be on your A game against Pakistan." 

Pakistan captain Babar Azam conceded he would have opted to bowl first too, had he won the toss. 

"Lots of positive things, got to step up for the World Cup," he said. 

England have made four changes to their playing XI; Dawid Malan, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood are back in the playing XI of the squad. 

Pakistan have made four changes from the last playing XI, bringing Shadab Khan into the playing XI for Usman Qadir, debutant Aamr Jamal for Hasnain while Naseem Shah has been injured. 

Pakistan brought the Karachi leg of the series to a close on Sunday when the hosts beat England in a thriller. Shan Masood's under-arm throw from the last match prevented Reece Topley from reaching the crease and England from chasing the 167-run target. 

A bit troubling for Pakistan would be the absence of right-arm pacer Shah. The fast bowler will miss today's T20 fixture against England after an infection ruled him out for the match. 

The green shirts are already missing Pakistan's lethal left-arm bowling sensation, Shaheen Shah Afridi, who also had to sit out the Asia Cup earlier this month due to an injury. 

“Naseem was taken to hospital on Tuesday night with a viral infection and will not be available for Wednesday’s match,” a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) spokesman said. 

Pakistan will hope skipper Babar Azam scores at least 61 runs in the match today. The Pakistani captain is just 61 runs shy of 3,000 runs. If Azam succeeds in crossing the 3,000-run mark, he will become the fastest batter to reach the milestone—beating the previous record set by Indian skipper Virat Kohli. 

Kohli took 81 innings to reach the milestone of 3,000 runs in T20Is. Currently, Azam has 2,939 runs under his belt from 79 innings. 

England, who are on their first tour of Pakistan in 17 years, will play three matches in Lahore. The sixth T20 fixture between the two sides will take place on Friday, September 30 before the final match of the series will take place on Sunday, October 2. 

Playing XI:

Pakistan 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 3 Shan Masood, 4 Iftikhar Ahmed, 5 Haider Ali, 6 Asif Ali, 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Aamer Jamal, 10 Mohammad Wasim, 11 Haris Rauf

England 1 Phil Salt (wk), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Ben Duckett, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Moeen Ali (capt), 7 Sam Curran, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 David Willey, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Mark Wood

 


Kane extends World Cup goal drought but equals Beckham feat

Updated 58 min 13 sec ago

Kane extends World Cup goal drought but equals Beckham feat

  • Against a Wales team broken by goals from Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden, Kane was looking to finally get off the mark in Qatar
  • Rashford added a third of the match and his third of the tournament

DOHA: For Harry Kane, the wait for a first goal at this World Cup goes on.
Substituted after 58 minutes of England’s 3-0 win against Wales on Tuesday, he embraced his replacement Callum Wilson and made his way to the bench to watch the remainder of the game.
England coach Gareth Southgate clearly thought the job was done and qualification to the knockout stage secured.
Kane, despite shaking hands with his coach, might not have shared that view.
For a man who is famously reluctant to sit out any opportunity to add to his scoring record, it was likely a frustrating watch from the sidelines at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
Against a Wales team broken by goals from Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden, Kane was looking to finally get off the mark in Qatar. Instead, Rashford added a third of the match and his third of the tournament.
“He’s enjoying his football, but for any forward you want to be scoring goals,” Rashford said.
England scored nine goals as they topped Group B, but none came from their most prolific forward.
Yet Kane, who was the Golden Boot winner at the World Cup in Russia four years ago and is two short of Wayne Rooney’s all-time England record of 53 goals, has still made a notable contribution.
Providing the cross for Foden’s second-half strike, he became England’s first player to register three assists at a World Cup since David Beckham in 2002. He can add to that total when England play Senegal in the round of 16 on Sunday.
“You need goals from all areas, and it is a problem for opposition teams if the threat is coming from other areas of the pitch,” Southgate said. “Across the three games pretty much all of our forward line has got off the mark — if not with goals then with important, quality assists and that’s a good place for the forward to be. They want to have that confidence.”
England’s captain has always been a creator as well as a finisher and his assist statistics in his opening three games — also setting up goals for Raheem Sterling and Rashford against Iran — is evidence of just how complete a forward he is.
It also underlines his enduring importance to England.
Kane hurt his ankle and foot in the opening match against Iran, but Southgate has started the 29-year-old striker in all three matches.
“It is competition for places, which is what we need and people have to deliver,” Southgate said.
Goals aren’t a particular concern for England, with Rashford, Bukayo Saka (two), Sterling, Jack Grealish and Jude Bellingham all scoring so far.
Rashford, who missed a penalty in England’s shootout loss to Italy in the European Championship final last year, is the tournament’s co-leading scorer alongside Kylian Mbappé, Cody Gakpo and Enner Valencia.
“In a long career, you’re always going to have ups and you always will have downs and it’s all about how you bounce back from them,” Manchester United and England teammate Harry Maguire said after the Wales match. “I can’t speak highly enough about Marcus. He’s a wonderful man and he’s a great player and I think tonight again he’s shown that he belongs on this stage.”


Historic win over world champions not enough to see Tunisia progress

Updated 18 min 16 sec ago

Historic win over world champions not enough to see Tunisia progress

  • Australia’s 1-0 victory over Denmark means North African nation yet to reach the knockout stages of World Cup

DOHA: A stunning goal from Wahbi Khazri may have been enough to give the Carthage Eagles a heroic 1-0 victory over reigning champions France on Wednesday, but it was not enough to send the team into the latter stages of the World Cup for the first time.

While the win, just the third in total at the competition and a first against European opposition, was something to celebrate, Australia’s win over Denmark by the same scoreline means that Tunisia are heading home.

That was always the danger. Tunisia, bottom of the group before kickoff with just one point, needed nothing less than a win to have a chance of finally making it to the latter stages, at the sixth time of asking.

Even victory was not going to be a guarantee of progress, however, as there was still the other game in the group to contend with.

An Australian victory would send the Socceroos through. As well as needing to win, Tunisia wanted the other two to draw. The promised land always seemed far away.

Coach Jalel Kadri promised that he would resign if the team failed to progress, but he will not need an extended period of reflection to know that his team’s dreams were dashed by lack of firepower.

It had been obvious all through the competition. The opening 0-0 draw with Denmark was a fine, battling performance against a team ranked 10th in the world. It provided a solid platform for the second, and on paper most winnable, game against Australia.

Falling behind to a fine header from Mitchell Duke midway through the first half, Tunisia were unable to penetrate the defense of the hardworking Socceroos, and while the display was decent, there was a lack of bite in the final third.

That failure to score ultimately cost Tunisia their dream as it meant that their destiny was in the hands of others.

The effort was certainly there against France. After the disappointment of Saturday’s defeat, it was a revitalized version of Tunisia that tore at Les Bleus from the start.

A free-kick in the eighth minute was swung in by Khazri and guided home acrobatically by Nader Ghandri, only for the player to be correctly judged offside.

It was nevertheless encouraging for the North Africans and a warning for the French who, already through, made nine changes from their 2-1 win over Denmark.

Tunisia continued to make most of the running at Education City Stadium, even in the second half. The North Africans had won just two previous games at the World Cup but never stopped working hard in trying to make it three.

The goal duly arrived just before the hour thanks to Khazri, who ran at a static French defense before striking the ball past stand-in goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.

It was the last act of the game for the exhausted star, who was then taken off, but he had given his team something to defend.

And yet, within moments, the news came through that Australia had taken the lead against Denmark and retaken second place in the group.

If that was not enough, Kylian Mbappe entered the fray for France and started running at the tiring Tunisian defense.

Tunisia held on despite a late strike from Antoine Greizmann, which was ruled out by VAR.

But by time it was chalked off, Australia had advanced and Tunisia denied.

The wait for the knockout stages will continue until 2026 at least, but if a goalscorer can be found in the meantime, the country may then finally make the promised land.


Pulisic ‘day-to-day’ after Iran World Cup injury: US Soccer

Updated 30 November 2022

Pulisic ‘day-to-day’ after Iran World Cup injury: US Soccer

  • The Chelsea forward, who was injured while scoring the only goal in the 1-0 win over Iran, was regarded as "day-to-day" fitness-wise
  • Pulisic was taken to hospital as a precaution following the incident that led to his injury

DOHA: Christian Pulisic suffered a “pelvic contusion” during the USA’s World Cup victory over Iran but has vowed to be fit for his team’s last 16 clash with the Netherlands.
A US Soccer spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday that the Chelsea forward, who was injured while scoring the only goal in the 1-0 win over Iran, was regarded as “day-to-day” fitness-wise.
“USMNT forward Christian Pulisic has been diagnosed with a pelvic contusion and his status is day-to-day,” US Soccer said.
Pulisic was taken to hospital as a precaution following the incident that led to his injury but was back at the US team hotel to greet his team-mates following the Group B win on Tuesday.
In a photo posted on social media on Tuesday, Pulisic said he expected to play against the Netherlands on Saturday, when the Americans will attempt to reach the quarter-finals.
“I’ll be ready for Saturday, don’t worry,” a jubilant Pulisic wrote.
US midfielder Weston McKennie said on Tuesday that Pulisic had indicated he would be fit to start against the Dutch.
“I sent him a text and checked on him, and he said, ‘Best believe I’ll be ready’,” said McKennie.
Pulisic’s winner against the Iranians came as he threw his body into a tangle of defenders to jab home Sergino Dest’s headed cross.
“Obviously we’re very thankful that he threw his body there,” McKennie said.
“It was a heart-drop sinking moment, but we got it done and we’re excited to still be here.”


Iran World Cup loss sparks despair — and joy from regime critics

Updated 30 November 2022

Iran World Cup loss sparks despair — and joy from regime critics

  • Iranian gaming journalist Saeed Zafarany: ‘Who would’ve ever thought I’d jump three meters and celebrate America’s goal!’
  • Danish journalist Rasmus Tantholdt said that he was briefly detained by Qatari security forces after filming pro-regime fans attacking supporters of the Iranian protest movement

NICOSIA: For Iranians, their football team’s World Cup loss against the United States was cause for either sadness or exuberant joy, depending on where they stand on a two-month-old protest movement.
Caught between the clerical regime and calls to show solidarity with protesters, the national team pressed near-relentlessly in the second half on Tuesday night but were unable to cancel out a 38th minute opener by the US, resulting in an early exit.
That prompted the extraordinary spectacle of Iranians cheering a defeat inflicted by the Islamic republic’s arch-enemy often labelled the “Great Satan.”
“Who would’ve ever thought I’d jump three meters and celebrate America’s goal!” tweeted Iranian gaming journalist Saeed Zafarany.
Inside Iran, celebrations were especially marked in western Kurdistan province, the cradle of a movement sparked by the death of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody after her arrest for allegedly infringing the nation’s strict dress code for women.
A video shared online by Kurdish activist Kaveh Ghoreishi showed a Sanandaj city neighborhood at night with sounds of cheering and horns blaring after the United States scored.
That goal also prompted joy in Amini’s hometown of Saqez, according to the London-based news website Iran Wire, which published images showing fireworks and sounds of people cheering.
Protesters also set off fireworks in Mahabad, Kurdistan, following Iran’s loss, according to videos shared online, while Norway-based Hengaw human rights group also reported celebrations there and in the city of Marivan.
The scenes of joy were not confined to Kurdistan province, reflecting the nationwide nature of the protest movement.
Videos on social media showed citizens celebrating in the capital Tehran and Ardabil, Mashhad, Kerman and Zahedan — many with people dancing and cheering in the streets amid long traffic jams.
It was a very different story in a hall in Tehran, where hundreds gathered to unreservedly cheer on their team — including women, in a country where they often have difficulty accessing stadiums.
“I’m so sad that Iran couldn’t defeat the USA but anyway we are proud of our national team and its players,” said Ali, a retiree. “They did their best and we are not angry with them.”
In Qatar itself, supporters of the US and Iran mingled cordially before the crunch game.
Crowds with the Stars and Stripes and the red, green and white colors of Iran’s flag talked largely freely as they entered Al Thumama Stadium.
Inside the ground, female Iranian fans sat — and often stood — proudly cheering their team without headscarves, some with the national flag daubed on their faces.
Iran’s players, after refusing to sing the national anthem for their opening game against England in a gesture of solidarity with the protests, reversed that stance for their second game with Wales, resulting in opprobrium in some quarters.
Players again voiced the anthem, albeit with little enthusiasm, for what turned out to be Iran’s final game.
They now go home to a country that remains on edge, as authorities crack down on the mainly peaceful protests that have become the biggest challenge to the regime since its birth in 1979.
After Iran’s victory over Wales, the judiciary announced the release of more than 1,100 detainees, including protesters, among them former national goalkeeper Parviz Boroumand.
Emblematic of the divisions, an AFP video showed scuffles breaking out among pro- and anti-regime Iranians outside the stadium after the US match.
The footage showed a woman wearing a T-shirt with the protest slogan “Woman, life, freedom” being harassed by Iranian men as she gave a televised interview.
A Danish journalist said he was briefly detained after filming pro-regime fans attacking supporters of the Iranian protest movement.
Rasmus Tantholdt of TV2 Denmark tweeted that Qatari security forces had instructed him to erase the footage but he refused to do so.
Iranian supporters have had run-ins with security for sporting clothing bearing images of Amini or the words “Woman, life, freedom” in Qatar which, unlike most other Gulf states, maintains cordial relations with Tehran.
Iran says more than 300 people have been killed since the protests erupted, but Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights says at least 448 people have been killed by the security forces in the ongoing protest crackdown.


John Herdman wants to remain as Canada coach through 2026

Updated 30 November 2022

John Herdman wants to remain as Canada coach through 2026

  • "You'll not find one as passionate who wants to take the country to that next level,” Herdman said
  • In the World Cup for the first time since 1986, Canada lost their opening match 1-0 despite outplaying Belgium

DOHA: John Herdman wants to remain as Canada’s coach through the 2026 World Cup in North America after leading the nation to their return to soccer’s top tournament.
“Eleven years of work in this country and I’ve been pioneering for a long period of time, and you’ll not find anyone as passionate as I am about this program or about these players or about this staff,” Herdman said Wednesday.
“You’ll not find one as passionate who wants to take the country to that next level. And you’ll not meet anyone that’s experienced this moment with this team — and the learning that I’ll take from this to take into the next one.”
In the World Cup for the first time since 1986, Canada lost their opening match 1-0 despite outplaying Belgium, then took a second-minute lead against Croatia before losing 4-1 and getting eliminated. The Canadians close against Morocco on Thursday.
Herdman, a 47-year-old from Britain, coached New Zealand’s women’s team from 2006-11 and Canada’s women from 2011-18, winning Olympic bronze medals in 2012 and 2016.
He took over the Canadian men in 2018 and led them to first place in qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Herdman was especially proud of the way Canada played against Belgium.
“Thierry Henry told me this team played them off the park,” Herdman said of the former French star, now an assistant to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez. “I’ll take that, because if that’s our foundation, we got a great four years ahead, and I can’t wait to get after it.”
Herdman sees part of the team’s mission as increasing the sport’s prominence in Canada. Alphonso Davies’ goal was Canada’s first in five World Cup games, and Herdman hopes the nation will get their first win against Morocco, which are contending for a spot in the knockout stage.
Canada will co-host the 2026 World Cup with the United States and Mexico, staging games in Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia. Canadian soccer officials hope this year’s World Cup and the build-up to the next spark increased youth interest in the sport.
“It’s those kids and those schools that will keep believing that Canada is a football country,” Herdman said, “because they’ve seen that Belgium game, they’ve seen Davies score against Croatia and they know we are — I nearly said it, yeah, we’re a football country. We’re there. And you can’t deny that. No one can.”