Pakistan's captain Babar Azam (R) and teammate Shadab Khan react at the end of the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup semi-final match between Australia and Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on November 11, 2021. (AFP/FILE)
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan cricket team’s vice-captain Shadab Khan on Wednesday threw his weight behind skipper Babar Azam, praising him for handling “relentless pressure” and “sometimes unfair criticism” as the green shirts prepare for their triangular series against New Zealand and Bangladesh.
Azam, widely regarded as the best T20I batter in world cricket today, has been criticized by fans over Pakistan’s recent losses in the Asia Cup 2022 and in the home series against England. At times, fans have questioned Azam’s captaincy decisions, his playing XI choices and blamed him for the team not batting aggressively.
Pakistan have a hectic T20 schedule ahead of them in the coming days and weeks. Azam’s team are scheduled to play Bangladesh on Friday and New Zealand on Saturday for the triangular series. On October 23, they kick off their T20 World Cup campaign with a clash against arch-rivals India.
Khan, in a blog published on the Pakistan Cricket Board’s website, said the more he learns from Azam, the more his admiration for the 27-year-old grows. “The way this 27-year-old, who is relatively new to the leadership role, has handled relentless pressure and sometimes unfair criticism while ensuring his own performance doesn’t slip, is simply mindboggling,” he wrote.
“He has stood like a rock for his players and fully backed them. This is the hallmark of a leader, this is how you earn respect from your players and this is how you develop your team,” Khan added.
Khan said Azam had thrown his weight behind every member of the team, adding that it is up to them to rise to the occasion. “If we have to make our captain stand tall and be proud, then we have to convert our potential into performances,” he added.
Khan responded to the backlash after Pakistan’s 4-3 loss at home to England, saying the team had “only two poor days in the office” if the series was properly analyzed.
“But we understand and accept the anger and frustration of the fans and public: they’ve once again started to pin hopes on us after what we have achieved as a team in the past 12 months,” he added.
Tiger Woods withdraws from his tournament with foot injury
The Hero World Challenge was to be the start of a December in golf ruled by Woods
Updated 29 November 2022
NASSAU, Bahamas: Tiger Woods was out before he was officially back, withdrawing Monday from his Hero World Challenge with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
The Hero World Challenge was to be the start of a December in golf ruled by Woods, who also has a made-for-television match next weekend, followed by the PNC Championship with his 13-year-old son on Dec. 17-18.
Two of those are still on his schedule. The foot injury was a surprise and is a big setback for those who haven’t seen Woods play since July at St. Andrews. The Hero World Challenge has network coverage on NBC for the weekend.
“In preparation and practice for this week’s Hero World Challenge, I’ve developed plantar fasciitis in my right foot, which is making it difficult to walk,” Woods said on Twitter. “After consulting with my doctors and trainers, I have decided to withdraw this week and focus on my hosting duties. My plan is still to compete in The Match and the PNC Championship.”
The Match is Dec. 10 with Rory McIlroy as his partner competing in a 12-hole match against Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
Woods has played only three tournaments this year because of a right leg weakened by a February 2021 car crash outside Los Angeles that shattered so many bones that Woods said doctors contemplated amputation.
A year ago in the Bahamas, he hit drivers on the back end of the range at Albany Golf Club, sparking speculation he might return. He played the PNC Championship with son Charlie and they finished second by one shot.
Woods then played the Masters, where he finished all four rounds at Augusta National, a tough walk with healthy legs. He made the cut in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, only to withdraw after the third round.
His last appearance was the British Open at St. Andrews, where he missed the cut.
Woods has said he would have a limited schedule going forward, and this year was an example of what to expect. The World Challenge would have been one of the easier walks on the flat terrain of Albany.
The 20-man field features 15 of the top 20 players in the world. Woods was replaced by Austria-born Sepp Straka, who went to Georgia. Earlier, Hideki Matsuyama withdrew with injury and was replaced by Corey Conners.
Woods is No. 1,277 in the world ranking and is exempt as the tournament host. Being replaced by Straka (No. 29) means the entire 20-man field is among the top 33 in the ranking. The strength of field increases even as TV ratings are sure to take a hit.
Fernandes double sends Portugal into World Cup knock-outs
Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes scored a cross-cum-shot nine minutes into the second half and then added an injury-time penalty
The match also featured the first pitch invader of the Qatar tournament — the man carried messages of support for Ukraine and Iranian women and had a rainbow flag
Updated 29 November 2022
DOHA: Bruno Fernandes scored twice to give Portugal a 2-0 victory over Uruguay on Monday and send them into the knock-out stages of the World Cup alongside France and Brazil.
The Manchester United midfielder scored a cross-cum-shot nine minutes into the second half and then added an injury-time penalty following a handball by Jose Maria Gimenez.
The match at Doha’s spectacular 89,000-capacity Lusail Stadium also featured the first pitch invader of the Qatar tournament — the man carried messages of support for Ukraine and Iranian women and had a rainbow flag.
With Portugal already through, Uruguay must now beat Ghana in their final Group H match to stand any chance of also progressing.
Both sides made three changes from their opening matches, with Portugal bringing in veteran Pepe for the injured Danilo Pereira, who suffered cracked ribs in training.
Pepe became the third-oldest outfield player in World Cup history.
Portugal dominated the first half, hogging the ball and creating several chances, but without ever testing Uruguay goalkeeper Sergio Rochet.
Uruguay’s forward, Edinson Cavani and Darwin Nunez were starved of the ball but the South Americans still had the best opportunity of the first period.
Rodrigo Bentancur picked the ball up in his own half and surged forward, slipping between two defenders to find himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Diogo Costa, who spread himself well to save the midfielder’s shot.
Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo was largely anonymous in the first 45 minutes but did delight fans with a shoulder pass to pick out William Carvalho, who volleyed over.
The main drama came after the break.
Moments after a pitch invader ran onto the pitch carrying an LGBTQ rainbow flag and with a message supporting Ukraine and Iranian women on his T-shirt, only to be spectacularly tackled by security, Portugal went in front.
Fernandes created space for himself on the left and curled an inswinging cross into the mixer, with Ronaldo breaking the offside trap to attempt a glancing header.
As the ball nestled in the goal, Ronaldo wheeled away in celebration but FIFA decided he had not touched the ball, thus denying him a ninth World Cup goal, which would have put him level with Portuguese great Eusebio.
Uruguay coach Diego Alonso threw on forward Maxi Gomez and Luis Suarez as the South Americans belatedly began to exert some pressure, and both came close to an equalizer.
Gomez’s rasping drive from 20 yards came back off the post with Costa beaten, while Suarez hit the side netting from close range.
With the 90 minutes almost up, Fernandes nutmegged Gimenez, whose trailing hand diverted the ball away from the midfielder and prevented him from finding himself one-on-one with Rochet.
Iranian referee Alireza Faghani awarded the spot-kick after a VAR check and Fernandes sent Rochet the wrong way after his signature hop, skip run-up.
He then almost completed a hat-trick but hit the post from 20 yards.
Despite their efforts, South Korea look likely to crash out of the tournament at the group stage for the third straight World Cup
Updated 28 November 2022
DOHA: Mohammed Kudus scored twice as Ghana beat South Korea 3-2 in a pulsating World Cup encounter on Monday to keep their World Cup hopes alive and leave Paulo Bento’s side facing an early exit.
Mohammed Salisu opened the scoring against the run of play midway through the first half at Education City Stadium and Ajax midfielder Kudus doubled the Black Stars’ lead.
But the Asian side, who looked toothless in the first half, roared back after the break, pulling level through a quickfire double from forward Cho Gue-sung either side of the hour mark.
Ghana looked shell-shocked as the Korean fans celebrated wildly but they were back in front in the 68th minute when Kudus finished calmly at the back post after Iñaki Williams failed to connect with a cross from the left.
The result takes Ghana into second in Group H on three points.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal will have six points and secure qualification for the last 16 if they beat Uruguay in the later kickoff in Qatar.
Despite their efforts, South Korea look likely to crash out of the tournament at the group stage for the third straight World Cup.
The Asian side, captained by Son Heung-min, were quicker to settle, forcing a succession of corners as they dominated possession but they were unable to fashion a shot on target in the entire first half.
Son looked uncomfortable in the black face mask he is wearing after having surgery for a facial injury he suffered while playing for Spurs, constantly readjusting it.
Ghana, who lost their opener 3-2 to Portugal, struggled to gain a foothold in the game.
But the match totally changed complexion in the 24th minute when the impressive Jordan Ayew, playing down the left for Ghana, swung in a cross following a free kick.
South Korea failed to clear and Southampton center-back Salisu finished with his left foot, sparking wild scenes of celebration among the Ghana fans decked out in red, white and green.
The goal revitalized the African nation, who reached the quarterfinals in 2010, with South Korea struggling to deal with their physicality and direct approach.
Now playing with flair and confidence, Ghana poured forward and doubled their lead in the 34th minute when Kudus powered a header home after a pin-point Jordan Ayew cross from the left.
Captain Andre Ayew — the brother of Jordan — called his men into a team huddle on the pitch and the players got soaked by the sprinklers before they went off for their halftime beak.
The Koreans at last produced an effort on target in the 53rd minute, when goalkeeper Lawrence Ati Zigi punched away a header from Cho.
But the Korean found the net just minutes later, heading home a cross from substitute Lee Kang-in, who had just been brought on by Bento.
And they were level just three minutes later when Cho headed home Kim Jin-su’s ball from the left, sparking scenes of delirium among the Korean fans.
Now Ghana were rocking but they restored their lead midway through the second half through Kudus.
South Korea came back again. Zigi was forced into a scrambling save to push away a free kick while Salisu cleared off the line.
The fourth official held up a board for 10 minutes of added time. South Korea continued to pour forward but they could not find the net and a number of their players collapsed to the turf at the final whistle.
Bento was sent off for protesting at the end of the match.
Casemiro goal downs Switzerland to take Brazil into World Cup last 16
Rodrygo flicked the ball on to Casemiro just inside the box and the Man United midfielder’s volley flew into the net with the help of a slight but significant deflection off Manuel Akanji
Tite’s side are just the second team to qualify for the last 16 after France and the only side apart from the holders to have won both group matches so far in Qatar
Updated 28 November 2022
DOHA: A Brazil side lacking spark without the injured Neymar needed a late strike from Casemiro to edge out Switzerland 1-0 on Monday as the five-time winners secured their place in the World Cup last 16 with one game to spare.
The Brazilians had been frustrated by an obdurate Swiss side at Doha’s Stadium 974 and it looked as if they would have to settle for a point after a Vinicius Junior strike in the second half was disallowed for offside following a VAR check.
But then, with seven minutes remaining, Rodrygo flicked the ball on to Casemiro just inside the box and the Manchester United midfielder’s volley flew into the net with the help of a slight but significant deflection off Manuel Akanji.
Tite’s side are just the second team to qualify for the last 16 after France and the only side apart from the holders to have won both group matches so far in Qatar.
“The first aim was to qualify. That was really important in a group as difficult as ours,” the 30-year-old Casemiro told Brazilian broadcaster Sportv.
“We had to be patient against an experienced side who know how to play the game. It was always going to be decided by little details but we knew we would have plenty of possession and thankfully we managed to get the goal.”
With six points, Brazil will be tempted to rest players for their final Group G game against Cameroon on Friday, when a draw will secure top spot.
Switzerland, meanwhile, failed to muster a shot on target but remain on course to qualify too, knowing a win against Serbia in their last game will take Murat Yakin’s side through and a draw may also suffice.
“We are competitive against bigger teams. I think we have proven that time and time again,” said Yakin, who was missing one of his main creative sparks in Xherdan Shaqiri.
“We lacked a bit of courage going forward but there are a lot of good things to take from this.”
They have made a habit of making at least the first knockout round at major tournaments, while Brazil are in Qatar to win a sixth World Cup and nothing less will do.
The Selecao were always going to miss Neymar, although coach Tite has said he is confident the Paris Saint-Germain superstar will recover from his ankle injury to play a part again at the finals.
After the class of Richarlison made the difference in their opening win over Serbia, this was a reminder for the Brazilians of the strength in depth in the European game.
Four years ago, before losing to Belgium in the quarter-finals, they were also held by Switzerland in the group stage.
Yakin’s side therefore had no reason to fear Brazil, who introduced Manchester United midfielder Fred into their line-up in place of Neymar.
As a result they were set up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Fred and Lucas Paqueta either side of Casemiro, while Eder Militao stood in for the injured Danilo at right-back.
There were only flashes of what Brazil could do in a frustrating first half, with the loudest cheers from the masses of supporters in yellow and green coming when the big screen showed two-time World Cup-winning striker Ronaldo in the stands.
Vinicius had the best chance of the opening period when he connected with a Raphinha cross at the back post in the 27th minute, but Yann Sommer tipped his effort behind.
That Tite was not satisfied with Brazil’s first-half showing was clear when he hooked Paqueta at half-time and sent on Rodrygo.
The 21-year-old was involved when Brazil thought they had taken the lead just after the hour mark, helping gain possession before Casemiro released Vinicius to run through and score.
But the celebrations were cut shot as the goal was disallowed by VAR for an offside against Richarlison.
Tite turned to his bench and sent on more attackers in Gabriel Jesus and Antony, but the goal finally arrived from a less likely sources in Casemiro and Brazil saw out a deserved victory.
World Cup fans coming in droves want perfect Instagram moment, riding a camel in the desert
Since the World Cup started, the animals are taken for 15 to 20, even 40 rides, without a break
Updated 28 November 2022
MESAIEED, Qatar: Shaheen stretched out on the sand and closed his eyes, but there was little time to rest for the camel. World Cup fans coming in droves to the desert outside Doha were ready for their perfect Instagram moment: riding a camel on the rolling dunes.
As Qatar welcomes more than a million fans for the monthlong World Cup, even its camels are working overtime. Visitors in numbers the tiny emirate has never before seen are rushing to finish a bucket list of Gulf tourist experiences between games: ride on a camel’s back, take pictures with falcons and wander through the alleyways of traditional markets.
On a recent Friday afternoon, hundreds of visitors in soccer uniforms or draped in flags waited for their turn to mount the humpbacked animals. Camels that did not rise were forced up by their handlers. When one camel let out a loud grunt, a woman from Australia shrieked, “it sounds like they’re being violated!” Nearby, a group of men from Mexico dressed in white Qatari thobes and headdresses took selfies.
“It’s really an amazing feeling because you feel so tall,” 28-year-old Juan Gaul said after his ride. The Argentine fan was visiting Qatar for a week from Australia.
Cashing in on the opportunity are the animals’ handlers who, thanks to the World Cup, are making several times more than they normally would.
“There’s a lot of money coming in,” said Ali Jaber al Ali, a 49 year-old Bedouin camel herder from Sudan. “Thank god, but it’s a lot of pressure.”
Al Ali came to Qatar 15 years ago but has worked with camels since he was a child. On an average weekday before the World Cup, Al Ali said his company would offer around 20 rides per day and 50 on weekends. Since the World Cup started, Al Ali and the men he works with are providing 500 rides in the morning and another 500 in the evening. The company went from having 15 camels to 60, he said.
“Tour guides want to move things fast,” Al Ali said, “so they add pressure on us.”
As crowds formed around them, many camels sat statue-like with cloth muzzles covering their mouths and bright saddles on their bodies. The smell of dung filled the air.
Like other Gulf cultures, camels once provided Qataris a vital form of transport and helped in the exploration and development of trade routes. Today, the ungulates figure into cultural pastimes: camel racing is a popular sport that takes place on old-school tracks outside the city.
Al Ali said he knows when an animal is tired — usually if it refuses to get up or sits back down after rising to its feet. He can identify each camel by its facial features.
“I am a Bedouin. I come from a family of Bedouins who care for camels. I grew up loving them,” Al Ali said.
But the sudden rise in tourists means there’s less time to rest between rides, he said. A short ride lasts just 10 minutes while longer ones run 20 to 30 minutes long.
Normally, Al Ali said a camel can rest after five rides. “Now, people are saying we can’t wait ... because they have other plans they need to go to in the middle of the desert,” he said.
Since the World Cup started, the animals are taken for 15 to 20 — sometimes even 40 rides — without a break.
Al Ali’s day starts around 4:30 a.m., when he feeds the animals and gets them ready for customers. Some tourists have been arriving at dawn, he said, hoping to get the perfect sunrise shot, “so we have to work with them and take photos for them.”
From midday until 2 p.m, both handlers and camels rest, he said. “Then we start getting ready for the afternoon battle.”
But not every visitor has been taken by the experience.
Pablo Corigliano, a 47 year-old real estate agent from Buenos Aires, said he was hoping for something more authentic. The excursions start on a stretch of desert by the side of a highway, not far from the industrial city of Mesaieed and its vast oil refineries.
“I was expecting something more wild,” said Corigliano. “I thought I would be crossing the desert, but when I arrived, I saw a typical tourist point.”
Soon after, Corigliano and a group of friends looked for a dune buggy to race into the desert.