Football: Five players who made a name for themselves at Asian Cup

Qatar's players (R) and Iran's players line-up in front of a large-scale Qatar 2023 AFC Asian Cup trophy replica before the start of the Qatar 2023 AFC Asian Cup semi-final football match between Iran and Qatar (AFP)
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Updated 10 February 2024

Football: Five players who made a name for themselves at Asian Cup

  • AFP Sport picks out five players who made a name for themselves during the tournament

DOHA-Jordan and hosts and holders Qatar will contest the final of the Asian Cup on Saturday.
AFP Sport picks out five players who made a name for themselves during the tournament:

Yazan al-Naimat celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Qatar 2023 AFC Asian Cup semi-final football match between Jordan and South Korea (AFP)

Together with fellow attacker Mousa Al-Tamari, Naimat terrorized South Korea’s defense in Jordan’s 2-0 semifinal win.
Tamari is Jordan’s only player in Europe but clubs across the planet will have taken note of Naimat’s all-action performances over the past month.
The 24-year-old Naimat scored in a 2-2 draw with South Korea in the group phase, then added another against them in the semifinal. He also netted in a thrilling 3-2 win over Iraq.
Quick and direct, he has created 10 chances during the tournament, the joint second most among all players.
He currently plays for Al-Ahli in Qatar and the center-forward has 14 goals in 43 appearances for his club, plus 15 assists.
The 26-year-old wide attacker is a contender for player of the tournament after his goals and assists, along with Naimat’s, helped propel Jordan into a first final in their history.

Musa al-Tamari celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Qatar 2023 AFC Asian Cup semi-final football match between Jordan and South Korea (AFP)

Tamari is with French side Montpellier and his displays in Qatar have showcased his talents to an even wider audience.
He started his tournament with a bang, hitting a brace in a 4-0 demolition of Malaysia, then rose to the occasion with a man-of-the-match role in the win over South Korea in the last four.
Pacy, skilful and hard working, Tamari set up Naimat for the first goal and 13 minutes later got in on the act by slicing through the Korean defense before unleashing a ruthless finish.
Palestine made history by reaching the Asian Cup knockout rounds for the first time and Dabbagh played a crucial role, chipping in with three goals.
The striker, who moved to Belgian side Charleroi last year, was a constant nuisance for defenders with his aerial prowess and poacher’s instinct in front of goal.

Oday Dabbagh is marked by Qatar's defender #02 Pedro Miguel during the Qatar 2023 AFC Asian Cup football match between Qatar and Palestine at Al-Bayt Stadium (AFP)

Just turned 25 and playing in his second Asian Cup, his peak years are still ahead of him.
Palestine’s tournament ended in a 2-1 defeat to Qatar in the last 16, but together with skipper and defender Musab Al-Battat, Dabbagh was their star performer.
Uzbekistan’s tournament ended in the quarter-finals on penalties to Qatar but there will be plenty more Asian Cups for Fayzullaev.

Abbosbek Fayzullaev fights for the ball with Qatar's midfielder Lucas Mendes during the Qatar 2023 AFC Asian Cup quarter-final football match (AFP)

The 20-year-old attacker has been one to watch for a while now and he showed why in particular with the winner from outside the box against Thailand in the last 16.
As is expected from a young player, he flitted out of games occasionally, but it was the CSKA Moscow starlet’s second goal of the competition and he was named man of the match.
Thailand’s uncompromising defenders had had enough of him by the end and he asked to be substituted late on to avoid any more rough treatment.
Forward Akram Afif hogged the headlines for Qatar but Mendes also played a key role in taking the hosts and holders to the final.
Born in Brazil, Mendes played for Marseille a decade ago and has Champions League experience with them, suffering defeats to Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund.
Only made his Qatar debut in November but has played his club football in the country for the past nine years.
Quietly effective at the back, Mendes used all of his experience and defensive nous to help Qatar breeze through the group stage without conceding a goal.

Bundesliga boss says rejection of investor deal ‘bad for the league’

Updated 3 sec ago

Bundesliga boss says rejection of investor deal ‘bad for the league’

BERLIN: Bundesliga boss Hans-Joachim Watzke said Tuesday the rejection of a planned investor deal, shelved after widespread fan protests, was “bad for the league.”
Last week the German Football Leagues (DFL) which runs the Bundesliga abandoned a planned billion-euro investment deal, which had previously been approved by the necessary two-thirds majority of clubs, due largely to fan protests resulting in long delays at matches.
Fans had littered pitches with everything from tennis balls to chocolate coins in opposition to the plan to swap a portion of the league’s future media revenues for an upfront cash injection.
DFL chairman Watzke told AFP and other journalists on Tuesday that fans “in Germany have a problem with investors.”
“Germans are traditional, perhaps even a bit old-fashioned.
“In Germany, investor is perhaps not the best word.”
German football has a notable commitment to fan control and involvement via a “50+1” rule which restricts the degree of influence an external investor can have over a club.
The rule remains enduringly popular among German fans, many of whom value it more than domestic or international competitiveness.
The DFL had promised the new deal would include supporter-friendly protections against changes in kick-off times or moving competitive fixtures abroad.
“Our contract with the investor had clear red lines that nothing could happen which would be a problem for the fans, but the problem was that fans didn’t believe us.
“It’s actually a problem in German society. Every idea that you tell the public, the public says ‘not good’.”
Watzke said the protests did not reflect the opinion of the average fan.
“Five percent of the fans — which is not so much, but they’re the organized fans — were against it.
“The average fans had no problem, but they did not tell anyone.
“Maybe 500 or 800 in the stadium, the organized fans, they had a clear position — no investor.”
The 64-year-old said the protests had changed the atmosphere around the deal, with clubs getting cold feet.
“As the boss of the Bundesliga, I always had the feeling that the clear majority of clubs supported it, but in the past weeks that changed.
“When I recognized that the majority was not there, then I stopped it.”
Watzke said the result will hit mid-table teams the hardest, rather than those at the top of the tree.
“You can be sure that there’s no problem for Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
“It’s a problem for the other clubs in the league. The money from the investor would be perfect to help the whole Bundesliga grow.
“Bayern and Dortmund will make our own way if it’s necessary.”
Watzke is also CEO of Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund and he was speaking on Tuesday to announce the opening of Dortmund’s first office in New York, where fellow Bundesliga heavyweights Bayern Munich have had a presence for a decade.

Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL

Updated 38 min 1 sec ago

Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL

  • Leg-spinner picked up 6-40 and bowled out Lahore for 154 in 17 overs

LAHORE: Usama Mir became the first spinner in Pakistan Super League history to grab a six-wicket haul as Multan Sultans beat Lahore Qalandars by 60 runs Tuesday, handing the two-time champions their sixth straight loss.
Leg-spinner Mir picked up 6-40 and bowled out Lahore for 154 in 17 overs.
Table-topper Multan posted this season’s highest score of 214-4 despite resting overseas players Dawid Malan, Chris Jordan and David Willey.
Usman Khan of the United Arab Emirates filled Malan’s shoes with a blistering knock of 96 off 55 balls and Iftikhar Ahmed provided a perfect finish by smashing unbeaten 40 off 18 balls.
Multan captain Mohammad Rizwan fell without scoring for the second time in the last three games when Shaheen Shah Afridi clean bowled him with a delivery that perfectly shaped into the batter in the first over.
But Usman kept counterattacking and hit 11 fours and two sixes as he capped his half-century stands with Reeza Hendricks (40), Tayyab Tahir (21) with a 60-run partnership with Ahmed off just 28 balls in the death overs.
Usman, who was dropped by Carlos Brathwaite on 89 at point, holed out to deep square leg in the last over to give Afridi (2-39) his second wicket.
Mir ran through Lahore’s middle-order in quick time when he had Rassie van der Dussen (30) caught in the deep, found the outside edge of George Linde’s bat and then bowled Jahandad Khan off a full pitched delivery in one over.
Mir claimed the last two wickets in his final over as Multan moved to the top of the table with five wins in six games.

Women’s World Cup holders Spain eye Nations League title

Updated 27 February 2024

Women’s World Cup holders Spain eye Nations League title

  • Under new coach Montse Tome, Spain comfortably topped their Nations League group ahead of Italy, Sweden and Switzerland, and then defeated the Netherlands 3-0 in Seville in last Friday’s semifinal

SEVILLE, Spain: Reigning world champions Spain can claim another title on Wednesday when they face France in the final of the inaugural UEFA Women’s Nations League, while the Netherlands and Germany meet to decide who will join them in qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

Spain’s World Cup triumph in Sydney last August ended up being somewhat overshadowed by Spanish football federation boss Luis Rubiales’s forced kiss on midfielder Jenni Hermoso after the final against England.

Rubiales recently had a three-year ban from football upheld by FIFA and is also set to go in trial over the kiss, while the Spain team — led by Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmati — have tried to keep the focus on football.

Under new coach Montse Tome, Spain comfortably topped their Nations League group ahead of Italy, Sweden and Switzerland, and then defeated the Netherlands 3-0 in Seville in last Friday’s semifinal.

Winning through to the final also allowed them to take one of two qualifying spots open to European nations for the women’s football tournament at the Olympics. It is the first time they have qualified for the Games.

However, star Barcelona midfielder Bonmati believes Spain’s World Cup success has not had the hoped-for impact on the women’s game in the country.

“Unfortunately I can’t say a lot of things have changed,” Bonmati said in an interview with French sports daily L’Equipe.

“We have the example of the English, when they won the Euro (in 2022). We saw a real change following their success at a nationwide level.

“It had repercussions, and there was more investment in the domestic league. The stadiums are full when England play. It makes me jealous because I can’t say the same thing has happened here.

“There are still so many things to do here and I have the impression that the World Cup has not served any purpose.”

She complained that the match against the Netherlands was moved at short notice from Cadiz to Seville, where the final will also be played.

“We were supposed to play in Cadiz and in the end we changed the venue to La Cartuja. That wouldn’t happen with the boys.”

France had already qualified for the Olympics automatically as the host country and Herve Renard’s team are now hoping to win a first international title in the Nations League to set them up for the Games.

The Netherlands entertain Germany in Heerenveen in the third-place play-off with the winner of that game also progressing to Paris 2024.

Germany lost 2-1 to France in Lyon in their semifinal last Friday and so must now overcome the Dutch if they are to go to the Olympics, in which they won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

After flopping at last year’s World Cup, in which they exited in the group stage, their form has improved under veteran interim coach Horst Hrubesch, who took Germany’s men to the final of the 2016 Olympics.

However, the Dutch — whose coach Andries Jonker used to manage Wolfsburg in the men’s German Bundesliga — are hoping to make the most of home advantage at the Abe Lenstra Stadion.

“We still have a chance,” of reaching the Olympics, said captain Sherida Spitse after the semifinal.

“We are very happy with that. We are playing at home with the crowd behind us.”

Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series

Updated 27 February 2024

Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series

  • African side clocks up three wins from four games in Nepal
  • Next round of matches in UAE will feature hosts, Scotland, Canada

KATHMANDU: The opening series of matches in the new International Cricket Council World Cup League 2 cycle ended this week with a shock victory for Namibia in Nepal, as the tournament prepares to move on to the UAE, who will host Scotland and Canada.

Namibia won three out of their four matches in tough conditions, including a double over the hosts.

Nepal came back from the defeat in their second match to spring a shock of their own by beating perennial World Cup participants the Netherlands. It was a torrid tournament for the Dutch, who lost their first match to Namibia.

The series ended with Namibia on six points, the Netherlands on four and Nepal on two.

Namibia’s coach Pierre de Bruyn told Arab News he was “over the moon” with his team’s performance in the opening round.

“Last year we lost four games in Nepal and we learned a lot from that,” he said. “Winning six points in Nepal is incredible, beating them twice at home and taking points off them. It’s early days but we realized how important a point could be last time and that we should be ruthless in order to take points.”

Nepal, who only lost two home series in the entire 2019-23 League 2 campaign, had a series to forget this time round, with inconsistent batting from an ever-changing middle order.

Head coach Monty Desai said his team would now be doing all they could to win away from home.

“Losing at home hurts, but if you want to be known as the associate’s top team, away games are equally important,” he said. “We have been working very hard and need to bring maturity to it.”

Netherlands coach Ryan Cook rejected the notion that his team’s two defeats were a shock, despite their higher One Day International ranking.

“Shocking? Not at all. This is a very competitive league and it’s completely different game of cricket,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to adapt to those conditions. We are entering a new era in terms of the league.”

The next series of games feature the UAE, Scotland and Canada.

Canada’s coach Pubudu Dassanayake, who led Nepal in the 2019-23 League 2 cycle, said he was happy with his team’s performances in a series of warmup games played recently in Nepal.

“More than winning and losing, we were exposed in all three departments (of batting, bowling and fielding). More than just winning, I am happy we could find out our weaknesses. We expect to have our fast bowlers back to full fitness and perform in those conditions (in the UAE),” he said.

Oman and the US make up the eight teams that feature in the 2023-27 League 2 competition. Each side will play 36 matches — 12 at home, 12 away and 12 at a neutral ground — across nine triangular series. The top four will advance to the ICC Cricket World Cup qualifier and the chance to secure a place in the tournament proper.

Medvedev makes winning return after Australian Open final loss

Updated 27 February 2024

Medvedev makes winning return after Australian Open final loss

  • He will meet either Lorenzo Sonego or wild card Sumit Nagal in the next round
  • In January, Medvedev reached his second Australian Open final

DUBAI: Daniil Medvedev returned to action for the first time since his Australian final defeat on Tuesday with a straight sets win over Alexander Shevchenko in Dubai.
The world number four got his title defense at the hardcourt ATP 500 event up and running, overcoming Shevchenko 6-3, 7-5.
The Russian shrugged off his month-long absence, breaking his Kazakh opponent in three consecutive return games in the first set before reeling off four games in a row from 3-5 in the second set to complete an 88-minute triumph.
He will meet either Lorenzo Sonego or wild card Sumit Nagal in the next round.
In January, Medvedev reached his second Australian Open final. He lost to Rafael Nadal in the Melbourne decider two years ago, and this time had to settle for second best in the season’s opening Grand Slam to Jannik Sinner.
He was forced to skip his title defense in Doha last week because he was dealing with a number of physical issues — with his foot, adductor, and shoulder — but said on the eve of Tuesday’s return he was ready to get back on court after spending the last seven days training in Dubai.
The 28-year-old has added French former world number six Gilles Simon to his team, to collaborate with his long-time coach Gilles Cervara.