PARIS: Polish striker Ewa Pajor scored twice as Wolfsburg defeated Roma 4-2 on Thursday to book a place in the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarterfinals.
Five days after celebrating her 26th birthday, Pajor struck in the 24th and 53rd minutes, becoming the tournament’s top scorer this season with six goals.
Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir and Lena Lattwein also found the net as the 2013 and 2014 champions from Germany moved to 10 points from four games in Group B.
Wolfsburg are three ahead of Roma and six ahead of Sankt Poelten after the Austrians only managed a 1-1 draw at home to Czech side Slavia Prague.
The German side have now reached the quarterfinals for an 11th consecutive season.
In Group A, Kadidiatou Diani was on target twice in the first half as PSG swept past hapless Vllaznia in Albania 4-0.
Swiss striker Ramona Bachmann and French midfielder Magnaba Folquet completed the victory in the second half.
Vllaznia have now conceded 19 goals in four games without scoring once.
PSG are three points behind leaders Chelsea who dropped their first points of the campaign following a 1-1 draw at Real Madrid.
Scottish international Caroline Weir gave the Spaniards a first-half lead.
However, the Londoners salvaged a point on the hour when Real goalkeeper Misa Rodriguez saved a penalty from Guro Reiten only to then see the ball rebound off her back and into the net.
RIYADH: Saudi sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal received on Sunday the belt of honor of the International Taekwondo Federation, on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The award was given in appreciation of the International Federation for the efforts of the crown prince in supporting taekwondo and sport generally around the world, through the Kingdom’s hosting of the most important tournaments and various sporting events.
The award was also in recgonition of the crown prince’s efforts to support the aspirations of athletes around the world.
The belt is granted exclusively to leaders of the countries that support taekwondo.
The award came during a reception hosted by Prince Abdulaziz at his office at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Olympic Complex with the ITF president Dr. Chung Won Cho.
RIYADH: For a quartet of young Saudis, the 2022 Diriyah Tennis Cup will live in the memory long after the crowds and winners have headed home.
The Al-Hogbani siblings — Yara, Ammar and Saud — took part in exhibition matches alongside fellow Saudi Lara Bokhari at the second edition of the tournemnt, which was won by the American Taylor Fritz on Saturday night.
The aim was for the rising players to encourage others to take up tennis in the same way they did.
Before moving back to the Kingdom, the Alhogbani children grew up playing the game in the US, and spoke of their passion for the sport and how they believe it will catch on with young Saudis, if the cheering crowds in Diriyah are to go by.
“I was born in Riyadh but grew up in the States, where tennis is popular, and we all started at a young age there,” Ammar told Arab News. “Yara and Saud were born in the States, so it started over there, and we would come back often. We are hoping to see tennis start growing and not being such a small sport in Saudi, and I think with events like these it’s going to happen.”
Yara concurred with Ammar and said that they returned to the Kingdom to play tennis competitively, while the 17-year-old continues her studies online.
“I do online schooling, so when I’m not playing tournaments, I’m doing assignments in the off time when I’m not at the court,” she said. “I came back to play tennis, and hopefully it becomes big too so everyone can enjoy it.”
The players also spoke about padel’s growing popularity among the younger generation.
“I think padel is a good way to connect with people, and you can play in your 50s and 60s as well,” Saud said.
Ammar hopes padel grows in the Middle East but will not overshadow tennis.
“I don’t think so because tennis has a long history that’s hard to change, but padel is a fun social sport,” he said.
The 19-year-old Saud, still a college student, said if you want to do something enough, there is always a way.
“Every day I get up at 4 a.m. to condition, then from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I go to school, then from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. I play tennis, and after that, I go back home and study.”
Yara praised the work of the Ministry of Sport and its efforts to make sure that both men and women have the same opportunities in the sport.
“I think Prince Abdulaziz and Princess Reema are doing a great job promoting all kinds of sports. We are getting a lot more opportunites, and women have just as many opportunities as men in Saudi,” said Yara, who is big fan of former Women’s Tennis Association world No.1 Naomi Osaka.
The young Saudi players believe that watching international players at close quarters will teach them a lot about how to live and train on the court. Yara believes that more Saudi female players can compete internationally.
DOHA: Defending champions France on Sunday trained their sights on a World Cup semifinal against surprise package Morocco as Argentina and Lionel Messi prepare to take on Croatia.
Didier Deschamps’ men edged past England in a thrilling quarter-final in the Qatar desert to move one step closer to becoming the first team to retain the trophy in 60 years.
They will meet Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday after the African team sent Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal packing to become the first African team in history to reach the last four.
France were second best for long spells against Gareth Southgate’s England on Saturday and were grateful for a late Harry Kane penalty miss as they won 2-1.
England captain Kane had earlier canceled out Aurelien Tchouameni’s opener, firing past his Tottenham teammate Hugo Lloris from the penalty spot.
That goal put him level with Wayne Rooney as England’s all-time leading scorer.
Olivier Giroud headed France back into the lead in the 78th minute before England were handed a lifeline but this time Kane blasted over and England’s chance was gone.
Deschamps, who led France to triumph in Russia in 2018, said his side showed “hearts and guts” to defeat a youthful England team.
“There is quality in this team, but there is also a good mentality and a state of mind,” he said. “We gave them a little ammunition with two penalties, but it is with hearts and guts that we held onto this result.”
Deschamps, who also won the World Cup as a player, said France’s semifinal opponents Morocco, ranked 22nd in the world, “deserve all our respect and recognition.”
“They weren’t among the teams we were expecting there, but it’s anything but a surprise.”
Southgate said he would take his time before he makes a decision over his future as England coach as the nation’s long and painful wait for a major trophy goes on.
The 1966 World Cup winners reached the semifinals in 2018 and the final at last year’s European Championship but have again come up short against top-class opposition.
– Morocco shock –
Only the most fervent Morocco fan would have bet on their side reaching the World Cup semifinals before the tournament kicked off.
On Saturday, they beat Ronaldo and Portugal 1-0 thanks to Youssef En-Nesyri’s first-half header, to go further than any African team ever has at a World Cup.
“We’re drawing on all we have, we still have guys injured,” said Morocco coach Walid Regragui. “I told the guys before the match we had to write history for Africa. I’m very, very happy.”
As their national team made history, crowds gathered in Casablanca and chanted “Qualified! Qualified!“
There were also celebrations across the Arab world and in Europe as Morocco are also the first Arab team to reach a World Cup semifinal.
Ronaldo headed down the tunnel with tears streaming down his face after the bitter defeat, ignoring the Morocco players rushing to their fans to celebrate.
At 37, his final chance of adding the World Cup to his Euro 2016 triumph has almost certainly gone as the end of an era of global superstars looms.
Brazil’s Neymar, who has already indicated he may never pull on the Brazil shirt again, said Saturday he was “psychologically destroyed” by his side’s elimination at the hands of Croatia on penalties on Friday.
“It is definitely the defeat which has hurt me the most, which left me paralyzed for ten minutes after the match, after which I burst into tears without being able to stop,” the 30-year-old said in an Instagram message.
Messi is also likely playing on the biggest stage for the final time at the age of 35 but he has a golden chance to match the achievement of Diego Maradona, who lifted the trophy for Argentina in 1986.
The South American giants will meet the beaten 2018 finalists at Lusail Stadium on Tuesday after squeezing past the Netherlands on penalties.
They will meet a Croatia team led and inspired by veteran Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, who will be aiming to go one better than they did four years ago.
It may only be a friendly, but for Liverpool’s players, the match against Olympique Lyonnais at Al-Nasr’s Maktoum Stadium on Sunday night is one more step on the road to rediscovering the consistency that had deserted them in the early half of the season.
Liverpool are in Dubai on a training camp, and Jurgen Klopp’s assistant Pep Lijnders wants the players to retain the intensity that made them the team “nobody wants to play again.
“You always search for consistency in the team. In the season you search for stability. The only way to be intense is that you can play every several days, not with the same 11, but with the core group,” he said, ahead of the first Dubai Super Cup outing against the French side. The second game, against A.C. Milan, will take place on Dec. 16.
“The injuries didn’t help, of course. Going behind in many games early — that didn’t help as well,” said Lijnders. “We all know that the team is built on confidence. And the player with confidence or without confidence, or team with confidence or without confidence, is not the same. The moments where we had to fight to come back into the game, and change the result around, that asks for a different type of game.
“We know other teams adapt. Teams know to sit deep against us, try to exploit our high line or the counter attack. And when it’s 1-0 for the opposition team, it makes it of course much easier to execute that type of game plan. We try to commit more bodies, players try to resolve more often something individually instead of collectively. And that’s a little bit of the story of the first part (of the season).
“Sometimes you need to take two steps back, to see the truth and feel how it is not to win as many games,” said Lijnders at a signing event for his book “Intensity: Inside Liverpool FC” at Dubai Mall. “And that’s why this break and being here in Dubai is really welcome because we can do some proper work, correct and create this team again who nobody wants to play against.”
Adding to the campaign’s disruption is the holding of the FIFA World Cup in mid-season for the first time ever. While six Liverpool players were with their national teams at Qatar 2022, the rest of the squad had a short break and is now back in full training.
“We want to adapt again to our game style. So the boys can get a lot of moments showing how we want to play. Counter-pressing is a massive part of that in the training sessions, but they have to adapt again to that style of play so we can stay high up the pitch, so we can attack and attack again. And we can have our creative players more often with the ball higher on the pitch.
“We want to create unity between the players, and between the staff and the players. It’s brilliant to be here in this environment, in this different part of the world. And we want to show in these two games that we have our hunger, our passion, our way of play. We’re really proud that we are here, that we are able as Liverpool to be here and to show who we are and what we can do.”
Since the start of the 2018-19 season, Liverpool’s consistency — with exception of the middle of the pandemic-dominated 2020-21 season — has been remarkable, as has been the team’s trophy haul.
So is it difficult to pick out one particular highlight?
“I was lying on the beach, and the waiter comes and he said ‘you gave me the worst day of my life when you beat us 4-0.’ And it was a Barca supporter,” said Lijnders, referencing Liverpool’s stunning second-leg comeback against the Spanish giants in the semifinal of the 2018-19 Champions League.
“And then I said (to Klopp), can you imagine if we didn’t play Barca how we played at home to reach the final of the Champions League, and then in the end we’re winning the Champions League and winning the Premier League, and the Super Cup and the World Cup.
“Can you imagine — we would not be lying here, that’s for sure, it would be different.”
It is a trick that Lijnders and Klopp are looking to repeat.
“You need success, you need to win,” he said. “You need to build confidence in the team and that’s something we need to do again, and not rely on what we did in the past.”
DOHA: England crashed out of the World Cup against an all too familiar backdrop of heroic failure and agonizing over yet another crucial missed penalty in a major championship.
But as the Three Lions packed their bags on Sunday there was much about the circumstances of their exit that felt like a break from the past.
No anguished wailing about tactical failings or technical ineptitude. No demands for a root-and-branch review of English football, and no calls for a change of manager.
Instead, a growing consensus that Gareth Southgate should — if he wants to — be allowed to continue for at least one more tournament.
The 52-year-old manager was roundly lambasted after his team’s two previous tournaments, blamed for an inability to tweak his gameplan mid-course during the 2018 World Cup semifinal loss to Croatia and last year’s European Championship final defeat to Italy at Wembley.
Yet as the desert dust settled on Saturday’s 2-1 loss to France, few were accusing Southgate of tactical incompetence.
Southgate’s decision to go on the front foot against the world champions, opting for a 4-3-3 formation, came within a whisker of paying off.
“We wanted to go toe to toe, we felt that was the way we wanted to approach the tournament,” Southgate said afterwards. “We’ve done that.”
“We’ve had consistent performances across three tournaments but tonight is probably the best we’ve played against a major nation across the period that I’ve been in charge.
“But we have fallen short and the scoreline is all that matters and that’s hard to take.”
Southgate’s current contract runs through to the end of 2024, meaning he will have the chance to lead England at the next European Championship.
The England manager, however, said that he plans to take time to reflect on his future before deciding whether to stay or go.
– ‘I hope he stays’ –
“I’ve got to be sure that whatever decision I make is the right one,” Southgate said.
“I think it’s right to take a bit of time to do that because I know in the past how my feelings have fluctuated in the immediate aftermath of tournaments.”
Southgate may perhaps be persuaded to stay by the array of talent that should remain at his disposal through the next tournament cycle.
The average of Saturday’s England starting line-up was 26. The core of the team should still be available for years to come. Players such as Jude Bellingham (19), Phil Foden (22), Bukayo Saka (21) and Declan Rice (23) are still maturing.
Southgate hinted that the age profile of his squad may persuade him to see out his contract.
“There is so much to be excited about when you see the age of a lot of the players,” he said, before adding, ruefully: “But you still have to win games that are winnable to reach semifinals and finals.”
Southgate may also be tempted to bear in mind the example of his continental counterparts.
Former Germany coach Joachim Loew only tasted tournament success at the fourth attempt while France manager Didier Deschamps has been in charge of Les Bleus since 2012.
Southgate’s players are adamant their manager should remain in charge.
“I hope he stays,” said Rice. “There’s a lot of talk around that. He’s been brilliant for us. There’s a lot of criticism that’s not deserved.”
Harry Kane, who missed a late penalty against France that would have levelled the scores at 2-2, also hopes Southgate stays.
“We love having Gareth as a manager and we want him to stay for sure but that’s his decision,” Kane said.
“We’ve got a great team, great young players kind of coming into their prime, and we’ve got the Euros not too far away. So as much as this hurts we have to move on and look forward to that.”
Former players also joined the chorus of support.
“England are in a pretty good place, let’s be clear about that,” was the verdict of former Manchester United captain Gary Neville.
“We’ve gone out of tournaments in disgrace and wondered what the hell the future is. We have a great future and he is a big part of that.”
Neville’s former Manchester United team-mate Roy Keane agreed. “He’s done a fantastic job,” Keane said. “Does he want to give it a couple more years? Hopefully he does.”
Pajor brace lifts Wolfsburg into UEFA Women's Champions League quarters – Arab News