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Messi's Paris St Germain take on a combined Al Hilal-Al Nassr team in an exhibition match, giving Ronaldo and Messi a chance to rekindle their old 'El Clasico' rivalry when they played for Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively. Mohammed Al-Jadaan, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Finance, had recently indicated that the door was open for moves by Saudi clubs to try and sign both of soccer's biggest stars. Messi and Ronaldo won every Ballon d'Or award from 2008-2017 until Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric broke their hegemony and the Argentine has since won two more to lead 7-5 over his Portuguese rival in the race to be the world's best player. Should the Argentine move to Saudi Arabia, Thursday's encounter between the sport's two biggest stars of the modern era could signal the dawn of a new age in Asian football. Reporting by Shady Amir; Editing by Ken FerrisOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Portugal young gun Ramos faces tough test from wily Saiss
  + stars: | 2022-12-08 | by ( Shady Amir | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +2 min
Ramos, 21, made headlines when the teams were announced, picked to lead the attack in place of Portugal's all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo who was relegated to the bench. It did not take long for the youngster to become one of the biggest stories of the Qatar World Cup. Ramos made his debut in Portugal's 4-0 win over Nigeria in a warm-up game before the World Cup and played a total of 10 minutes as a substitute in two of the three group matches. Perhaps Ramos, who helped Benfica reach the Champions League last 16 this season, benefited from being the third striker in the squad behind Ronaldo and Andre Silva. He will now be firmly in the spotlight when Morocco coach Walid Regragui considers his tactics.
Mr Avocado Head has Morocco daring to dream
  + stars: | 2022-12-07 | by ( Shady Amir | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +4 min
When the appointment of Regragui following the departure of Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic was announced in August, underwhelmed pundits branded him "avocado head" as a belittling term of derision. Morocco first grabbed attention at the World Cup with a goalless draw against Croatia, the runners-up four years ago. Unfortunately, I did not play in the World Cup. "I think Africans can go far, why not dream of winning the cup? The Moroccan people made us united on the field," Regragui told Bein Sports.
Morocco's 'avocado head' plots another World Cup shock
  + stars: | 2022-12-04 | by ( Shady Amir | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +2 min
Spain, who humbled Costa Rica 7-0 in their opening game, finished second in Group E behind Japan while Morocco defied the odds to win Group F ahead of Croatia and Belgium. The Spanish, world champions in 2010, lost their last group match to Japan and face a difficult test from a Moroccan side growing in confidence under coach Walid Regragui. Spain drew 1-1 with Germany following their rout of Costa Rica and after the loss to Japan coach Luis Enrique was critical of his team. This was impossible because in five minutes, Japan scored two goals ... we were out, we were dismantled," he said. In the first half against Costa Rica, Spain's 537 successful passes set a World Cup record but they will need to show more cutting edge to stay on course for a second world title.
Analysis: German exit not as shocking as it looks
  + stars: | 2022-12-01 | by ( Shady Amir | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +3 min
Data company Nielsen Gracenote gave them a 41% chance of failing to progress on the back of their recent struggles. The second goal was no different. Neuer saved a header from Juan Pablo Vargas but the ball deflected off the German keeper and into the net. On that occasion it was the first time that Germany had failed to pass the group stage since 1938 - which was a different format. After Fuellkrug's introduction they looked more dangerous as he set up Germany's second goal for Kai Havertz.
A generation that won't be forgotten by the Saudis
  + stars: | 2022-12-01 | by ( Shady Amir | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +2 min
[1/3] Nov 22, 2022; Lusail, Qatar; Saudi Arabia midfielder Salem Al-Dawsari (10) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against Argentina during a group stage match during the 2022 World Cup at Lusail Stadium. read moreOnly the heroics of Saudi goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Owais prevented a humiliating defeat, though they still finished bottom of Group C, three points behind group winners Argentina. Yes, in Saudi Arabia we know the players well, but they are unknown to fans around the world," Renard said. Saudi Arabia has been playing a bigger role in sport globally. Saudi's football federation is also hoping Cristiano Ronaldo can be lured to a local club after the Portuguese forward had his contract terminated by Manchester United.
Saudi Arabia and Mexico goalless at halftime
  + stars: | 2022-11-30 | by ( Daniel Wiessner | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +1 min
[1/5] Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group C - Saudi Arabia v Mexico - Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar - November 30, 2022 Saudi Arabia's Feras Albrikan in action with Mexico's Jesus Gallardo and Cesar Montes REUTERS/Matthew ChildsLUSAIL, Qatar, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Owais kept his team's hopes of advancing to the World Cup last 16 alive in a goalless first half against Mexico in Group C on Wednesday. Al-Owais rushed out to break up an attack in the third minute and he saved Orbelin Pineda's shot in the 25th minute. Saudi Arabia need victory to reach the knockout stages. Mexico's slim hopes are still alive but they need a big win to make it to the last 16 for the eighth World Cup in a row. Reporting by Shady Amir; Editing by Ed OsmondOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Saudi Arabia in the mix for last 16 ahead of Mexico clash
  + stars: | 2022-11-28 | by ( Shady Amir | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +3 min
In their five previous participations, Saudi Arabia have qualified for the round of 16 only once, on their debut at the tournament in 1994. In Qatar, Poland lead Group C on four points, one ahead of Argentina and Saudi Arabia, while Mexico are on one point. If Saudi Arabia want to progress they will have to beat Mexico, regardless of the outcome of the match between Poland and Argentina. "Qatar is Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia is Qatar. Mexico need to beat Saudi Arabia by at least a three-goal margin, with Poland not losing to Argentina.
Against Belgium, man of the match Ziyech showed what the team was missing in a brilliant performance that helped Morocco to their first World Cup victory since beating Scotland 3-0 in 1998. "He is incredible, the spirit he has, coming back to the national team," a jubilant Regragui said. "A lot of people talk about him, say he is crazy and difficult to manage, that he can't help the team. Ziyech had Morocco's first shot on goal in the second half, and was allowed to move freely between the lines in the front third, tormenting the Belgian defence. Another substitute, Abdelhamid Sabiri, struck the shot that touched captain Romain Saiss on its way in for the first goal.
Saudi Arabia's injured Al-Faraj out of the World Cup
  + stars: | 2022-11-27 | by ( Shady Amir | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +1 min
Al RAYYAN, Qatar, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Injured Saudi Arabia captain Salman Al-Faraj is out of the World Cup after coach Herve Renard agreed to let him leave the camp, the Saudi Football Association said on Sunday. Al-Faraj was injured at the end of the first half of the historic 2-1 victory over Argentina in Saudi Arabia's first match in the tournament on Tuesday. He left the stadium on crutches, with an apparent leg injury, and Renard said he did not expect him to participate in any more matches at the finals. Saudi Arabia, who lost 2-0 to Poland on Saturday, are equal with Argentina on three points while Poland top the group with four and Mexico are last with one point. Saudi Arabia need to beat Mexico in the last match in the group on Wednesday to ensure qualification for the last 16, regardless of the outcome of the match between Poland and Argentina.
Jakobs makes first start for Senegal in Qatar showdown
  + stars: | 2022-11-25 | by ( Shady Amir | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +1 min
DOHA, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Defender Ismail Jakobs gets his first start of the tournament for Senegal and Meshaal Barsham gets the nod in goal for Qatar as the two sides meet in their second Group A game at the 2022 World Cup. Senegal manager Aliou Cisse swaps Jakobs in for the injured Cheikhou Kouyate and Pape Abou Cisse is replaced by Famara Diedhiou, while Qatar boss Felix Sanchez makes three changes from the side that lost 2-0 to Ecuador. TEAMS:Qatar: Meshaal Barsham, Pedro Miguel, Abdelkarim Hassan, Ismail Mohamad, Hassan Al-Haydos (captain), Akram Afif, Karim Boudiaf, Homam Ahmed, Assim Madibo, Boualem Khoukhi, Almoez Ali. Senegal: Eduoard Mendy, Youssouf Sabaly, Kalidou Koulibaly, Abdou Diallo, Nampalys Mendy, Famara Diedhiou, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Ismail Jakobs, Krepin Diatta, Ismaila Sarr, Boulaye Dia. Reporting by Shady Amir, additional reporting by Nick Said and Philip O'Connor; Editing by Hugh LawsonOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
End of Qatar's football project or just the start?
  + stars: | 2022-11-25 | by ( Shady Amir | ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +4 min
FOOTBALL PROJECTOn the eve of the crucial Senegal game, Sanchez said the team had prepared psychologically for the possibility of an early exit from the tournament. "We are a small country, the smallest to host the World Cup, and we are aware of the fact that we may be knocked out early, but that doesn't mean the end of the football project," he said. Against Senegal, Sanchez made three changes to the starting lineup, including bringing in goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham. When the Netherlands later drew 1-1 with Ecuador, it was the end of Qatar's hopes in the World Cup. The question remains though as to whether it's the end of the Qatari football project or just the start.
Al-RAYYAN, Qatar, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia defender Yasser Al-Shahrani's World Cup is likely over as he will undergo surgery after sustaining a facial injury during the 2-1 Group C victory over Argentina on Tuesday. Al-Shahrani fell to the ground after colliding with goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais in stoppage time and was carried off the pitch on a stretcher. "Yasser Al-Shahrani is heading to the National Guard Hospital in Riyadh and will undergo surgery in the coming few hours as per the medical staff's recovery plan," the Saudi Federation said on social media. Reuters was not able to obtain comment from officials of the Saudi Federation about his participation in the following two group games. Editing by Christian RadnedgeOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
LUSAIL, Qatar, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Unheralded Saudi Arabia notched one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history on Tuesday with a 2-1 win over Lionel Messi's Argentina thanks to a scintillating second half come back. But Saudi Arabia, the second-lowest ranked team in the tournament after Ghana, threw caution to the wind at the start of the second half, charging at Argentina's defence in front of a frenzied 88,012 crowd. Despite plenty of possession after that, Argentina were unable to penetrate Saudi Arabia, who were competing in their sixth World Cup but had never previously won an opening game. ", the green-clad Saudis chanted over and over in the Lusail Stadium, on their feet and greeting every clearance from their defence with a deafening roar. Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne and Shady Amir; Editing by Christian RadnedgeOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Saudis stun Argentina to take 2-1 lead
  + stars: | 2022-11-22 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: 1 min
[1/4] Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group C - Argentina v Saudi Arabia - Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar - November 22, 2022 Saudi Arabia's Salem Al-Dawsari celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates REUTERS/Dylan MartinezLUSAIL, Qatar, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia took a shock 2-1 lead in the second half of their World Cup game against Lionel Messi's Argentina with brilliant individual goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari. Al-Shehri squeezed in a low shot in the 48th minute while Al-Dawsari curled in a scorching strike from the edge of the penalty area in the 53rd minute to leave Argentina, one of the tournament favourites, looking shell-shocked. Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne and Shady Amir; Editing by Christian RadnedgeOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Messi leads Argentina v Saudi Arabia in final World Cup quest
  + stars: | 2022-11-22 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +2 min
Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard kept captain and midfielder Salman Al-Faraj in the team after his recent recovery from a shoulder injury. Abdulelah Al-Malki will keep Saudi Arabia's first line of defence in front of the back line, alongside Al-Faraj. The Saudi team is entirely home-based, with the local league's financial clout ensuring few leading players aspire to play overseas. Following are the teams:Argentina:Emeliano Martinez, Cristian Romero, Nicolas Tagliafico Nicolas Otamendi, Nahuel Molina, Alejandro Gomez, Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, Lionel Messi (c), Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria. Saudi Arabia:Mohamed Al-Owais, Ali Al-Bulaihi, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohamed Kanno, Saud Abdulhamid, Abdulelah Al-Malki, Saleh Al-Shehri, Hassan Al-Tambakti, Salman Al-Faraj (c), Salem Al-Dawsari, Firas Al-Buraikan.
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