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Juan Antonio Pizzi tells Saudi Arabia to improve or forget about beating Japan

LONDON: Saudi Arabia now know they will have to overcome Japan in the second round if they are to keep their hopes of a fourth Asian Cup title alive.  A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Qatar meant Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men finished second in Group E — both sides went into the top-of-the-table clash…

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Juan Antonio Pizzi tells Saudi Arabia to improve or forget about beating Japan

LONDON: Saudi Arabia now know they will have to overcome Japan in the second round if they are to keep their hopes of a fourth Asian Cup title alive. 

A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Qatar meant Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men finished second in Group E — both sides went into the top-of-the-table clash knowing they had already secured a spot in the knockout stages. 

A brace from Almoez Ali in Abu Dhabi was enough to give Qatar the three points and leave them top of the group. 

From the kick-off the Green Falcons were the ones who looked the more likely to make the initial breakthrough —  Fahad Almuwallad slamming a right-foot shot against the post after 22 minutes.

Qatar captain Hasan Al-Haydos then missed a penalty in the 42nd minute after Ali had been clattered in the box.

But Ali, who scored four goals in Qatar’s 6-0 rout of North Korea last weekend, made no mistake in first-half stoppage time.

He calmly slotted the ball past Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais to become the first player to score six goals in a single Asian Cup since South Korea’s Lee Dong-gook in 2000.

Ali subsequently headed in a seventh goal of the tournament 10 minutes from time, celebrating with a jig of delight.

While the defeat was not ideal Green Falcons coach Pizzi said he was still hopeful Saudi Arabia would be able to go far in the tournament. 

“It was an intense game but we have to hide our feelings and prepare for the last 16,” Pizzi said.

“We were missing quality in the final third and individual errors have cost us,” he added.

“But we will bounce back. I respect every team left in the competition, including Japan, but I don’t feel that we are inferior to them in any way.”

Qatar, who have never gone beyond the quarterfinals, advance to face Iraq in the last 16.

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Polish power meets Brazilian grit as Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira face off at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi

LOS ANGELES: UFC is back in Abu Dhabi, and this time it’s with a double-header of title fights in front of a capacity crowd at Etihad Arena for the very first time. The newly launched venue hosted UFC 257 in January, with Dustin Poirier win over Conor McGregor in the second part of their trilogy…

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Polish power meets Brazilian grit as Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira face off at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi

LOS ANGELES: UFC is back in Abu Dhabi, and this time it’s with a double-header of title fights in front of a capacity crowd at Etihad Arena for the very first time.

The newly launched venue hosted UFC 257 in January, with Dustin Poirier win over Conor McGregor in the second part of their trilogy of fights topping the bill.

Only 2,000 people were in the audience that night. On Saturday night, 18,000 people are expected to see Jan Blachowicz of Poland defend his Light Heavyweight title defense against Glover Texiera of Brazil at UFC 267.

Blachowicz is coming off an upset victory over the formerly undefeated Israel Adesanya at UFC 259 in March, and the big-punching Pole had been in sensational form before that with knockouts in three of his previous four fights.

Adesanya, however, presented a unique striking challenge for the 38-year-old Blachowicz, who seemed hesitant to throw and was biting on Adesanya’s faints. Although his striking prowess was not on full display that night, he exhibited an ability to adapt and find a path to victory.

Meanwhile, Teixeira is coming off a huge win over Thiago Santos having been hurt early on, which is becoming something of a habit for the Brazilian. Although the 41-year-old Texiera often gets hurt early and comes on later, Blachowiz is not someone you want to hit you clean. Texiera’s grappling is amongst the best in the division, with his vicious ground and pound opening his opponents up for submissions.

Prior to that, the first of the night’s two title bouts pits Cory Sandhagen of the US against Petr Yan of Russia for the interim Bantamweight title, a fight that was put together at short notice after Aljamain Sterling was not medically cleared due to a neck injury sustained in his fight against the latter.

Both Yan and Sandhagen will be looking to make up for controversial losses in their last fights.

Yan was picking Sterling apart and looked to be breezing to a dominant decision victory until an illegal knee saw him disqualified in round four. He has looked phenomenal in his last three fights against Urijah Faber, Jose Aldo and Sterling, with none having an answer for his Muay Thai style.

While Yan has looked impressive, the argument can be made that Sandhagen has looked even better. Excluding a slip-up against Sterling  at UFC 250 last year, and a contentious split decision against TJ Dillashaw in July, Sandhagen has looked like a world-beater.

His spin kick in the TKO win over Marlon Moraes in Abu Dhabi last October was spectacular, only to be topped months later by his flying knee against Frankie Edgar.

The 29-year-old American lives and dies by his unorthodox and loose style of fighting. In his last fight against Dillashaw, Sandhagen showed susceptibility to opening his back up to his opponents when throwing his spinning attacks. Dillashaw was able to exploit this and control clinch positions for minutes on end.

Yan displayed a similar ability to gain control of the back against Sterling when he threw spinning strikes. Both fighters will face challenges they have not faced before, and the winner would, in the eyes of many, be the best Bantamweight in the world. Sandhagen is the one with most to lose, as a defeat against Yan would put him at 0-3 against the three highest-ranked Bantamweight fighters, while Yan would likely be placed into another number 1 contender fight due to the way he lost the belt.

In the biggest of the non-title fights, the Kiwi Dan Hooker, after his decision victory of the German Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266 in September, is stepping in on one month’s notice to face Islam Makhachev – the most avoided fighter in the promotion and the heir to Khabib Nurmagomedov.

In his last bout, Hooker exhibited wrestling and control on the ground, skills that will be tested to the limit against Makhachev in their Lightweight matchup. The 31-year-old’s knees are another tool that will be employed to prevent the eventual takedown.

Since his loss in his UFC debut, Makhachev has looked almost unbeatable, with his wrestling exuding strength, speed, and tenacity.

His grappling was put to test in his first main event against Thiago Moises, who presented a submission threat Makhachev hadn’t faced up until that point. He passed the test with flying colors, dominating the Brazilians from start to finish to win with a fourth round submission.

This bout has major title implications for the winner, while the loser will likely have to take a high-risk, low-reward fight with Rafael Fiziev or Gregor Gillespie.

Alexander Volkov takes on Marcin Tybura in Heavyweight bout that was added late to the main card, and before that is one of the most anticipated fights of the night which sees the return of Khamzat Chimaev against the “Leech” Li Jingliang in the Welterweight division.

The Russian-born Swede is coming off a year’s layoff due to lingering effects of COVID-19 that ruled him out of multiple bouts with Leon Edwards.

Chimaev burst onto the scene last year, winning two fights within 10 days at Fight Island 1 in Abu Dhabi. In those bouts, the 27-year-old displayed powerful wrestling and smooth grappling that rendered his opponents powerless to his never-ending barrage of ground strikes and submission attempts.

In his most recent appearance in the Octagon, he flattened Gerald Meerschaert in only 10 seconds with a single right hand. Although Chimaev seemed open to fighting at both Welterweight and middleweight, declining main event bouts with Luke Rockhold show he is more interested in fighting at welterweight.

Up against him will be Jingliang, who knocked Santiago Ponzinibbio out in the first round last January. The Leech utilizes a unique striking style, employing an abundance of hooks from unorthodox angles, although  the 33-year-old from China showed a susceptibility to be controlled in his bout against Neil Magny in 2020.

This fight will come down to who controls where it takes place, with Chimaev being more comfortable on the ground while Jingliang preferring a striking affair. The winner of the bout is sure to see a steep challenge in their next fight, with fighters like Wonderboy, Belal Muhammad and Geoff Neal, without signed fights, waiting for their chance.

The main card opens with an intriguing matchup between ranked Light Heavyweights Magomed Ankalaev of Russia and Volkan Oezdemir of Switzerland.

The 22 -year-old Oezdemir’s defeat to Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi has aged well, with  Czech fighter solidifying himself as the next man in line for a title shot.

Short bouts have become synonymous with Oezdemir fights, with the Swiss fighter’s kill or be killed style leading to swift finishes. But in Ankaleav, he will up against man many believe to be the future champion of the division. Ankaleav has been perfect in his career outside of a last-second submission defeat to Paul Craig back in 2018.

Ankaleav possesses masterful striking and employs a variety of techniques. While his power and striking are impressive, Ankalaev has also displayed sound wrestling in his last victory against Nikita Krylov in February.

This bout has significant implications for the trajectory of both fighters’ careers, as a win for Ankalaev puts him in the title picture, while a win for Oezdemir keeps him relevant at the peak of the division. A loss for either fighter increases their distance to the title substantially in the shark-infested waters of the light heavyweight division.

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Bayern star Kimmich sparks vaccination debate in Germany

Polish power meets Brazilian grit as Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira face off at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi LOS ANGELES: UFC is back in Abu Dhabi, and this time it’s with a double-header of title fights in front of a capacity crowd at Etihad Arena for the very first time. The newly launched venue…

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Bayern star Kimmich sparks vaccination debate in Germany

Polish power meets Brazilian grit as Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira face off at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi

LOS ANGELES: UFC is back in Abu Dhabi, and this time it’s with a double-header of title fights in front of a capacity crowd at Etihad Arena for the very first time.

The newly launched venue hosted UFC 257 in January, with Dustin Poirier win over Conor McGregor in the second part of their trilogy of fights topping the bill.

Only 2,000 people were in the audience that night. On Saturday night, 18,000 people are expected to see Jan Blachowicz of Poland defend his Light Heavyweight title defense against Glover Texiera of Brazil at UFC 267.

Blachowicz is coming off an upset victory over the formerly undefeated Israel Adesanya at UFC 259 in March, and the big-punching Pole had been in sensational form before that with knockouts in three of his previous four fights.

Adesanya, however, presented a unique striking challenge for the 38-year-old Blachowicz, who seemed hesitant to throw and was biting on Adesanya’s faints. Although his striking prowess was not on full display that night, he exhibited an ability to adapt and find a path to victory.

Meanwhile, Teixeira is coming off a huge win over Thiago Santos having been hurt early on, which is becoming something of a habit for the Brazilian. Although the 41-year-old Texiera often gets hurt early and comes on later, Blachowiz is not someone you want to hit you clean. Texiera’s grappling is amongst the best in the division, with his vicious ground and pound opening his opponents up for submissions.

Prior to that, the first of the night’s two title bouts pits Cory Sandhagen of the US against Petr Yan of Russia for the interim Bantamweight title, a fight that was put together at short notice after Aljamain Sterling was not medically cleared due to a neck injury sustained in his fight against the latter.

Both Yan and Sandhagen will be looking to make up for controversial losses in their last fights.

Yan was picking Sterling apart and looked to be breezing to a dominant decision victory until an illegal knee saw him disqualified in round four. He has looked phenomenal in his last three fights against Urijah Faber, Jose Aldo and Sterling, with none having an answer for his Muay Thai style.

While Yan has looked impressive, the argument can be made that Sandhagen has looked even better. Excluding a slip-up against Sterling  at UFC 250 last year, and a contentious split decision against TJ Dillashaw in July, Sandhagen has looked like a world-beater.

His spin kick in the TKO win over Marlon Moraes in Abu Dhabi last October was spectacular, only to be topped months later by his flying knee against Frankie Edgar.

The 29-year-old American lives and dies by his unorthodox and loose style of fighting. In his last fight against Dillashaw, Sandhagen showed susceptibility to opening his back up to his opponents when throwing his spinning attacks. Dillashaw was able to exploit this and control clinch positions for minutes on end.

Yan displayed a similar ability to gain control of the back against Sterling when he threw spinning strikes. Both fighters will face challenges they have not faced before, and the winner would, in the eyes of many, be the best Bantamweight in the world. Sandhagen is the one with most to lose, as a defeat against Yan would put him at 0-3 against the three highest-ranked Bantamweight fighters, while Yan would likely be placed into another number 1 contender fight due to the way he lost the belt.

In the biggest of the non-title fights, the Kiwi Dan Hooker, after his decision victory of the German Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266 in September, is stepping in on one month’s notice to face Islam Makhachev – the most avoided fighter in the promotion and the heir to Khabib Nurmagomedov.

In his last bout, Hooker exhibited wrestling and control on the ground, skills that will be tested to the limit against Makhachev in their Lightweight matchup. The 31-year-old’s knees are another tool that will be employed to prevent the eventual takedown.

Since his loss in his UFC debut, Makhachev has looked almost unbeatable, with his wrestling exuding strength, speed, and tenacity.

His grappling was put to test in his first main event against Thiago Moises, who presented a submission threat Makhachev hadn’t faced up until that point. He passed the test with flying colors, dominating the Brazilians from start to finish to win with a fourth round submission.

This bout has major title implications for the winner, while the loser will likely have to take a high-risk, low-reward fight with Rafael Fiziev or Gregor Gillespie.

Alexander Volkov takes on Marcin Tybura in Heavyweight bout that was added late to the main card, and before that is one of the most anticipated fights of the night which sees the return of Khamzat Chimaev against the “Leech” Li Jingliang in the Welterweight division.

The Russian-born Swede is coming off a year’s layoff due to lingering effects of COVID-19 that ruled him out of multiple bouts with Leon Edwards.

Chimaev burst onto the scene last year, winning two fights within 10 days at Fight Island 1 in Abu Dhabi. In those bouts, the 27-year-old displayed powerful wrestling and smooth grappling that rendered his opponents powerless to his never-ending barrage of ground strikes and submission attempts.

In his most recent appearance in the Octagon, he flattened Gerald Meerschaert in only 10 seconds with a single right hand. Although Chimaev seemed open to fighting at both Welterweight and middleweight, declining main event bouts with Luke Rockhold show he is more interested in fighting at welterweight.

Up against him will be Jingliang, who knocked Santiago Ponzinibbio out in the first round last January. The Leech utilizes a unique striking style, employing an abundance of hooks from unorthodox angles, although  the 33-year-old from China showed a susceptibility to be controlled in his bout against Neil Magny in 2020.

This fight will come down to who controls where it takes place, with Chimaev being more comfortable on the ground while Jingliang preferring a striking affair. The winner of the bout is sure to see a steep challenge in their next fight, with fighters like Wonderboy, Belal Muhammad and Geoff Neal, without signed fights, waiting for their chance.

The main card opens with an intriguing matchup between ranked Light Heavyweights Magomed Ankalaev of Russia and Volkan Oezdemir of Switzerland.

The 22 -year-old Oezdemir’s defeat to Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi has aged well, with  Czech fighter solidifying himself as the next man in line for a title shot.

Short bouts have become synonymous with Oezdemir fights, with the Swiss fighter’s kill or be killed style leading to swift finishes. But in Ankaleav, he will up against man many believe to be the future champion of the division. Ankaleav has been perfect in his career outside of a last-second submission defeat to Paul Craig back in 2018.

Ankaleav possesses masterful striking and employs a variety of techniques. While his power and striking are impressive, Ankalaev has also displayed sound wrestling in his last victory against Nikita Krylov in February.

This bout has significant implications for the trajectory of both fighters’ careers, as a win for Ankalaev puts him in the title picture, while a win for Oezdemir keeps him relevant at the peak of the division. A loss for either fighter increases their distance to the title substantially in the shark-infested waters of the light heavyweight division.

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Dec. 14 confirmed as date for Maradona Cup match between Barcelona and Boca Juniors in Saudi Arabia

Rosberg X Racing wins Island X Prix in Sardinia to take commanding lead in inaugural Extreme E season SARDINIA: Rosberg X Racing made it three wins from four races by securing victory at the Enel X Island X Prix in Sardinia to build a commanding lead in the inaugural Extreme E championship season. The race…

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Dec. 14 confirmed as date for Maradona Cup match between Barcelona and Boca Juniors in Saudi Arabia

Rosberg X Racing wins Island X Prix in Sardinia to take commanding lead in inaugural Extreme E season

SARDINIA: Rosberg X Racing made it three wins from four races by securing victory at the Enel X Island X Prix in Sardinia to build a commanding lead in the inaugural Extreme E championship season.

The race was the fourth in the first-ever electric SUV series, which launched in April with the Desert X Prix at AlUla. That was followed by the Ocean X Prix in Dakar, Senegal, at the end of May and the Arctic X Prix in Greenland in August. The fifth and final race will be the Jurassic X Prix in Dorset, the UK, in December.

RXR drivers Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor kept their heads in difficult conditions to seal a dramatic victory in Sardinia — for the team established by former Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg — ahead of ABT CUPRA XE, who secured their best result of the season in second.

“It was pretty slippery out there, so it was a bit difficult to judge at first,” Taylor said. “From that point it was just trying to manage the risk and I think that is what we did really well. Johan brought it home and again it was just an amazing effort by all of the team. We had a very challenging weekend from our side, but we never gave up and are very happy to be the winners here.”

There was heartbreak, however, for long-time leaders in the final SEGI TV Chip Ganassi Racing. Sara Price’s crash on the second lap caused terminal damage and meant she had to stop on the track, ensuring the team could only finish as high as fourth on their finals debut. That meant JBXE were able to secure their third podium finish in succession with third place despite also suffering damage out on the course.

Bad luck once again befell fastest qualifiers X44 in the final, as Sebastien Loeb was forced to stop out on track and retire with broken steering. Loeb was running in second behind SEGI TV’s Kyle LeDuc despite driving with a slow puncture at the time of the stoppage, which meant the team fell even further behind winners and championship leaders RXR in the standings.

“When I took over the car, we were in second place and were pretty isolated,” RXR’s Kristoffersson said. “We had Mattias (Ekstrom) behind, but I knew it was going to be tricky to do the overtake. Then I heard that Sara had suffered broken steering out in front so I tried to get the car back in one piece by not taking any big risks. I think in this final that Molly really did the best job and it feels great to bring it home.”

In treacherous conditions, four of the five teams were able to get off the start line cleanly, although ABT CUPRA XE were left with plenty of work to do after Jutta Kleinschmidt stalled on the grid. It looked like X44 had staged a remarkable comeback to lead into the first corner, but were beaten spectacularly by LeDuc, who managed to get in front after using the alternative route.

“I was so concentrated on the start to make it well and light and then I pushed the car and nothing happened. I said, ‘Oh shoot, what is going on,’” said Kleinschmidt. “Then I pushed it, but everybody was gone, so I had to try to come back, which worked very well. We so nearly made it ahead of RXR, but unfortunately then Mattias lost the door so he had to slow down to not let the water come in, because then maybe you have mud inside and then you don’t see anything anymore. Finally, though, we are on the podium so we are happy.”

Final Result

1 Rosberg X Racing (Molly Taylor / Johan Kristoffersson) 2 laps (11.42)

2 ABT Cupra XE (Jutta Kleinschmidt / Mattias Ekstrom) +24.58s

3 JBXE (Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky / Kevin Hansen) +1 lap

4 SEGI TV Chip Ganassi Racing (Kyle LeDuc / Sara Price) +1 lap5

X44 (Sebastien Loeb / Cristina Gutierrez) +2 laps

Championship Standings

1 Rosberg X Racing (Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor) 129 points

2 X44 (Sebastien Loeb / Cristina Gutierrez) 113 points

3 Andretti United Extreme E (Timmy Hansen / Catie Munnings) 93 points

4 JBXE (Kevin Hansen / Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky) 92 points

5 ABT CUPRA XE (Mattias Ekstrom / Jutta Kleinschmidt) 83 points

6 ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team (Carlos Sainz Snr. / Laia Sanz) 78 points

7 SEGI TV Chip Ganassi Racing (Kyle Leduc / Sara Price) 63 points8

8 Veloce Racing (Stephane Sarrazin / Emma Gilmour) 60 points

9 XITE ENERGY RACING (Oliver Bennett / Christine Giampaoli Zonca) 55 points

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