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Qatar World Cup: Saudi Arabia shock Argentina 2-1

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Saudi Arabia secured a shocking 2-1 win over Lionel Messi’s Argentina in Group C of the Qatar World Cup on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia took the lead in the second half of the game at the Lusail Iconic Stadium with brilliant goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari.

Messi had given one of the pre-tournament favourites the lead from the penalty spot after a contentious VAR decision in the 10th minute but Saleh Al-Shehri levelled just three minutes into the second period to set up an almighty upset.

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.

The result ended Argentina’s 36-game unbeaten run, stretching back to defeat against Brazil three years ago.

La Albiceleste last lost their opening World Cup group game in 1990 – against Cameroon – but they went on to reach the final where they lost to Germany.

The two-time World Cup champions next face Mexico on Saturday, where victory is vital if they are to have any chances of progressing.

Argentina need at least a point to avoid throwing their hopes of progression into jeopardy.

Saudi Arabia will face Poland the same day and a win would all-but seal their progression to the knock-out stages, and most likely as group winners.

The winners of Group C will face the runner-up from Group D, containing France, Denmark, Tunisia and Australia, while the runner-up in Group D will face the winners of Group C.

 

 

 

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Morocco Knock Out Spain, Book Quarter-Final Spot

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Morocco beat Spain on penalties to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history on Tuesday after the match finished 0-0.

The African side won the shoot-out 3-0 after Spain failed to convert all three of their spot kicks.

Spain coach Luis Enrique had claimed his players prepared by taking 1,000 penalties as homework but Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets all missed from the spot and Madrid-born Hakimi dinked his home to the delight of Morocco’s raucous support.

Walid Regragui’s side will face Portugal or Switzerland in what is uncharted territory for them, with their previous best a last-16 exit in 1986.

Spain had been hoping they could repeat their 2010 World Cup triumph after reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2020, where they were also beaten on penalties by Italy.

The teams were closely matched through a nail-biting clash, with Spain having more of the ball but Morocco creating the better openings, few though they were.

Luis Enrique trialled his third right-back of the tournament in Marcos Llorente, and benched the team’s top scorer Alvaro Morata for Marco Asensio, after the shock defeat by Japan.

Spain monopolised the ball, with Morocco’s fans furiously whistling with their side out of possession.

Morocco, who are the last African and Arab side left standing at the first World Cup held in an Arab country, were intensely backed and their fans greatly outnumbered Spain’s.

With La Roja playing in a pale blue second strip, they resembled the away team on hostile territory.

Gavi, who at 18 years and 123 days old became the youngest player to start a World Cup knockout game since Brazil great Pele in 1958, rose to the occasion.

The Barcelona midfield terrier was at his most intense, smashing into challenges left, right and centre, even diving to make one with his head.

Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou tipped a Gavi strike on to the crossbar, though it would have been ruled offside, while Asensio drilled into the side-netting, although Spain created little.

Regragui’s side sat deep defensively and threatened on the counter, with Unai Simon beating away a long range effort from Noussair Mazraoui.

Sofiane Boufal, who bypassed Llorente like sand slipping through the Spaniard’s fingers early on, carved the best chance of the half for Nayef Aguerd, who headed inches over.

Bounou pummelled away a Dani Olmo strike from an angle as the tension cranked up after the break.

Luis Enrique raged at Rodri for choosing the wrong option on the ball, and withdrew the dogged and muddied Gavi for Carlos Soler.

He threw Morata on too, giving Spain a focal point up top, but they struggled to supply him as Morocco sat deeper and deeper.

Another substitute, Nico Williams did find the Atletico Madrid striker on one occasion but the angle was too tight and he scraped a shot across the face of goal.

Bounou made a fine save from Olmo’s free-kick as it almost snuck all the way through, with Spain finally creating stronger chances as the game frayed in the moments before extra-time.

Morocco responded in the additional period by finding stability and testing Simon, who made a fine save with his legs to deny Walid Cheddira after he broke in down Spain’s left flank.

Despite heavy pressure by Spain in the final moments before penalties, they could not trouble the Sevilla goalkeeper again, with Pablo Sarabia clipping the outside of the post, although he might have been offside.

Having been sent on apparently for the shoot-out, Sarabia struck the post again from Spain’s first penalty, after Abdelhamid Sabiri had sent Morocco ahead.

Soler and Busquets missed, while Hakim Ziyech scored, before Hakimi netted against his birth country to ignite wild celebrations.

AFP

 

 

 

 

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Germany Slump To Japan In Another World Cup Shocker

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Japan stunned Germany 2-1 in their World Cup opener on Wednesday, punishing the four-time champions for not taking their chances after they dominated the first half.

The German team covered their mouths for the team photo before the match in a powerful protest against FIFA’s decision to ban rainbow-themed armbands.

Hansi Flick’s team came to Qatar under huge pressure to avoid the disaster of 2018, when they failed to make it out of the group stage in Russia as holders.

They took the lead through a first-half penalty from Ilkay Gundogan and should have been out of sight after creating a host of chances.

But Japan hung on and equalised through substitute Ritsu Doan in the 75th minute.

Takuma Asano then completed a remarkable turnaround eight minutes later, smashing the ball home to send the boisterous Japanese fans wild.

Germany’s World Cup future is now on the line, with games to come in Group E against Spain and Costa Rica.

Japan are eyeing a place in the knockout round after a dramatic comeback that scarcely looked possible at the end of the first half.

The Blue Samurai made a positive start, with Daizen Maeda putting the ball in the net as early as the eighth minute only for the linesman to flag for offside.

 

 

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Spain Ignite World Cup Bid By Smashing Seven Past Costa Rica

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Spain shredded Costa Rica 7-0 on Wednesday in a brutal destruction in their Group E opener which launched their bid to lift a second World Cup.

Avoiding the fate of giants Argentina and group rivals Germany, who lost 2-1 to Japan earlier on, Luis Enrique’s fancied side sparkled at Doha’s Al Thumama Stadium, dominating possession and taking their chances mercilessly.

Ferran Torres netted twice and Marco Asensio, Dani Olmo, Gavi, Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata were also on the scoresheet for the Euro 2020 semi-finalists in an emphatic romp.

In the past the 2010 World Cup winners have paid the price for profligacy but all three forwards Luis Enrique selected netted in the first half to pay back his trust in them.

The coach placed Asensio at false nine, flanked by Olmo and Torres, starting with Morata and Ansu Fati on the bench.

The coach opted to deploy Manchester City midfielder Rodri Hernandez in central defence, alongside club team-mate Aymeric Laporte, correctly anticipating his team would monopolise the ball.

It took only 11 minutes for La Roja to open the scoring, with Gavi stabbing a pass forward for Olmo to receive in the area and the RB Leipzig winger taking one sublime touch to turn and another to stroke the ball gently past Keylor Navas.

Costa Rica, who were a surprise package at the 2014 World Cup, beating Italy and Uruguay and drawing with England to top their group, were sliced apart again for the second goal 10 minutes later.

Jordi Alba’s low drilled cross was rammed home by Real Madrid forward Asensio past his former team-mate Navas, who might have done more to keep it out.

Torres stroked home from the penalty spot after Alba was fouled by Oscar Duarte –- a soft call on a hard night for Los Ticos, who were never in the game and failed to muster a shot at goal.

Barcelona forward Torres capitalised on more slack defending to fire the fourth past Navas early in the second half.

Luis Enrique was able to take off the effervescent Pedri and Torres before the hour mark in order to rest them for Sunday’s clash with Germany, and handed teenage Barcelona left-back Alejandro Balde his debut.

The 19-year-old roared up the pitch in the build-up to Spain’s fifth goal, with substitute Morata crossing for Gavi to drill home with aplomb.

Kopa Trophy winner Gavi became the third youngest goalscorer at a World Cup at 18 years and 110 days old, after Mexico’s Manuel Rosas and record holder Pele.

Soler and Morata then got in on the act with stoppage-time strikes to pile further misery on Costa Rica and help Spain flex their muscles in a perfect opening match in Qatar.

AFP

 

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