Monday, June 05, 2023 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
 Rizwan Rehmat
Rizwan Rehmat
Experienced sports journalist Rizwan Rehmat has covered events in more than 25 countries across 5 continents. Considered a Qatar sports historian by his peers, he has covered the 2006 Asian Games and world championships staged by Doha in athletics, gymnastics, boxing and cycling among scores of other sports events held in Qatar.
    The UAE players train on Sunday, on the eve of their FIFA Arab Cup match against Tunisia.
UAE coach urges players to focus ahead of do-or-die Tunisia clash

The UAE coach is seeking a fighting performance from his players against Tunisia when the two sides meet in their last Group A match in the FIFA Arab Cup at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha on Monday. Coached by Dutchman Bert van Marwijk, UAE have picked two successive wins but are yet to secure a quarter-finals berth in the 16-team tournament. UAE go into their last group game in a strong position though. A draw will be enough for the Whites to book their place in the latter stages as group winners, and even defeat would not spell the end of their hopes, though it would leave them dependent on the outcome of Syria’s match against Mauritania. With six points, Group B leaders UAE are ahead of second-placed Syria and Tunisia both with three points each. Bottom-placed Mauritania are the fourth side in the group with two successive losses from as many matches. “We have to maintain our focus and show the fighting character that we exhibited in the previous (two) matches,” Van Marwijk said yesterday at a pre-match press conference. “Our playing lines (against Tunisia) must be interconnected and provide us with the push that we need to cross this stage in the tournament,” he added. “My team is aware of the difficulty of facing the Tunisian side. We have two wins but we still have not qualified for the next stage. If we lose, we will exit from the tournament. If we draw or win, we will be at the top of the group. Everything is possible in this group. The players are required to focus on ourselves and provide what is required,” he said. UAE player Ali Salem said yesterday: “We will play to win. We won’t be playing for a draw. It’s an important game for us. We realise the importance of this match.” Ali Khaseef, the UAE goalkeeper, said yesterday: “We are ready to play this important match against Tunisia. We will fight on the pitch and give our best in order to achieve the result that guarantees the team’s qualification for the quarter-finals.” He added: “We value the support of our fans who are standing behind the team. We seek their support when we play against Tunisia also.” Mondher El-Kabir, coach of the Tunisian national team, yesterday said he wants his team to go for the win against regional giants UAE. Tunisia must win if they are to top the group and avoid facing hosts Qatar in the quarter-finals. The Carthage Eagles, who will be without the suspended Ben Romdhane Ali, can still qualify even if they draw or lose, in which case their fate will hinge on that Syria-Mauritania match. “We started preparing for the UAE match after the match against Syria in which we lost. We suffered from the mistakes that we made and now we have worked to correct them despite the lack of time,” El-Kabir said yesterday. “We have no choice in the UAE match but to go for a win. In this tournament you have only three days to prepare for every game and therefore we have to forget about the Syria match and think about the next match. We have to play with the required concentration. We will play the game as if it is a knockout clash. It is a decisive match for both sides,” the coach said. On the availability of Ali Maaloul and al-Shekhawi, the coach said yesterday: “The backroom staff is still following up on the physical condition of both players and the medical staff will give us the green light if they can play the next match.” Tunisian player Seif Al-Din al-Jaziri said yesterday: “We will be entering the UAE match with aims of going for a win. We are mentally ready for the match. Our loss against Syria was a shock for us but my teammates are confident of returning to winning ways when we play against UAE.”      

Algeria's Yacine brahimi (centre) celebrates after scoring a penalty during the FIFA Arab Cup Group D match against Lebanon at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah Saturday. PICTURE: Shemeer Rasheed
Algeria edge past feisty Lebanon to reach quarters

A second-half penalty by influential captain Yacine Brahimi and smart strike by Tayeb Meziani Saturday helped Algeria seal a quarter-final spot in the FIFA Arab Cup with a 2-0 win over Lebanon. Brahimi scored from the spot kick in the 68th minute at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah as Algeria picked up their second successive win in the 16-team tournament. Meziani scored in injury time (90+ 2) as Algeria wrapped up a fighting win. Lebanon's Eldor Hussein brought down feared striker Baghdad Bounedjah inside his own box with a reckless tackle in the 67th minute. Polish referee Szymon Marciniak pointed to the spot kick which was easily converted by Al Rayyan star Brahimi. Bounedjah late in the second half found Meziani with a neat cross and the winger drilled a shot past Lebanon keeper Mostafa Matar. Saturday's defeat was the fourth straight loss for Lebanon who were beaten by Egypt in their opening game on Wednesday. For Algeria, Saturday's fighting show brought them their second successive win after their thumping performance against Sudan (4-0) earlier in the week. Coached by Madjid Bougherra, Algeria are unbeaten in 20 matches in all competitions. Bougherra said Saturday: “We sometimes put ourselves in dangerous situations and caused us some problems, but in general I am satisfied with the performance of the players. Victory is more important in such matches. It was a tough match like I said in the press conference.” He added: “Big credit to this team. We had a lot of problems but we have three points from this match and we are happy. We have to keep working hard. The attitude of the players was very good today. Every game is a big game. Our fans are also happy. It is important for us to help our players recover quickly. It is very hard to play a match every three days.” In the 14th minute, Algeria's Tarat Medhi produced a header from close range but his deflection hit the Lebanon crossbar and bounced back. Four minutes later, Brahimi swiveled inside the Lebanon box but his powerful shot was blocked by keeper Matar. With momentum on their side, Bounedjah twice attacked the Lebanon goal - once in the 23rd minute and then in the 27th - but on both occasions the Algerian failed to find the net. Five minutes from the end of the first half, Brahimi found time and space to drill a shot towards the Lebanon goal but keeper Matar remained alert to thwart the dangerous move. In the 52nd minute a Bounedjah header from close range missed its target while soon after the hour-mark, Lebanon's Rabih Ataya blocked a shot by an Algerian defender. In the 66th minute, Mohamed Belaili and Brahimi played a neat 1-2 inside the Lebanon box but both players missed their chance to score from close range. Two minutes later, Brahimi scored from the spot kick after Bounedjah was brought down inside the Lebanon box. Algeria coach Bougherra benched Brahimi in the 79th minute but for Lebanon's Kassem El Zein, a second yellow brought an automatic red card in the 82nd minute. Two minutes from time, Bounedjah picked up a long loopy cross near the half-line. The 30-year-old teared away towards the Lebanon goal. Once the feared striker entered the box, Lebanese keeper Matar charged out and managed to get an out-stretched hand on a low flick by Bounedjah. In injury time, Algeria's Meziani added another goal from close range as the African giants closed out a commanding win.

Algeria's forward Baghdad Bounedjah (right) attempts to get past Sudan defenders during the FIFA Arab Cup Group D match at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium Wednesday. PICTURE: Shemeer Rasheed
Bounedjah stars as Algeria thump Sudan 4-0

Striker Baghdad Bounedjah lived up to his fearsome reputation Wednesday as Algeria crushed Sudan 4-0 in their opening FIFA Arab Cup match. Bounedjah, who plies his trade with Qatari football giants Al Sadd, produced a slick brace as Algeria launched their Group D campaign with a stellar show at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. The 30-year-old forward – declared man of the match – Wednesday opened the scoring in the 11th minute and then added one more in the 37th to give Algeria a 2-0 cushion in quick time. Djamel Benlamri added the third in the 43rd minute before El Arbi Hilal Soudani made it 4-0 in the 46th minute. “It was a good win. We achieved our target from this match,” Bounedjah said after the match. “We have picked up three points and that’s what we were looking for. We are happy with our good start in this tournament,” the Al Sadd star said. Algeria arrived for their first match on the back of an 18-game unbeaten run in all competitions and exhibited fighting form to control the match from the first minute. Sudan, on the other hand, have now lost seven straight matches whereas in-form Algeria have found the net 20 times in their last five fixtures. Bounedjah could have scored the most spectacular goal of the tournament but his bicycle from inside the box in the 9th minute but the ball hit the goalpost to the right of the Sudanese keeper and bounced back. The Algerian opened the scoring in the 11th minute after receiving a smart cross from Hilal Soudani stationed close to the half line. Bounedjah anticipated the cross well, outpaced his marker as he charged towards the Sudan box. Sudan keeper Ali Abdallah charged out and ended up out of his box. Bounedjah hoodwinked Abdallah and sent the ball into the net with a low fast-paced shot that crashed into the net. With momentum on their side, Bounedjah scored the second goal in the 37th minute after a pass from Al Rayyan’s Yacine Brahimi. The ever-alert Bounedjah fired a powerful right-footed low shot from inside the penalty area into the net. Qatar SC defender Benlamri added the third goal for the Algerian team two minutes before the end of the first half after an indirect deflection by Sofiane Bendebka on a corner kick. Benlamri, standing next to the goalline, produced a neat but low header by deflecting the ball into the Sudanese goal from close range. One minute after the start of the second half, Soudani, striker of Saudi side Damak, scored Algeria’s fourth goal after taking advantage of a mistake by a Sudanese defender just a few feet outside the box. Hilal Soudani wasted little time as he curled in a low left-footed drive from outside the box and sent the ball into the net. And the Sudanese team had the opportunity to score a goal, but Mohamed Abdel Rahman Youssef missed a penalty kick in the 70th minute as the Algerian keeper dived to his right to slap the ball away. Coached by Majid Bougherra, Algeria will now play Lebanon on Saturday, while Sudan take on Egypt take on the same day.