After the thrilling opening round of the Qatar Drift Championship, action returns to the drift arena at the Qatar Racing Club (QRC) with the second round getting underway tonight. The event, which features drift champions from several countries of the region besides in Qatar, is sponsored by QRC Chairman HE Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al-Thani.The technical inspection for participants is scheduled to begin at 4pm, followed by driver’s briefing with the championship organising committee and judging panel. The practice and testing period will commence at 5pm followed by qualifying trial at 7pm.Today, racers will face two runs on the track and each run will be evaluated for performance, with the best score determining their placement on the bracket for tandem competitions. Tomorrow, the activities will kick off with an enlightening meeting for racers at 4pm, followed by one-and-a-half-hour practice session before the start of the elimination match ups begins at 7pm, leading to the final races with the crowning of the top three winners.At the end of the first-round competitions, Oman’s Haitham al-Hadidi leads the overall championship standings with 27 points, ahead of his closest competitor, Kuwaiti racer Salem al-Sarraf, by 8 points. Defending champion Ahmed al-Amri of Oman holds the third position with 18 points.In the local category competitions introduced this season to support Qatari racers and residents, Ali al-Jabshah tops the standings with 30 points, leading his teammate and closest competitor Abdullah al-Muhtasib by 10 points. Saud al-Attiya, another teammate, is in the third position. The second round is expected to attract a significant audience due to the club’s provision of various accompanying events suitable for all family members.
The connections of Royal Rose celebrate with the trophy after the Ahmed Kobeissi-trained five-year-old mare won the Al Thakira Cup with a margin of a length and three quarters at the Al Rayyan Racecourse yesterday. Carrying the colours of Ali bin Saeed Aljafali al-Nuaimi, Royal Rose won the 1,700m Local ThoroughbredPremium Maiden race ahead of Al Anood Stud’s Jazi Umm Al Amad. PICTURES: Juhaim
Argentina defeated Brazil 1-0 on Tuesday in an ill-tempered 2026 World Cup qualifying clash marred by pre-match crowd trouble that forced kick-off to be delayed. A 63rd-minute header from veteran defender Nicolas Otamendi secured victory for Argentina as the world champions bounced back from last week’s defeat to Uruguay to beat their bitter South American rivals.The win at Rio’s iconic Maracana Stadium leaves Argentina on top of the South American qualifying standings with 15 points from six games. Brazil’s third defeat of qualifying, meanwhile, leaves the five-time world champions in sixth place with seven points from six games. “This group continues to achieve historic things,” Argentina captain Lionel Messi said afterwards. “Maybe today wasn’t the most important thing, but it was a nice win.”Tempers had flared in the stands at the Maracana moments before kick-off, with Brazilian police seen using batons to drive back a block of Argentine fans at one end of the ground. Several Argentina players went towards the disturbances in an apparent attempt to plead for calm, with goalkeeper Emi Martinez attempting to jump into the seating area at one stage to confront a baton-wielding Brazilian police officer.Argentina’s players led by Messi then returned to their dressing room as the clashes continued, with Messi appearing to say: “We’re not playing, we’re leaving.”Messi later explained he had taken his teammates off the field in the hope of cooling the atmosphere. “We went to the locker room because it was a way to calm everything down a little,” Messi said. “We went to see how our families and people close to us were doing. And then we came back.”The 2022 World Cup winners re-emerged onto the field shortly before 10pm local time and the match kicked off shortly afterwards, roughly 30 minutes later than the scheduled start time. The febrile pre-match atmosphere spilled onto the field when play finally got under way, with Brazil’s Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus being given a yellow card after just five minutes after clashing with Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul.The tense nature of the contest continued throughout a poor first half, with neither side creating much in the way of goalscoring opportunities in a game littered with niggly fouls.Brazil winger Raphinha was booked in the 14th minute for flinging an arm into the face of De Paul, and was lucky not to receive a second yellow five minutes later after catching Alexis MacAllister with a wild studs-up challenge.Brazil meanwhile failed to register a single shot – either on or off target – until a 38th minute free-kick from Raphinha that deflected wide for a corner. The only shot on goal from either side in the entire first half came on 44 minutes, when Brazil’s Gabriel Martinelli lashed a muffed clearance from Argentina goalkeeper Martinez back towards goal.Martinelli’s shot was heading for the net but Argentina breathed a sigh of relief after defender Cristian Romero blocked the effort on the line. Brazil started the second half more positively, with Raphinha having a shot blocked at the near post by Martinez after 54 minutes. Martinez then rescued Argentina again, parrying Martinelli’s goal-bound shot after a good run by Gabriel.But Brazil were rocked after Argentina took the lead on 63 minutes with their first attempt on target of the match. Giovani Lo Celso swung in an inviting corner from the left and the 35-year-old Otamendi soared above Brazil midfielder Andre to head home for 1-0. A miserable night for Brazil got worse in the 82nd minute when substitute Joelinton – who had only been on the field for 12 minutes – was sent off for an off-the-ball clash with De Paul.In other South American qualifiers on Tuesday, Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez scored twice as Uruguay easily beat Bolivia 3-0 to remain in second place in the standings, two points behind Argentina. Colombia kept up their qualification push with a 1-0 win over Paraguay in Asuncion, while Chile’s problems mounted with a 1-0 defeat in Quito against Ecuador.Colombia, who failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, are third in the table with 12 points. Chile however are languishing in eighth spot with just five points. In the day’s other game, Peru drew 1-1 with Venezuela in Lima. The top six teams of the round-robin home-and-away qualifying tournament will earn berths at the 48-team 2026 World Cup taking place in the United States, Canada and Mexico, while the seventh-placed team goes into a play-off.
Max Verstappen and Red Bull can wrap up Formula One’s most one-sided season with a final record-extending flourish in Abu Dhabi this weekend as Mercedes and Ferrari battle to be best of the rest.The 22nd round of the season - the equal longest until next year’s 24 - ends at floodlit Yas Marina on Sunday after an American leg that culminated in a gruelling Las Vegas spectacular last weekend.There will be some farewells, although fewer than usual, and plenty of looking forward with hope to a more competitive future after a year in which Red Bull have won everywhere bar Singapore.Verstappen, who secured his third championship with six Grands Prix to spare, will be hoping to check out with an unprecedented 19th win of the season and Red Bull’s 21st of the campaign.That would leave the Dutch 26-year-old, who has won in Abu Dhabi for the past three years and is on a roll of six successive victories, solo third in the all-time list of winners with a career 54.Only Lewis Hamilton (103) and Michael Schumacher (91) have won more.Red Bull retained their constructors’ crown long ago and are also sure of a one-two finish in the drivers’ standings for the first time after Sergio Perez finished third in Las Vegas last weekend. That leaves the spotlight on the battle for second place between Mercedes and Ferrari, separated by just four points, and McLaren’s fight to stay fourth with Aston Martin only 11 points behind.“We have a good understanding of our car and we know it won’t be as competitive in Abu Dhabi as it was in Las Vegas,” said Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur, who had Charles Leclerc finish second from pole position in Nevada.Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was expecting a closer fight: “They (Ferrari) have shown good form recently, but we know we haven’t maximised our performance in the past few races.”Spaniards Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso, for Ferrari and Aston Martin, are level on 200 points with the former fourth thanks to his win in Singapore.McLaren’s Lando Norris is only five points adrift and hoping to end his season a career high fourth overall.At the bottom, only 16 points separate last-placed Haas from Williams in seventh. The latter are just seven clear of AlphaTauri while Haas are four behind Alfa Romeo.Farewells will be said to Alfa Romeo, the title sponsor of Swiss-based Sauber who are due to become the Audi works team from 2026, and to AlphaTauri’s long-serving team principal Franz Tost.“Franz Tost has been the only F1 team boss I’ve worked with. I feel I’ve been fighting for him this year, and I really want to beat Williams for him in his last race as team principal. I appreciate what he has done,” Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda said yesterday.The only driver yet to be confirmed for 2024 is Williams’ Logan Sargeant, who will be equally determined to end the year on a high.Tomorrow’s first practice will have a different look as teams fulfil their obligations to give track time to aspiring youngsters.Both Red Bull drivers will sit out that session, with Formula E champion Jake Dennis and French F2 prospect Isack Hadjar replacing them. Briton Zak O’Sullivan will make his Grand Prix weekend debut at Williams.
Canada’s reign as Davis Cup champions was ended by outsiders Finland who produced a big shock on the opening day of the Final Eight in Malaga on Tuesday.Roared on by thousands of Finnish fans, Otto Virtanen and Harri Heliovaara beat Vasek Pospisil and Alexis Galarneau 7-5 6-3 to move in to the semi-finals for the first time.Milos Raonic, playing in the event for the first time in five years, had given Canada the perfect start as he dispatched lowly-ranked Finn Patrick Kaukovalta 6-3 7-5 thanks to 18 aces.Both teams were hit by injuries with Canada’s top-ranked player Felix Auger-Aliassime unable to take to the court while Finland’s number one Emil Ruusuvuori was also ruled out.But 171st-ranked Virtanen stepped up for his country with an impressive defeat of fellow 22-year-old Gabriel Diallo to take the tie into a deciding doubles rubber.Virtanen again produced some stunning tennis while Canada’s hopes were not helped by an injury to Pospisil who battled on.A service break in the eighth game of the second set proved enough and Finland sealed the win to set up a clash later this week against Czech Republic or last year’s runners-up Australia.Changes to the format of the historic competition in recent years following a now defunct alliance with Spanish investment company Kosmos have not been everyone’s cup of tea, with the traditional ‘home and away’ ties largely replaced. But ITF president David Haggerty said the new format, featuring qualifiers spread across four cities in September to determine the Final Eight in Malaga, is the best formula.“The home and away format is not going to work and the players told us that in the past,” he told BBC Sport.“It would not be a good competition if we went back to only home and away. Sometimes the loudest voices aren’t always the majority.”Tuesday’s near sell-out crowd certainly provided the sort of atmosphere that was sadly lacking in some ties in September and the Finnish fans, many of whom are resident in Spain, will be out in force again tomorrow.“Obviously it’s a great moment now today and it’s still not time to celebrate. We have the chance to go even further,” Finland captain Jarkko Nieminen said.“With this great feeling and confidence, it’s really nice to step on court on Friday. It’s incredible, the whole journey with these guys since I started as a captain.”Machac gives Czechs 1-0 lead over Australia in quartersTomas Machac beat Jordan Thompson 6-4 7-5 to give three-times champions Czech Republic a 1-0 lead in their Davis Cup quarter-final against 2022 runners-up Australia yesterday.The Czechs, who arrived at the Finals with a 9-0 win-loss record from three Group Stage ties in September, are aiming to secure a first victory over Australia since 1975.Their number two player Machac backed up an early break with a comfortable service game and withstood a strong fightback from Thompson at 5-4 in the opening set.There was little to separate the hard-hitting pair in the second set up to 4-4 and Machac traded breaks with his opponent before edging ahead to seal the victory with a forehand winner.
One year from the unforgettable FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Qatar Airways yesterday announced the renewal of its longstanding partnership with FIFA until 2030, as the Global Airline Partner.Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Officer Eng Badr Mohamed al-Meer joined FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, for the signing ceremony on the one year anniversary of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM.The extended partnership was announced at the award-winning, Hamad International Airport, against the backdrop of the airline’s Boeing 787-8, as well as the Airbus A350-900.The agreement will cover significant FIFA tournaments, including the FIFA World Cup 26, FIFA Women’s World Cup 2027, and the FIFA World Cup 2030, as well as all youth men’s and women’s tournaments, commencing with the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Indonesia.Since May 2017, Qatar Airways has been an integral part of FIFA’s global initiatives, and with this renewed partnership, will continue to play a vital role in the development of football worldwide.The announcement comes on the heels of the immense success of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, which captivated audiences around the globe with its incredible stadia, unmatched hospitality, and pure on-the-pitch drama – culminating in a Final for the ages.As FIFA’s Global Airline Partner, Qatar Airways will be able to engage with fans on a deeper level, both at the tournaments and through various digital platforms.Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Officer, Eng Badr Mohamed al-Meer, said: “We are excited to extend our partnership with FIFA as the Global Airline Partner. As an airline, we are committed to connecting the world, and this partnership allows us to reach millions of football fans. Football has the power to unite people across cultures and continents, and we are proud to continue to be part of this incredible journey. We eagerly anticipate the upcoming tournaments and look forward to creating unforgettable experiences for fans around the world.”FIFA President Infantino said: “Today I am very proud to announce the renewal of our partnership between Qatar Airways and FIFA. It is a great partnership that has brought a lot of success to FIFA, and of course as well to Qatar Airways.”“My thanks to Engr. Badr Mohamed al-Meer, the GCEO, and to the whole fantastic team of Qatar Airways. One year after the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, here we are again to celebrate.”As Qatar Airways takes the next step in its FIFA partnership, the airline is thrilled to announce that football fans will soon have facilitated access to exclusive travel packages including match tickets, flights, and accommodation for select FIFA tournaments.
Australia captain Pat Cummins said his team had created their own legacy by winning the nation’s record-extending sixth one-day World Cup as players returned home from India yesterday.Cummins’s team upset the hosts by six wickets in Sunday’s final in Ahmedabad, only months after beating the south Asians to claim their maiden World Test Championship.The Australia skipper touched down in Sydney with team mates and was still glowing about their achievement.“Every half an hour or so, you kind of remember that we just won the World Cup and get excited all over again,” Cummins told reporters at the airport.“So we’re still buzzing, it’s been an awesome couple of days and I think we’ll be smiling for a fair while. I think they have created their own legacy,” Cummins added. “I mean, a World Cup, you only get one chance every four years and especially playing someone like India, it’s hard.“So to be put up against the rest of the world and come away with a medal, that’s - it doesn’t get any better than that.”Australia had to work their way back into the tournament after losing their opening matches against India and South Africa but were a juggernaut once they reached the semi-finals.Cummins said the squad had never doubted themselves, even after their rough start.“You look back on now that we’ve won and you think: ‘Wow, everything came together,’” he added. “But the belief never left, even at the start. We knew we hadn’t played our best but kind of knew once we clicked we could take on anyone and it proved to be the case.”‘Odd scheduling’: India series puts dampener on Australia celebrationsAustralia’s World Cup winners have been denied a full-scale heroes’ welcome home by a packed cricket schedule that sees them face India today at the start of a Twenty20 series, four days after meeting in the one-day final.The stunning six-wicket victory on Sunday, against previously unbeaten India in front of nearly 100,000 partisan fans in Ahmedabad, saw Australia lift the ODI World Cup for the sixth time.But celebrations had to be scaled back by the demands of the international cricket calendar.Seven members of the triumphant ODI squad will remain for the five-match T20 series including Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith and Travis Head, who scored a century in the final.That meant a low-key return for the rest of the one-day squad as they flew home in dribs and drabs, with smiling skipper Cummins among those landing in Australia yesterday.It was a far cry from some of the raucous ticker-tape parades enjoyed by victorious Australian cricket teams of yesteryear.“We’ve all split off our own different ways, there’s T20s coming up, some guys are on aeroplanes at the moment getting home as well,” wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey told reporters on arrival home in Adelaide.He added: “It’s probably pretty odd scheduling now that you look at it, to win a World Cup and a few days later you’re playing again.”India have named an almost completely different squad for the series, which starts in Visakhapatnam and then goes to four different venues, concluding in Bengaluru on December 3.Suryakumar Yadav will captain for the first time, in the absence of Rohit Sharma, and is one of only three players retained from India’s World Cup squad.Former England skipper Michael Vaughan was much less diplomatic than Carey about the prospect of India and Australia meeting again so soon.After Australia’s veteran opener David Warner withdrew from the series on Tuesday, Vaughan wrote on social media: “As all the players who won the World Cup should. They should have been pulled out to allow them time to recover but importantly get back to Oz to enjoy the celebrations.”Vaughan, who is now a high-profile pundit, was even more forthright last week, calling the series “complete greed and overkill”.“Why can’t we allow players the chance to have a moment’s rest after a WC or whoever wins the chance to celebrate properly for a couple of weeks,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.The World Cup trophy has remained in India and will not be reunited with captain Cummins – who has this year also guided Australia to win the World Test Championship and retain the Ashes – until next week, The Age newspaper said.
Argentina's Nicolas Otamendi scored to lead his team to a 1-0 win over Brazil on Wednesday in the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifier group match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.The game's lone goal was scored by Otamendi in the 63rd minute.Argentina top the South American table in the FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers with 15 points from six games. Uruguay also achieved its third consecutive victory against Bolivia with a score of 3-0.Meanwhile, Colombia continued its strong start to the South American zone qualifiers after a first-half penalty from Rafael Santos Borre gave them a 1-0 away win over Paraguay.Ecuador defeats Chile 1-0 in the qualifiers. Angel Mena scored the goal that gave Ecuador the victory. (QNA)
Asian champions Qatar proved their superiority with an easy 3-0 win against India in Group A match of the Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar yesterday.Qatar continued their winning start with the second successive win that opened up a three-point gap for Qatar at the top of the group. Carlo Queiroz’s men had brushed aside Afghanistan 8-1 in their opening match, while India came away from Kuwait with a valuable three points, winning 1-0 last week. The defeat also produced India’s first international defeat at home in 2023 and first loss in the crucial qualifiers.Ranked 61st in the men’s team standings, Qatar dominated in every department from the word go. Moustafa Mashal, the star forward Almoez Ali and substitute winger Yousuf Abdurisag were on the target for the visiting team.Akram Afif ran the show in the first half with being consistent threat down the left side. He missed an easy opportunity to score the goal in the opening minute but kept finding gaps in the final third.Qatar’s opening goal came from a corner after Udanta Singh’s poor clearance at the edge of the outside box. Mustafa Mashal thumped his effort past the Indian defence to give his side a lead in the fourth minute. Qatar missed a golden opportunity inside the first two minutes when Akram Afif was found all alone six-yards out. However, he failed to convert and India survived the first real chance of the match.Qatar’s dominance continued as they hit 10 corners inside the hour, as they continued to look to add to their ten goals scored against both Afghanistan and India.India’s best chance of the match fell to Naroem Singh, after Suresh Wangjam found him through the middle all on his own, but the substitute dragged his effort wide of the target.Qatar recorded eight corners in the first 35 minutes but India enjoyed some possession in the final ten minutes. Star midfielder Anirudh Thapa created the first chance with sharp dribbling skills inside the box but Apuia Ralte missed an open opportunity with an effort going wide of the net.Wave after wave of attack continued for the visitors, including a free header from the goal scorer Meshaal, but they weren’t able to add to their tally before half-time.With minutes until the half-time whistle, Qatar’s centre-back Boulalem Khoukhi carelessly gave the ball near his own area, but Anirirudh Thapa spurned his shot in what was India’s biggest and only chance of the half.As with the first half, Qatar were ruthless from the off. Almoez Ali doubled Qatar’s lead inside 60 seconds of the restart after Afif’s shot fell to the striker less than a yard out, who steered the ball home for his fifth goal of the qualifiers.Ali came close to scoring his second of the match, and Qatar’s third, when he opened up his body and curled one to the far corner from the edge of the box. Everyone was beaten but his effort clipped the top of the crossbar.Qatar were able to score their third in the final few minutes of the match.A cross in from the left from Mohamed Waad found Yusuf Abdurisag who was able to steer his header into the roof of the net.Next up, India will take on Afghanistan away from home in the new year, while Qatar host Kuwait in Group A.Palestinians fly flag inemotional World Cup qualifierPalestinian flags and the black-and-white keffiyeh scarf flew high in Kuwait’s Jaber Al Ahmad International Stadium as football fans vented their emotions in a World Cup qualifier yesterday. Thousands of Palestinians and their sympathisers turned out at the 60,000-seat venue for the game against Australia, Palestine’s first in front of fans since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.“Palestine is in our hearts. We came to the stadium, old and young, in support,” Anfal al-Azmi, a 45-year-old Kuwaiti woman, told AFP.Defender Harry Souttar’s 18th-minute goal was all that separated the teams in a 1-0 win for Australia where the action on the pitch was almost incidental.It unfolded about six weeks after Palestinian Hamas militants killed 1,200 people and took around 240 hostages, Israeli officials say, in an attack launched from the Gaza Strip on October 7.“We do not care about the match. We came to deliver a message,” said Wael Youssef Labbad, 40, a Palestinian from Ashkelon.“We, the Palestinian people, are always present with the keffiyeh and the flag.”Palestine’s red, black, white and green flag was ubiquitous at the game – which shifted from Ramallah in the West Bank because of the war – and many fans twirled the distinctive keffiyehs as they chanted.Others held up “Free Gaza” banners and pictures of keys, symbolising the homes lost by Palestinians during the 1948 creation of Israel.Australia’s players will donate a portion of their match fee to humanitarian operations in Gaza, whose situation was described as “horrific” by visiting coach Graham Arnold. Not all the fans were Palestinian, with many coming from other communities in the oil-rich Gulf country.“Kuwait and Palestine are one. Today we are guests of Palestine in their land,” said Kuwaiti Ahmed al-Anezi, 36, who was draped in the Palestinian flag and wore a keffiyeh.“Today I and my entire family came to provide support to the Palestinian people and to consolidate the first Arab cause in the souls of my children.”Syrian university student Yahya Shaher, 18, said: “We are here to support our brothers. We are one and victory is ours.”In Dammam, a strong second half display saw Kuwait march to a 4-0 win over Afghanistan in Group A at the Al Ettifaq Club Stadium yesterday.
Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) has announced details of the upcoming MENA Karting Cup 2023, scheduled to take place from December 12-16 at the Lusail International Circuit’s karting track where aspiring young racers from Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region will compete in 6 categories.Entrance to the event will be free and open to the public at the Lusail Karting Track. The detailed schedule of the MENA Karting Cup 2023 will be shared at a later stage.The MENA Karting Cup 2023 will feature intense wheel-to-wheel racing with competitors from as young as 8 to adult in divisions which includes Micro Max (ages 8-11), Mini Max (ages 10-13), Junior Max (ages 12-15), Senior Max (ages 14+), DD2 (ages 15+), and DD2 Masters (ages 31+).Additionally, there are 2 more categories of races RD1 Elite Sprint and RD1 Elite Endurance where ages 15+ can register and participate. With potential participation from drivers representing countries across Mena nations, competition is anticipated to be fierce across all categories during the five days of racing. “Hosting the MENA Karting Championship 2023 at Lusail International Circuit’s karting track marks a thrilling milestone in our pursuit of making Qatar a regional hub of motorsports. We take this opportunity to welcome the region’s finest drivers to ignite their passion for speed on our world-class track. This championship embodies our commitment to fostering motorsport talent and uniting enthusiasts across the Mena region.” said Abdulrahman bin Abdullatif al-Mannai, President of Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation and Lusail International Circuit.Additionally, Mohamed Ahmad Sultan Ben Sulayem, President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), said: “We are delighted to see that the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation will be hosting the fourth MENA Karting Championship. Initiatives like this are essential if we want to reach our goal of doubling motor sport participation by 2025.”The Lusail International Circuit will provide a professional karting venue for the racers to compete. With its combination of high-speed straights, sweeping curves, and hairpin turns, the track is sure to challenge the racers’ nerve and driving abilities. Registration for regional team participation remains open until 25 November 2023.
Skipper Son Heung-min scored a brace and set up the other as South Korea made it two victories from two in 2026 World Cup qualifying with a 3-0 win in China yesterday.Son silenced a sell-out crowd of more than 40,000 in Shenzhen with two goals in the first half, the first a penalty and the second a clever header from a corner just before half-time.South Korea wrapped the game up in the dying minutes through a bullet header by Jung Seung-hyun - from a Son free-kick - and they top Group C with a perfect six points.Jurgen Klinsmann’s side thumped Singapore 5-0 last week to begin their qualifying campaign in style and they were in much the same mood against an outclassed China.With attacker Son looking in the groove, the Koreans dominated and were ahead after 11 minutes.Wolverhampton Wanderers forward Hwang Hee-chan was brought down in the box and Tottenham Hotspur’s Son duly stroked home the penalty.It was all South Korea. Forward Cho Gue-sung headed just over the bar when unmarked from a corner and Son stung the palms of overworked goalkeeper Yan Junling.Hwang In-beom’s direct free-kick fizzed just past Yan’s post midway through the half but China should have been level three minutes before the break with their first real chance.South Korean full-back Lee Ki-je was dispossessed and Liu Binbin crossed for Tan Long, but the Chinese forward’s first-time snap shot went narrowly wide.They were to regret it on the stroke of half-time.Son, who had been denied moments earlier by the legs of Yan, leapt unmarked from a corner to direct his deft header back across the China goal and into the far corner.South Korea, who reached the last 16 of the 2022 World Cup, should have gone 3-0 ahead soon after the restart but China defender Zhu Chenjie cleared off the line, before Jung put the game to bed late on.Thailand are level on three points with China after winning 3-1 away at Singapore.The top two from each of the nine groups in Asian qualifying for the World Cup in North America will progress through to the final qualifying stage.In other qualifiers in the region, substitute Mohanad Ali scored in the 97th minute for Iraq as they won 1-0 at Vietnam and top Group F with six points.Iran surrendered a two-goal lead and had to settle for a point with a 2-2 draw at Uzbekistan.North Korea thrashed Myanmar 6-1 away and Tajikistan won in Pakistan by the same scoreline.AFPSkopje, Republic of North MacedoniaA relieved Italy midfielder Davide Frattesi said the European champions will try and “repeat something fantastic” in Germany next year after Monday’s 0-0 draw with Ukraine in Leverkusen secured qualification for Euro 2024.The result means Italy, who failed to qualify for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups either side of their Euro 2020 triumph, avoid another embarrassing tournament miss. “We knew if we were unable to break the deadlock in the first hour, it would become really tough. Ukraine then made it a more physical match,” Frattesi told RAI Sport.“We were under pressure, but overall it was a good performance. What mattered was that we qualified...“We suffered, but it was important to get through. Now we’ll try to repeat something fantastic.”The final score belied the true nature of the match, with Italy’s high-octane attack and Ukraine’s counter-attacking threat creating several chances for both teams.Ukraine had a late penalty appeal turned down, despite Italy midfielder Bryan Cristante looking to have made contact with Mykhailo Mudryk’s foot in injury time. “From my point of view that was a penalty, but again I was not there and it’s only about my emotions,” Ukraine coach Serhiy Rebrov told a post-match press conference.Italy travelled to Leverkusen knowing they would progress by avoiding defeat, while Ukraine knew only a win would suffice.New Italy coach Luciano Spalletti has only been in charge for three months after Roberto Mancini surprisingly left for the Saudi Arabia national team job. “We had to keep attacking - but Ukraine proved they are a very good team who gave us a lot of problems,” Spalletti, who led Napoli to their first Serie A title since 1990 last season, said. Italy will go into either pot three or four for the tournament draw, which will take place on December 2 in Hamburg. Spalletti added his team would “have a moment to pat ourselves on the back” before turning their focus to the finals in Germany, the site of their 2006 World Cup triumph.“Now, the level will step up. Now, the fun begins.”Midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo said his side’s nervy qualification campaign, which included two losses to England and a draw with North Macedonia, would not dampen their hopes of defending the title.“We had the right motivation. Italy must go to the Euros not just to take part, but to compete as reigning champions.”Ukraine head into play-offsUkraine, forced to take the fixture to Germany due to the ongoing conflict with Russia, can still qualify, but will need to navigate the play-offs in March 2024.Mudryk was lively down the left for Ukraine and crafted a number of half-chances early, with his side denied by poor finishing.Italy’s dominance of possession started to tell after half an hour, Federico Chiesa sliding a smooth pass across the face of goal which eluded a desperate Davide Frattesi.Italy continued to attack early in the second half but as the game wore on the increasingly nervous Italians sat back, allowing Ukraine more space up front.Mudryk was always a threat and appeared to have been brought down in the box after contact from Cristante, but the referee waved his team’s desperate pleas for a spot-kick away.
Germany’s Robin Walter and China’s Li Xue won 10m air pistol titles on the opening day of the International Sport Shooting Federation (ISSF) World Cup final at the Lusail Shooting Range yesterday.Walter, who added European Championship silver this year to the gold he won in 2022, secured his place atop another podium after a qualifying competition from which all three of this year’s World Championship medallists failed to emerge.Silver went to Italy’s 25-year-old world No 3, the highest-ranked shooter in the final, with Latvia’s Emils Vasermanis earning bronze.Later in the day, Xue earned a dramatic victory to lead a Chinese clean sweep in the women’s 10m air pistol event. Li, 23, trailed her 19-year-old compatriot Zhao Nan by 0.2 points before the pair fired their two concluding shots – and she moved ahead by 0.4 points after her opening 10.3 had been swiftly followed by a relatively disappointing 9.7 from her younger rival.Li, who won world bronze in Baku earlier this year shooting marginally earlier than her opponent and scoring 10.8, just 0.1 short of perfection. Zhao improved with a final 10.1, but gold was comfortably for Li with a total of 244.7 as the teenager finished with 243.6.In the penultimate round of shooting China’s world champion and world No 2 Jiang Ranxin had to settle for bronze, 0.2 points adrift of the leading pair.Earlier on Monday, the event began with a grand opening ceremony held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Speaking on the occasion, ISSF President Luciano Rossi hinted that Qatar may also host the event next year.“I am confident, inshallah, that Qatar will even host the 2024 World Cup final again in the year of the Olympics, where we can celebrate all together the Olympic medallists.”He added the next year Qatar was set to host “the most important competition before Paris 2024 – the shotgun qualification tournament where the last quota places will be claimed.”A total of 179 athletes from 42 nations are in the Qatari capital to contest the 12 individual events that will be part of next year’s Olympic programme, with the additional excitement of Super Finals for selected disciplines.Among the audience was three-times Olympic champion and six-times Olympian Kimberly Rhode.Also in attendance were Croatia’s London 2012 trap gold medallist and current world and European Games champion Giovanni Cernogoraz, and Italy’s London 2012 women’s trap gold medallist and three-times world champion Jessica Rossi.“It is a great honour for me to be with you today for the opening of the ISSF World Cup Final 2023 – a hugely welcome addition to our calendar that we strongly re-establish after a four-years absence,” the ISSF president said.The ISSF president thanked Qatar Olympic Committee President HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani for his support of this event.“And a special thanks to the President of the Qatar Shooting and Archery Federation Mishaal Al Nasr. He has worked hard and his federation,” he added.First-placed Germany’s Robin Walter (centre), second-placed Italy’s Paolo Monna (left) and third-placed Latvia’s Emils Vasermanis celebrate on the podium of the ISSF World Cup final 10m air pistol event at the Lusail Shooting Range in Doha yesterday.First-placed China’s Li Xue (centre), second-placed Zhao Nan (left) and third-placed Jiang Ranxin celebrate on the 10m air pistol podium.
Doha: India cueist Pankaj Advani won the IBSF World Billiards Championship title at the La Maison Hotel in Doha yesterday for a staggering 26th time, beating fellow Indian cueist Sourav Kothari in the final.Advani defeated Kothari 1000–416 in a rematch of last year’s title clash in Kuala Lumpur. He had won his first world title in this competition way back in 2005.While Advani has won the ‘long format’ for the ninth time, he triumphed in the ‘point format’ championship on eight occasions, besides winning the World Team Billiards Championship once. In this tournament, Advani defeated fellow Indian cueist Rupesh Shah 900-273 in the semi-finals. It saw breaks of 259 and 176 from the defending champion, while Shah managed a 62 break only in the 900-up format. In the other half of the draw, Kothari pulled off a close win against Dhruv Sitwala, prevailing 900-756 in his semi-final match. Kothari had breaks of 223 and 82, while Sitwala scored 199 and 188.Meanwhile, the Women’s World Snooker Championship was claimed by China’s Bai Yulu. She beat Ng On-Yee of Hong Kong 4-0 in the final match. The third place medals went to the India’s Amy Kamani and Vidya Pillai.In the World Masters Snooker Championship, Bahraini Habib Sabah was crowned the champion. He defeated Emirati Mohamed Shehab 5-4, while Indians Komal Chawla and Manan Chandra won third place medals.
Canada’s Milos Raonic returned to Davis Cup action for the first time in five years to give the reigning champions a fast start in their Final Eight clash against Finland yesterday.The big-serving Raonic banged down 18 aces in a 6-3 7-5 defeat of lowly-ranked Finn Patrick Kaukovalta to put Canada 1-0 ahead in the best of three tie.But in the day’s second match, Canada’s Gabriel Diallo lost to Otto Virtanen in straight sets. Virtanen won 6-4, 7-5.Raonic began the match with a game of aces and ended it with another one after little more than an hour.Both teams were hit by injuries with Canada’s top-ranked player Felix Auger-Aliassime unable to take to court while Finland’s number one Emil Ruusuvuori was also ruled out.Former world number three and Wimbledon runner-up Raonic has played only a handful of matches this year but had too much firepower for 782nd-ranked Kaukovalta who put up a good fight in his first ever Davis Cup singles rubber.Canada are looking to retain the title they won against Australia last year in Malaga and also make it a sweep for the country after the women won the Billie Jean King Cup.Djokovic arrives in MalagaFresh from a record seventh ATP Finals title, Novak Djokovic arrived In Malaga on Monday ahead of Serbia’s quarter-final tie against Great Britain tomorrow.Entering a record-extending 400th week as world No.1, Djokovic joins his teammates, including Laslo Djere and Dusan Lajovic, to prepare for what is shaping up to be a thrilling showdown between the Serbians and Leon Smith’s Great Britain, led by world No.18 Cameron Norrie.The tie is scheduled for the afternoon tomorrow (not before 16:00 CET) and is the last of the four quarter-finals in the 2023 Davis Cup Final 8.Meanwhile 2023 Davis Cup Finals Tournament Director Feliciano Lopez brought tennis to the streets of Malaga with a festival for all ages and abilities ahead of the competition’s first clash yesterday.Supported by Malaga Mayor Francisco de la Torre, Lopez added to the buzz around the city of Malaga thanks to the start of the Final 8 at the Martin Carpena arena yesterday.Those in attendance at the mini tennis festival took part in activities designed for the very youngest to the very oldest. Activities included roulette wheels to win exclusive prizes and aiming games as well as mini tennis courts.The ITF remains committed to promoting tennis and bringing the sport closer to everyone. Events like the one held in Malaga show that tennis can be enjoyed by everyone, contributing to more active and healthy communities. The 2023 Davis Cup Finals got underway yesterday with a clash between defending champions Canada against Finland.
Suryakumar Yadav will captain India in their five-match T20 series against Australia, leading a squad with just three members of the team that lost the World Cup final.India went into Sunday’s World Cup final in front of nearly 100,000 fans in Ahmedabad undefeated in the lead-up games of the tournament and favourites to capture the one-day crown.But Rohit Sharma’s team was outplayed by Pat Cummins’s Australia, suffering a six-wicket defeat and breaking the hearts of millions across the country.Suryakumar, who was just one of three players from the one-day team to be selected for the T20 squad, will captain India for the first time.India and Australia had also faced each other in a three-match series in September ahead of the World Cup, also in India, which the hosts won 2-1.The T20 series opens tomorrow in Visakhapatnam in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, followed by Thiruvananthapuram on November 26 and Guwahati on November 28.The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said that Shreyas Iyer will join the squad as vice-captain for the last two T20s, in Raipur on December 1 and in Bengaluru on December 5.Australia’s Warner withdrawn from T20 series against IndiaAustralia opener David Warner has been withdrawn from the Twenty20 series against India after starring at the 50-over World Cup. The lefthander was Australia’s leading scorer with 535 runs at an average of 48.63 during their run to a sixth World Cup title in India.“Selectors decided Warner would return home on the back of a successful yet demanding World Cup campaign,” Cricket Australia said in a statement yesterday.Emerging Western Australian all-rounder Aaron Hardie has replaced Warner in the squad after making his ODI and T20 International debuts during the recent tour of South Africa.Warner hopes to finish his Test career at his home Sydney Cricket Ground against Pakistan in January but has put his hand up for more international white-ball cricket, with the T20 World Cup coming up next year.Test and ODI captain Pat Cummins and fellow fast bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc are also heading home from India along with all-rounders Cameron Green and Mitchell Marsh.Matthew Wade will captain the squad for the five-match series which starts tomorrow at Vishakhapatnam. Fast bowler Kane Richardson has been called up as a replacement for the injured Spencer Johnson.Just seven of Australia’s World Cup-winning squad will play the T20s, while head coach Andrew McDonald will also skip the series, handing the reins to stand-in Andre Borovec.SquadsIndia: Suryakumar Yadav (c), Ruturaj Gaikwad (vc), Ishan Kishan, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Shivam Dubey, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan, Mukesh Kumar, Shreyas Iyer (last two matches only)Australia: Matthew Wade (c), Aaron Hardie, Jason Behrendorff, Sean Abbott, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, Tanveer Sangha, Matt Short, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Kane Richardson, Adam ZampaSeries schedule1st T20I: Vishakhapatnam – Nov 23, Thursday2nd T20I: Thiruvananthapuram – Nov 26, Sunday3rd T20I: Guwahati – Nov 28, Tuesday4th T20I: Raipur – Dec 01, Friday5th T20I: Bengaluru – Dec 03, Sunday
Pakistan continued the overhaul of their backroom staff after failing to qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup by appointing former international players Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal as bowling coaches yesterday.The Pakistan Cricket Board said in a statement Gul would take over as fast bowling coach while Ajmal would be in charge of the spinners, with the duo’s first assignment the test series against Australia starting next month.Gul – who retired in 2020 after playing 237 international matches and claiming 427 wickets – has been involved in several mentoring stints since, including one as the bowling coach of Afghanistan in 2022.The pacer represented Pakistan in 47 Test matches, 130 ODIs and 60 T20s between 2003 and 2016.Gul said in a PCB statement yesterday: “I am pleased to join as the bowling coach of Pakistan team and feel honoured to have been given the opportunity to contribute to Pakistan cricket by Chairman PCB Management Committee Zaka Ashraf. Having had previous working experience with the men’s side, I will bring my coaching expertise with the aim of elevating Pakistan’s bowling prowess to new heights.”Ajmal said yesterday: “I am truly honoured and grateful for the opportunity provided by Chairman PCB Management Committee Zaka Ashraf to serve as the spin bowling coach. I am delighted to contribute to the development of spin bowling talent within the Pakistan national team. I believe my career and coaching experience will help enhance the spin bowling arsenal of the team.”Ajmal also has vast playing experience having represented Pakistan in 212 games and taking 447 wickets.He has also coached in the Pakistan Super League.Overall Ajmal played 35 Test matches, 113 ODIs and 64 T20s for Pakistan and was famous for his ‘doosra’ - an off-spinner’s delivery that turns away from righthanded batter.South African Morne Morkel resigned as Pakistan’s bowling coach days after they finished fifth in the World Cup standings with eight points having won four matches and lost five.Former Pakistan fast bowler Wahab Riaz was named Pakistan’s chief selector last week after Inzamam-ul-Haq stepped down and Mohamed Hafeez took over as Team Director in place of Mickey Arthur.Babar Azam resigned as captain and fellow batter Shan Masood will replace him. Pace bowler Shaheen Afridi will lead the T20 side.Pakistan will play Australia in the first Test starting at Perth from Dec. 14.Melbourne will host the Boxing Day Test starting Dec. 26 with Sydney hosting the last test match from Jan. 3-7.
India will face a test of their credentials when they host Qatar in Group A of the Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar today.India will face the reigning Asian champions who were simply unstoppable in an 8-1 win over Afghanistan on Thursday with head coach Carlos Queiroz setting them the target of a perfect campaign.However, Queiroz is also expecting a tough challenge from India as Qatar seek their second consecutive victory in Group A and first away win.“We are evolving day by day as a team, having a good opportunity to showcase an excellent image of the squad. Our goal is to be the best on the field, as it gives us more chances to score and win,” said Queiroz.Qatar captain Hassan al-Haydos felt the team was fully focused against the hosts.“I’ve played many times against the Indian national team, a team that is progressing day by day. We’ve turned the page on the last game and our aim is to secure three points in our second match of the qualifying stage,” he said.Coached by Croatian Igor Stimac, India also opened the competition with a win, claiming an away 1-0 victory over Kuwait.Qatar had met India in the qualifying event of the previous edition beating them 1-0 in the reverse fixture after a goalless draw in a home game.Qatar will be a different challenge altogether with head coach Igor Stimac expecting an extremely difficult encounter.Almoez Ali starred with four goals against Afghanistan but Qatar’s strength is across the squad and they will fancy their chances of another win despite playing away.The Indian team is yet to find a win against Qatar. They have faced Qatar thrice before this upcoming match but have never won a single match. Qatar has won two matches while India managed to draw a game.“It’s a game, where there is nothing to lose for us but a lot to win for. So let’s go for it all out,” said Stimac at the pre-match press conference.“We cannot control the external factors. We can only control our performances at the individual level and as a team. The only thing for us to do is to give our best for 90 minutes when the first whistle sounds.”The Croatian, however, was extremely pleased with his team’s performance against Kuwait.“Kuwait are our strongest opponents for the second spot. To start with a win against them gives us a clear idea of what we need to do in the remaining games (to qualify for the third round).”Stimac reiterated that this year has been the most consistent one for India under his tenure.“When you play high-level games consecutively without losing, facing Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait three times, Lebanon twice, Iraq and you don’t lose matches and keep clean sheets, it’s quite evident that you are consistent,” he said.Accompanying the coach in the press conference was goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who delivered one of the performances of his life, making 11 saves as India had held Qatar 0-0 in their own den in the World Cup Qualifiers in 2019.“Hopefully I have less work (this time),” he chuckled. “Maximum points with the least work possible is a goalkeeper’s dream. I want the players in front of me to enjoy, get on the scoresheet and give us the win.”In the other fixture of the day, Afghanistan will take on Kuwait, with both teams aiming to rebound after having suffered defeats in round one.With only the top two teams advancing to the third round, Afghanistan and Kuwait will have no room for error when they meet in the neutral venue of Dammam.Kuwait were disappointed to have finished empty handed against India with head coach Rui Bento accepting responsibility for the defeat. Bento, however, will expect his side to bounce back against a young Afghanistan side at the Abdullah Al Dabil Stadium.Today’s fixturesIndia v QatarVenue: Kalinga Stadium (Bhubaneswar)Kick-off: 4:30pmAfghanistan v KuwaitVenue: Al Ettifaq Club Stadium (Dammam)Kick-off: 8:00pm
Al Shaqab yesterday announced the launch of the Al Shaqab International League, a distinguished showjumping event.With a rich history of organising numerous successful events over the years, Al Shaqab has played a pivotal role in advancing sport in Qatar. In particular, the centre’s contribution aligns with Qatar’s National Vision 2030, aimed at promoting the nation as a premier sporting destination.The mission of the Al Shaqab International League Showjumping Event is to establish a premier showjumping league that provides a prominent stage for riders of all backgrounds, with a strong emphasis on promoting opportunities for female and junior riders. The event is dedicated to preparing them for the highest level of equestrian sport while instilling confidence and sportsmanship, enabling them to excel as athletes.Registration for the event is open to all Riding Academy members and external riders. All classes will adhere to the rules and regulations set by the FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale), except for the introductory classes.The competition will take place at Longines Indoor Arena on November 24 and 25 from 2:00pm to 9:00pm, and will comprise a series of six competitions which will be announced soon.The local tournaments include multiple categories, including training categories: Intro 1, Intro 2 and Intro 3. The main local categories are: Future Champions, Junior Champions, Youth Champions, Al Farissa and the Open Class.Each round will feature different categories catering to the needs of riders at various levels and age groups. Points will be accumulated for all main local categories to crown the best rider, male or female, at the end of the season for the main categories.The main international categories taking place on November 24 and 25 are:– Future Champions – Ages 12 to 14 (Height 105cm-110cm), qualified for the finals of the International Equestrian Federation for group seven championship.– Junior Champions – Ages 14-18 (Height 115cm-120cm), qualified for the finals of the International Equestrian Federation for group seven championship.– Youth Champions – Ages 16-21 (Height 125cm-130cm) qualified for the finals of the International Equestrian Federation for group seven championship.– Ladies Category – Ladies Amateurs (Height 105cm)– Open Class – (Height 125cm-130cm)
Wales manager Rob Page said yesterday he wanted his players to ignore talk of a potential Euro 2024 play-off as they bid to snatch automatic qualification for the tournament.Page’s side must beat Turkiye in their last Group D qualifier today and hope Croatia do not defeat Armenia. That combination of results would seal a top two finish and send Wales to next year’s tournament in Germany.If they fail to qualify via that route, Wales are guaranteed a play-off place in March, but it is not an option Page wants to contemplate.Page and Ian Mitchell, Wales’ head of performance psychology, have addressed the issue with the squad ahead of the sell-out clash at the Cardiff City Stadium.“We’re having no talk of play-offs. If we’re talking play-offs, we may as well call the game off on Tuesday. That’s our mentality and attitude,” Page told reporters.“We’re fully focused on the job we’ve got and we don’t want any regrets when that final whistle goes.“I addressed that at a meeting with the players and I got Mitch to speak about it as well.“We’re not admitting defeat and thinking ‘why not?’ because potentially we can qualify if the other result goes our way.“What I don’t want to do is walk off at the end of the game, the result’s gone for us, and we could have taken charge of it,” he added.Wales are attempting to reach a fourth major tournament in their last five attempts.They had automatic qualification in their own hands before Saturday’s disappointing 1-1 draw in Armenia. Croatia took advantage by winning 2-0 in Latvia to move into second spot behind already-qualified Turkiye.Page suggested that he would be kept informed of events in the Croatia game in Zagreb today as Wales seek to clinch qualification in the most dramatic fashion.“What we do need, from minute one, is energy. Off the back of (Turkiye’s) result against Germany and the threat they pose, we have to have energy in that team,” Page said. “This is the first time in a while that we’ve had two competitive games in quick succession.“We’re not blessed with a pool of players coming in that are playing too much domestically.“There potentially could be changes, or at least coming off the bench and having an impact.”Southgate targets No. 1 ranking for EnglandGareth Southgate says he is driven to make England the world’s top-ranked team, stressing there is no room for “sloppiness” as they seek to end their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign on a high.England, who face North Macedonia in Skopje, are all but assured of being among the top seeds in next month’s draw for the finals in Germany.But they were disappointing in Friday’s 2-0 victory against Malta at Wembley and will be keen to improve against lowly North Macedonia, whom they hammered 7-0 at Old Trafford in June.“Qualification’s done,” the England boss told British media ahead of the Group C finale.“With the games at the weekend, we might be ranked third in the world at the minute (England are fourth in the latest published FIFA rankings), but we’re two places off where we need to be so we can’t waste games.“Some of the players have got three games to get into a squad, some have got maybe three to get into a team.”Southgate said the level of performance had to be “spot on every time”.World Cup winners Argentina are top of the rankings, with France in second place and Brazil third. England have been in the top five for five straight years. Asked if being number one drives him on, Southgate said: “Yeah, because ultimately you achieve that through consistency and you’ve got to play well in the tournaments as well because the ranking points are higher in the tournaments.“Also, it sets behaviours every day on the training pitch, off the training pitch.“If you are going to be the top-ranked team, there’s no room for sloppiness or casualness. That’s got to be our drive.”England’s final camp of the year has been disrupted by absentees.Five players withdrew from the original squad through injury and two more departed the squad before they flew to the Balkans.The Football Association announced Kieran Trippier had gone home due to a personal issue, while injury meant Jarrod Bowen left the camp on Sunday.
Novak Djokovic wrapped up his 2023 season by adding the ATP Finals trophy to the three major titles he won this year and the Serb immediately set the bar even higher for next season by targeting a ‘Golden Slam’.Djokovic, who won his seventh ATP Finals on Sunday with a straight set win over Jannik Sinner, missed out on Grand Slam this year after losing to Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final.The 36-year-old told reporters in Turin he wanted a clean sweep of the majors next year as well as the singles gold medal at the Paris Olympics.Steffi Graf is the only player to have achieved the ‘Golden Slam’, winning the Australian, French and US Opens, Wimbledon and a gold medal at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.“Well, you can win four Slams and an Olympic gold,” Djokovic said. “I have always the highest ambitions and goals. That’s not going to be different for the next year. The drive that I have is still there. My body has been serving me well, listening to me well. I have a great team of people around me.“Motivation, especially for the biggest tournaments in sport, is still present. It still inspires me to keep going.”The 24-times Grand Slam winner said he was “very, very proud” of his season.“Four out of five tournaments ... I couldn’t ask for more to be honest,” he added. “It’s a great reward for what my team and I have been through this year, being one of the most successful years in my career that I’ve ever had.”Meanwhile Djokovic will seek to complete one of the best season’s of his incredible career by leading Serbia to the Davis Cup title for a second time in Malaga.Serbia are one of the eight surviving nations from September’s group phase and will face Britain on Thursday.Action begins today when reigning champions Canada take on Finland, while tomorrow the Czech Republic are up against Australia. Italy also face the Netherlands on Thursday.Djokovic reached all four Grand Slam finals this year, winning three of them to move past Rafa Nadal to a record 24 major titles. On Sunday he beat Italy’s Jannik Sinner to win a record seventh ATP Finals title.But Djokovic is not finished yet and the 36-year-old would like nothing more than leading Serbia to the men’s team prize for the first time since 2010 when he was instrumental in a memorable victory against France in Belgrade.“The season is not finished yet. I really would like to win the Davis Cup with Serbia. That’s a goal. It’s an important week for us, for our nation. We’ll do our best.”Serbia’s task has been made a little easier with injuries ruling out Dan Evans and Andy Murray from Britain’s line-up, although they still have world number 18 Cameron Norrie and youngster Jack Draper in the squad as well as a strong doubles line-up including world number three Neal Skupski.Canada beat Australia in last year’s final and Felix Auger-Aliassime wants to prove that feat was no fluke.“Whenever we come together as a team we always have belief that we can win,” Auger-Aliassime told the ITF’s website.“We are focussed but also more relaxed knowing we won the trophy last year.”Canada are without the injured Denis Shapovalov and will have former Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic in their ranks against a Finnish squad which has already achieved the country’s best result in the competition.Oddly, a large Finnish population live close to Malaga so they will not be lacking support, according to their number one player Emil Ruusuvuori. “I heard there’s 6,000 coming,” he said.Traditional Davis Cup powerhouse Australia have not won the Davis Cup for 20 years but under captain Lleyton Hewitt they believe they can go one step further than last year.“All the guys in our team lift when they play for their country,” Hewitt said.“They play with a lot of passion and pride.”Alex De Minaur is Australia’s top singles player and arrives in Spain confident after am impressive year which he ended just outside the world’s top 10. “I’m kind of a local here now,” De Minaur, who trains in Alicante and Marbella said.“It’s basically a home tournament for me.”The Davis Cup will also be a chance for Sinner to shake off any lingering disappointment at losing to Djokovic in the ATP Finals on Sunday. World number four Sinner leads a strong-looking Italy side who will be favourites to beat the Dutch.