ABU DHABI, February 2 -- Qatar stunned four-time champion Japan 3-1 to win the AFC Asian Cup for the first time as striker Almoez Ali scored his record-breaking ninth goal in the tournament here on Friday.
Qatar were crowned the Asian champion with a seven-game winning streak, scoring 19 goals and just conceded one. "We made the history for our country, this is a huge achievement for us and we should be proud of it. I want to thank all of the people in Qatar for their support," said Qatar coach Felix Sanchez. Almoez Ali, the top scorer of the tournament, opened the scoring after 12 minutes with an acrobatic volley assisted by Akram Hassan Afif, who delivered his ninth assist in the tournament. Ali broke Iranian legend Ali Daei's record of 8 goals in a single Asian Cup.
BANGKOK, January 29 -- Thailand has officially received a request from Bahrain to extradite a soccer player who plays in Australia where he also has refugee status.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Busadee Santipitaks said Bahrain filed an extradition request for Hakeem al-Araibi on Monday that has been forwarded to prosecutors for deliberation. Al-Araibi is a former Bahraini national team player who says he fled political repression in that country. He was detained in November on arrival in Bangkok while on a holiday. Bahrain wants him returned to serve a prison sentence for a charge he denies. A Thai court in December ruled that al-Araibi could be held for 60 days pending the completion of an extradition request by Bahrain.
BANGKOK, January 10 -- Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne was in Bangkok on Thursday after Canberra said it would consider giving asylum to an 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled to Thailand, saying she feared her family, which she accused of abuse, would kill her.
Payne is also expected to discuss the case of a Bahraini footballer with Australian asylum status who has been jailed in Thailand and faces extradition back to Bahrain. Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is currently staying in a Bangkok hotel under the care of the United Nation's refugee agency (UNHCR), which has been processing her application for refugee status ahead of possible resettlement in Australia. She has refused to meet her father and brother, who arrived in Bangkok this week to try to take her back to Saudi Arabia while denying accusations that her family was abusing her physically and emotionally, Thai authority said. Qunun was initially denied entry to Thailand when she arrived at the Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport on Saturday, intending to fly from there to Australia to seek asylum. She was later allowed to enter Bangkok on Monday evening by the Thai authorities after a tense 48 hours that saw her refuse to board a flight to Saudi Arabia and barricade herself inside a transit lounge hotel room, while the world watched the drama unfold on social media.
Payne's visit will also put a spotlight on another refugee case, involving a Bahrain footballer Hakeem AlAraibi, who has refugee status in Australia but was arrested at Bangkok airport last year after arriving for his honeymoon. AlAraibi is currently being detained in a Thai prison awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings to Bahrain where he was previously convicted and is wanted by the authority.
Payne said in her statement that she will raise his case with the Thai government to find ways for his safe return to Australia. World football governing body FIFA says AlAraibi should be freed and allowed to return to Australia where he plays for Melbourne football club Pascoe Vale in the second tier of the Australian League.
Activists have called on Thai authorities to "show humanity" to Alaraibi in the same way that they had to Qunun. Payne will meet with Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Prajin Juntong as well as holding a bilateral meeting with her Thai counterpart, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, as part of her first official visit to Thailandas foreign minister.
ROTTERDAM, January 2 -- If we published weekly pieces about Roma's inability to develop, recruit and/or retain full backs, it still wouldn't address the problem sufficiently.
We've poured over it many times over the past few years, but for every Alessandro Florenzi, John Arne Riise and that one year from Maicon, there are piles of bodies rotting around Trigoria; the Lucas Dignes and Mario Ruis of the world, guys who seemed like solutions but ultimately provided more problems than answers.
With barely 200 minutes to his name in a Roma shirt, Rick Karsdorp seems more like another cautionary tale than transcendent talent. Thanks in part to injuries, which started before Monchi even doled out a potential €19 million for the Dutchman in the summer of 2017, Karsdorp has barely warranted mention around these parts. On the surface, Karsdorp seemed like the ideal fit for Roma; he was tall, strong, fast, and capable of contributing on both ends of the pitch, he even had the requisite neck tattoos to fit in with the cool kids in the locker room. However, rather than exercising caution, Monchi threw nearly twenty million Feyenoord's way, setting their sales record in the process, for a kid who Roma already deemed needed surgery.
In and of itself, that's not that bad—meniscus injuries aren't death knells—but there's reckless, then there's Roma reckless. I don't know enough about kinesiology to assess whether or not that meniscus tear contributed to what came next, but this kind of shit couldn't happen to any other club, right? After all of 82 minutes on the pitch, Karsdorp fall prey to the ACL monster hiding under all the beds in Trigoria, rupturing that ligament in literally his first appearance in a Roma shirt. And, quite frankly, he hasn't been heard from since. Even by Roma standards, Karsdorp has had a run of bad luck, which continued into this season, where he missed nearly a month of action due to a groin injury. If that doesn't spell injury prone, I'm not sure what does. And again, my only real qualm about this was they knew he was damaged goods when they pursued him, yet threw a mint Feyenoord's way anyway.
But...Karsdorp is still just 23-years-old, and as such has ample time to relaunch his career, but with Feyenoord reportedly keen to reunite with their home grown talent, it might be time to question if Roma will ever see a return on their investment.
AMSTERDAM, January 2 -- Lisandro Magallan has signed a four-and-a-half-year contract with Ajax after the Eredivisie giants agreed a transfer with Boca Juniors.
Ajax have completed the signing of Boca Juniors defender Lisandro Magallan on a four-and-a-half-year contract. Since making his Boca debut in 2013, and following two loan spells away from the club, Magallan has established himself as a regular thanks to his bravery, aerial strength and good close control. His performances in the Superliga and Copa Libertadores have brought attention from Europe, with Ajax emerging as the favourites to sign the player in May. A switch did not materialise at that time, but Ajax moved quickly to secure the 25-year-old's services once the January transfer window opened - the four-time European champions reportedly agreeing a €9million deal.
ATALANTA, December 26 -- Cristiano Ronaldo came off the bench to score a late equaliser as 10-man Juventus salvaged a 2-2 draw at Atalanta.
With this result Juventus moved nine points clear of Napoli at the top of Serie A. Carlo Ancelotti's Napoli visit third-placed Inter Milan later in the day, though, with the chance to cut the gap to the reigning champions.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri decided to rest Ronaldo as the former Real Madrid man did not start a league game for the first time since moving to Italy, but the 33-year-old was needed to level in the 78th minute after Duvan Zapata's double had put the hosts in front following Berat Djimsiti's own goal. Ronaldo's efforts keep Juventus unbeaten in Serie A, ahead of the final game before the winter break against Sampdoria on Saturday. Everything appeared to be going to plan for Juve when they grabbed the lead in only the second minute when Atalanta centre-back Djimsiti completely miskicked Alex Sandro's deflected cross into his own net. But Zapata put a spanner in the Juve works with a fantastic individual goal midway through the first half, spinning centre-back Leonardo Bonucci with ease before drilling a left-footed strike into the far corner.
Douglas Costa fired wide just after the half-hour mark as the visitors looked to restore their advantage, but the Turin giants were reduced to 10 men eight minutes after half-time when Rodrigo Bentancur was shown a second yellow card for a poor tackle on Timothy Castagne. Colombian striker Zapata wasted little time in making Bentancur pay, bundling in from almost on the goalline to put Atalanta ahead and score his ninth league goal of the season. Allegri sent on Ronaldo with 25 minutes remaining, and less than 60 seconds after Robin Gosens wasted a golden opportunity to seal victory for Atalanta, the Portuguese star pounced to nod home from close range.
ZAGREB, December 26 -- Luka Modric added to his collection of awards after a successful 2018 when he was named Croatian sportsman of the year 2018.
Sandra Perkovic, five times European champion in discus, won the women's award. The football squad, runners-up in the World Cup, were named Croatian team of the year after a vote by 322 journalists.Modric led his country to the final in Russia in July and played a key role as Real Madrid won a third straight Champions League title in May. The midfielder was rewarded with the Golden Ball for best player at the World Cup, the Best Men's Player award by FIFA in September, and the Ballon d'Or as the world's best player at the start of December. He ended a decade of domination by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the world player of the year awards.
BARCELONA, December 23 -- Barcelona held off Atletico Madrid to ensure they will be three points clear at the top of La liga going into the winter break after beating a spirited Espanyol 2-0 at the Camp Nou on Saturday.
Barcelona held off Atletico Madrid to ensure they will be three points clear at the top of La liga going into the winter break after beating a spirited Espanyol 2-0 at the Camp Nou on Saturday. First-half goals from Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi were enough to move Ernesto Valverde’s side up to 37 points and keep them one step ahead of Atletico, who earlier drew level with Barca with a 1-0 win over Espanyol thanks to an Antoine Griezmann penalty.
Dembele put the hosts into the lead after just nine minutes when he lashed home on the rebound after Messi’s first-time shot was pushed into his path by Celta keeper Ruben Blanco. Messi doubled his side’s advantage just before half-time, bursting through competely unmarked to meet the excellent Jordi Alba’s through ball and wrong-foot Blanco as he slotted in his 15th league goal of the season.
Luis Suarez missed a great opportunity to put the result beyond any doubt on the hour mark when he flashed wide after being found by Alba with another fine pass, but despite frequently testing Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Celta couldn’t find the goal that would have put the Catalans under real pressure.
AMSTERDAM, December 20 -- Where should Matthijs de Ligt go if he leaves Ajax?
Dream or realistic? This is not at all surprising as the underlying coaching philosophy is attack-oriented. When it comes to central defenders, they are expected to combine the art of defending with playmaking. A contemporary example, who continues to make glowing headlines, is Ajax’s teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt.
MANCHESTER, December 19 -- Ole Gunner Solskjaer has been appointed as Manchester United’s caretaker manager, replacing José Mourinho until the end of the season.
The former United striker will be assisted by Mike Phelan, another of the club’s former players, who previously spent 14 years on the club’s coaching staff, including five as the No 2.
Solskjaer takes over following Mourinho’s sacking on Tuesday. His first game in charge is Saturday’s trip to Cardiff City, the club with which he had his only previous experience of Premier League management. The Norwegian, who has been managing Molde, took Cardiff down to the Championship in May 2014. On being sacked the following September his record was 16 defeats from 30 games and five wins, of which three were in the top flight.
Solskjaer is fondly remembered at Old Trafford for scoring the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Just over a year ago he described United as a “dream” job in an interview with United.no, the Manchester United Supporters’ Club Scandinavia. “Manchester United is in my heart and it’s brilliant to be coming back in this role,” Solskjaer told United website after being confirmed in the role. “I’m really looking forward to working with the very talented squad we have, the staff and everyone at the club.”
United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, said: “Ole is a club legend with huge experience, both on the pitch and in coaching roles. His history at Manchester United means he lives and breathes the culture here and everyone at the club is delighted to have him and Mike Phelan back. We are confident they will unite the players and the fans as we head into the second half of the season.”
The coaches Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna continue on the first-team staff. United are sixth in the Premier League, 19 points behind the leaders, Liverpool, and 11 from a Champions League berth.