The Red Knights are set to take part in the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™
Manager Sabri Lamouchi talks about his side’s goals for the tournament
Qatar Stars League champions Al Duhail are set to take part in the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™ where they will rub shoulders with continental champions from all around the planet.
The Red Knights experienced a dip in results and performance this season, prompting the club’s management to appoint Sabri Lamouchi as head coach back in October. The Frenchman of Tunisian decent has been working hard to get the club back on track since then.
FIFA.com spoke with Lamouchi, who expressed his excitement about the forthcoming global showpiece. “It’s a great opportunity, even if I wasn’t at the helm of the team that won the league title,” he said. “Credit goes to the coach who was here before me. The tournament will give my players a chance to showcase their skills at a higher level.”
Lamouchi sounded a cautious note, clearly in an attempt not to give the fans false hope. “I’m here because the team had some issues last year and the club’s management wanted to introduce some changes,” he said. “Our goal is to be more competitive and be the best representative of Qatar and the Qatari league.”
“We must be realistic about our goals and acknowledge the fact that we are taking part in this tournament because Qatar is the host country and that we won the league last year,” he said. “Winning the title isn’t my aim. We’ll be taking things one game at a time. We’re lucky to be playing at this level. It is a big challenge and we mustn’t be overly optimistic.”
All eyes on the opener
In their opening match, Al Duhail take on Auckland City, the club making a record-breaking ninth appearance at the tournament. “We’ll see how it goes,” said Lamouchi. “I arrived here two months ago when we were having some problems. I’m not a magician and I don’t want to delude our fans. I can only promise that my technical team and I will do our best – but it won’t be easy.”
“We haven’t recruited any new players, foreign or local, and we only have two foreign players despite the fact that our squad can have up to seven,” he said. “We have seven games in January and will make use of them to prepare for the tournament. Our preparation begins by winning our league matches and getting more organised in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises in our opener against Auckland City.”
On familiar territory
Having first played in Qatar 15 years ago, Lamouchi is no stranger to the country. When asked his opinion of the nation that will play host to several massive football tournaments, most notably the FIFA Club World Cup and the FIFA World Cup™, he said: “I came to Qatar as a player in 2006, then as a coach in 2015 and now I’m back. The country has changed a lot in terms of facilities, the infrastructure, the roads and the airport.”
“Other things have improved such as the stadiums that are being built,” he said. “Clubs are now more professional, and the league has become more competitive. Moreover, Qatar have recently won the AFC Asian Cup.”
“I’m very excited that the World Cup is coming to Qatar,” he added. “No one thought the World Cup would be organised here one day but preparations are on the right track. Transportation is much better than it was 15 years ago, and life in Qatar has become more comfortable.”
“The country is developing fast, so I look forward to seeing the World Cup being held for the first time in a Muslim country and in the Middle East. I believe it’ll be a great success.”
FIFA tournaments bringing hope
After several cancellations last year due to Covid-19, FIFA tournaments are scheduled to resume this year, beginning with the FIFA Club World Cup. “It’s a positive sign that the FIFA competitions will be back, beginning with the Club World Cup,” said Lamouchi. “2020 was a difficult year for everyone, not only in football. When competitions like these resume, we are tempted to think the worst is over, but we have to remain wary of the virus.”
Asked about that difficult year and his ambitions for 2021, Lamouchi said: “I wish everyone good health. After a year like 2020, we wonder when life will return back to normal and when we’ll be able to travel and take care of our families. Besides my personal goals, that is my wish for the new year.”
Canelo Alvarez next fight: Mexican superstar expected to face Avni Yildirim at super middleweight in February
Canelo Alvarez is ready for his next challenge. The unified super middleweight champion is expected to take on Avni Yildirim — the WBC mandatory challenger — on Feb. 27, Canelo’s trainer and manager, Eddy Reynoso, told Boxing Scene. According to both The Athletic and Sports Illustrated, the fight is expected to take place at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
Alvarez claimed the WBA and vacant WBC super middleweight titles on Dec. 19 with a decision win over Callum Smith in Texas. The pound-for-pound great had been out of action for nearly a year due to the pandemic as well as contractual disputes with Golden Boy Promotions and streaming partner DAZN. Alvarez reached a deal with both in the fall to become a free agent and open up the possibility of fighting whomever he wants.
Sports Illustrated’s report notes that this is the first matchup in a multi-fight deal between Alvarez and Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, who promoted Alvarez’s recent win over Smith. Under this agreement, the expectation is that Alvarez would face Billy Joe Saunders at 168 pounds in May.
Yildirim, the 29-year-old from Turkey, has only lost twice as a pro. That includes his most recent bout against Anthony Dirrell in February 2019 when an accident headbutt in the 10th round ended the fight and sent it to the judges’ scorecards. Yilidirim lost on points. His only other loss came in his only other bout against higher-level competition when he was knocked out by Chris Eubank Jr. in 2017.
Joe Root is backing his young openers to come through the tough initiation of a maiden Test tour of Asia stronger for the experience.
Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley both failed to reach double figures in either innings of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle and both fell to spin, the same spinner in fact, each time.
Sibley got a faint edge to a ball from left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya which drifted in and spun away slightly for a slips catch while on 4 in the first innings before Crawley chipped to mid-off for 9. On 2 in the second innings, Sibley appeared stunned by Embuldeniya’s arm ball which took the top of off stump, and Crawley fell for 8 to an ill-conceived drive taken at gully.
But Root believed Sibley and Crawley, who are 13 and 9 matches respectively into their Test careers, were in the best position to learn fast.
“They are doing all the right things in practice and giving themselves the best opportunity when they walk out to play,” Root said. “It didn’t quite fall for them this time but they are quick and smart learners who will be looking to turn things round in the next game.
“It is very exciting that the work ethic is there and it is a great chance for them to adjust quickly to these conditions and show everyone that they’ve got the game to perform out here. At times in these conditions out here, opening the batting can be the best time to bat. On that wicket in the second innings, it was probably the trickiest time to bat. It is very rare that is the case and they will have to learn from that.”
With regular opener Rory Burns headed to India after paternity leave as England begin the second Test, also in Galle, on Friday, Crawley, who scored a warm-up match century on the aborted tour of Sri Lanka early last year, can return to his “favoured position” at No. 3 when that swing of the tour begins. But a solid performance at the very top of the order beforehand would be a welcome confidence boost.
Likewise, Sibley will be keen to turn things around before facing sterner opposition in India.
“I see it as an opportunity to show that they can play in these conditions and I also see it as being part and parcel of Test cricket,” Root added. “You need to know how to play in these conditions and not only will it benefit them long term playing in Asia but also in matches where pitches do deteriorate late on anywhere in the world and start spinning drastically. You’ve got to have a game for it.
“These tours and these games are all about winning but the experience you get can really benefit you further in your career if you have the right attitude and go about it in the right manner. I feel like they are doing that and that is the best thing they can do, keep wanting to get better, keep wanting to learn and take as much from the experience as they can.”
Root will expect ruthlessness from his side in the second Test against Sri Lanka.
England won the first Test by seven wickets early on the last day but, by Root’s own admission, it was by no means a perfect performance. Having skittled Sri Lanka for 135 in the first innings and then put on 421 in response, built on Root’s 228 and supported by debutant Dan Lawrence’s 73 at No.5, they were made to work considerably harder as Sri Lanka posted a second-innings 359.
“You look at the best teams in the world who are winning consistently and that’s a trait you see over and over again and that is something we want, to be associated with being a side who – when they get on top – can see it through,” Root said.
England secured victory comfortably in the end and Root wants to see more of the same when the sides return to Galle, especially ahead of four Tests against India, who vanquished Australia at the Gabba to seal a thrilling 2-1 series triumph.
“India have got tremendous depth in all departments,” Root said. “They’re a side with resilience and character and we know we will have to be at our best when we go out there.
“We’ve certainly played some good cricket and are shaping up very nicely, now it’s a question of whether we can carry on in the manner we are and continue to improve.
Root was at pains not to look much beyond the match at hand, however, where England will contemplate picking Olly Stone to make only his second Test appearance as they look to rotate their seamers.
“It’s certainly an option,”. Root said. “We couldn’t be more impressed with how he’s gone about his business. He looks fit, strong, he’s bowling quick and he’s given a very good account of himself.
“There might be an opportunity for him to play on this tour, whether that’s this week or further down the line. Of course it would be nice to see him play more Test cricket and all he can do is make sure he’s ready to go if that’s the right call.”
Root hinted that spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess could hold their places, despite the England squad having three more reserve spinners on tour.
“With the little cricket that both of them had played, I thought they grew as the game went on and got better and better,” Root said. “I expect that to be the same here as the practice days go on and the game goes on. The more they bowl and the more they find themselves in the pressure situations on the field then the better they will be for it and we will see them get better as the week unfolds.
“The fact they came out of the game with a lot of wickets between them is really pleasing and will give them a lot of confidence to hopefully speed that process up.”
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo
Colin Cowherd: It’s time for Colts to trade up in draft and find their franchise quarterback | UNDISPUTED
Colin Cowherd: It’s time for Colts to trade up in draft and find their franchise quarterback | UNDISPUTED | FOX Sports
Colin Cowherd discusses why it’s time for the Indianapolis Colts to go big in this year’s draft to find their franchise quarterback after Philip Rivers’ decision to retire. Hear why Colin believes the Colts should potentially trade up for the Miami Dolphins #3 overall pick after their announcement to stick with Tua Tagovailoa.