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CAIRO: Riyad Mahrez and Sadio Mane will renew their Premier League rivalry for a second time in Egypt, with Africa Cup of Nations immortality awaiting the victor of Friday’s final between Algeria and Senegal.Algerian star Mahrez was part of the Manchester City team that edged out Mane’s Liverpool for the English title last season, grabbing a pivotal goal on the final day of the campaign.Liverpool standout Mane, however, is attempting to fulfill his “wildest dream” as one of just a handful of Africans to win both the UEFA Champions League and Cup of Nations.For the marquee name in a Senegalese side ranked top of the continent, and a surprising 46 places above Algeria, the ride to the final for Mane and the Teranga Lions has encountered its share of roadbumps.Two missed Mane spot-kicks, a group stage loss to Algeria, and the loss of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to a broken finger have tested Senegal’s resolve in their quest for the Holy Grail of African football.Coach Aliou Cisse is on a mission for personal redemption. He was the skipper of the side beaten on penalties in the 2002 final, with his missed kick handing the title to Cameroon.“Having lost that final, I still have it on my mind,” said former Paris Saint-Germain and Birmingham City midfielder Cisse.“What motivated me to become a coach was to be able to take Senegal to the final. My players told me they would do better than my generation.”A maiden Cup of Nations for his country is a prize for which Mane readily admitted he would trade in last month’s Champions League title.“I’m ready to even swap a Champions League for a Cup of Nations. Going to Dakar with the trophy would be extraordinary. It would be my wildest dream,” Mane told France Football ahead of the competition.Standing in the way, however, is an Algerian outfit that has undergone a remarkable transformation since the arrival of Djamel Belmadi as coach a year ago.The Desert Foxes failed miserably in World Cup qualifying, but the steely Belmadi has healed divisions in the squad to lead them to the brink of a first Cup of Nations triumph since 1990.“To the Algerian people, I want to say I’m not a politician, not a miracle worker or a wizard, but that we will fight like we have fought to this point,” Belmadi said after the semifinal win over Nigeria.Algeria are the leading scorers in Egypt with 12 goals, including Mahrez’s spectacular last-gasp free-kick against Nigeria, and haven’t trailed at all in the tournament.“Algeria are so well organized, so compact, so ‘Guardiolaesque’ in the way they recover the ball,” opined experienced international coach Claude Le Roy. “Perhaps it is the influence of Mahrez.”The Algeria captain has been in fine form for his country here, brimming with confidence after helping City to the domestic treble.“We are very happy to be in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations because it is something very special,” said Mahrez.“It was our goal to do it for the people and for our families. We know they are behind us all the way. It’s my dream to win the Cup of Nations.”“It’s going to be another battle against Senegal,” he added. “We’ve been very good in this competition. The (Nigeria) match has given us more confidence for the final and we’re capable of winning it.”Their hopes will boosted by the absence of Senegal’s defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly, whose yellow card in the semifinal victory over Tunisia cruelly ruled the Napoli star out of the final.“It hurts to not be able to play. But I will be beside my brothers to write history,” tweeted Koulibaly, the cornerstone of a defense breached just once so far.
PORTRUSH, United Kingdom: Rory McIlroy said on Wednesday that he is not feeling extra pressure this week as the British Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, and is hoping home fans can help him end a five-year major drought.
The world number three is the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the Claret Jug for the second time on Sunday, despite not having claimed a major title since the 2014 PGA Championship.
He said in the past he struggled being the focus of attention at Irish Opens, although he did win that tournament in 2016.
“I think it’s probably easier this week because it’s such a big tournament,” said McIlroy, who opens his title tilt at Royal Portrush at 0909 GMT on Thursday alongside US Open winner Gary Woodland and England’s Paul Casey.
“You’ve got the best players in the world here, and I don’t feel like I’m the center of attention.
“I’m here to enjoy myself. Hopefully it doesn’t take another 68 years for the tournament to come back here. But at the same time, I mightn’t get an opportunity to play an Open Championship here again.
“I’m really just treating it as a wonderful experience and one that I really want to enjoy.
“I’m going to love being out there and having the crowds and having the support. If that can’t help you, then nothing can.”
McIlroy fired a course-record 61 on the Dunluce Links at the age of just 16 in 2005, and is one of three Northern Irish major champions in the field along with Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.
He said his first memories of Portrush came as a child when watching his father play.
“I remember chipping around the chipping green, being seven or eight years of age, my dad out playing on the Dunluce,” added McIlroy, who played a practice round on Tuesday.
“Portrush ... At least the golf club, has been a big part of my upbringing. It’s sort of surreal that it’s here.
“Even driving in yesterday, when you’re coming in on the road and you look to the right and you’ve got the second tee... I don’t know who was teeing off, maybe (American player) Tony Finau and someone else, (it was) sort of strange to see them here.
“But it’s really cool.”
Since McIlroy’s record the course has been renovated, with the seventh and eighth new holes.
But the 30-year-old said he did not have to spend too much time preparing on the course, such is his familiarity with it.
“I had dinner booked with a parent on Saturday night at 8:00, thinking I’m going to have to spend some time around the greens and just prepare.
“And I got on the road back home and rang them and said, ‘Can we move dinner up?’ Because I finished early. There’s no difference. It’s the same golf course.”
McIlroy has been in strong form this year, winning twice, including the Players’ Championship, and posting 11 top-10 finishes.
He also finished in a tie for second at the Open at Carnoustie last year.
“I think it’s probably the most consistent period of golf I’ve ever played,” the 2014 champion said.
LOS ANGELES: Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli scored in his Arsenal debut Monday as the English Premier League club launched their pre-season tour of the US with a 3-0 friendly win over the Colorado Rapids.
Bukayo Saka and James Olayinka also scored for the Gunners, who cruised to victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in suburban Denver.
Martinelli, the 18-year-old forward signed from Ituano on July 2, was given a surprise start in attack by Unai Emery and sent an early chance wide.
Saka, 17, was an energetic presence and put Arsenal up 1-0 in the 13th minute as he collected a through-ball from Eddie Nketiah.
Another teenager — 18-year-old Olayinka — doubled the score in the 29th, seizing a stray pass from defense and racing in to fire into the top left corner of the net.
Martinelli, having missed his early chance, capped the scoring in the 61st when he slotted home a cross from close range.
The Rapids, in the midst of the Major League Soccer season, fielded a mostly reserve side that featured several players from the lower-rung Colorado Springs Switchbacks.
Arsenal, too, started a reserve team as they begin their build up to the Premier League season after again failing to secure a Champions League berth.
The tour has not started without controversy. Captain Laurent Koscielny refused to travel to the US, and a group of influential Arsenal supporters’ organizations published a statement on Monday hitting out at Stan Kroenke’s “passive ownership.”
Under a hashtag “WeCareDo You” the statement decried a “soulless” atmosphere at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and a lack of transfer strategy.
Kroenke, who began investing in the club in 2007 through his company Kroenke Sports Enterprises and took full ownership in 2018, also owns the Rapids as well as the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.
PORTRUSH: Tiger Woods said on Tuesday he is confident his body can hold up under the rigors of links golf this week as he bids for a 16th major title at the British Open.
The 43-year-old, who capped one of sport’s greatest-ever comebacks with victory at the Masters in April, will be playing in just his fourth tournament since winning the green jacket.
With cold, wet weather predicted for all four days as the British Open returns to Northern Ireland and Royal Portrush for the first time since 1951, Woods’ troublesome back could come under extra strain. But he was keen to point out tricky conditions may also play into his hands, as they did for Tom Watson when he lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink at the age of 59 at Turnberry in 2009, and Greg Norman when he finished third at Birkdale in 2008 aged 53.
“It’s just part of, unfortunately, dealing with the procedures I’ve had, and being a little bit older,” said Woods, who returned to elite golf in December 2017 after spinal fusion surgery.
“It just doesn’t move quite as fast when it’s a little bit cooler.
“But the great thing is playing in an Open Championship, you can do it. Look what Tom did at Turnberry, what Greg did at Birkdale. The golf course is fast enough, even if you don’t have the speed to carry the ball.
“You just have to navigate the bunkers and navigate around the golf course. And that’s true, that’s understanding how to play an Open Championship.”
Woods’ fifth Masters triumph was his first major victory since the 2008 US Open, but the success relaunched his bid to chase down Jack Nicklaus’ record tally of 18 titles.
The American admitted the effort needed to get over that major hurdle again had taken its toll.
“Getting myself into position to win the Masters was — it took a lot out of me. That golf course puts so much stress on the system,” he said.
“Seeing my kids there, they got a chance to experience The Open Championship last year after their dad took the lead, and then made a few mistakes. And this time they got to see me win a major championship.
“So it was a very emotional week and one that I keep reliving.”
Woods is now ranked fifth in the world, but has not threatened at either of the last two majors, won by Brooks Koepka and Gary Woodland.
But he does still feel the Open and links golf gives him the best chance of closing in on Nicklaus’ haul of victories.
Woods opens his campaign at 1410 GMT on Thursday, playing alongside England’s Matt Wallace and 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed.
LONDON: British boxer Amir Khan said on Tuesday that a deal has been agreed for a fight against Manny Pacquiao on November 8 in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking at his gym in the British city of Bolton the former world champion said the fight would happen in Riyadh, adding that the bout had been “signed by both parties.”
Pacquiao, 40, has a scheduled fight with American Keith Thurman in Las Vegas on Saturday and, barring any potential rematch, would be available to fight Khan in the Kingdom.
“It’s on, unless he gets injured or he says he is going to retire after the fight and then the fight won’t happen, but he is interested in the fight as well,” Khan told Boxing Social.
The two boxers came close to a fight in 2017, but negotiations fell through and the bout never materialized.
READ MORE: Amir Khan beats Billy Dib in Jeddah on ‘fight night of the year’
“It is going to be amazing, because it’s been a long time we’ve been chasing that fight. I’ve been chasing the big names like (Floyd) Mayweather and Pacquiao for a long, long time but those fights never happened.
“But now it has come to a stage where we both signed on that dotted line, so hopefully he is going to be the next (fight).
“To have him sign that dotted line is brilliant and no matter how he does against Thurman, I still think it’s a big fight.
“Hopefully he comes out of it in one piece in his next fight against Keith, which is a hard fight and not an easy one for him, and we will take it from there.”
The British boxer, 32, scored a stoppage win over Australia’s Billy Dib in Saudi Arabia last Friday and soon after his win was talking up the prospect of landing Pacquiao as his next fight.
On the prospect of returning to Saudi Arabia, Khan said his experience in the Dib fight had been “amazing” and that it was hard to turn down a deal to fight in the Kingdom.
“I was little bit nervous, because I did not know what to expect — whether it would be full or not, or if people would turn up to support — but it was amazing. I think the next one is going to be even bigger.
“The experience was awesome, I was looked after by the GSA (General Sports Authority) and the Saudi government took good care of us, the gyms were amazing. I would love to go back over there.”
When asked if he ever doubted whether his dream fight against Pacquiao would happen, Khan agreed.
“I’ve waited so long but you cannot really put all your eggs in one basket, and definitely say this is going to be the next fight.
READ MORE: Gloves off as world champion boxer Amir Khan dreams of ‘more fights in Saudi Arabia’
“I hope it is him but we will have to look at back up plans. I’ve always wanted to fight him. It’s the biggest fight out there for me,” he told the BBC.
The two boxers are known to be good friends and spent years sparring with each in the US while training under the mentorship of trainer Freddie Roach.
The Filipino legend has not yet officially announced any bout with Khan and on social media appears focused on Saturday’s fight.
“When I sparred him he was at his peak,” Khan said. “I got good rounds with him and did really well. I have probably sparred between 200 and 300 rounds with him. He has slowed down a bit.”
Pacquiao has 61 wins, seven defeats and two draws in a 24-year professional career, while Khan has 34 wins and five defeats.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s mega city NEOM is hosting an international beach soccer tournament from July 17 to 20 on the lush white beaches of the Red Sea coast.
Running alongside the tournament will also be the 50th Wakeboard World Cup, rugby and tennis in the Gayal region in NEOM.
The FIFA-approved football tournament will see international teams grapple for glory at the NEOM Beach Soccer Cup.
Countries including China and England will compete against Arab teams from Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt in a purpose-built venue, according to a tweet on the official NEOM Twitter page.
This will be the second time a sports event has been held, the first being an extreme adventure sports tournament in April.
The official logo
“The reason we chose extreme adventure sports at the first event in NEOM was because it’s a beautiful environment,” said Jason Harborow, head of NEOM’s future of sport sector.
“Sport is right at the center of what we want to achieve at NEOM, and that means sport for all: male, female, children and athletes with disabilities. NEOM will be for everybody.”
NEOM is being marketed as a tourist destination designed to attract dreamers and elite minds from around the world.
The aim of the mega project is to attract new business and work as an incubator of future technologies, while also acting as a major economic power and a leading center for global investment.
”The team looks forward to the day when NEOM will host a wide range of bold sports to become a world center for sport enthusiasts, thrill seekers and an international sports center that embraces the world’s most important championships in all areas,” said Jason Harborow, head of future sports at NEOM.
The tournament is part of the ongoing effort to promote the sport sector in NEOM and business that comes with it, including encouraging major sporting events to the region.
LONDON: England revelled in their first World Cup triumph on Monday, soaking up the adulation of a disbelieving nation after one of the most extraordinary finishes to a cricket match in history.
The host country, after 44 years of trying, finally became world champions with a stunning victory over New Zealand at Lord’s, triumphing on superior boundary count after both the match and the additional Super Over shootout ended with the scores level.
The game was watched by the biggest audience in a generation, with around 30,000 packed into Lord’s, thousands congregating in front of a big screen in Trafalgar Square in central London and the first free-to-air terrestrial coverage in 14 years.
Hundreds of children flooded across the outfield at the Oval — across town from Lord’s — to help Eoin Morgan’s men celebrate their historic triumph. The south London ground was where England launched their World Cup campaign with a victory over South Africa way back on May 30.
Many of the young children at the Oval were wearing the kit of the All Stars junior program run by the England and Wales Cricket Board and others were dressed in their school uniforms.
As “Happy” by Pharrell Williams blared out, the youngsters were delighted to catch sight of England stars such as Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer and flocked toward their new heroes.
It was a more modest celebration than the open-topped bus parade through the streets of London for England’s 2005 Ashes victors but was in keeping with the push to sell the game to a new generation.
“I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet but coming down here and seeing what a small portion of the support we’ve had feels about it, the kids, the adults, the energy they all had for what they saw yesterday is amazing,” said man-of-the-match Stokes.
England coach Trevor Bayliss, drafted in with the aim of winning the World Cup following their miserable first-round exit at the 2015 tournament, said: “I heard some of the young guys in the team say the 2005 Ashes inspired them to bigger and better things.
“I think they are very proud they’ve been put in a position where they can hopefully inspire a few of the next generation.”
On Sunday the Queen sent her congratulations to England and the Royal Mail postal service announced it would issue a series of special stamps and decorate 15 post boxes to celebrate both the World Cup win and England’s victory at the 2017 Women’s edition of the tournament.
Prime Minister May, a lifelong cricket fan, was due to host the team at a reception.
“Yesterday (Sunday) was a brilliant performance by a brilliant team,” said May. “They showed flair, courage and an absolute determination to become world champions.
“The achievement, delivered in such a thrilling style on home soil, will live forever in our sporting history.”
“It’s also exciting to think just how many children will be inspired by this victory to pick up a bat for the first time and hopefully become the great cricketers and World Cup winners of tomorrow,” she added.
“We must build on this success.”