NANJING: Greece will unleash snarling Giannis Antetokounmpo on Team USA after the reigning NBA MVP dragged his country into the second round of the Basketball World Cup on Thursday.
The Milwaukee Bucks forward played a starring role in an edgy 103-97 victory over New Zealand to set up a tasty meeting with the holders on Saturday.
The 24-year-old made a sluggish start in China as Greece defeated Montenegro but then lost narrowly to Brazil to make the meeting with the “Tall Blacks” a must-win.
The so-called “Greek Freak” showed that he meant business from the off in Nanjing, nailing a thunderous dunk with 77 seconds on the clock, the determination and drive etched across his face.
He repeated the feat a minute later, growling with menace afterwards.
Antetokounmpo, ably assisted by his older brother Thanasis, finished with a team-best 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Chants of “MVP! MVP!” occasionally rolled around the arena as Antetokounmpo finally stamped his mark on the World Cup.
“Listen, the situation with Giannis is a little bit complicated, for sure he is the superstar of the team, everyone knows what he can do,” Greece coach Thanasis Skourtopoulos said.
“From the other side, we need to protect his health so we have to take care about the amount of time he plays. “The next game with the USA is much better for him because he knows the mentality and the way they play.
“Now it’s time for him to increase the time (he plays) and everything in the game.”
Brazil and the Czech Republic are the other teams in the group in the next stage.
Even without their megastars the US swatted aside already eliminated Japan on Thursday, 98-45.
New Zealand’s defeat meant that local rivals Australia became the first team — other than hosts Japan — to qualify for next summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Antetokounmpo was the focus of attention in Nanjing, although he was in danger of being upstaged by Corey Webster, the red-hot Kiwi who plays for the NZ Breakers.
The 30-year-old guard almost single-handedly kept the Kiwis in the hunt with 31 points as they refused to lie down, coming within five points of the Greeks midway through the fourth quarter.
Tempers frayed in the last 30 seconds, amid Kiwi claims that one of their players was punched in the back of the head.
Australia defeated European heavyweights Lithuania 87-82 to top the “Group of Death” but both teams were already into round two, where they meet France and the Dominican Republic. France, touted before the tournament as medal contenders, took top spot in Group G after beating the Dominicans 90-56.
Top Saudi duo leads staggering entry for Rally Qassim 2019
BURAIDAH: A staggering entry of 63 cars, 1 truck, 18 motorcycles and 8 quads will tackle this weekend’s Rally Qassim 2019, the second round of the exciting new Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship. There is strength in depth throughout the entire car field and the three T1, T2 and T3 categories, with Saudi Arabia’s leading cross-country…
BURAIDAH: A staggering entry of 63 cars, 1 truck, 18 motorcycles and 8 quads will tackle this weekend’s Rally Qassim 2019, the second round of the exciting new Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship.
There is strength in depth throughout the entire car field and the three T1, T2 and T3 categories, with Saudi Arabia’s leading cross-country star Yazeed Al-Rajhi topping the entry after finishing fifth overall at last week’s Rally of Morocco.
Fellow Saudi Yasir Seaidan wheels out his MINI All4 Racing, as the two leading Saudi stars go head-to-head across home terrain. Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi is also on hand to challenge for overall honors in a Peugeot 3008 DXR.
There is a strong Saudi influence in the upper reaches of the top 10 with the likes of Essa Al-Dossari, Ahmed Al-Shegawi and Mutair Al-Shammeri, but there is an international flavor to the entry as well, with several drivers keen to test before the Dakar Rally crosses the country for the first time in January 2020.
Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal wheels out his Ford F-150 Evo, Egyptian Yara Shalaby has entered a Nissan and there are entries for Kuwait’s Mohammed Al-Dhafiri and Emirati Abdullah Al-Heraiz.
Saleh Al-Saif tops a strong lineup in the T3 category at the helm of his Can-Am Maverick X3 and faces 12 Saudi rivals – three in Yamahas, one in a Polaris and eight in Can-Ams.
Ibrahim Al-Muhanna won the Hail International Rally back in 2014 with Emirati navigator Ali Hassan Obaid and he drives the sole T4 Mercedes truck, with Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb alongside.
Using the event as a perfect opportunity to shake down his KTM 450 Rally after the recent Jordan Baja win is the Emirati racer Mohammed Al-Balooshi.
He leads an 18-strong motorcycle field that includes other riders from the host country, New Zealand and the UK.
Philip Wilson represents New Zealand, Anthony King is the sole UK entrant, while Emirati Abdullah bin Dakhan rides a Yamaha against a field that includes 14 Saudi riders.
Multiple Hail International Rally winner Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi tops the quad category on his Yamaha.
The Saudi has won the Kingdom’s premier off-road rally’s quad section for the last six successive seasons — three times on a Kawasaki and three times on a Yamaha – but faces some of his strongest ever competition in Buraidah.
He lines up against the likes of the experienced Sultan Al-Masoud, Abdulsalam Hamam and Yousef Al-Namasi.
The event is organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, and takes place from Thursday to Saturday.
It is the second of five rounds of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship with three further rallies still to run this year on Nov. 4-9, Nov. 27-30 and Dec. 12-14 .
Action at Rally Qassim 2019 gets underway with a short super special stage of 3.55km from 16:10hrs at Wahtan in Buraidah on Thursday afternoon. There will be 347.80km timed against the clock in a compact route of 548.80km.
The event runs with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sports Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group and Al-Arabia.
Spain looking for a partner for Ramos in defense
MADRID: Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué were the pillar of Spain’s defense for years and were crucial to the team’s success over the last decade. The central defenders formed an uncontested duo that helped “La Roja” dominate world football, winning the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship in 2012. But since Piqué retired from…
MADRID: Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué were the pillar of Spain’s defense for years and were crucial to the team’s success over the last decade.
The central defenders formed an uncontested duo that helped “La Roja” dominate world football, winning the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship in 2012.
But since Piqué retired from the national team after last year’s World Cup, Spain have struggled to find a reliable partner for Ramos in defense.
The 33-year-old Ramos has been with the national team since 2005 and set a record for most appearances with Spain on Saturday, in the team’s 1-1 draw at Norway in qualifying for the 2020 European Championship. He surpassed Iker Casillas’ mark by playing in his 168th match with thenational team.
Ramos has been surrounded mostly by newcomers since Piqué decided to focus on his time with Barcelona, and none has taken over as an indisputable replacement.
One of the most experienced defenders who made it to Spain’s squad recently is 34-year-old Raúl Albiol, who has little more than 50 appearances with the national team.
Against Norway, it was only the second time Albiol partnered with Ramos. Despite a decent performance by the Villarreal defender, Spain could not hold on to a late lead, conceding an equalizer in stoppage time to postpone Spain’s qualification for Euro 2020.
Iñigo Martínez was another central defender who played against Norway, replacing leftback Juan Bernat in the final minutes to try to aid the defense near the end.
“La Roja” will get another chance to qualify on Tuesday when they visit Sweden, when coach Robert Moreno will have an even greater challenge to overcome as Ramos will not be available because of suspension.
Other recent partners for Ramos include Nacho Fernández, Mario Hermoso and Diego Llorente. Also called up after Pique’s departure were Unai Nuñez and Pau Torres, the 22-year-old Villarreal defender touted as a future star but who is yet to make an appearance with the national team.
“When I was younger I looked up to defenders like Gerard and Sergio,” Torres said. “For me it’s a privilege to be able to share the changing room with Sergio Ramos and to learn from him and from the other defenders on the team.”
Ramos, Spain’s longtime captain, recently also surpassed Casillas’ record for most wins with the Spanish national team. He hasn’t talked much about his own retirement, although some rumors surfaced when he recently admitted to the possibility of joining Spain’s Under-23 squad to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Moreno said he sees the possible attempt by Ramos as a way for him to stay motivated and add to his already successful career.
“It would be unfair to keep players in the national team only because of their names,” Moreno said. “They would be the first to say that they don’t want to keep playing if they are not at a high level.
“But I’m certain that Sergio will keep practicing hard day after day and I’m certain that he will keep playing at this level.”
Warm welcome for Saudi football team in Ramallah
‘Biggest fight on the planet’ – Tickets go on sale for ‘Clash on the Dunes’ in Saudi Arabia RIYADH: Tickets for the biggest boxing bout on the planet – the Clash on the Dunes – between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, go on sale on Sunday night. The two are…
‘Biggest fight on the planet’ – Tickets go on sale for ‘Clash on the Dunes’ in Saudi Arabia
RIYADH: Tickets for the biggest boxing bout on the planet – the Clash on the Dunes – between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, go on sale on Sunday night.
The two are set to clash on Dec. 7 in the Diriyah Arena, a purpose-built arena for 15,000 fans, as Anthony ‘AJ’ Joshua attempts to recapture the belts taken from him by Andy ‘Destroyer’ Ruiz Jr earlier in the year.
Boxing fans from across the region and around the globe from Sunday onwards can get their tickets to the fight, which includes new super-fast tourist visas recently launched the Kingdom.
Boxing fans in #SaudiArabia and around the world – get ready…
Tickets for the “biggest fight on the planet” – #ClashOnTheDunes between @anthonyfjoshua and @Andy_destroyer1 in Diriyah – go on sale tonight…
More details here: https://t.co/CuzyjPA1uf pic.twitter.com/IDf4hbI1w2
— Arab News (@arabnews) October 13, 2019
It will be the first world heavyweight title fight ever to be staged in the Middle East and forms part of the month-long Diriyah Season, a spectacular season of world-class sport, global entertainment, and culture, launched last week at a glittering ceremony in the ancient city, the birthplace of modern Saudi Arabia on the outskirts of Riyadh.
Due to the unique venue, being staged outside of the UK or the US, the fight has already seen parallels drawn in the media to some of the most iconic fights in history, such as Muhammad Ali’s fights against George Foreman – “the Rumble in the Jungle” – and Joe Frazier – the “Thrilla in Manila.”
The launch followed the recent announcement that travelers from 49 countries across the world can now secure tourist visas online in just seven minutes to attend the festival and its events.
HRH Prince Khaled bin Abdulaziz, Chairman of Skill Challenge Entertainment (SCEE), said: “This is a historic moment for Saudi Arabia welcoming the first world heavyweight championship, as a nation we have started to pave the way for becoming a global player in the sports and entertainment industry and we have witnessed a real appetite for the boxing sport.
“This is the biggest fight that has taken place in the region to date and we are bringing it to Saudi Arabia on December 7 – the world is watching us and we promise to deliver an unparalleled experience. SCEE are a proud partner of the GSA bringing Clash on the Dunes to Diriyah Season, 2019.”
Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who is also Anthony Joshua’s manager, said: “This is the biggest boxing match on the planet, and it will be taking place in one of the most unique venues ever.
“We already know there is a great passion for boxing in the Kingdom, but AJ and Andy will want their fans to come and support them, from across the region and from the UK and the US and Mexico.
“It’s great news that these tourism visas have been launched, that’s a big step forward for the country and it means that boxing fans wherever they are can come witness an unmissable night. This fight will go down in history as one of the greats.”
Tickets go on sale at 9pm KSA time (10pm UAE, 7pm UK and 2pm US) and are available at www.diriyahseason.sa.
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