Octavio calls for greater efficiency in blockbuster quarterfinal
Iran head coach Marco Octavio called on his side to take its chances, and bounce back from its loss to Oman, in a blockbuster AFC Beach Soccer Championship Thailand 2019 quarterfinal today.
A 4-3 defeat to Oman on Tuesday saw the reigning champion slip to second place in Group D, setting up a mouth-watering win-or-go-home clash with Japan, itself an Asian powerhouse with nine successive appearances at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, the-afc.com reported.
Iran finished third at the World Cup in 2017, and is currently second in the world rankings, but with the tournament now in its knockout stage, the only certainty in today’s match is that one of the continent’s powerhouses will see its campaign come to an early end.
Reflecting on his side’s costly defeat, Octavio stressed that his side played well against Oman, but that it must improve in front of goal if it is to beat its East Asian opponent.
“I’m very proud of my players, and congratulations to Oman,” said the Brazilian boss. “That was a wonderful match on Tuesday, for all people who love beach soccer.”
“Our performance was good but we were not as efficient as Oman. We shot 37 times at goal, Oman shot 17, but Oman scored four goals and Iran only three. This is football.
“We have to learn, whether we win or we lose, and now we have to concentrate. We have a chance.
“We know we are going to face a strong team like Japan, but we will try our best to honor our flag, to honor Iran in this competition.”
Despite its status as one of the world’s best sides, Iran will face an arduous challenge against a Japanese side which breezed through the group stage, racking up a tournament-best 21 goals in three matches.
Octavio – whose task is tougher by the absence of the suspended Amir Akbari – believes Japan has been the standout team in the competition thus far.
“Oman, Bahrain, Japan and Iran all ended up in Group C and D, which was a strange draw, but okay, we are here,” he said.
“We have a strong team, and Japan has shown, until this moment, the best beach soccer. We have a very difficult task, but we are going to try our best to get ahead.”
Despite powering to emphatic wins over Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, Japan head coach Ruy Ramos has used all three of his post-match press conferences to call for improvement from his side.
With Ozu Moreira and Shusei Yamauchi bagging six goals apiece in the group stage, Ramos agrees that his side is playing well, but he believes his team has not yet reached the level required to beat Asia’s best teams.
“Our target is the same as other teams – to be the champion,” he declared.
“We should be happy with our past three wins, but I’m also not satisfied with the performance of the players, and they should be better from now.”
Japan could be forgiven for feeling a touch unfortunate to have landed next to the world’s number two side at this stage of the competition, but former Japanese football international Ramos is approaching the match with optimism.
“It’s a great honors to be playing against the leader in Asia, Iran. In the past seven to 10 years they have been leading Asian beach soccer,” he said. “As you saw, the game between Iran and Oman was a brilliant game; one of the top games.
“Coming to this stage of the tournament, we cannot choose our opponent, but we will do our best.”
Ronaldo lauded in Spanish media after Juve gives Atletico ‘momentous beating’
Cristiano Ronaldo was lauded in the Spanish press after his stunning hat-trick in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid sent Juventus into the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Ronaldo’s record-equaling eighth treble in Europe’s elite competition hauled Juventus back from a 2-0 defeat in the first leg in Madrid and sent the Serie A leader through 3-2 on aggregate, Reuters reported.
It was the fifth time the Portuguese forward had helped to knock Atletico out of the Champions League, having won the 2014 and 2016 finals against the Madrid club and beating it in the quarterfinals in 2015 and semifinals in 2017 with Real Madrid.
“Cristiano imposes his law,” said the front cover of Spanish newspaper Marca, while daily AS hailed Ronaldo, who is the leading goalscorer in the competition, as “the king of the Champions League.”
There was also a sense of regret that Real, which had a humiliating exit at the hands of Ajax Amsterdam last week, had allowed its all-time top scorer to leave for €103 million (£88.5 million) last July.
“Madrid should never have let a player like this escape, when he had a contract, was the all-time top scorer and one of the patrons of the four Champions League wins,” added Marca.
“They gave away a legend for €100 million. We just saw that Ronaldo is priceless. Letting him go was a historic error. Cristiano wasn’t worth €100 million, he was worth a billion.”
There was also criticism for Atletico’s negative tactics and its attempt to merely defend its lead. Diego Simeone’s side did not manage to have one shot on target in the 90 minutes.
“With Cristiano in the mood for a demolition and on one of those nights which make him the most ravenous and lethal striker in history, Juventus walked all over Atletico,” said El Pais.
“Simeone’s team fell the Italian way. They only wanted to defend, and they received a momentous beating.”
Atletico, which has lost three European Cup finals, had targeted reaching this year’s showpiece in its Wanda Metropolitano stadium.
Now its only focus is chasing down La Liga leader Barcelona, which has a seven-point advantage at the top of the Spanish top flight.
Midfielder Saul braced himself for criticism back home and gave a scathing assessment of his side’s display.
“We will get attacked from all sides and we have to face it,” he said.
“They were superior to us in every sense, we couldn’t even manage to kick them or foul them or show our character. We had space but we couldn’t cause their goalkeeper any danger. We lacked intelligence.”
Ronaldo’s remit was, in large part, to help the Turin club win the Champions League.
“This was why Juventus brought me here, to help do things that they have never done before,” said Ronaldo, who has now scored 18 goals in his past 14 Champions League knockout appearances and has been directly involved in 76 goals in 77 knockout matches (62 goals, 14 assists).
“It was always going to be a special night and it was – not only for the goals but for the team.
“This is the mentality you need to win in the Champions League. We enjoyed a magical night. Atletico were a difficult team but we were strong too. We will see what will happen.”
“The lads have shown great maturity,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri.
“They interpreted the game at their best, I have to congratulate them. This is what we wanted in the first leg.
“Tonight we were lucid, there was the risk of having a hysterical match, as if everything had to be done in 10 minutes.”
Schmidhofer seals women’s downhill title
Nicole Schmidhofer clinched the World Cup downhill title on Wednesday, finishing seventh at the finals in Andorra, as compatriot Mirjam Puchner pulled off a surprise by winning the race.
Schmidhofer started the day with a lead of 90 points in the chase for the small globe awarded to winners of individual disciples, AFP reported.
She went off third and, even though she finished 11th, she clinched her first title when Siebenhofer, following two slots later, almost fell and, though she stayed upright, was slower down the piste and ended 19th.
Puchner edged German Viktoria Rebensburg by 0.03sec and Swiss skier Corinne Suter by 0.08sec for her second career victory.
On a good day for her country, Schmidhofer ended a 12-year women’s downhill drought by winning Austria’s first globe in the discipline since Renate Goetschl in 2007.
That was the year Schmidhofer won two junior world titles, in super-G and giant slalom. But the skier, who turns 30 on Friday, was slow to deliver on that youthful promise at the highest level, until she won the super-G world title at Saint-Moritz two years ago.
This season she has finished on the World Cup downhill podium four times winning twice, in consecutive races in Lake Louise.
Puchner’s only previous victory came in Saint Moritz in 2016.
Mikaela Shiffrin opted not to compete on Wednesday, her 24th birthday. The American, already assured of the overall and slalom titles, can add the super-G title today and the giant slalom title on Saturday. She leads the standings in both disciplines.
Djokovic beaten in Indian Wells third round
World number one Novak Djokovic was knocked out of the BNP Paribas Open in the third round by Philipp Kohlschreiber at Indian Wells.
The Serb, who currently holds three of the four Grand Slam titles, was beaten 6-4, 6-4 by the German world number 39, BBC Sport reported.
Djokovic broke his racquet in anger after Kohlschreiber – who had lost his past seven matches against the 31-year-old – took the first set.
The match between Djokovic and Kohlschreiber began on Monday but was delayed until Tuesday because of heavy rain.
Kohlschreiber won 72 percent of first-serve points and saved four of five break points as he closed out victory.
“To be honest, I don’t enjoy losing, especially in a tournament like this, a tournament where I have had plenty of success in the past,” Djokovic said.
“But it just happens, one of those days. You just have to deal with it, move on, turn the next page.
“Miami is the next tournament singles-wise for me. I’m not at my highest level, but slowly building, and hopefully I’ll be able to peak in Miami.”
Osaka, Halep out
Meanwhile, World number one Naomi Osaka’s defense of her Indian Wells title was ended in round four by Belinda Bencic.
Japan’s Osaka, who holds the U.S. Open and Australian Open titles, was beaten 6-3, 6-1 by the Swiss world number 23 in just over an hour.
World number two Simona Halep or Romania is also out, beaten 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 by Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova.
It was a first win over a top-five player for the 19 year old, who is ranked 61st in the world.
Halep’s defeat in California means 21-year-old Osaka, who claimed her first WTA title with victory at Indian Wells last year, will keep her number one ranking, despite losing to 22-year-old Bencic.
“I didn’t play that well,” Osaka said. “Honestly, at a time like this with that scoreline, I would usually feel very depressed and sad.
“But I feel pretty good right now because I tried my best and I don’t really have any regrets.
“She was just playing so well. There wasn’t anything that I could do in that situation.”
Bencic had beaten four top-10 players on the way winning a title in Dubai last month.
“I’m very confident with my game right now. I’m hitting the ball well. So just things worked out for me,” said Bencic.
Paris St.-Germain forward Neymar is under investigation by UEFA for comments the Brazilian made, describing referee Damir Skomina’s penalty decision against Manchester United as a “disgrace”, after PSG’s Champions League exit.