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Arsenal Want To End The Year With A Bang

LONDON: Arsenal are aiming to close out 2022 with a bang when the Premier League predecessors travel to Everton this weekend.

In their pursuit of Arsenal, reigning champions Manchester City cannot afford to go wrong in the visit of Everton, as Newcastle look to extend their record win over Leeds.

With Gabriel Jesus out of action for several months due to injury, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta could heave a sigh of relief if Eddie Nketiah found his target during the 3-1 win over West Ham on Boxing Day.

In his first start of the season, Nketiah scored the third goal in the London derby encounter and the 23-year-old proved he could replace Brazil striker Jesus who injured his knee during the 2022 World Cup.

While some fans feel Nketiah has not been as sharp as Jesus has been since his move from Manchester City, Arteta believes his young striker can fill that void.

“He’s a confident player. I hope that goal will add to his belief if he doubts himself,” said Arteta.

Victory at Brighton on Sunday will ensure Arsenal enter the new year at least five points clear at the top of the league.

Meanwhile, Manchester City teenager Rico Lewis has been able to give the defending champions a new dimension to retain the title after a touring debut in the Premier League.

Lewis still feels he is not good enough to join City’s star lineup despite putting in an impressive display in last Wednesday’s 3-1 win at Leeds.

The 18-year-old centre-back has repaid the trust shown by City manager Pep Guardiola who chose him over England right-back Kyle Walker and Portugal defender Joao Cancelo.

“I don’t feel like City’s first team. I try to do my best to help the team win.

“I don’t know if I’m going to feel like a player in the first team. It’s probably happening slowly without realizing it,” Lewis said ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Everton.

Man City Eliminated Liverpool

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Nathan Ake’s header proved crucial as Manchester City knocked out reigning champions Liverpool in the League Cup following a dramatic 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium earlier today.

The last 16 clash marked the return to competitive action for England’s two football giants after the break for the World Cup and this latest clash is sure to be fierce.

Premier League (EPL) champions City twice took the lead through Erling Haaland and Riyad Mahrez but Liverpool wasted no time to equalize through goals from Fabio Carvalho and Mohamed Salah.

But after Ake made it 3-2 just before the hour mark, the visitors failed to get a third equalizing goal.

“After the World Cup and a long time of not playing, both teams are amazing with their high level and intensity,” City manager Pep Guardiola told Sky Sports.

“Liverpool are very hard to beat, if they play well they will wipe you out.”

He added: “Kevin is playing with fire in him. He needs to find him. What a player. How many years has he been here? Eight years? He’s a true legend.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has no doubts when he says City are a “super, super, super squad that does it really well,” but still has a lot to say about its defensive fortifications.

“The goal we conceded should not have stood… We played a good game but not good enough to beat City tonight.

“There’s a lot we can improve on and we can go into the next game better and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Guardiola named six World Cup players in his main squad.

Ake, Manuel Akanji, Aymeric Laporte, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan have all started since starting.

Klopp too, whose squad beat Chelsea 11-10 in the long penalty shoot-out at Wembley in February to win a ninth League Cup for Reds, also fielded the best squad.

The controller from Germany put Salah down in his first appearance in the League Cup aside from the final since October 2020, Darwin Nunez and Carvalho.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was also listed on the bench but fellow England international Trent Alexander-Arnold was immediately left out while Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk also rested after the World Cup.

Messi Deserves To Win The World Cup – Pele

DOHA: Brazil legend Pele says Lionel Messi “deserves” to win the World Cup after Argentina beat France in a penalty shoot-out earlier this morning.

“Today, football continues to tell something, as always, in a captivating way. Messi won his first World Cup, that’s the way it was decided,” Pele, a three-time World Cup winner, said on Instagram.

Pele also hailed France star Kylian Mbappe who scored a hat-trick in the 3-3 final after added time before coolly converting a penalty in the decider.

“My colleague Mbappe scored four goals in the final. It is a great honor to see this greatness in the future of our sport.”

Argentina’s captain, Lionel Messi finally succeeded in fulfilling his personal dream of lifting the World Cup trophy when La Albiceleste defeated defending champions France 4-2 through a penalty shoot-out after the final action lasted 120 minutes and ended 3-3 at the Lusail Stadium, early this morning.

The end of Qatar 2022 saw Messi, 35, return home proud by setting several respected records at the prestigious tournament.

Messi is one of six players who have played in five World Cup finals alongside Antonio Carbajal (Mexico), Lothar Matthaeus (Germany), Rafael Marquez (Mexico), Andres Guardado (Mexico) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal).

Messi played for the 26th game in the World Cup during the final in Qatar early this morning, thus breaking the record held by Matthaeus with 25 games.

Argentina Is Not Just Messi

DOHA: Croatia is not only aiming to chain Argentina star Lionel Messi, instead focusing on blocking the entire opposing team in the semi-finals of the World Cup, this Wednesday.

Croatia is chasing a place in the final for the second year in a row at the World Cup after losing to France in 2018.

They eliminated the Brazilian selection in the quarter-finals after coming from behind to equalize in stoppage time before winning the penalty shoot-out.

“We don’t have any specific plans to insulate Messi and as a rule we don’t focus on one player but the entire opposing team,” striker Bruno Petkovic told a media briefing last night.

“We will protect them as a team and not individually escort. Argentina is not just Messi, they have many great players. We need to prevent an Argentinian squad,” he said.

Messi, a seven-time Ballon D’Or winner so far, has been the lifeblood of Argentina, who also needed a penalty shoot-out victory after leading twice against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.

Without players suspended and injured following the re-appearance of defender Borna Sosa, Croatia controlled by Zlatko Dalic will definitely be ready and will go down with more confidence.

Their midfield led by captain Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic will continue to be key in starting the line-up, as they did against Brazil, and defender Josip Juranovic says they are an influential trio.

“Mateo, Luka and Marcelo are the best Croatian midfield in history. I don’t think he can be repeated. If you put the ball to them it is safer than keeping money in the bank,” said the defender.

Substitute Petkovic scored a 117th-minute equalizer against Brazil while also forcing the match to be decided in the penalty shoot-out, with Croatia having now won all four of the penalty shoot-outs in the World Cup.

“I think a lot of non-professional players can perfect penalty kicks,” said Petkovic.

“The difference is how strong you are mentally. There is a lot of pressure but it can help if you have a world-class goalkeeper.” said Petkovic.

Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic saved one penalty against Brazil as well as saving three of Japan’s in the last 16 tie

England Respect Senegal’s Challenge

DOHA: John Stones has warned England to respect Senegal in Monday’s World Cup best of 16 clash with Gareth Southgate’s squad looking to avoid being the latest title-dropping squad to be eliminated.

Four-time world champions Germany and second-placed Belgium were named the group stage winners in Qatar, while Argentina, France and Spain also suffered first-round defeats.

England are clearly the top choice to beat Senegal at Al Bayt Stadium, but the Manchester City defender is urging his squad not to underestimate the ability of the African Nations Cup winners.

“We’ve seen a lot of big surprises, because it’s the best championship in the world,” said Stones.

“Whatever, we don’t want to fall into that category (eliminated). You don’t want to take it easy.

“What can be done is through what we do, what matches we join and give everything.”

Stones at the same time contributed to the belief that England would not be complacent despite leading Group B with an unbeaten record.

Citing the way they were able to come back from six games without a win leading up to the World Cup, Stones said: “After losing so much as a team, as a unit in defense and how we came through, I’m so proud of the team.

“I’ve spoken before about why our performance has increased, it’s because of the summer we’ve had. Now, we’ve had three matches in a difficult group.”

Having reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 and finishing runners-up to Euro 2020, Stones believes England have the qualities to lift the trophy in Doha, but will need to stay positive if the pressure builds up.

“It’s not being too confident, it’s being more humbling to see what we’re going to go through in training and how our employees are prepared and also believe in ourselves,” he said.

“We can also be too negative, but we have to be more positive and think about the previous effort and how it got us here and be realistic about our expectations.”

The main reason for England’s dream is to hunt for a first major trophy since 1966 and he has relied on Stones and Harry Maguire in defence.

Messi, Lewandowski Clash

DOHA: Two of the world’s most celebrated strikers, Lionel Messi of Argentina and Robert Lewandowski of Poland will make it count against each other with tickets to the round of 16 of the World Cup being hunted by both players.

Messi, 35, already scored twice for Argentina, who had gotten off to a ‘terrific’ start to the campaign this time when they suffered the shock defeat in championship history by falling to Saudi Arabia before he was a key character in helping the team overcome Mexico.

The Paris Saint Germain forward is playing in his fifth and final World Cup campaign and this is the last chance he will equal Diego Maradona’s record and lift that prestigious trophy.

“We need to stay calm to be able to face the match against Poland in a different way,” said Messi after the tremendous pressure against Mexico.

Argentina are second in Group C with three points, one behind Poland, they need to win to progress to the last 16 and stay in contention for a third World Cup title.

A draw is also sufficient for Argentina if Mexico and Saudi Arabia end their match in a draw.

Like Messi, 34-year-old Lewandowski is also the top scorer for his country and this is his last World Cup stage.

He was at his peak with Messi’s former club Barcelona and started well in Qatar.

Lewandowski missed a penalty in the opening game with Mexico before netting his first World Cup goal to help Poland beat Saudi Arabia 2-0.

“I think the older I get, the more emotional I realize it might be my last World Cup,” said the Poland captain.

Three Million World Cup 2022 Tickets Sold

DOHA: Nearly three million Qatar 2022 World Cup tickets have already been sold, with the International Football Association (FIFA) saying the theme helped boost their revenue four years ago to US$7.5 billion.

A FIFA spokesperson told AFP that 2.95 million tickets had been sold up to opening day last night.

The opening of the World Cup clearly led to a spike in fans to watch 64 matches over 29 days despite the negative publicity towards Qatar as the host.

Fans were seen lining up outside FIFA’s ticket center in Doha and some frowned at being forced to wait a long time to enter the online ticket selling platform.

The spokesperson said Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Mexico, Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, France, India and Brazil were among the countries with the highest purchase of tickets.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino told during a previous hearing that the world body’s four-year revenue is expected to total RM34.3 billion by the end of the year.

The revenue achieved was US$1 billion higher than forecast four years ago.

World Cup 2022: Kane Believes England Can Win

LONDON: Harry Kane insists England are not afraid to say they can win the 2022 World Cup and believes their lackluster form of late has helped lower expectations for the team.

The squad coached by Gareth Southgate is labeled as one of the favorites to win the tournament after reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 edition and emerging as runners-up in Euro 2020 last year.

However, Kane believes The Three Lions are capable of going further in the Middle East and lifting the World Cup trophy since they last won it in 1966.

“We have to believe we can win it.

“I look back at England 10, 15 years ago and it was almost like we were afraid to say we wanted to win it. I think one of the big changes we’ve made over the last four or five years with Gareth is we’re not afraid to say it.

“But I think it’s important that we’re not afraid to say that’s the main reason we’re going there,” Kane said in an interview with Sky Sports.

However, England came to this year’s World Cup campaign with a less than encouraging performance when they failed to win any Nations Cup competition which saw them relegated to the B League.

Southgate’s men, who open their World Cup campaign against Iran on November 21, are looking for a first win in seven games after drawing three and losing three but Kane believes their poor form has helped lower expectations ahead of the Qatar clash.

“The first game is very important. It’s certainly not the best period in a long time for England. Since Gareth took over – we’ve never been through what we’re going through now.

“However, this situation can also be a good thing before a big tournament because it allows you not to get carried away, including the media,” said Kane.

Arsenal Repeated The Record Of 10 Years Ago

LONDON: After beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for their 11th win in 13 games, Arsenal are back at the top of the English Premier League.

The 1-0 victory as a result of Gabriel Magalhaes’ goal saw them overtake the defending champions, Manchester City with only one game remaining before the World Cup break.

Gabriel scored the only goal of the match from Bukayo Saka’s corner kick and Arsenal managed to hold off Chelsea’s pressure throughout the remaining 30 minutes of play to collect the three points.

“We are a young team, but we showed maturity today, calm and brave to play at this level.

“It’s easy to say, but difficult to implement. I think the players were quite extraordinary today,” said Arteta.

Arsenal’s excellent start to the season saw them manage to beat three opponents from the top six in a row for the first time since 2012.

Despite losing to Manchester United earlier this season, they beat Liverpool and Spurs at the Emirates Stadium and broke that record after victory at Stamford Bridge.

In 2012, The Gunners beat Spurs 5-2, Liverpool 2-1 and Manchester City 1-0.

Arsenal Need To Rise – Arteta

LONDON: Arsenal need to quickly forget the 2-0 defeat in the Europa League at the hands of PSV Eindhoven as they face a busy schedule, said manager Mikel Arteta.

PSV advanced to the knockout stages of the second class European tournament thanks to goals from Joey Veerman and Luuk De Jong.

The result ended Arsenal’s 100 per cent start to Group A but they had already secured a place in the top two before the defeat.

Arteta’s side have two home games in the next seven days – against Nottingham Forest in the Premier League this Sunday and then FC Zurich in the Europa League final on Thursday.

“I’m very disappointed. It ends our streak of winning a lot of games and today is our first defeat (since the beginning of September) and we have to bounce back,” Arteta said.

Manchester United’s 3-1 win at home to Arsenal on September 3 handed them their only defeat in the Premier League so far this season.

“Congratulations to PSV – they are the better team today. We are far from the real level and we know in Europe, it is very difficult to win,” said Arteta.

“We are disappointed tonight but there is no need to regret it. We have to respond. On Sunday we have a very important game, then we will see the action against Zurich.

“We have to be better than what we showed today. We know what we’re trying to do and finish a play, the way we finish it, it’s not enough.”