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F1 needs to put brake on expansion, say team chiefs

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LAS VEGAS:

Formula One needs to slam on the brakes after a period of rapid growth and avoid the temptation to add yet more races to its record sized calendar, two team principals told AFP.

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner warned F1 bosses that there was a danger of “hitting a cliff and falling down” if the sport did not consolidate on a period of impressive global growth.

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The booming F1 circuit will expand to 24 races next season with three races in the United States as Las Vegas joins the party along with Austin and Miami while the Chinese and Qatar races are due to return after short-term absences.

“I think we need stabilization in my opinion. The amount of races…don’t do more, stabilize where we are now,” Steiner said in an interview.

“Twenty-four races is enough in the moment in my opinion,” he said.

Williams team principal Jost Capito agreed and said that even with this season’s calendar, the strain is being felt with the Brazil and Abu Dhabi races still to be run.

“With 22 races this year and 24 races next year, it is a big change. I think 24 is a lot for the teams, when you see now towards the last races you see that the teams are getting tired, exhausted and looking forward to the end of the season, it is a lot,” he told AFP.

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“I don’t know if we lose the audience, (but) for the teams the logistics and everything gets very complicated. I think 24 is doable and when this is established, you have 24, then you have to judge if you can do 25 or 26. I think in the moment it is a big step to go to 24,” he added.

Steiner said that the boom the sport has enjoyed since being purchased by American company Liberty Media and then cashing in on a hugely successful Neftlix ‘Drive to Survive’ series, needs to be protected.

“In the last four or five years since Liberty took over the sport, there was a lot of change and it was all good change but I think at some stage, we cannot keep on just ramping up,” he said.

“Like in the States:  stabilize three races. Do not try to do four or five in the next two to three years, then it is getting too much. It is the same with races. We have got now 24 races (in the calendar) – do not try to make 27. Stabilize and then rethink in a few years, how can we make it even bigger now?

“How we ramped it up, it is amazing, but we cannot keep going like this, it has just never happened before, so we need to be careful that we are not ramping up and then fall down. We don’t want to go up and up and then hit a cliff and fall down,” he said.

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But Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali, who like Steiner and Capito was in Las Vegas to promote next season’s Grand Prix, was in no mood for talk of easing off on growth.

“We don’t need to slow down. I think in the US, we are just scratching the surface of what we can do. We need to focus on future growth,” he told AFP.

“Just a couple of years ago, people were saying F1 is on a downward slope but I am very happy that is that is not the case.

“Twenty-four races – it’s a lot. Could be less. Could be more. But that is what we as a business are ready to propose to fans. We need to be proud of what we have done,” he said.

Both Italian Steiner and German Capito said that the cost-cap regulation needed to be kept tight and be well enforced if there was to be an effective competitive balance between the established big teams, such as Mercedes and Red Bull, and challengers such as their own teams.

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“We need to stabilize everything in the moment. Also the cost-cap regulation, not to change it, even if the big teams try to push it up. We need to say no – it is a good thing,” Steiner said.

“The cap is the most important thing. So the teams get closer together, more than they are now, so the sport gets more interesting and build on that and then make the next steps,” he said.





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Uruguay held by South Korea in goalless stalemate

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DOHA:

Uruguay faltered in their World Cup opener against a lively and energetic South Korea after they were held to a 0-0 draw in Group H on Thursday in a contest where both teams struggled to find the clinical edge.

Clear-cut chances were rare for either side at the Education City Stadium and although Uruguay created more goalscoring opportunities, neither team were able to register a shot on target.

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Uruguay captain Diego Godin was denied by the woodwork while South Korea forward Hwang Ui-jo blasted over the bar with the goal at his mercy, leaving both teams to rue missed chances before group rivals Portugal and Ghana meet later on in the day.

Uruguay’s first sight of goal came in the 19th minute through Federico Valverde, who connected with Jose Maria Gimenez’s pass and took a touch before firing a half-volley towards goal, but his ambitious attempt went just over the bar.

The South Americans had begun to find their footing when South Korea, having been patient so far, disrupted their rhythm and launched a counter-attack from a Uruguay corner before the half-hour mark. Son Heung-min picked up the ball on the left flank and cut inside, skipping past two Uruguay defenders before curling a right-footed effort towards goal, but left back Mathias Olivera was able to clear it away. South Korea should have taken the lead in the 34th minute when Moon-hwan Kim fizzed the ball into the penalty area and into the path of Hwang in front of goal, but the forward could not keep his composure and sent it over the crossbar.

The closest Uruguay came to scoring in the first half was just before the break, when centre back Godin rose highest to power a header from Valverde’s corner but it bounced off the left post and away from goal. Gimenez made a crucial tackle to deny Son five minutes after the restart after a flowing move from South Korea, while Jung Woo-young blocked midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur’s powerful strike at the other end. Uruguay saw more of the ball but found few chances to break through the South Korean defence until the closing stages, when Valverde unleashed a thunderbolt in the final minute of regulation time that struck the top of the post.





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World Cup fans in Qatar introduced to Islam

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DOHA:

The Katara Cultural Village Mosque in Qatar’s capital of Doha has become the focus of attention for World Cup fans who want to get to know about Islam.

Multilingual male and female preachers at the mosque explain the religion and tolerance of Islam to tourists.

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Electronic boards about Islam in more than 30 languages at the door are positioned to allow visitors to view them on their phones. And booklets introducing Islam in different languages ​​are distributed to those who want them.

The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in Qatar also launched a pavilion to introduce Islam and its teachings during the World Cup 2022.

Also read: Batshuayi fires Belgium to World Cup

World Cup fans encounter hadiths — words, actions or habits of Prophet Muhammad — on the walls of streets, describing the importance of good deeds.

The opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2022 was last Sunday at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.

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The tournament’s official mascot, La’eeb, whose name is an Arabic word that means super-skilled player, along with the flags of all 32 participating nations were waving on the field.





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Ronaldo and Brazil enter World Cup fray after Swiss win

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DOHA:

Cristiano Ronaldo will aim to put his painful Manchester United divorce behind him at the World Cup on Thursday as Brazil also make their bow following a win for Switzerland in the early kick-off.

Ronaldo’s preparations for what is likely to be his last World Cup have been overshadowed by his sudden departure from Old Trafford this week after he lambasted the club in a TV interview.

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The Portugal superstar’s form this season has been poor but he is still hoping for a final shot at glory in Qatar after leading his team to the Euro 2016 title.

The 37-year-old, whose club future is uncertain, is aiming to become the first player in history to score at five World Cups.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos said his men were entirely focused on their opening Group H match against Ghana despite the distractions of the media circus surrounding their captain.

“The players are absolutely focused, with a great spirit, convinced about what they have to do, what their objectives are and realistic about the challenges they are facing,” he said.

“Winning a competition of this magnitude is difficult.”

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World Cup favourites Brazil launch their bid for a record-extending sixth global crown against a dangerous Serbia side.

Brazil boast a frightening array of attacking talent including Paris Saint-German forward Neymar and Real Madrid pair Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo.

Coach Tite will be wary of his Group G opponents after witnessing shock defeats for Argentina and Germany already in Qatar.

“In my opinion these players (attackers) will help Neymar because they can divide up the responsibility and create space for him,” said veteran Brazil skipper Thiago Silva.

“The atmosphere in the squad is super-healthy,” he added. “The mixture of young players and more experienced ones creates a great connection.”

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Serbia appear a more dangerous proposition than four years ago, when they also faced Brazil in the group stage but lost 2-0 and exited in the first round.

“We are afraid of nobody in the world, not even Brazil,” said Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic, who hopes prolific Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic will be fit for the match at the Lusail Stadium.

Switzerland and Cameroon, also in Brazil’s group, kicked off Thursday’s action in Qatar, with the Swiss winning 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Cameroon-born Breel Embolo.

The forward struck three minutes into the second half at Al Janoub Stadium as Switzerland secured a vital three points.

Granit Xhaka and Remo Freuler worked the ball out wide on the right to Xherdan Shaqiri, whose low cross into the area was swept home by an unmarked Embolo, who chose not to celebrate against his birth country.

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“It’s quite special for him because of his links to Cameroon — I’m very happy he’s playing for us,” said Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer. “He’s always right there when you need him.”

Defeat condemned Cameroon to their eighth straight loss at World Cups — a miserable run stretching all the way back to 2002.

Son Heung-min was named in the starting line-up for South Korea’s Group H opener against Uruguay at 1300 GMT even though he was wearing a mask after suffering a fracture around his left eye earlier this month.

Uruguay coach Diego Alonso selected Luis Suarez up front, with fellow veteran Edinson Cavani on the bench.

Germany coach Hansi Flick said no member of his team was safe after their shock 2-1 defeat against Japan on Wednesday.

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The four-time champions, who next face Spain, are facing a nightmare scenario of a second consecutive group-stage exit after their early departure in Russia in 2018.

“You can understand that we are discussing every matter of personnel and every position,” Flick said.





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