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Liverpool draw Real in Champions League last 16

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PARIS:

Liverpool will have the chance to avenge last season’s Champions League final defeat at the hands of Real Madrid after Jurgen Klopp’s side were drawn on Monday to face the holders again in the last 16.

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Meanwhile, the other standout tie saw Paris Saint-Germain drawn to play Bayern Munich in a repeat of the 2020 final which was won by the German club.

Liverpool won five of their six group games but missed out on top spot to Napoli after losing 4-1 when the sides met in Italy.

The Anfield club also lost the 2018 Champions League final to Real, who won their group ahead of RB Leipzig.

“The first thing that we can say about this draw is it is proper Champions League. This is a tie that speaks for itself and one that we should all be excited about,” Klopp told Liverpoolfc.com.

The first leg will be at Anfield on February 21, with the return at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 15.

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“They are two historic teams and the tie is going to be electric, fascinating for the fans,” said Emilio Butragueno, a great former Real player who is now the director of institutional relations for the 14-time European champions.

Current domestic form suggests Real should be favourites, with Carlo Ancelotti’s side unbeaten in La Liga while Liverpool are eighth in the Premier League despite winning away to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

However, both clubs will lose key players to the World Cup and Butragueno acknowledged much can change in the three months before the Champions League returns.

“The World Cup is going to condition the whole season. We will see how the players are when they return,” he said.

PSG only missed out on topping their group because Benfica scored more away goals across all matches after the sides remarkably finished level on points, goal difference, goals scored and head to head.

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That left the Qatar-owned club exposed to a tough draw, a year on from their painful exit in the first knockout round at the hands of Real.

In terms of form they could not have got tougher than Bayern, who were the only side to win all six group matches, despite being in a section with Barcelona and Inter Milan.

The 2020 final was played behind closed doors in Lisbon at the height of the pandemic, with Bayern triumphing 1-0. PSG gained revenge the following season by beating the Bavarians in the quarter-finals.

Like PSG, Manchester City have never won the trophy but are also one of the leading contenders to do so this season.

Pep Guardiola’s side will be expected to dispose of Leipzig, who they faced in the group stage a year ago and beat 6-3 at home before a 2-1 defeat in Germany, by which time they had already secured first place in the section.

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Chelsea, who defeated City in the 2021 Champions League final, also drew German opposition in the shape of Borussia Dortmund, with the clubs set to meet for the very first time in a competitive game in the first leg at the Signal Iduna Park on February 15.

After topping their group thanks to a last-gasp winner away to Marseille last week, Tottenham Hotspur were given a tough draw against Italian champions AC Milan.

They have met at this stage of the competition before, with Spurs winning 1-0 on aggregate in 2010/11 thanks to a solitary goal at San Siro by Peter Crouch.

Inter will play Porto and last season’s Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt take on Napoli, while Benfica’s reward for winning their group is a tie against tournament outsiders Club Brugge of Belgium.

The first legs of all last-16 ties will be played between February 14 and 22, with the return matches all in March.

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The final of this season’s Champions League will be held in Istanbul on June 10 next year.

The Turkish city was supposed to host the final in 2020 and again in 2021, only for the game to be moved on each occasion to Portugal due to the pandemic.





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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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