Kohli, Babar in same team? India, Pak cricketers set to play together in Afro-Asia Cup

News Network
June 21, 2022

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Tensions between India and Pakistan have resulted in the cricketing teams from the two nations only facing each other during ICC competitions. The last bilateral series between them was in 2012-13 and they haven't played a Test match since 2007. However, Indian and Pakistani cricketers like Virat Kohli and Babar Azam could be playing together in the same team as the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) is working towards the revival of the Afro-Asian Cup.

The Afro-Asian Cup was initially held in 2005 with the second edition being played in 2007. However, it gradually faded out due to broadcast and political issues. But according to Forbes, there are efforts - led by Indian governing body chief Jay Shah - being made to bring the competition back for the 2023 cricketing calendar.

It is understood that the updated version of the Afro Asian cup will be in the T20 format and is expected to be held in the June-July window of next year.  Discussions were first held during ICC's board meeting in April between BCCI secretary Jay Shah, African Cricket Association chairman Sumod Damodar and ACC chairman of development committee Mahinda Vallipuram.

Speaking about the possibility of the Afro-Asian Cup, ACC head of commercial and events Prabhakaran Thanraj said: 'We haven’t got confirmation from the boards yet. We are still working on the white paper and it will be submitted to both boards.'

'But our plan is for the best players from India and Pakistan to be playing in the Asian XI. Once plans are finalized we will go into the market for sponsorship and a broadcaster. It will be a massive event. Really, really big.' Thanraj said as quoted by Forbes.

Meanwhile, Sumod Damodar hopes that this competition can help 'build bridges' between India and Pakistan. ' It would be a beautiful thing to see players from Pakistan and India playing on the same team.' he said.

If the competition is given a green light to go ahead, players like Virat Kohli and Babar Azam could be seen playing wearing the same colours. Back in the mid-2000s, the Asian XI featured stars like  Shoaib Akhtar, Shahid Afridi, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid while, while the African XI was a mix of players from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Further discussions are set to take place in the next month's ICC meeting as the plan is to make the Afro-Asian cup an annual thing and include associate nations as well. 'What we pump [revenue] back can go back to the members, particularly in Africa which needs more support. Africa has a lot to benefit' said Damodar.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah is invested in this plan by the ACC (Asian Cricket Council) as they look to develop cricket around the world. 'We have reactivated the whole Asian Cricket Council to see what we can do with this property' said Thanraj. 

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News Network
November 26,2022

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Four-times champions Italy are not in this year's World Cup in Qatar, marking the second time in a row that the 'Azzurri' will miss the tournament. Here's what you need to know about the European Champions' failure to qualify:

How did Italy's World Cup qualification campaign unfold?

* Italy were drawn in Group C of the UEFA World Cup qualification round along with Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria and Lithuania.

* The pressure was high on coach Roberto Mancini and the squad as Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia four years earlier.

* They started with three consecutive wins against Northern Ireland, Bulgaria and Lithuania before taking a break for the European Championships last year.

* After winning the tournament, they drew twice in a row to Bulgaria and Switzerland, before claiming a 5-0 win at home against Lithuania.

* With two games left, Italy appeared to be in pole position to secure qualification, but drew 1-1 with Switzerland to leave both teams on equal points before the last round.

* Four months after their Euro 2020 success, Italy's 0-0 draw in Northern Ireland meant Switzerland finished top of their World Cup qualifying group after a win over Bulgaria, sending Mancini's side to the playoffs.

How did the World Cup playoffs unfold for Italy?

* Italy were on course to meet Portugal in the deciding playoff tie, but they missed out on the World Cup finals after losing 1-0 at home to North Macedonia thanks to Aleksandar Trajkovski's last-gasp strike.

* North Macedonia progressed to the final, where they were beaten 2-0 by Portugal, who claimed the World Cup spot.

Why did Italy not qualify for the World Cup in 2018?

* Italy finished in second place of Group G in the qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

* They then failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years after being held to a 0-0 home draw in 2017 by a defiant Sweden, who booked a place at the finals in Russia with a 1-0 aggregate win.

* The Italians, who had not missed the World Cup since the 1958 finals in Sweden, saw Andrea Barzagli, Daniele De Rossi and captain Gianluigi Buffon all declare their retirement from the national team right after the game.

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News Network
November 20,2022

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Some of the best football players will be in action at the FIFA World Cup 2022, which will be held across eight magnificent stadiums in Qatar from November 20 to December 18.

The Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 will see 32 teams from five confederations compete for the biggest prize in football. The teams have been divided into eight groups of four (A to H) and only the top two teams will advance to the knockout stages.

As many as 64 matches will be played during the course of 29 days, also making it the shortest 32-team FIFA World Cup in history. 

Except for the first two days, four matches will be played each day during the group stages. Each of the 32 teams will play three matches in the group stages before the knockouts begin with the round of 16 (pre-quarterfinals) on December 3. 

Hosts Qatar will kick off the 2022 World Cup against Ecuador in Group A at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor on November 20. Defending champions France will play their first match against Australia at 12:30 AM IST on November 23 while five-time champions Brazil will start against Serbia at 12:30 AM IST on November 25. India is 2 hours 30 minutes ahead of Qatar.

The semi-finals will be played on December 14 and 15, both at 12:30 AM IST, while the final will take place at the Lusail Iconic Stadium on December 18.

This will be the first time that a country from the Middle East will host the FIFA World Cup and consequently, the first edition being held outside the typical June-July window earmarked for the quadrennial showpiece. 

FIFA World Cup 2022 schedule

All times are in Indian Standard Times (IST).

Group stages

Sunday, November 20

Group A: Qatar vs Ecuador - 9:30 PM IST

Monday, November 21

Group B: England vs Iran - 6:30 PM IST

Group A: Senegal vs Netherlands - 9:30 PM IST

Tuesday, November 22

Group B: United States vs Wales - 12:30 AM IST

Group C: Argentina vs Saudi Arabia - 3:30 PM IST

Group D: Denmark vs Tunisia - 6:30 PM IST

Group C: Mexico vs Poland - 9:30 PM IST

Wednesday, November 23

Group D: France vs Australia - 12:30 AM IST

Group F: Morocco vs Croatia - 3:30 PM IST

Group E: Germany vs Japan - 6:30 PM IST

Group E: Spain vs Costa Rica - 9:30 PM IST

Thursday, November 24

Group F: Belgium vs Canada - 12:30 AM IST

Group G: Switzerland vs Cameroon - 3:30 PM IST

Group H: Uruguay vs South Korea - 6:30 PM IST

Group H: Portugal vs Ghana - 9:30 PM IST

Friday, November 25

Group G: Brazil vs Serbia - 12:30 AM IST

Group B: Wales vs IR Iran - 3:30 PM IST

Group A: Qatar vs Senegal - 6:30 PM IST

Group A: Netherlands vs Ecuador - 9:30 PM IST

Saturday, November 26

Group B: England vs United States - 12:30 AM IST

Group D: Tunisia vs Australia - 3:30 PM IST

Group C: Poland vs Saudi Arabia - 6:30 PM IST

Group D: France vs Denmark - 9:30 PM IST

Sunday, November 27

Group C: Argentina vs Mexico - 12:30 AM IST

Group E: Japan vs Costa Rica - 3:30 PM IST

Group F: Belgium vs Morocco - 6:30 PM IST

Group F: Croatia vs Canada - 9:30 PM IST

Monday, November 28

Group E: Spain vs Germany - 12:30 AM IST

Group G: Cameroon vs Serbia - 3:30 PM IST

Group H: South Korea vs Ghana - 6:30 PM IST

Group G: Brazil vs Switzerland - 9:30 PM IST

Tuesday, November 29

Group H: Portugal vs Uruguay - 12:30 AM IST

Group A: Netherlands vs Qatar - 8:30 PM IST

Group A: Ecuador vs Senegal - 8:30 PM IST

Wednesday, November 30

Group B: Wales vs England - 12:30 AM IST

Group B: IR Iran vs United States - 12:30 AM IST

Group D: Tunisia vs France - 8:30 PM IST

Group D: Australia vs Denmark - 8:30 PM IST

Thursday, December 1

Group C: Poland vs Argentina - 12:30 AM IST

Group C: Saudi Arabia vs Mexico - 12:30 AM IST

Group F: Croatia vs Belgium - 8:30 PM IST

Group F: Canada vs Morocco - 8:30 PM IST

Friday, December 2

Group E: Japan vs Spain - 12:30 AM IST

Group E: Costa Rica vs Germany - 12:30 AM IST

Group H: South Korea vs Portugal - 8:30 PM IST

Group H: Ghana vs Uruguay - 8:30 PM IST 

Saturday, December 3

Group G: Cameroon vs Brazil - 12:30 AM IST

Group G: Serbia vs Switzerland - 12:30 AM IST

Round of 16

Saturday, December 3

Group A winner vs Group B runners-up - 8.30 PM IST

Sunday, December 4 

Group C winner vs Group D runners-up - 12.30 AM IST

Group D winner vs Group C runners-up - 8.30 PM IST

Monday, December 5 

Group B winner vs Group A runners-up - 12.30 AM IST

Group E winner vs Group F runners-up - 8.30 PM IST

Tuesday, December 6 

Group G winner vs Group H runners-up - 12.30 AM IST

Group F winner vs Group E runners-up - 8.30 PM IST

Wednesday, December 7 

Group H winner vs Group G runners-up - 12.30 AM IST

Friday, December 9 

Quarter-final 1 - 8.30 PM IST

Saturday, December 10 

Quarter-final 2 - 12.30 AM IST

Quarter-final 3 - 8.30 PM IST

Sunday, December 11 

Quarter-final 4 - 12.30 AM IST

Wednesday, December 14

Semi-finals 1 - 12.30 AM IST

Thursday, December 15

Semi-final 2 - 12.30 AM IST

Saturday, December 17

Third place match - 8.30 PM IST

Sunday, December 18

Final - 8.30 PM IST

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News Network
November 22,2022

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Lionel Messi lamented Argentina's shock second-half capitulation against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday but said he was not surprised by the threat from opponents 48 places lower in the world rankings.

"It's a situation that this group of players has never been through, it's been a while since we suffered such a tough blow, we didn't expect to start like this," Messi told Argentinian media after the 2-1 defeat in Group C.

Starting his fifth World Cup, Messi had opened the scoring with a 10th-minute penalty and Argentina had three goals disallowed for offside in a free-flowing first half.

But in the second half, "in five minutes of mistakes that we made, we went 2-1 down and then it was really tough and we lost organization and started punting the ball," he said in comments broadcast by Todo Noticias.

Messi said his team knew Saudi Arabia, despite being the second-lowest-ranked team in the tournament, could hurt them.

"We knew they were a team who would play if we let them...They did not surprise us, we knew they could do that."

Argentina now have to focus on beating Mexico and Poland in their next group games in search of the only major title that has eluded Messi in his otherwise glittering career.

"Obviously we have to win or win now. It's up to us to fix what we did wrong and get back to the basics of who we are," said Messi, whose team had been on a 36-match unbeaten run prior to the shock result at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar.

"We're OK, obviously hurt by the result, very bitter. But people must trust that this team will not let them down and we are going to go for it in the next two games. We've played games of this nature before and we're going to perform well.

"Now's the time to be more united than ever, to show how truly strong we are."

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