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Messi’s World Cup chase takes center stage in Qatar

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Lionel Messi’s hopes of winning an elusive World Cup will come up against the tactical scheming of veteran coach Louis van Gaal as Argentina face the Netherlands in Friday’s quarter-final at Lusail.

Messi, 35, once again carries his nation’s hopes on his shoulders as he looks to crown an extraordinary career that includes seven Ballon d’Or awards and multiple club titles, but only one Copa America to show for his efforts with Argentina, Reuters reported.

Messi can expect little in the way of sympathy from the 71-year-old Van Gaal, who is determined to give the Dutch their first World Cup title after runners-up finishes in 1974, 1978 and 2010.

The coach’s planning will largely focus on containing Messi and catching Argentina on the break, as Van Gaal thumbs his nose at his critics by playing a brand of football at odds with the usual attacking Dutch approach.

The tactical plan is key to his side’s hopes of winning tomorrow as the Dutch look to take revenge for their semi-final defeat in 2014 when Argentina beat them in a shootout.

“We can surprise teams with our plan. We were also the better team then and Messi didn’t see much of the ball,” the coach told reporters this week.

He can also point to a run of form that has seen the Dutch go 19 games without defeat since he returned to the hot seat for a third spell 15 months ago.

Messi spoke briefly about the Dutch threat after Argentina’s 2-1 win over Australia in the round of 16, where he marked his 1,000th career appearance by scoring and being named Man of the Match.

“Another difficult one is coming,” he said.

Messi can expect vocal support from Argentine fans in Qatar, who are set to vastly outnumber their orange-clad Dutch counterparts.

On the losing side against Germany in the 2014 final, where Argentina failed to add to World Cup triumphs in 1978 and 1986, Messi was grateful for the support.

“These are incredible moments. We want to thank all the people who are here. The whole of Argentina would love to be here,” he said.

Quarterfinals

Friday: Brazil v Croatia & Netherlands v Argentina
Saturday: Morocco v Portugal & France v England

Where to watch

Afghan fans need not miss out on any of the excitement of this year’s tournament which is being broadcast live and exclusively by Ariana Television in Afghanistan.

For the full broadcast schedule CLICK HERE

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Rankings joy for Afghanistan as Nabi crowned new No.1 all-rounder

A strong start to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 has seen a host of players from Afghanistan make good ground on the updated player rankings.

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Afghanistan’s unbeaten start to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup has seen one of their star performers rise to the top of the ICC Men’s T20I All-Rounder Rankings.

The team has won both of their contests in the 20-over showcase thus far and a host of their players have been in scintillating touch with bat and ball.

Veteran Mohammad Nabi is the big winner in the latest rankings update, with the 39-year-old rising to the No.1 spot on the list for all-rounders following his recent two-wicket haul against New Zealand in Guyana.

Nabi jumps up two places to first on the updated T20I rankings for all-rounders, with Australia’s Marcus Stoinis rising three places to claim second spot and previous No.1-ranked player Shakib Al Hasan dropping four rungs to fifth as a result of the major shake-up at the top.

It’s not just Nabi who is making the most of Afghanistan’s impressive start to the T20 World Cup, with a trio of his teammates also making good ground on the latest rankings for T20I batters and bowlers.

Opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz is the leading run-scorer at the T20 World Cup thus far with 156 runs from two innings and the in-form right-hander moves up eight places to 12th and reaches a new career-high rating on the updated list for T20I batters.

Afghanistan duo Rashid Khan (up four spots to third) and Fazalhaq Farooqi (up six places to equal fourth) make progress following excellent showings at the T20 World Cup.

Match update:

Afghanistan’s next World Cup match is scheduled for Friday, June 14 against Papua New Guinea.

The match starts at 5pm Kabul time and will be broadcast live by Ariana Television across the country. Fans can meanwhile tune in from 4.30pm Kabul time to watch the pre-match show.

 

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Pakistan keep Super Eight hopes alive with seven-wicket win over Canada

Pakistan, third in Group A with two points after one win in three matches, have a shot at advancing to the next round if one of the group’s top two sides India and United States lose both their remaining matches and Pakistan beat Ireland.

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Mohammad Rizwan scored a timely half-century and Babar Azam played a captain’s knock as Pakistan bounced back from successive defeats to beat Canada by seven wickets on Tuesday, keeping their hopes of reaching the T20 World Cup Super Eight stage alive, Reuters reported.

Pakistan, third in Group A with two points after one win in three matches, have a shot at advancing to the next round if one of the group’s top two sides India and United States lose both their remaining matches and Pakistan beat Ireland on Sunday.

Canada, also on two points, need United States or India to lose their remaining games and beat India themselves on Saturday to have a shot at finishing in the top two.

Batting first, Canada’s Aaron Johnson (52) waged a lone battle against Pakistan’s pace attack. Mohammad Amir (2-13) and Haris Rauf (2-26) led the charge, while Shaheen Afridi (1-21) and Naseem Shah (1-24) helped ensure Canada were unable to find rhythm.

Only three Canadian batters reached double digits and if not for Johnson’s maiden World Cup fifty and a late flurry from Kaleem Sana (13 not out), Canada would have struggled to reach the modest total of 106-7 they posted, read the report

The temporary arena in East Meadow, where India and South Africa defended less than run-a-ball targets in recent days, looked on course for another competitive low-scoring match as Saim Ayub (6) fell early and Pakistan looked shaky at 21-1 after five overs.

However, Rizwan (53 not out) and Azam (33) steadied the ship, taking few risks and frequently rotating strikes. A measured Azam hit one six and one four before he fell to Dillon Heyliger (2-18), but Pakistan comfortably reached their target with 15 balls to spare.

“That was a very important win,” player of the match Amir said. “One more, who knows?”

 

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India edge Pakistan in low-scoring nailbiter at T20 World Cup

India beat Pakistan by six runs in a low-scoring but tense T20 World Cup Group A encounter on Sunday at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium where more than 34,000 fans were in attendance at the temporary arena despite the early rain.

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India beat Pakistan by six runs in a low-scoring but tense T20 World Cup Group A encounter on Sunday at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium where more than 34,000 fans were in attendance at the temporary arena despite the early rain.

The result moved India to the top of Group A with two wins from their opening two matches while Pakistan have zero points from two defeats following their upset by the hosts, the United States.

Pakistan won the toss and elected to bowl first on a two-paced pitch where rain interruptions made things difficult for India who struggled to get going and were dismissed for 119.

Mohammad Rizwan laid the platform for the chase with a patient knock of 31 but Pakistan fell short after losing wickets at regular intervals

In response, Mohammad Rizwan laid the platform for the chase with a patient knock of 31 but Pakistan fell short after losing wickets at regular intervals while India’s Jasprit Bumrah (3-14) made crucial breakthroughs and bowled 15 dot balls.

“We felt that we were a little under par and when the sun came out, the wicket did get a little better,” player of the match Bumrah said.

“So we had to be really disciplined with what we were trying to do and we are very happy with the win.”

Chasing a run-a-ball 120 to win, Pakistan lost skipper Babar Azam (13) when he edged Bumrah to the slips while Usman Khan and Fakhar Zaman also fell for 13.

But Rizwan, who was dropped in the third over by Shivam Dube near the boundary, made a patient knock of 31 before Bumrah made another crucial breakthrough when he had the opener bowled.

The game suddenly turned India’s way when Rishabh Pant took a second running catch to dismiss Shadab Khan as Pakistan’s required run rate crept up and left them needing 21 runs off the last two overs.

Bumrah was saved for the penultimate over where the pace spearhead conceded only three runs and finished his spell with his third wicket when Iftikhar Ahmed was caught in the deep.

Naseem Shah smashed two boundaries in the final over but Arshdeep Singh ensured there were no fireworks at the end as India held on for a narrow win.

 

WATCH: Fans in Jalalabad gather in the city to watch the match

HUGE ROAR

In the first innings, which was delayed by rain, Rohit set the tone in the first over when he launched a Shaheen Afridi delivery into the stands behind midwicket to draw a huge roar from the crowd.

Spirits were briefly dampened in the 34,000-capacity stadium when the rain returned and the players walked off but play restarted 35 minutes later with no overs lost.

Virat Kohli kicked things off with a boundary but he played a loose shot to fall to Naseem Shah when he smashed a wide ball straight to the covers before Afridi dismissed Rohit when he skied a ball to deep square leg.

Axar Patel and Pant accelerated the scoring rate, but Shah struck again to remove Axar when the all-rounder charged down the pitch only to see the ball crash into the stumps.

Pant continued to live dangerously as he refused to take his foot off the gas, throwing his body around the crease to play unorthodox yet trademark shots to all corners of the ground, but he was losing partners at the other end.

The wicketkeeper’s luck finally ran out when he fell for 42 while the middle and lower order collapsed, with none of the last seven batters getting into double digits as India were all out for 119.

“We didn’t bat well enough. At 10 overs we were in a good position and you expect the guys to stitch together partnerships. We fell 15-20 runs short, every run matters on a pitch like that,” Rohit said.

“The bowlers did the job for us… The never-say-die attitude in the team with 119 on the board, we didn’t make early inroads but we got together and said if it can happen to us, it could happen to them.” – Reuters

 

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