By Jay Mwamba
Saudi Arabia won twice within a space of three days to move to within two points of leaders Qatar in the Gulf Cup tournament — part of the Asian representatives’ World Cup preparations.
Regarded as the weakest member of Ireland’s Group, the Saudis overcame the United Arab Emirates 1-0 in Riyadh last Thursday on Abdullah al-Dossary’s third-minute goal.
Three days later, Hassan Al-Yami (11th) and Abdullah Al-Jamman (79th) led the hosts to a 2-0 decision over Oman.
Saudi Arabia have now played four games this month alone in the six-nation tournament, which is proving invaluable as they hone their squad for Japan/Korea.
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Giving Group E defenders a preview of his awesome finishing prowess, Patrick Mboma struck again for Cameroon last Friday to sweep the “Indomitable Lions” into the quarterfinals of the African Nations Cup in Mali.
Mboma, who’s 31, connected with a powerful header from a corner as the defending champs bounced Ivory Coast 1-0 in Group 6.
One of the players to watch when Ireland meet the African giants in their opening match of Group E in Niigata, Japan, on June 1, the Parma striker had earlier scored in a 1-0 victory over Congo.
Unruly World Cup fans beware: Japanese police in Sapporo have developed a huge net to nab hooligans. Fired from a giant gun, the net is capable of ensnaring and immobilizing several hooligans at once.
Says Masahisa Tamura, a press officer at Sapporo police headquarters: “Anyone going wild will be trapped under the net and they won’t be able to move. I’ve heard that something similar has been used in Europe, but we’ve developed this especially for the World Cup.”
Sapporo will be the venue of two opening-round games: Germany-Saudi Arabia in Group E on June 1, and England’s blockbuster Group F grudge match with Argentina on June 7.
In another development, an insurance firm in co-host Korea is offering policies against hooligan violence during the finals. According to the Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance Co., its coverage for restaurants and hotels against violence is the first of its kind in Korea.
Hyundai’s “customer care insurance” guarantees up to $37,860 for property damage caused by violence. Some 1,000 establishments are reported to have taken out policies since last September.
There’s an official anthem by Vangelis and a second signature tune sung Anastacia at the World Cup draw in Pusan last month.
Now FIFA have announced that four bands from Korea and Japan pen an official song for the 2002 finals, to “reflect the new era dawning across both host nations of the World Cup.”
“This song is yet another important link between the two host nations of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, allowing Korea and Japan to showcase the modern aspects of their rich cultures,” FIFA President Sepp Blatter said of the number to be penned by Korean bands Brown Eyes and Lena Park, and Japan’s Chemistry and Sowelu ensembles.