SAFF launches formal FIFA World Cup 2034 host campaign

SAFF launches formal FIFA World Cup 2034 host campaign
SAFF launches formal FIFA World Cup 2034 host campaign

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Brothers Iñaki and Nico Williams lead Athletic Bilbao to Copa final with rout of Atletico Madrid

MADRID: Brothers Iñaki and Nico Williams teamed up with goals and assists to each other as Athletic Bilbao defeated Atletico Madrid 3-0 to reach their third Copa del Rey final in five seasons on Thursday.

Gorka Guruzeta also scored for Athletic as they advanced 4-0 on aggregate after having won the first leg 1-0 in Madrid three weeks ago. The Basque Country club will play the April 6 final in Seville against Mallorca, which eliminated Athletic rival Real Sociedad on penalties on Tuesday.

“Iñaki and I have been getting along very well,” Nico said. “This victory goes to my parents who are in Ghana. Ghana will be a party.”

Nico and Iñaki Williams are sons of Ghanaian parents who migrated to Spain before they were born. They are among the few Black athletes to ever play at the club that historically fields only players from Spain’s northern Basque Country region or adjoining areas.

“Nico and I have fought hard to be able to enjoy things like this,” Iñaki said. “It’s a night to enjoy and to be proud.”

There was fan trouble ahead of Thursday’s match at San Mames Stadium, with Atletico saying one of theire supporters was hospitalized with serious injuries after an altercation with Athletic fans at a nearby bar.

Also, the start of the second half was delayed for more than 15 minutes as medics attended to an Athletic supporter in the stands. The fan reportedly had a cardiac arrest and was taken out on a stretcher. Initial reports by Spanish media said his condition was not serious.

Athletic are the second most successful club in the Copa with 23 titles, eight less than Barcelona. It last won the competition in 1984, but was runner-up in 2019-20 and in 2021-21, losing to Sociedad and then Barcelona.

The team coached by Ernesto Valverde eliminated Barcelona in the quarterfinals this season to reach the last four for the fifth straight time.

Atletico, a 10-time Copa winner, were in the semifinals for the first time in seven seasons and was seeking its first title since 2013.

Diego Simeone’s team was without forward Antoine Griezmann because of an ankle injury.

“We couldn’t capitalize on our chances in the first leg, and today they played a very good match and we have to congratulate them,” Simeone said.

Iñaki opened the scoring 13 minutes into the match with a volley from inside the area after a well-placed cross by his younger brother Nico, who added to the lead from close range in the 42nd after a low cross by his sibling.

It was redemption for Nico a year after he had to shut down his social media accounts after a wave of insults from fans following his misses in the team’s elimination against Osasuna in last season’s semifinals.

“It’s a dream to make it here, especially after what happened last season,” he said.

Guruzeta netted the third in the 61st to seal Athletic’s victory in front of more than 52,000 fans at San Mames.

Athletic’s 1-0 win at the Metropolitano in the first leg ended Atletico’s 28-match unbeaten streak at home across all competitions.

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