Sport: Armenia to face Red Devils; flu interferes with Boxing King’s title defense

Soccer

Armenia will be seeking to rehabilitate before frustrated fans when they step on the pitch of the Roi Baudouin arena in Brussels to face European stalwart Belgium in a World Cup 2010 qualifier Saturday night.

After a home defeat to Turkey 0-2 and a 0-4 thrashing in Spain at the hands of the Continent’s reigning champion last month, Jan Poulsen’s charges hope for better results in the two remaining qualifiers this year, including midweek action against Bosnia & Herzegovina in Zenica.

Armenia’s Danish manager said both opponents were established European sides, but added: “It is important that we dictate our game to them and in that case we will have success.”

“Of course, it will be very difficult, especially that we will be a visiting side in both games, but there aren’t easy matches,” Poulsen said.

The Danish tactician thinks that two straight defeats at the start of the tournament have made it unrealistic for Armenia to struggle for qualification to the final stage of the World Cup, but at the same time he says that “nothing is impossible.”

Besides Armenia, the World Cup 2010 European zone’s qualifying Group 5 also includes Spain, Turkey, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Estonia.

At a press conference in Yerevan Poulsen named players he had invited for trainings before the October qualifiers. He said that since the main objectives for the tournament had changed after the defeats in the opening games, he had decided to drop veteran players Romik Khachatryan and Karen Dokhoyan. “It is time to test young players, and Romik and Karen, although both very experienced, have lost their quickness,” the head coach explained.

However, Poulsen decided to give more time to two other veteran players, Sargis Hovsepyan and Hamlet Mkhitaryan. Armenia’s young striker Edgar Manucharyan, playing for FC Ajax, was not summoned for international duty because of an injury, he explained.

Poulsen also complained about lack of practice of Ararat Arakelyan, a key Armenia midfielder now mostly benched at Metalurh Donetsk (Ukraine). “And this even more complicates our problems,” the coach said.

Meanwhile, in what might be seen as an indication of a possible rift between the Football Federation and the national team coach, at a later press conference Federation President Ruben Hayrapetyan effectively excluded the possibility of alterations in the original task set before the team, i.e. to achieve qualification from the group stage.

“The coach did not have the right to make such irresponsible statements,” media quoted Hayrapetyan as saying.

Armenia have so far played four competitive matches against Belgium, with the Red Devils coming out on top in all encounters with an aggregate score of 8-0. Armenia suffered their last two defeats from Belgium during the Euro-2008 qualifying campaign.

The match in Bosnia will become the first encounter between the two nations.

Belgium v Armenia is at 20.45 CET (or 23.45 pm Yerevan time) October 11.

Bosnia v Armenia is at 20.15 CET (or 23.15 Yerevan time) October 15.
International football’s governing body, FIFA, on October 8 published updated world rankings of national teams, showing Armenia falling by three positions over the previous month to the 101st place.

Spain continues to top the 200-nation rankings list followed by Italy, Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands.
Armenia’s other rivals in Group 5 have the following rankings: Turkey (13), Belgium (51), Bosnia & Herzegovina (75), and Estonia (137).

(Sources: Football Federation of Armenia, www.fifa.com)

Boxing

Armenia-born Arthur Abraham’s defense of his IBF middleweight title against Raul Marquez originally scheduled for Saturday, October 4, was postponed after the defending champion came down with the flu.

According to media reports, Abraham woke up with a fever and swollen lymph nodes. He was eventually diagnosed as having influenza.
“I am really sorry but the flu really got me overnight and it’s not possible for me to fight,” Abraham, performing for Germany, said in a statement.

The fight has been rescheduled for November 8. Its venue is unchanged – Bamberg, Germany.

Chess

International Master David Petrosyan scored 8.5 points out of 11 to took the first place in the Alushta Autumn 2008-1 tournament held in Ukraine. Another Armenian chess player Gevorg Harutyunyan shared the 3rd-5th places with 7 points, www.armchess.am reports.

In another tournament held in Alushta (Autumn 2008-3) Harutyunyan scored 9.5 out of 13 and shared the 2nd-3rd places.

David Petrosyan achieved a Grandmaster norm twice during these tournaments.

Also, the chess news web resource reports that the World Blitz Championship will be held from November 7 to 8, 2008, in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The tournament will be a round-robin of 16 top players.

GM Rafael Vahanyan (Armenia) will be among the participants. His opponents will be GMs Morozevich, Rublevsky, Svidler, Grischuk (Russia), Ivanchuk (Ukraine), Rajabov (Azerbaijan), Gelfand (Israel), J. Polgar (Hungary), Tkachiev (France), Domingues Perez (Cuba), Kazhgaleev (Kazakhstan). Three more players will be announced.

The prize fund is 280,000 Swiss Francs, with the 64,000 Swiss Francs going to the winner.