Hong Kong, Japan setting up Sevens Showdown in Singapore
Hong Kong, Japan setting up Sevens Showdown in Singapore
Asian sevens champions Hong Kong and No. 2 Japan both finished unbeaten and reached the Cup semifinals of the fourth and final leg of the HSBC Asian Sevens Series which is also doubling as the Asian qualifiers for the World Cup next June.
Hong Kong meet South Korea while Japan comes up against the Philippines and the stakes are high – with the winners assured of their places in the World Cup Sevens. The losers will have one last chance, meeting in the third-place play-off for the last of three tickets given to Asia.
“We are where we wanted to be,” said Hong Kong captain Rowan Varty. “We had three very convincing wins, but what matters now is to win our semi-final and make sure we are going to Moscow.” Hong Kong booked their berth in the last four with an impressive 33-0 victory over Malaysia. A solid defense was the cornerstone for the win with forward Nick Hewson, Anthony Haynes and Kwok Ka-chun all having huge games.
“Our defense was the major difference and we will have to keep this up as we reach the business end of the tournament,” said a pleased Hong Kong coach Dai Rees.
“The key was trying to win the ball back when we didn’t have it. In our opening pool games, we had plenty of possession, but against Malaysia it was our defense which won us the day,” Rees added.
While Japan was hardly pushed all day, coach Tomohiro Segawa called his players to increase the intensity, especially at the breakdown if they are to finish the tournament in style – by beating Hong Kong in the final.
“Yes, that is our aim, to beat Hong Kong. We are hurting that they are the number one team in Asia and we are determined to make a statement,” Segawa said.
“But we have to play better than we did today. We were slow at the breakdown, securing the ball and then getting it away. We need to move the ball more quickly,” said Segawa.
Singapore made its home advantage tell, marking its first appearance in the Cup competition to date on the HSBC A7s. Unfortunately it was drawn alongside Japan, who rode rampant over the hosts 47-0 in the quarterfinals to earn a berth against the Philippines who defeated China 14-7. In the other quarterfinals, South Korea had to work hard to beat a stubborn Sri Lanka, winning 19-12. Hong Kong had earlier booked their quarterfinal berth with wins over Guam and the Philippines to emerge unbeaten from Pool A.
Guam struggled against the smooth efficiency showed by Hong Kong, and slipped to a 48-7 defeat in the opening match of the tournament.
The Philippines proved a much stronger opposition having recalled eight players based in Japan and Australia but in the end they too couldn’t do much against Hong Kong going down 29-12.
Hong Kong began strongly with Tom McQueen finishing off a nice break by Anthony Haynes to open the scoring a minute into the game. The top seeds won two subsequent kick-offs to race to a 17-0 lead inside three minutes, with further tries from Jamie Hood and Tom McQueen completing his double.
Elder sibling Alex McQueen then powered over for Hong Kong’s fourth try as the Asian champions finished the first half with a commanding 24-0 lead. The Philippines came back strongly with tries from Matt Saunders and Andrew Wolff but a sniping run from sub and scrumhalf Cado Lee ensured a comfortable win for Hong Kong.
Japan had ensured their quarterfinal berth with a thumping 57-0 victory over Indonesia and a 35-0 win over Sri Lanka. South Korea and China also emerged unbeaten from the preliminary round.
The Koreans saw off hosts Singapore 49-7 before prevailing 26-12 over Thailand. China’s two wins were against Kazakhstan, 26-14 and Malaysia, 22-19. The Malaysians fielding a number of Fijians, looked dangerous but superior fitness on a hot and humid day counted at the end.
Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss
- Saudi Arabia's 1996 Asian Cup-winning coach Nelo Vingada backs Pizzi to lead side into next year's Asian Cup.
- Green Falcons face Egypt on Monday with both looking to land their first point in Russia.
MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia’s 1996 Asian Cup-winning boss Nelo Vingada has called on the country’s football authorities to keep faith with head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi despite a disappointing showing in Russia.
The Green Falcons still have to face Egypt in the final match of Group A, but have already been eliminated following a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Russia in the opening game on June 14 in Moscow and a 1-0 loss to Uruguay five days later in Rostov.
“I was expecting a little more from Saudi Arabia to be honest,” Vingada told Arab News.
“In the first game they were disappointing but a first game of the World Cup is always hard and especially when it is the first game and everyone is watching. Plenty of teams at the World Cup did not play well in the first game.
“But playing Russia in Russia and to lose is what you would normally expect from Saudi Arabia and while it was far from positive, people should not get carried away.
“The game with Uruguay was much improved in terms of organization and defense and it showed more of the character of the Saudi Arabia team.”
In the past, coaches have been axed following disappointing World Cup campaigns but with the 2019 Asian Cup just seven months away, the Portuguese tactician would prefer to see some stability rather than yet another new man in the dugout.
“The Asian Cup is in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will be one of the contenders,” Vingada said. “It is better to stay with the same coach. He has a vision of how he wants the team to play and he now knows the players and the players know him.”
Constant changing has not helped Saudi Arabia in the past and Pizzi himself has been in the job just seven months.
“The problem is not the coach. He should not be changed, that has happened before but results did not improve, but the mentality has to change.”
Despite that Vingada, who has coached Egyptian club giants Zamalek and the country’s Under-23 team, believes that the Pharaohs, also eliminated, will prevail when the two regional rivals meet on Monday in Volgograd.
“This is an important game for pride, the players and the countries. It is still the World Cup. Egypt have a little more quality I think and have Mohamed Salah too.”
The Liverpool striker has been recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in late May and missed the opening game 1-0 loss to Uruguay. He played in the second game, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Russia, scoring from the spot late in the match to earn a consolation.
“Any coach would take Salah because he can win you games but overall Egypt have been a little disappointing and a little unlucky.”
The bad luck came when conceding a last-minute goal to Uruguay and a fluke own goal to get Russia off the mark. “Uruguay are a tough team and it is no shame to lose 3-1 to a Russia team at home who are playing to qualify for the next round. It showed that European and South American teams still have a little more quality.”
“Egypt just made some mistakes at the wrong time but this is football and without mistakes there are no goals.”
Ahead of the clash against Egypt Pizzi confirmed his intention to stay as Saudi Arabia boss, looking to build on the seven months he has had to imprint his ideas on the team ahead of the Asian Cup.