Bauza tells Saudi Arabia players to learn fast ahead of key Portugal clash

Edgardo Bauza has taken the Saudi football to western Europe for a 12-day training camp. (AP)
Updated 10 November 2017

Bauza tells Saudi Arabia players to learn fast ahead of key Portugal clash

VISEU, Portugal: With just 215 days until the start of the FIFA World Cup, Edgardo Bauza will take charge of his first official Saudi Arabia match tonight against European champions Portugal, insisting his players must learn quick in the mountainous city of Viseu.
“Viseu” comes from the Portuguese word “vista”, meaning view, and it is appropriate given the Argentine coach hopes to finish the evening with a better vision of what work he has to do before boarding his flight from Riyadh to Russia next June. Having arrived at the Saudi helm only in September — after the squad had already qualified for next summer’s showpiece — he has overseen three unofficial games, against Jamaica, Ghana and, earlier this week, Latvia. Tonight’s glamor tie will be the first against another qualified side.
“Facing top teams like Portugal is part of our preparation program ahead of the World Cup,” said Bauza, who has taken Saudi to western Europe for a 12-day training camp. “This is the second of three games here and is very important. We are in an important phase because we are only starting to work with the squad. Now the team is getting used to our working methods and I am getting to know them better.
“Portugal has qualified for the World Cup and we know they have good players that will give us a hard game. Against us, they will likely play many that we have not seen playing too much at this level before, but it is very important to show respect to all. For us, it will be a very difficult game and we must learn quickly how to play against a team of this high standard.”
Bauza’s counterpart Fernando Santos is expected to give debuts to a number of young players after naming an inexperienced squad, including the uncapped Marcos Lopes of Monaco and Real Sociedad’s Kévin Rodrigues. But, highlighting Renato Sanchez, Santos stressed his youthful selection does not belittle the level of the opposition, nor the importance of the match.
“Age is not important,” he said. “Renato was 18 years old when he went to the Euros. Others, like Raphael Guerreiro, were very young. It is an open team without ages. What matters is the individual or collective quality, that is what makes them come or not. Of course, these 23 players will not all be in the World Cup squad, but some will be, like others who did not come and can be. There is only one player who is the exception.”
That exception will not feature tonight. Cristiano Ronaldo is absent, not called upon by Santos who prefers to run his eye over other options. Saudi, however, are not anticipating an easier ride.
“Ronaldo is obviously a very important player for any team, but naturally I still expect a difficult match,” Bauza said. “Portugal has a deep squad and are able to fill the gaps of players that will not be present. We want to first play a good game against Portugal and then again against Bulgaria [on Monday]. The objective is to be ready for the World Cup, but we have time to work.”

Pakistan's Azhar Ali signs for Somerset

Pakistan's Azhar Ali celebrates reaching his century during a match between England and Pakistant on August 4, 2016. (Reuters file)
Updated 16 July 2018

Pakistan's Azhar Ali signs for Somerset

  • Azhar is set to make his Somerset debut against Worcestershire later this month

LONDON: Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali has joined Somerset for the remainder of their first-class English County Championship fixtures this season, the southwest club said Monday.

The 33-year-old replaces Australia opener Matt Renshaw, who made three hundreds at 51.30 in the opening rounds of the Championship before breaking a finger against Surrey at Guildford last month.

Azhar is set to make his Somerset debut against Worcestershire later this month.

"The standard of first-class cricket in England is very high and I hope that I can make a contribution to Somerset winning matches," Azhar told his new county's website.

"I have heard good things about Somerset and I was impressed by what I saw at Taunton in 2016 (when Pakistan opened their tour of England that year against the county).

"I am looking forward to joining my new team mates and meeting the Somerset supporters soon."

Azhar struggled during Pakistan's three Tests against Ireland and England earlier this season, making 73 runs in six innings although his lone fifty did come during Pakistan's impressive victory over England at Lord's.

"Finding the right fit at short notice can be challenging, however we are delighted to have secured a player of Azhar Ali's character, pedigree and class for the remaining seven Specsavers County Championship matches," said Somerset's director of cricket, Andy Hurry.

"His experience at the top of the order will prove to be hugely valuable at the business end of the season.

"I have spoken to him several times over the last few weeks and he is very keen to share his knowledge of the game with our aspirational players, so the influence he can have within the changing room will also be vital for us as a club."