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
0

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.”


Toni Kroos dismisses Mesut Ozil's claims of racism in Germany World Cup camp

Updated 16 August 2018
0

Toni Kroos dismisses Mesut Ozil's claims of racism in Germany World Cup camp

  • Germany still in turmoil after early World Cup exit and Ozil's claims of racism.
  • Loew's side set to face France next month in first match after Russia tournament.

Germany midfielder Toni Kroos says Mesut Ozil was “out of order” to make accusations of racism within the German set up as he retired from international football last month.
“Basically, Mesut is a long-serving national team player and deserved a better exit as a footballer,” Kroos, 28, told German daily Bild.
“I have played with Mesut for many years and know that he is a nice guy. But the way he retired was out of order.
“The proportion of his statement which was fair and justified was unfortunately overshadowed by a much higher proportion of nonsense.
“I think he himself knows that racism does not exist within the national team and the DFB.
“On the contrary, we are always committed to diversity and integration. Mesut was a good example of that, like many of our team mates.”
Ozil, 29, created a furor last month when he retired from international football in an explosive three-part statement in which he accused German FA (DFB) president Reinhard Grindel of racism.
“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” wrote Ozil, sparking a storm in Germany and triggering fierce debate about integration.
Ozil fell foul of German fans and was booed during pre-World Cup friendlies after he and fellow midfielder Ilkay Gundogan posed for pictures with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May, raising questions about the pair’s loyalty to Germany.
Only a handful of Germany players have spoken about the saga, which captain Manuel Neuer described as “stressful” while Thomas Mueller said there is “no question of racism within the team.”
Real Madrid star Kroos says Arsenal midfielder Ozil, who like Gundogan has Turkish roots, was wrong to meet with Erdogan and then wait two months before breaking his silence.
“Mesut was criticized for the photo — and rightly so,” said Kroos. “And he missed the chance to explain himself.
“Nevertheless, he was completely supported by the coaching staff and the (national) team.
“Later he was — like the rest of us — criticized for the performance at the World Cup.
“The type of criticism was certainly not always at a good (justified) level — but then you have to deal with that as a player.”
In the first game since their World Cup debacle, Germany, who have plummeted to 15th in the FIFA rankings, will host world champions France in Munich on Sept. 6 in the newly-launched Nations League tournament.
Germany head coach Joachim Loew has promised sweeping changes and Kroos has resisted the urge to retire.
“Yes, I will continue until Euro 2020 and have set the big goal that we will be far more successful than last time,” said Kroos.
Fellow German midfielder Sami Khedira, 31, also ruled out retirement on Thursday and hopes for a call-up against France to make amends for the World Cup disaster.
“After a good season with Juventus, I played my two worst matches at the World Cup with full fitness. That was really bad,” Khedira, wrote on Instagram.
However, Kroos says the squad Loew selects on Aug. 29 must find the necessary drive that was so badly missing in Russia.
“We have to be greedy and more forceful again, as far as goal-scoring is concerned,” added Kroos.
“And we have to be more unpleasant to play against in terms of defense — without just defending.”
Loew welcomed Kroos’ decision to stay on.
“With his experience, class and personality, he is of course a key player who plays a very important role in our future plans — on and off the pitch,” reacted Loew on dfb.de.
However, the head coach has yet to comment on the Ozil fiasco.