Bauza fired as Saudi national football team coach
Bauza fired as Saudi national football team coach
There had been speculation last week that Bauza had been relieved of his duties following the underwhelming tour of Western Europe, but the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) told Arab News last Wednesday that the Argentine had not lost his job. It proved a brief stay of execution as, a week later, the SAFF yesterday announced on its Twitter feed that Bauza has indeed been given his marching orders after just two official matches in charge, against Portugal and Bulgaria.
“The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) has terminated its contract with the manager and coach of the Saudi Arabia national team, Edgardo Bauza, on Wednesday,” read a statement. “This came after SAFF conducted a comprehensive technical evaluation of the last phase, during which Bauza was in charge of the national team and played five friendlies.”
Bauza oversaw wins against Jamaica and Latvia but presided over defeats to Ghana, Portugal and Bulgaria during his 69-day tenure.
Adel Izzat, president of the SAFF, explained that the decision to terminate Bauza’s contract was an upshot of “a thorough and comprehensive technical study of his performance and work, including the team’s two training camps and five friendlies.”
“The decision was made in the national team’s best interest, and is a reflection of our hopes for its upcoming participation,” he said.
The warning signs for Bauza were there when Turki Al-AlShaikh, the Chairman of the General Sport Authority, tweeted his dissatisfaction at the performances during the trip to Portugal, a training camp that yielded two defeats and just two goals in 270 minutes of football. “There is no coherence between players (no technical identity)... results are not good,” tweeted Al-AlShaikh. “Bauza is under the microscope.”
The feeling from the 12-day training get-together in Portugal was that the Spanish-speaking Bauza struggled to get his tactical messages across to his players and that the team looked particularly toothless in attack, especially against Portugal and Bulgaria, who are exactly the caliber of opposition Saudi Arabia are likely to be pitched against in next Friday’s draw for Russia 2018. Discipline was also something of a problem: Mansour Al-Harbi was sent off against Bulgaria while other players walked a disciplinary tightrope.
The SAAF clearly felt Bauza was, on reflection, not the right man to lead them at their fifth appearance at the World Cup finals and decided to act now to give the new man six months to prepare the team. They did something similar in 2006 when Gabriel Calderon, another Argentine, was fired in the lead-up to the World Cup in Germany.
This latest decision leaves the Federation searching for their fifth manager in as many years and the 20th in the past 18. There are, however, likely to be no shortage of applicants for the position, and the SAFF hinted yesterday that a replacement has already been lined up. Saudi Arabian legend Sami Al-Jaber and Al-Hilal coach Ramon Diaz have been strongly linked to succeed Bauza.
“SAFF announced that it is currently working on concluding a contract with a replacement coach, who will meet SAFF’s aspirations for the current phase, during which the national team is preparing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia,” added the statement.
India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown
- India brace for Pakistan after surviving stern test against minnows Hong Kong
- Usman Shinwari: Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high
DUBAI: As delirium sweeps the UAE ahead of the mouth-watering encounter between arch rivals India and Pakistan in the Asia Cup, it seems one man — at least outwardly — is not as excited as the rest of the country and cricketing fans the world over.
India captain Rohit Sharma played with a straight bat when asked about the biggest clash in world cricket, set to take place today at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. On his first Asia Cup media outing the 31-year-old seemed unconcerned by the impending showdown with their fiercest opponents, his focus instead on facing Hong Kong, who Sharma and Co. had a big scare against on Tuesday.
“Right now, we are not focusing on Pakistan as (first) we are playing Hong Kong,” Sharma said on Sunday. “Obviously we have to focus on that particular team but once we have finished that game we will focus on Pakistan and what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
These are clearly the words of a man so media trained that by now he could easily be on the other side of the desk, asking the same questions he and his colleagues sometimes enjoy batting back with crafted clichés that speak of focusing on “one game at a time” or the like.
Sharma was clearly right to not take his eyes off the ball with Hong Kong — they are not here to merely make up the numbers, as their brilliant, battling performance on Tuesday illustrated. But at the same time, Sharma will be all too aware that as India skipper the one match you do not want to lead your side to defeat in is the one against Pakistan, regardless of competition and location.
Clearly India are not leaving Pakistan preparations to the 14 hours or so (sleep included) between the close of the Hong Kong clash and the toss prior to resuming Indo-Pak cricketing rivalry. To suggest they are would be naive at best.
A year on from Pakistan’s show-stealing Champions Trophy final victory over the old enemy in June last year, and a whole five years since the two sides met outside of an ICC or ACC event due to strained political relations, the appetite for the first of potentially three matches at this year’s Asia Cup is huge and one borne out of starved hunger.
Pakistan’s Usman Shinwari, fresh off defeating Hong Kong on Sunday, was more candid than Sharma.
“Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high, and every player dreams of doing well in this contest,” the fast bowler said. “I took three wickets (against Hong Kong), I hope that can be five wickets against India.”
Shinwari’s sentiments were echoed by his captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, who is absolutely clear on the levels of expectation that this fixture demands from fans on both sides of the border.
“The passion is always there,” said Sarfraz. “When you play against India everyone wants us to win as it’s against India.
“The fans say that whatever happens you have to win but as a captain I have to win against every team. It would be the same for India whose fans want them to win. It has happened in the past that any player who performs in the Indo-Pak match becomes a national hero.”
UAE cricket fans cannot wait for the clash. It took just a few hours for the first batch of tickets to be snapped up, the second bought in equally ravenous fashion. It has left a huge number of tickets now being touted across online marketplaces, social media platforms and, ultimately, will likely see the inflated resales being pawned outside the stadium on matchday too.
An expected 25,000 fans will swell the Ring of Fire, set to deal not only with cricket’s most fierce rivalry but also with all the unpredictability that will be thrown their way.
The famed traffic jams around Hessa Street, leading up to the stadium, and local entrances of Dubai Sports City will heave and efforts have been made to ease the burden of vehicles that will cart both sets of fans in and out of the area. Gates will open from 12p.m. local time, a whole three and a half hours before the first ball has been bowled. In an emirate where the last-minute rush is a daily fact of life, this will be not be an easy thing to execute but that, alongside the immense presence of volunteers and security, should prove welcome additions to the day’s running order.
This, though, is India vs Pakistan. Anything could happen.