Saudi Arabia names young Gulf Cup squad

Krunoslav Jurcic will lead Saudi Arabia at the Gulf Cup in Kuwait. (Shutterstock)
Updated 14 December 2017
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Saudi Arabia names young Gulf Cup squad

DUBAI: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) has announced a rookie 24-man national team squad for the Gulf Cup in Kuwait later this month.
Only five players from Edgardo Bauza’s last squad before his sacking retained their spot in the new-look squad: Left-back Abdulrahman Al-Obaid, midfielders Nouh Al-Mousa and Salman Al-Moasher, in addition to strikers Mukhtar Fallatah and Hazza Al-Hazza.
The squad only has 73 caps between them, and 33 of those belong to Ahmed Al-Fraidi. Only two players over the age of 30 have been called up and only two players in the squad have scored for their country. As many as 14 players could make their national-team debut in the tournament.
“You will see a different team in Kuwait,” tweeted Turki Al Al-Shaikh, Head of the General Sports Authority.
In a surprising move, Croatian boss Krunoslav Jurcic was chosen as the man to take the largely inexperienced squad to Kuwait, instead of the newly appointed national team coach Juan Antonio Pizzi.
Spokesman Mohamed Al-Shaikh said that the SAFF was not disrespecting the competition by sending a second-string team. “This selection does not mean that we underestimate the competition,” he said. “It is part of the strategy agreed with coach Pizzi.”
Jurcic was recruited earlier this year to lead “the talents team,” a parallel national team composed mainly of talented Saudi-born youngsters between the ages of 18 and 22 identified by the national scouting committee. The team is meant to serve as a pipeline to supply talent from lower divisions and non-league football to the national team.
This squad is the first indication of that pathway bearing fruit. Six youngsters born in Saudi Arabia to foreign parents have been included, including trio Hammam Al-Ajaj, Ali Al-Nimr and Ali Yahya, who all hail from Yemeni families. Ahmed Ashraf has also been called up. He was born in the Kingdom to Egyptian parents.
The US-based Faris Abdi and Vitesse Arnhem’s Mukhtar Ali, who are both expected to be fast-tracked into the national team set-up, miss out on selection, however. Ali, the former Chelsea midfielder, remains with his club side in Holland as the competition falls outside of FIFA’s coordinated international match calendar.
Both players are expected to feature in the Saudi Arabia squad participating in the AFC Under-23 Championship in China next month.
 


Iranian fans attempt to disrupt Portugal’s sleep at hotel

Updated 25 June 2018
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Iranian fans attempt to disrupt Portugal’s sleep at hotel

  • Hundreds of Iranian fans spent several overnight hours surrounding the hotel where Portugal’s national team is based
  • Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was filmed by Portuguese TV RTP late at night by the window using gestures to ask the Iranian fans to be silent

SARANSK: Hundreds of Iranian fans spent several overnight hours surrounding the hotel where Portugal’s national team is based, making loud noises in an attempt to disrupt their opponents’ sleep before a decisive World Cup match later Monday.
Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was filmed by Portuguese TV RTP late at night by the window using gestures to ask the Iranian fans to be silent, but Monday morning there were still a few dozen of them playing loud music near the hotel in the Saransk city center.
Iran can only advance to the next stage of the World Cup if it beats the European champions. Portugal only needs a draw, but also aims to take the top position in Group B ahead of Spain.
Saransk police said they received their first calls about the noise about 11 p.m. Sunday, when a first wave of Iran fans arrived and started singing outside the hotel. That forced Ronaldo to show up, which convinced supporters to leave.
Then a second wave came and did not stop making noise for several hours. Police then blocked roads nearby, but the main avenue across the hotel was still open, which allowed Iran fans to keep their effort in smaller numbers.
Iran fan and IT consultant Mehdi Fayez arrived Monday morning after reading messages from supporters saying they needed to trouble Portugal to stand a better chance of winning the match.
“I love Ronaldo, I love Portugal, but this is a big game. We have to do all it takes,” a still joyful Fayez said, as he held an Iranian flag on the back of his head.
Montreh Fayoud, one of the several Iranian women that are attending their first World Cup, disagreed.
“We were coming back from dinner and saw all these Iranians here. When I found the reason, I decided to leave,” she said.
At about noon on Monday Portugal players had a quick walk around the hotel, but it is uncertain whether they will walk around the city as they did before other matches in Russia.