WHO IS KRUNOSLAV JURCIC?
The man tasked with leading the young Saudi squad in the Gulf Cup later this month was a member of the Croatia side that shocked the world in coming third at the 1998 World Cup. Jurcic was appointed in October to oversee Saudi-born players’ coaching and integration into the national team. Before arriving in the Kingdom, Jurcic led his native club Dinamo Zagreb to three Croatian league titles between 2008 and 2013. He also has experience managing club sides in Slovenia and Turkey.
THREE PLAYERS WHO COULD MAKE A NAME FOR THEMSELVES.
If there is one player in the Gulf Cup squad who can already feel confident about his place on the flight to Moscow for the World Cup, it is the Al-Qadisiyah left-back. The 24-year-old has been a revelation in the league since last season and could even push for a starting spot in Russia next summer. A string of good performances in the competition would go a long way to convince Pizzi that Al-Obaid is the right man to start on the left side of his defense.
The star of the Al-Ettifaq team that won promotion to the top division two seasons ago and took the league by storm last season. Kanno is a physically imposing midfielder who is blessed with an impressive range of passing. However, since joining Al-Hilal in the summer, the 23-year-old failed to nail a starting spot. But Kanno can be just the type of player Saudi Arabia needs in the World Cup, if he can demonstrate his ability in the Gulf Cup, Pizzi may find it difficult to leave the midfielder behind.
The shortage of top class Saudi Arabian strikers has been a source of constant headache for national team managers over the past few years. Edgardo Bauza handed Al-Hazza his debut during the team’s Portugal tour last month and the Al-Ettifaq striker showed signs of promise, scoring in an official friendly. The Gulf Cup will be his chance to challenge Mukhtar Fallatah for a place in the plane to Russia as he continues his rise from a virtual unknown two years ago to one of the country’s most important players.