Saudi Arabia to face Germany and Belgium as World Cup preparations are revealed

Updated 11 January 2018
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Saudi Arabia to face Germany and Belgium as World Cup preparations are revealed

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia will play high-profile friendlies against world champions Germany and Belgium — with a game against Italy also on the cards — in a bid to reach this summer’s World Cup in peak condition and give themselves the best chance of doing “its people proud.”
Head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi announced on Wednesday that the Green Falcons will play Iraq (Feb. 27), Ukraine (Mar. 23), Belgium (Mar. 28), Peru (Jun. 3) and Germany (Jun. 8) in an extensive list of friendly matches in preparation for the World Cup opener with Russia on Jun. 16. The Saudi Football Federation is also putting the finishing touches to a glamor game with Italy on May 28.
“We want to work hard to do Saudi Arabia and its people proud,” said Pizzi.
“We designed this schedule to help us reach top form in time for the World Cup. The match against Iraq is important, because Iraq are playing at home and many fans will attend, so there will be a lot of pressure on us. They also play a fairly similar style to Egypt. Ukraine and Belgium are very strong teams, especially Belgium who are one of the World Cup candidates. The final stage will see us facing Germany, the world’s best team right now. We also chose two of the best teams in the world, the first is Italy who will not play in the World Cup, but are a great team, and the second are Peru who have impressed in the CONMEBOL qualifiers and return to the World Cup after a long time.”
Pizzi is yet to take charge of a match since he replaced Edgardo Bauza and turned down the chance to lead the Green Falcons at the Gulf Cup in Kuwait, opting instead to plan for Russia with SAFF President Adel Ezzat and run the rule over players in domestic matches. He will formally meet the players for the first time in an extended squad training camp in Saudi Arabia on Jan. 21 he is referring to as “stage one.” There are five stages to Pizzi’s World Cup plan.
“Stage one is important because we don’t have a lot of time until the World Cup, so it’s crucial that we all get to know and understand each other well,” Pizzi said. “A large number of players will participate in stage one based on the squad that qualified to the World Cup in addition to those we have watched in the league. This doesn’t mean that only the players who were involved in stage 1 will be under consideration for the World Cup. Players from the Gulf Cup squad and those who will play in the U-23 Asian Championship are also under consideration. The most important thing about stage two is that we will face Iraq away. In this stage we will start testing and filtering out the players more aggressively.”
Stage three will take place in Spain in March and will witness friendlies against Ukraine and Belgium. The Green Falcons will return to Europe for another training camp at the end of April and will then base themselves on the continent for stage five from May 19 until their World Cup opener in Moscow.
"At the end, I’d like to say we are happy, proud of being at the finals and want to deliver achievement that make the Saudi people proud," said Pizzi. "In order to achieve our goals, we need everyone to help us and work towards the same goal, the media especially need to be behind us.”

FRIENDLIES
Feb 27: Iraq (A)
Mar. 23: Ukraine (in Spain)
Mar. 28: Belgium (in Spain)
Apr. 9 (TBC)
May. 15 (TBC)
May 28 Italy (TBC)
June 3: Peru (venue TBC)
June 8: Germany (A)

TRAINING CAMPS
Stage one: Jan. 21-27 in Saudi Arabia
Stage two: Feb. 21-27 in Saudi Arabia followed by a friendly in Iraq
Stage three: Mar 15-27 in Spain, including friendlies against Ukraine and Belgium
Stage four: End of April until May 15 in Spain
Stage five: May 19 to World Cup in Europe
 


Moroccan World Cup star Nordin Amrabat to play in Saudi Pro League

Updated 19 July 2018
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Moroccan World Cup star Nordin Amrabat to play in Saudi Pro League

  • Moroccan winger agrees to join Al-Nassr
  • Amrabat used to wash dishes and make desserts for a living

LONDON: Al-Nassr have signalled their intent to mount a challenge to the top two by boldly signing Nordin Amrabat from Premier League club Watford.
The 31-year-old winger has penned a three-year contract with the Riyadh club who finished third last season, 11 points behind Al-Ahli and 12 behind title winners Al-Hilal.
Reports say Al-Nassr have paid Watford £4 million ($5.2 million) for Amrabat, 31, who has spent the last season on loan at Leganes where his new Al-Nassr teammate Yahya Al-Shehri also played last season on loan.
“Happy and excited with my adventure,” Amrabat wrote on Instagram. “Looking forward to meet these amazing @alnassr_fc fans.”


Amrabat arrives with a fine pedigree, having played for PSV, Galatasaray, Malaga and Watford. He predominately plays on the right wing but he prefers playing on the left so he can cut inside on his favored right foot and have a crack at goal.
He is currently taking an extended holiday following his World Cup exploits with Morocco, but when he joins up he will find a familiar face in the dressing room in countryman Mohamed Fouzair and should form an exciting attacking partnership with Al-Shehri and Mohammad Al-Sahlawi.
Amrabat was in many experts’ team of the tournament after the World Cup group phase, his all-action performances against Iran, Spain and Portugal catching the eye and putting him in the shop window. He was always going to be surplus to requirements at Watford after they signed Spain international winger Gerard Deulofeu, and Trabzonspor were thought to be leading the race for his signature. But Al-Nassr have won the race to land him and he becomes the second ex-Watford player to have agreed to move to the Saudi Pro League, following on from Jose Manuel Jurado’s move to Al-Ahli earlier this summer.
Amrabat has enjoyed a fine career, playing nearly 300 top-flight appearances but he came from very humble beginnings and needed to wash plates and make desserts at a Michelin-starred restaurant before his career took off.