Saudi Arabian-funded 100,000-seater stadium in Iraq to be built in Baghdad

The Basra Sport City stadium where Iraq beat Saudi Arabia in a friendly last week. (Wiki Commons Media)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Saudi Arabian-funded 100,000-seater stadium in Iraq to be built in Baghdad

LONDON: Iraq Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said the new football stadium to be funded by Saudi Arabia will be situated in Baghdad and be able to host 100,000 spectators.
It was announced Tuesday that King Salman had offered to pay for the construction of a new arena following a telephone call with Al-Abadi on Monday evening, but no further details were given.
Al-Abadi used his weekly press conference to expand on details of the collaboration and how it arrived on the back of the first football match on Iraqi soil between the two sides in almost 40 years.
“I have received a phone call from the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdul Aziz,” he said. “He hailed Iraqi’s victory (in the friendly match between the two sides last week) and expressed his preparedness and commitment to expanding positive relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia at different levels — economical, commercial, communal, cultural, etc.— a t all levels that are of interest for the two countries.
“He also offered Saudi Arabia’s contribution to build a main stadium in Iraq that accommodates 100,000 people. We have welcomed the initiative and it was proposed today to the Cabinet.”
Al-Abadi said he has instructed his Cabinet to set up a task force to drive the build of the biggest stadium in Iraq, eclipsing the 65,000 venue at Basra Sports City.
“The Cabinet gave its directives to form a committee consisting of a group of key ministries concerned with this project,” Al-Abadi said. “The committee will consist of the Cabinet’s secretariat, the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Higher Education, which includes the Center of Urban and Regional Planning
“It will handle developing the general framework for establishing the stadium, which will be the main stadium. 100,000 people is not a small number. We must pick a suitable location in Baghdad along with the stadium’s own additional facilities.
“The stadium will be established under the supervision and guidance of a higher Iraqi-Saudi coordinating council, which will specify the location and design in addition to following up on the project’s progress. The outcomes and progress of the committee’s work will be presented to the Cabinet.”


‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

Updated 20 June 2018
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‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

  • A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
  • Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”