Juan Antonio Pizzi grateful for Saudi Arabia’s ‘advantageous but necessary’ World Cup build-up

Saudi Arabia's Argentinian coach Juan Antonio Pizzi insisted that he needs all the time he can get ahead of the opening match against Russia on June 25. (AFP)
Updated 05 May 2018
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Juan Antonio Pizzi grateful for Saudi Arabia’s ‘advantageous but necessary’ World Cup build-up

  • Saudi Arabia face Algeria, Greece, Italy, Peru and Germany before 2018 World Cup
  • Pizzi welcomed his players to a training camp in Spain where they will prepare

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi believes that the extra build-up time afforded to his players ahead of the World Cup is “advantageous but necessary” as his preparations for the finals in Russia continue in Marbella.
The 2017-18 Saudi Pro League season finished on April 12 and on April 25, Pizzi welcomed his players to a training camp in Spain, where they will be stationed until moving on to Switzerland later this month.
Being able to spend seven weeks with his players before the World Cup is a luxury that few international coaches are given, but Pizzi insisted that he needs all the time he can get ahead of the opening match against Russia on June 25.
“Yes, we have almost two months to prepare for the first game and we are very happy with the time,” Pizzi told Arab News at the 2019 Asian Cup draw in Dubai.
“It is advantageous but it is also necessary. We need more time to prepare than other teams because our players play only in Saudi Arabia and not in Europe or higher levels. It’s a long time but a necessary time.”
Indeed, Pizzi has been forced to call up the 20-year-old Al-Qadisiyah forward Haroun Kamara, who has played only seven league games, but caught the eye with four goals and two assists. Born in Jeddah to Guinean parents, Kamara represents a risky selection, but with the Green Falcons managing just five goals in four games, Pizzi knows he must try to find an alternative to first-choice Mohammed Al-Sahlawi.
Saudi Arabia’s preparation continues with a friendly against Algeria on May 9 and another against Greece on May 15, before three further matches against Italy, Peru and Germany.
And barring any major injuries, Pizzi said he will be relying on the players who secured the Green Falcons’ passage to the World Cup when he confirms his final squad.
“We are happy to work with the players who took Saudi Arabia to Russia. This is the base team and the players will be the same for the last part of our preparations.
“We have five more friendly games more to finish the details and we are very confident in our planning, We have been confident since January and we will be confident until the first game of the World Cup. The players and all of us are working hard to achieve great things.”
Nawaf Al-Abed’s return will give Pizzi something he has lacked since taking over the manager’s job — a genuine game-changer. Al-Hilal’s iconic winger was instrumental to the Green Falcons’ qualifying for the World Cup, but has been out with various injuries since last October. Following successful surgery on a groin issue, the 28-year-old has traveled to Spain and is expected to feature in the Algeria and Greece matches.
Question marks still remain over Saudi Arabia’s forward options but Pizzi feels that despite a lack of striking depth, his team are capable of scoring.
“I think we have to be more creative,” Pizzi said. “Goals don’t just come from strikers, it is about the team. We need to find ways to get the goals but there are other ways to score, not just with the striker. Maybe you can find other movements.
“We think we are doing things very well to get the whole team thinking about goals so it is not just about the strikers. We will be able to score and we will be able to compete.”
It is true that Saudi Arabia appeared a much-improved team in their last friendly against Belgium, where they were confident on the ball, maintained a good shape and keeping possession impressively at times, playing out from defense and working the channels. But the key for Pizzi in this batch of friendlies will be ensuring his players remove individual errors, especially against quality opposition like Italy and Germany.


Egypt footballer Amr Warda banned over sexual harassment claims

Updated 26 June 2019
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Egypt footballer Amr Warda banned over sexual harassment claims

  • Sexual harassment claims surfaced earlier this week on social media platforms
  • In 2017 a Portuguese club terminated Warda’s contract over claims he sexually harassed the wives of his team-mates

CAIRO: Egypt’s football federation on Wednesday banned midfielder Amr Warda from playing in any further matches at the African Cup of Nations over mounting sexual harassment allegations.
“Amr Warda is banned from the national squad after discussions with the team’s technical and administrative bodies. This is to maintain the discipline and focus of the team,” said the federation in a statement posted on its website.
The sexual harassment claims surfaced earlier this week on social media platforms. Multiple women posted screenshots and testimonies of Warda’s alleged lewd comments.
The Wednesday decision comes hours after another viral clip posted on Twitter by a social media user showed him apparently exposing himself to her. AFP cannot verify the authenticity of the brief video.
“He’s definitely out. We have a match to focus on tonight,” Ihab Leheita, the Egyptian national team’s manager, told AFP, without giving further details.
In 2017, Portuguese football club CD Feriense terminated Warda’s contract over claims that he sexually harassed the wives of two of his team-mates. His tenure lasted only three days and he was transferred to his current Greek club Atromitos.
Egypt are hosting the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations for the fifth time and play DR Congo later Wednesday in their bid to advance from the group stages.
The hosts beat Zimbabwe 1-0 in their opening match, during which Warda took to the field.