‘Saudi Arabia have the players to stop Mohamed Salah,’ says Green Falcons coach

Mohamed Salah is in red hot form heading into the World Cup. (Reuters)
Updated 09 May 2018
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‘Saudi Arabia have the players to stop Mohamed Salah,’ says Green Falcons coach

  • Saudi meet Egypt in Russia on June 25
  • Coach Pizzi believes his defenders can shackle the prolific forward

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi has insisted his players are capable of taming Egypt superstar Mohamed Salah when the two sides do battle at the World Cup.
Salah has enjoyed a remarkable debut season at Liverpool, with his 43 goals in 49 games for the Reds leading to him being named the PFA Footballer of the Year last week.
The forward has continually delivered in big matches, netting 11 times in the Champions League to fire Liverpool into this month’s final against Real Madrid.
Salah has also excelled with Egypt, finishing as top scorer in World Cup qualifying and famously keeping his cool to slot the 94th-minute penalty against Congo that secured the Pharaohs spot in Russia.
Against Portugal in March, Salah’s strike looked to have secured an impressive friendly victory until Cristiano Ronaldo struck two stoppage time goals to steal away victory.
Those performances have led to heightened expectations in Egypt ahead of the World Cup, with fans hoping that Salah can continue his talismanic form in Russia and help his nation escape from Group A.
But despite recognizing Salah’s danger, Saudi coach Pizzi believes that his team can keep the 25-year-old at bay when they face off in the final group stage match in Volgograd on June 25.
“Mohamed Salah is a very, very talented, player,” Pizzi told Arab News at the AFC Asian Cup draw in Dubai. “His level at the moment is extremely high and he is certainly one of the best players in the world right now, if not the top on his current form. But of course we believe in our players. We have some fantastic defenders and we have confidence in our team, in the skills of our players. There will be no special plans for Salah but for sure we have the players who can stop him. We expect a good performance against Egypt; we expect a good performance in all of our group games.”
Keeping Salah quiet will be an uphill task for a Saudi defense that conceded four against world-class opposition in its last friendly outing. Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium put the Green Falcons to the sword with a 4-0 victory.
Pizzi’s side also shipped four goals in a 4-1 defeat to Iraq in February but there are still five friendly matches to play — against Algeria, Greece, Italy, Peru and Germany — before the World Cup, with defensive solidity imperative if Saudi Arabia are to reach the last-16.
Before they face Salah’s Egypt in their final World Cup group game, the Green Falcons take on Uruguay and, first, hosts Russia in the tournament’s curtain raiser on June 14.
And while Pizzi has analyzed all of Saudi Arabia’s group opponents carefully, the Argentine insisted is not looking further than that opening clash with Russia in Moscow.
“Our plan is working very well for the World Cup,” Pizzi said. “All of the training camps have gone very well and the players understand very well what we are trying to do. Our focus is totally on the first game against Russia. The players are working very hard toward that match.”


Brazil legend Ronaldo attends Arab Club Champions cup final in Al-Ain

Updated 49 min 9 sec ago
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Brazil legend Ronaldo attends Arab Club Champions cup final in Al-Ain

  • The match featured Saudi side Al-Hilal and Etoile Sahel from Tunisia
  • Former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid player photographed with Abu Dhabi crown prince

AL-AIN, UAE: Brazilian football superstar Ronaldo was a special guest at the final of the Arab Club Champions Cup, which was held at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al-Ain.
The former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid player was photographed with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Saudi Arabia’s Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Sports Authority.
The match — featuring Saudi side Al-Hilal and Etoile Sahel from Tunisia — was won 2-1 by the Tunisian team, whose Mohamed Methnani scored an injury time winner to take home the trophy for his side.
The tournament is organized by the Union of Arab Football Associations (UAFA) and is contested by elite clubs from the Arab world, including 20 from the Asian Football Confederation and 20 from the Confederation of African Football.
Earlier this week, it was announced by Al-Sheikh that the 2020 edition of the tournament would be named after King Mohamed VI of Morocco.
“I am honored as the President of the Arab Football Federation (to announce) that the second edition of the Arab Champions Cup will bear a name dear to all Arabs, His Majesty King Mohammed VI, may God protect him, who honored us with his approval,” Al-Sheikh posted on Tuesday on his official Facebook page.