‘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.”


World Cup live: Saudi Arabia 0 Uruguay 1

Updated 4 min 8 sec ago
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World Cup live: Saudi Arabia 0 Uruguay 1

7.36PM: It's the Saudi Arabia fans we can hear in the stadium in Rostov...they believe. And they're urging their Green Falcons on to find this equalizer...

 

7.28PM: Saudi Arabia are doing their bit to keep the score close, but if we're being honest - this is not the Uruguay team we have come to know and...become acquainted with... over the years.

A poor showing from the South Americans in this World Cup so far, especially as they were many people's "dark horses" for the trophy...

7.20PM: We've had some fantastic games at this World Cup so far, it's safe to say that this is not one of them...both sides seem content with the status quo - Uruguay for the three points, Saudi Arabia to avoid another humiliating defeat...

7.08PM: Into the second half, the game has drifted into the realms of 'midfield stalemate' at this point, but the Saudi Arabia fans are keeping the faith...

 

6.47PM: HALFTIME - Uruguay 1 Saudi Arabia 0 - something to work with for the Green Falcons. But they must be more clinical in the final third when they manage to get that far up the pitch...

6.39PM: Saudi Arabia trying to wrest back control of this game, especially in the middle of the pitch. Russian fans will be cheering for Uruguay, as if it stays like this, the host nation will qualify for the last-16. They're even showing the match live on the famous Moscow Metro trains...

 

6.30PM: Uruguay took their time to come into the game, but one lapse at the back from Saudi Arabia and there was Barcelona talisman Suarez to tap it home. Uphill struggle for Saudi Arabia now, who in 120 minutes of football at this World Cup, have had just one shot on target...

6.25PM: GOAL - Luis Suarez scores from a corner with a deft finish, it's his 52nd goal for Uruguay...

6.20PM: Uruguay haven't clicked here so far, and Saudi Arabia are holding their own. They are passing and moving much better than last Thursday and they are stopping any potential Uruguay break from the off. A marked improvement from Pizzi's team...

6.12PM: Phil Neville, former Manchester United and England defender on BBC: "Saudi Arabia have actually started this game very brightly. They had a quick corner that Uruguay weren't prepared for there, but the ball in just lacked quality."

6:08PM: A much brighter start from Saudi Arabia in this game than against Russia, the fans are hopeful of a better Green Falcons showing too...

 

6:00PM: We're under way - Saudi Arabia must improve from that Russia game, let's see how the fare early on...

5:50PM: All smiles from Saudi players before the game...they're on their way out now in this crucial game, kick-off just a few minutes away...

5.45PM: Saudi Arabia Starting XI: Al-Owais, Al-Breik, Osama Hawsawi, Al Bulaihi, Al-Shahrani, Bahbir, Al-Faraj, Otayf, Al-Jassam, Al Dawsari, Al-Muwallad.

Saudi Arabia make four changes after their 5-0 opening-night hammering against Russia.

Goalkeeper Abdullah Almuaiouf is left out, meaning Mohammed Al-Owais comes in. Elsewhere, Ali Albulayhi starts in the back four, while Hatan Bahbri moves into midfield and Fahad Almuwallad is in to lead the attack.

Pizzi spoke of his "feeling of shame" in the wake of their Russian nightmare. Expect Saudi Arabia to come out with all guns blazing...

5.40PMUruguay Starting XI: Muslera, Varela, Gimenez, Godin, Caceres, Sanchez, Vecino, Bentancur, Rodriguez, Suarez, Cavani.

5.30PM: Just last Thursday, Saudi Arabia were thrashed by Russia. Now in the way of the Green Falcons is Uruguay - who boast one of the most fearsome frontlines in world football in Edison Cavani and Luis Suarez. Everyone believes Uruguay will win, there's no pressure on Juan Antonio Pizzi's men. Can they cause a monumental upset? Join us, to find out...