Saudi Arabia beat Algeria to boost World Cup preparations

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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia celebrate one of their two goals against Algeria. (SPA)
Updated 11 May 2018
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Saudi Arabia beat Algeria to boost World Cup preparations

  • Al-Faraj and Al-Shehri on target for Juan Antonio Pizzi's side
  • The Green Falcons are in action against Greece on Tuesday

CADIZ: A powerful free-kick from Salman Al-Faraj and a cool late finish from Yahya Al-Shehri proved enough to hand Saudi Arabia a much-needed friendly win over Algeria at the Estadio Ramón de Carranza in southern Spain.
With just one win from four games since taking charge late last year, coach Juan Antonio Pizzi knew the importance of victory against a team that finished bottom of its African World Cup qualifying group and who were operating without their overseas players. His predecessor and Argentine compatriot, Edgardo Bauza, was dismissed after five matches.
Pizzi made five changes to the team that started the 4-0 defeat to Belgium in March, with Abdullah Al-Mayouf favored in goal and Osama Hawsawi and Yasir Al-Sharani returning to defence. Al-Faraj, making his first international appearance since suffering a muscle injury in March, joined Hattan Bahbri, the replacement for Fahad Al-Muwallad who had made his La Liga debut just 48 hours earlier with Levante.
The Argentine led Chile to Copa America glory in 2016 with a work ethic built around relentless pressing. His Green Falcons showed brief, early glimpses of a similar intensity, swarming the ball and making it difficult for their opponents to create anything of substance. A criticism often levelled at the Saudi defence, however, is a tendency to switch off at key moments and Saeed Al-Mowallad was guilty inside the first 10 minutes. The Al-Ahli full-back was caught napping to allow Abdennour Belkheir sneak in for a free header, but the Algerian forward failed to hit the target.
The pace and movement of Belkheir continued to cause problems for the Saudi backline and he appeared to have earned his team a penalty when he went to ground in the 22nd minute. The Spanish referee waved play on, however, and it would prove a crucial as Saudi, perhaps stirred by the decision, quickly drove forward. Al-Nassr’s Mohammed Al-Sahlawi tried to turn on the edge of the area, but was bundled over and this time the official showed no hesitance in awarding a free-kick.
Al-Faraj, who had scored only twice before for his country, stepped up and calmly drilled low into the far corner to give Pizzi’s side a lead for the first time since his first match in charge against Moldova in February.
Algeria faded after conceding, but Saudi failed to make the most of their dominance. Al-Jassem elected to shoot from distance when Al-Sahlawi was screaming for a pass; Al-Dawsari beat a high-line only to run out of gas and lose possession; and Bahberi was glad to see the lineman’s flag raised after failing to hit the target from just a few yards out.
They were running riot without ever really testing Toufik Moussaoui in the Algeria goal, the nadir arriving when Al-Jassem broke through the middle and found his teammates outnumbering the Algeria defence four-to-two. It looked certain the Green Falcons would double their lead, but instead, having picked out Al-Faraj, the Hilal midfielder made a rare mistake and the ball was cleared.
Both sides made wholesale substitutions during the second period, which affected the flow of the game. As the tempo dipped, however, the number of late challenges grew, forcing the referee to show seven yellow cards, including to Al-Sharani and Al-Jassem.
With just eight minutes remaining, substitute Yahya Al-Shehri settled the tie. Played in behind a tiring Algerian defence, the stocky Leganes midfielder shaped to fire high, but showed the composure his teammates had been so lacking to slot calmly past Moussaoui at his near post.
Pizzi will hope some of that poise can be shared among his squad before their next match with Greece on Tuesday.

Saudi: Al-Mayouf; Al-Mowallad (Al-Burayk, 85), Hawsawi, Othman, Al-Sharani; Al-Otayf (Jahsan, 88), Al-Dawsari (Al-Shehri, 70), Al-Faraj (Kanoo, 87), Al-Jassem (Al-Khaibri 79), Bahberi (Al-Kowaikbe, 70) ; Al-Sahlawi

Algeria: Toufik Moussaoui; Azzi (Arous, 65), Chafaï, Benmoussa, Naamani; Lakroum (Bougelmouna, 59), Boukhanchouche (Benkhemassa, 45), Bennacer (Zouari, 77), Abid; Belkheir (El-Orfi, 54); El Ouazani (Bourdim, 72)


A HAT-TRICK OF HOPES: What the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be looking for from their friendly

Updated 20 March 2019
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A HAT-TRICK OF HOPES: What the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be looking for from their friendly

  • Can the Whites and Green Falcons find the back of the net more often?
  • Both teams need to set the tone ahead of the important World Cup qualifiers.

LONDON: Ahead of Thursday’s friendly between the UAE and Saudi Arabia Arab News looks at the main priorities for both sides as they embark on their new eras after the Asian Cup and ahead of the all-important the World Cup qualifiers.

FIND THOSE SCORING BOOTS

For the past 18 months both sides have struggled for goals. Under Alberto Zaccheroni the UAE scored just 10 goals in the past nine matches — five of those coming against lowly Kyrgyzstan and India — and likewise the Green Falcons have also struggled to find the back of the net. Heading toward the World Cup qualifiers, now is the time to find those scoring boots.

PUT ON A SHOW

Both sides have technically gifted players, can keep the ball and at times trouble opposition defenses. But both have been too defensive, too safety-first and, at times, too dull. Football is supposed to be entertainment, and the friendlies ahead of the World Cup qualifiers might be no bad time to throw caution to the wind and see what the players can do in the final third.

SET THE TONE

As the modern cliche goes, a week is a long time in football. With all the sackings and player movements, it is not hard to see the kernel of truth in that overused saying. But, conversely, time can also move very fast in the “Beautiful Game.” It may be six months before the World Cup qualifiers begin, but it will be September before the coaches and players know it. Set the tone and tactics now and triumphs will be easier to come by then and, more importantly, further into the future.