Saudi Arabia complete Spain World Cup training camp with strong win over Greece

Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Kanno celebrates scoring their second goal against Greece with team mates. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 May 2018
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Saudi Arabia complete Spain World Cup training camp with strong win over Greece

SEVILLE: Saudi Arabia signed off their three-week World Cup preparation camp in Spain on Tuesday night with a 2-0 friendly win over Greece, who played more than half the match with 10 men.
Goals from Salem Al-Dawsari and Mohammed Kanoo ensured a second win in six days for coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, but his team’s task was made considerably easier following the dismissal of Dimitrios Giannoulis late in the first half.
Pizzi had made three changes from the side that beat Algeria 2-0 last Wednesday with Al-Ahli goalkeeper Yasser Al-Mosailem replacing Abdullah Al-Mayouf and right back Mohammed Al-Burayk coming in for Saeed Al-Mowallad. Winger Hattan Bahberi, given his first start under Pizzi against the North Africans, dropped back to the bench in place of Yahya Al-Shehri.
Saudi started slowly, playing a high defensive line but without managing to take control of possession. Greece striker Michalis Manias beat the offside trap early on to get in front of skipper Osama Hawsawi, but the Hilal center-half recovered well and Dimitrios Pelkas’s tame shot was gathered comfortably by Al-Mosailem.
Saudi soon started to assert their authority, with full-back Yasser Al-Shahrani proving a constant outlet and Taiseer Al-Jassem and Salman Al-Faraj popping up in pockets of space across the midfield. By the 21st minute, with the help of some lackadaisical Greek defending, Pizzi’s side were ahead.
A loose ball on the edge of the European side’s penalty box was not cleared and Al-Shehri reacted quickest to knock it wide toward Al-Burayk. The right-back looped it into the penalty area toward Al-Dawsari, who rose high to cushion a header back across goal and into the far corner.
It seemed to spark Saudi, and Al-Dawsawi in particular, into life. No sooner had he played a neat one-two with Al-Shahrawi to spark an attack, he was driving with intent through the midfield, skipping past two blue shirts in the process. This was the player Saudi fans had been so keen for Villarreal to give a chance during his recent loan spell with the La Liga club.
Greece, save for a free-kick that struck Al-Mosailem’s left upright, offered little in front of goal and on the stroke of half-time, Al-Dawsari’s determination created the moment that changed the flow of the game. Having refused to give up a loose ball on the left touchline, he drove forward and switched it to Al-Sahlawi, who picked out Al-Faraj with a quick through-ball. Giannoulis, beaten for pace and desperate, scythed down the Hilal midfielder and was shown a straight red card.
With goals proving hard to come by in recent months for the Green Falcons, Pizzi will have hoped his side could capitalize on the dismissal. Yet while they unsurprisingly dominated possession, the struggle continued with only two shots on target in 90 minutes. Al-Sahlawi, whose international goal drought dates back to last June, showed naivety when he stayed on the floor with the ball still in play in the penalty box, while Al-Shehri blasted wastefully over with options in front of him.
Eventually, it was a scare at the other end that seemed to force the issue. With 10 minutes remaining, Efthimios Koulouris twisted and turned his marker before seeing his shot cannon off the near-post and from the resulting attack Saudi doubled their lead. Abdullah Otayf picked out substitute Mohammed Kanoo with his back to goal and, after taking a touch, the tall Hilal midfielder turned and volleyed powerfully into the net.
The team will now fly back to Riyadh for three days to spend time with family and friends before reconvening for a fifth and final training camp in Switzerland that will include friendlies with Italy, Peru and Germany. The World Cup kicks off on June 14.

Teams
SAUDI ARABIA
Al-Mosailem; Hawsawi (Al-Bulaihi, 63 ), Othman, Al-Shahrani, Al-Burayk; Otayf (Al-Khaibri, 82), Al-Faraj, Al-Jassem (Kanoo, 63), Al-Dawsari, Al-Shehri; Al-Sahlawi (Al-Muwallad, 72)

GREECE
Barkas (Gianniotis, 45); Giannoulis, Risvanis, Nikolaou, Bakakis; Tachtsidis, Pelkas (Mantalos, 60), Tziolis (Androutsos, ), Manias (Koulouris, 60); Bakasetas, Limnios ( Lampropoulos, 45)


Van Dijk backs Salah to shine in Kiev showpiece

Updated 40 min 48 sec ago
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Van Dijk backs Salah to shine in Kiev showpiece

  • Virgil van Dijk: He (Mohamed Salah) is a nightmare for defenders, creating and scoring goals.”
  • Van Dijk: “To be calm, that is sometimes a very good thing to have, but personally sometimes I have to learn, too.”

LIVERPOOL: As Mohamed Salah prepares for a career-defining period, Virgil van Dijk is confident his Liverpool teammate’s star will only shine brighter on football’s biggest stages.
The Liverpool frontman will face-off with Ballon d’Or rival Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid tonight in the Champions League final before heading off to a debut World Cup with Egypt.
And having witnessed an incredible season that has brought 44 goals — a record 32 in the Premier League ­— for the Egyptian star, Reds defender van Dijk says he has the all-round ability to strike fear into the reigning European champions and international sides.
“He is a nightmare for defenders, creating and scoring goals,” said the Dutchman of the 25-year-old Salah. “It’s complete for him.
“He’s like everyone in our squad, laidback, calm, no big personalities and egos. We work hard for each other and just want to be better.
“I think he can definitely be the best in Europe, but there are two other players who are pretty good at the moment as well (in Ronaldo and Lionel Messi). I hope for Mo it happens because he deserves it. He is that kind of player to light up a World Cup as well.”
While all eyes will be on Salah and Ronaldo as potential match-winners in Kiev, van Dijk, 26, will have a major role on the defensive front.
The game will offer the center-back the chance to prove he was worth the £75 million ($100 million) it cost to sign him from Southampton in January.
“Any player who arrived at this club, they want to play in these games, they want to be under this kind of pressure, they want to get trophies,” he said.
“I don’t think I have been bought to win the Champions League final. I have been bought to hopefully get the best out of myself and the best out of the team with the help of everyone else.
“To be calm, that is sometimes a very good thing to have, but personally sometimes I have to learn, too.
“Against Manchester City in the away game (of the quarter final) I was a little bit too calm in the beginning, for example. That is something I have to learn as well. To be in the final right now, it has been a crazy journey.”
Watching last season’s final between Real and Juventus, van Dijk realized just how much he wanted to be a part of the competition — and why Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool were the club for him, despite interest from City.
“I never really go to big games to watch as a fan, but I was in Cardiff,” he recalled. “The sponsors (Sony) hooked us up with two fantastic seats and it was two hours from where I used to live, so we thought, ‘let’s go.’
“From the moment I got there a lot of people in hospitality were Liverpool fans and they were saying, ‘join, please join.’