Juan Antonio Pizzi pleased with Green Falcons' ‘Russia preparation’ win over battling Greece side

Greece's Andreas Gianniotis in action with Saudi Arabia's Fawaz Al-Qarni. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 May 2018
0

Juan Antonio Pizzi pleased with Green Falcons' ‘Russia preparation’ win over battling Greece side

  • A header from Salem Al-Dawsari and a late Mohammed Kanoo volley were enough to ensure the Green Falcons secured a win over Greece
  • Pizzi, a former striker, had spoken pre-match about the importance of his players showing confidence in front of goal

SEVILLE: Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi declared himself happy with his side’s performance in the 2-0 friendly win over Greece on Tuesday night, although conceded he would have liked to have seen his players capitalize on their numerical advantage following the first-half dismissal of Greek defender Dimitrios Giannoulis.
A header from Salem Al-Dawsari and a late Mohammed Kanoo volley were enough to ensure the Green Falcons secured a second win in six days. However the two goals proved to be Pizzi’s side’s only two shots on target — this despite an understrength Greece team being forced to play the entire second-half with 10-men following Giannoulis’s sending off after a last-ditch foul on Salman Al-Faraj.
“It was a good game and we dominated the ball in terms of possession,” the Argentine coach said. “Of course, the final part of the first-half there was the red card, but even before that we were controlling the game. They managed only one dangerous attack, which hit the post, so overall we are happy with the performance of our players.”
Pizzi, a former striker, had spoken pre-match about the importance of his players showing confidence in front of goal. They have now managed just nine goals in six games and Mohammed Al- Sahlawi, Saudi’s sole striker, has not featured on the scoresheet in 11 calendar months. The Al-Nassr forward showed few signs of breaking his drought inside the Estadio de La Cartuja.
“Of course, normally, when you have a one-player advantage we would expect it to have a big impact, but it wasn’t quite like that,” Pizzi said. “We dominated in the first half and hoped we could have made more of that dominance in the second half, especially against 10 players. Normally, chasing a game with one player less, you have to give an advantage to the opposition, but that didn’t happen so much.”
Yet while Saudi did not test the Greek goalkeeper as often as they should have, they did show a creative side to engineer chances from both flanks. Yahya Al-Shehri, Al-Faraj and Yasser Al-Shahrani all enjoyed plenty possession, but they could rarely work a shot at goal. Greece finished the match with more shots at goal and more shots on target than their dominant opponents.
Greece had been selected because Pizzi believes them to compare physically to Russia, who they will face in the opening match of the World Cup on June 14 in Moscow. Yet with the friendly being played outside FIFA’s international calendar, Greece coach Michael Skibbe had been forced to select only home-based players.
“We chose Greece not exactly for the team, but rather the characteristics of the players and the high-profile of the opponent,” Pizzi said. “Although we knew the two games would not be played on official FIFA dates, we wanted to face such teams because they have the potential to be very powerful. Obviously some of their more high-profile players did not play because they were involved in domestic football in the countries they play in, but we are very satisfied overall with the level and performances this month.”


Van Dijk backs Salah to shine in Kiev showpiece

Updated 26 May 2018
0

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.’