Greece boss Michael Skibbe predicts World Cup woe for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia defender Yasser Al-Shahrani fights for the ball with Greece's Dimitrios Limnios.
Updated 17 May 2018
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Greece boss Michael Skibbe predicts World Cup woe for Saudi Arabia

  • Greece coach admitted Green Falcons were the better side in 2-0 defeat on Tuesday.
  • However Skibbe was not surprised about the lack of chances Pizzi's men failed to create.

SEVILLE: Greece coach Michael Skibbe believes Saudi Arabia are not good enough to progress to the knock-out stages of next month’s World Cup, despite the Green Falcons having beaten his side in a friendly earlier this week.
Saudi Arabia defeated Skibbe’s Greece 2-0 in Seville on Tuesday as their preparations for this summer’s football showpiece continue. Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men will face Russia in the tournament’s opening match on June 14, before then playing against Uruguay and Egypt for a place in the second round. Skibbe’s side, in contrast, failed to qualify for the World Cup after losing a European playoff to Croatia last November.
With the Saudi Arabia friendly not falling on an official FIFA match-day, Skibbe was forced to field an experimental team free of overseas players. Nonetheless, they held their own for much of the opening exchanges. Even after allowing Salem Al-Dawsari to open the scoring midway through the first half, Anastasios Bakasetas almost drew them level with a free kick that hit the post.
Greece’s task, however, was made more difficult when defender Dimitrios Giannoulis was sent off just before halftime. Saudi Arabia asserted authority with an extra player and Mohammed Kanoo scored the side’s second 11 minutes from time, but even then the goal came just moments after Efthimios Koulouris had rattled the upright once again, against the run of play.
“Saudi Arabia showed they are in a better shape than we are,” Skibbe told Arab News.
“They are obviously working toward the World Cup, which starts in only a few weeks, while a lot of my players came here after a one-week break — because the Greek season finished last week. All our players from abroad were missing, too, as they were playing with their clubs, so it is quite difficult to gauge levels.
“But Saudi Arabia did well and were the better team. They were excellent with the ball, showed good technique and are a little bit fitter than my team. That said, I think we were unlucky with the red card and hitting the post twice. It was possible that we could have gotten a different result, but Saudi Arabia won because they were better overall. They deserved it.”
In March, Greece defeated Egypt 1-0 in a friendly, so 52-year-old Skibbe is well-placed to draw comparisons between the two Group A rivals. And despite the results of the two games, the former German national team assistant favors the North Africans.
“I think the Egyptian team is better and has faster players,” Skibbe said. “(Mohamed) Salah is in an unbelievable moment right now, doing excellent with Liverpool, so I think Egypt is better. It will not be easy for Saudi Arabia to be competitive in the tournament because there are a lot of good teams that will star there. For this reason, at this moment, I can’t see them progressing from their group.”
While Skibbe’s comments may seem pragmatic given Salah has scored 44 goals in all competitions for club and country this season, he was more blunt in his assessment of Saudi Arabia’s inability to capitalize on their numerical advantage after the break. Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side played against 10 men for 45 minutes, yet while they finished the match with 63 percent possession they managed only two shots on target, one fewer than their opponents.
Asked whether he was surprised Saudi Arabia failed to test his goalkeeper more given their dominance in possession, Skibbe was frank with his response. “Not really, no,” he said. “Even in the first half, we made mistakes with our passing, which afforded them some chances but they didn’t take them. So, no, I think it was not too surprising.”


Redemption for ‘hero’ Daniel Ricciardo at Monaco

Updated 11 min 15 sec ago
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Redemption for ‘hero’ Daniel Ricciardo at Monaco

  • Australian bounces back from heartache in 2016
  • Vettel finishes second, Hamilton third

MONACO: Daniel Ricciardo overcame chronic power problems to claim an emotional, cherished and redemptive triumph for Red Bull in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Two years after being deprived of victory by a bungled late pit stop in 2016, the big-smiling Australian led from pole to flag, on the way resisting pressure from Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
It was the Australian’s first Monaco victory, his second this season and the seventh of his career.
“You have done an amazing job there — you are our hero!,” said team chief Christian Horner. “I don’t know how you did that. Unbelievable. Payback!“
Ricciardo, whose engine power was reduced early in the race, came home 7.3 seconds clear of Vettel after 78 largely processional laps with championship leader Lewis Hamilton finishing third for Mercedes, all the leading drivers struggling with tire wear.
Hamilton’s lead was trimmed from 17 to 14 points in the title race.
Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth in the second Ferrari ahead of fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes and Frenchman Esteban Ocon, who was sixth for Force India.
Another Frenchman Pierre Gasly came home seventh for Toro Rosso ahead of Nico Hulkenberg of Renault, Dutchman Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull, who had started 20th on the grid, and Carlos Sainz in the second Renault.

Results

1. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Red Bull) 1hr 42min 54.807sec)

2. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari) at 7.336sec

3. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 17.013

4. Kimi Räikkönen (FIN/Ferrari) 18.127

5. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 18.822

6. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Force India) 23.667

7. Pierre Gasly (FRA/Toro Rosso) 24.331

8. Nico Hülkenberg (GER/Renault) 24.839

9. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull) 25.317

10. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Renault) 1:09.013

11. Marcus Ericsson (SWE/Sauber) 1:09.864

12. Sergio Pérez (MEX/Force India) 1:10.461

13. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas) 1:14.823

14. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL/McLaren) 1 lap

15. Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas) 1 lap

16. Sergey Sirotkin (RUS/Williams) 1 lap

17. Lance Stroll (CAN/Williams) 2 laps

18. Brendon Hartley (NZL/Toro Rosso) 8 lps,

19. Charles Leclerc (MON/Sauber) 8 laps,