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
0

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.”


NBA fracas, Jose Mourinho's antics prove action needed to prevent rise of violence in sport

Updated 22 October 2018
0

NBA fracas, Jose Mourinho's antics prove action needed to prevent rise of violence in sport

  • In LeBron James’ home debut for the Lakers, he ended up playing peacemaker, not play-maker
  • Sport stars are extremely wealthy individuals and the vast majority of fines issued by sporting governing bodies are a drop in the ocean

LONDON: The NBA has become one of the most popular competitions in the world in recent years, with the likes of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James becoming global superstars.
As a product it is slick, glamorous and boasts celebrity fans, from the rap world to Hollywood royalty.
But the glitzy facade was shattered on Saturday when the Lakers-Rockets game descended into chaos, with both teams getting caught up in an ugly melee. Someone claimed to be spat on, punches were thrown, and three players had to be ejected from the game as the unruliness spilled over into the crowd.
In LeBron James’ home debut for the Lakers, he ended up playing peacemaker, not play-maker. Afterwards, no one was talking about his performance or the fact his team lost again. The result seemed almost irrelevant.
That fracas came hours after tension on the touchline in the Chelsea vs. Manchester United Premier League clash saw United boss Jose Mourinho lose his cool and need to be restrained in an ill-tempered scuffle with a Chelsea coach. And earlier this month, the hotly anticipated MMA match-up between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor witnessed disgraceful scenes as both fighters got involved in fights with each other’s coaching teams in the aftermath of the bout.
Unwarranted violence and aggression are becoming commonplace in sport, and yet it seems to be tolerated more and more.
What will happen in these cases?
Likely a short suspension here, a nominal fine there. Certainly less than the repercussions would be if similar behavior occurred on the streets away from sporting arenas.

Sport stars are extremely wealthy individuals and the vast majority of fines issued by sporting governing bodies are a drop in the ocean. Likewise, weeks-long suspensions seem scant punishment for actions that would see most other people fired.

Top-level sportspeople are also role-models to millions of people. What sort of message does it send to young people striving to reach the top of their chosen sport when they see those already there appearing to be given a free rein to behave inappropriately with impunity? Sport has enormous power in society, and means a lot to many people. It should be setting an example.
As such, it is about time sporting authorities started handing out punishments that fit the transgressions: Banning individuals for months and years rather than weeks, or issuing fines to the tune of a whole season’s wage. Firms must pull out of multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals instantly.
Nobody balked at the year-long bans for cricketers Steve Smith and David Warner for ball-tampering earlier this year. It was welcomed.
It may seem an overreaction, but something has to be done to deter the sort of behavior seen at the Staples Center, Stamford Bridge or in Las Vegas for the good of professional sport.