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.”


Jose Mourinho’s sacking leaves the ‘Special One’ at a career crossroads

Updated 18 December 2018
0

Jose Mourinho’s sacking leaves the ‘Special One’ at a career crossroads

  • Since the middle of last season, Mourinho had been involved in a power struggle with senior members of the playing squad
  • A string of uninspiring performances since the season started saw Mourinho come in for criticism from all sides

LONDON: Five years after being snubbed for the Manchester United job immediately after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho has once again been unceremoniously rejected by the club after two-and-a-half fractious and tumultuous years at the helm.
And the truth is, it was an inevitable divorce.
Since the middle of last season, Mourinho had been involved in a power struggle with senior members of the playing squad, openly criticized board members for a lack of backing in the transfer window and the majority of fans had started to turn on the so-called “Special One” and his tactics.
And while they would never do so publicly, no doubt several of the players who had fallen foul of Mourinho’s wrath were privately breathing a sigh of relief when the club announced that Mourinho had left the club with “immediate effect” on Tuesday.
Indeed, the player Mourinho clashed with the most — £89 million ($112 million) midfielder Paul Pogba — deleted a controversial social media post of himself smiling after the news broke.
That controversy was a microcosm of the French World Cup winner’s stormy relationship with Mourinho.
But the former Juventus player, who retuned to Manchester United having already been with the club during the Ferguson era, was repeatedly criticized by Mourinho during his reign and Pogba was stripped of the United vice-captaincy earlier this season.
The pair were captured having a frosty exchange on the training ground as Mourinho grew angry with his key midfielder’s lethargic performances, dropping him on several occasions to spark talk he would be sold by the end of the season.
And even on the pitch, the writing has been on the wall for a while.
A string of uninspiring performances since the season started saw Mourinho come in for criticism from all sides, as the Portuguese became more and more embittered and paranoid in his dealings with the media.
The final straw for the club was Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, who United usurped as the biggest club in England under Ferguson’s 27-year reign. And the Scot was seen shaking his head as he watched his dynasty unravel in front of his eyes at the hands of United’s bitterest of rivals.
While the Merseyside club battle it out for the Premier League title with Manchester City and Tottenham — all playing a refreshing, exciting brand of football — United find themselves 19 points adrift of the summit and struggling to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Mourinho’s stagnant, defensive approach jarred with supporters, some of whom have only known the rampant attack-minded approach the club used to such devastating efficacy under Ferguson.
Mourinho was brought in to bring back those glory days after David Moyes and then Dutchman Louis van Gaal struggled to step out of Ferguson’s shadow.
And despite first-season League Cup and Europa League titles, he has failed miserably since. And he has bought himself little good grace with fans and officials, finding new excuses and ways to blame each latest defeat on his players, while ungraciously reminding critics of previous successes at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
But this ignominious end for Mourinho in what he called his “dream job” leaves him at a crossroads in his career. Few clubs will have been inspired by his playing style with a highly-talented team, even fewer will want to deal with the off-field tantrums and constant bickering.
Having arrived in English football as a breath of fresh air, he leaves it (for now) like a foul odor. With the prospect of no club to manage, no trophies to win and no teams to build, Mourinho is now much less the “Special One,” and more and more likely to be the “Tainted One.”