'Mohamed Salah is not superman' says Kuwait coach ahead of friendly with Egypt

Mohamed Salah will miss Friday's game with Kuwait because he is preparing for the Champions League final. (Getty)
Updated 23 May 2018
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'Mohamed Salah is not superman' says Kuwait coach ahead of friendly with Egypt

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait coach Radojko Avramovic is disappointed his players will not get the chance to test themselves against Mohamed Salah on Friday night, but still feels the friendly against Egypt is an important step on their road to recovery.
While Salah will be preparing for the Champions League final against Real Madrid, Kuwait will host Egypt in Kuwait City in what will be only their fourth match since FIFA lifted a two-year ban on the side over government interference in management of the country’s football federation. There have been friendly defeats at the hands of Jordan and Cameroon in March before a 2-0 win over Palestine on May 11.
“For a long time, we did not play and it will take time to recover,” said Avramovic. “Each game we play, we see an improvement and that is the target. We are starting to play some good football. We played well in the second half against Cameroon and against Palestine.”
Egypt will be a different level of opponent. “Now we can see how good the players really are, but we are at home and want to give the fans something to cheer,” said Avramovic.
The North Africans, who have been drawn with hosts Russia, Uruguay and Arabian rivals Saudi Arabia in Group A, are not just missing Salah. Aston Villa’s Ahmed Elmohamady is preparing for a Premier League promotion playoff, while Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny is recovering
from injury.
Avramovic is curious as to how his defenders would have handled Salah. “He is one of the best players in the world and it would have been good for us to test ourselves against him, but he has an important game,” said the former Notts County goalkeeper.
“Everyone in the Arab world is proud of him and he is a great example of what can be done. He shows the future of Arabic football and it is the same for Kuwait. It is good to go to other countries and face different kinds of players.”
The coach, who led Singapore from 2003 to 2012, is wary of Egypt, even without their talisman. “He is a great player, but Egypt didn’t qualify for the World Cup just because of him —  he is not superman. They have lots of good players. This game is a great chance for us to see where we are. We want to be playing at World Cups in the future and this shows us how far we have to go. At the moment, we are focused on winning games and not just trying players out.”
After Kuwait, Egypt, who started their pre-World training camp in Cairo on Monday, travel to Italy to take on Colombia and then to Brussels to face Belgium on June 6. The team kicks off their World Cup campaign against Uruguay on June 15.
“We are trying to reach the best form before the World Cup. This game will be very important for us,” Egypt coach Hector Cuper said earlier this month. “The Egyptian fans will attend the match against Kuwait — they are waiting for us and we want to please them.”


Aussie ace Matt Jurman says Slaven Bilic will get Al-Ittihad ‘back where they belong’

Updated 16 min 38 sec ago
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Aussie ace Matt Jurman says Slaven Bilic will get Al-Ittihad ‘back where they belong’

  • Al-Ittihad defender Matt Jurman has backed Slaven Bilic to turn things around for the club
  • A disastrous start to the season has left Al-Ittihad rock bottom of the Saudi Pro League table

KUWAIT CITY: Al-Ittihad defender Matt Jurman has backed Slaven Bilic to turn things around for the club, predicting his new coach can inject some much-needed confidence into the team.
A disastrous start to the season has left Al-Ittihad rock bottom of the Saudi Pro League table with one draw and four losses from their opening five games.
Ramon Diaz was sacked as coach after just two matches, with Bilic (below) parachuted in three weeks ago to replace the Argentine.
The first game of his reign ended in defeat away to Al-Fateh and on Friday they drew 1-1 at home with Ohod, but Australian Jurman, who moved to Al-Ittihad from Suwon Bluewings in the summer, believes it is only a matter of time before Bilic transforms the club’s fortunes.
“It’s not a situation I’ve seen before, a coach being sacked after only two games,” Jurman told Arab News. “It shows that it is cut-throat here but the players and coaches have to respond positively to that pressure.
“A club the size of Al-Ittihad has to be winning games and I think that Bilic and his coaching staff will take us in the right direction. It’s mentally tough when you keep losing, but we have great players in the team and we know we should be higher than where we are.
“We just need more belief and I certainly feel the new coach will give us that. Then I’m sure we’ll shoot up the table.”
On a personal level, Jurman now has the opportunity to work with a coach who enjoyed a distinguished career playing in his position. An uncompromising center-back, Bilic reached the World Cup semifinals with Croatia in 1998 and also played in the Premier League with Everton and West Ham.
“He’s right up there with the best coaches in the league and of course was a great player,” Jurman said. “Obviously he played in my position so I’m excited to learn from him and I’m sure he can help make me a better player.
“It’s been a difficult start to the season but now we can look forward and I’m sure that the new coach and his staff are going to get us back on track.”
Jurman made a bold career move by deciding to swap Suwon Bluewings for Al-Ittihad in July after a successful 18-month stint in South Korea.
But despite the tough introduction to life in Saudi football, the Australia international insisted he has no regrets.
“It’s been a big change coming to Saudi Arabia. Training at night, the temperatures we’re playing in every week — these things take time to get used to. But it’s a great opportunity to experience a culture I’ve never seen before.
“It would have been easy to stay in Korea but when you get a call saying one of the biggest clubs in the Middle East are interested in you, it’s a no-brainer. I was told about the Pro League expansion, how they wanted more foreigners on each team.
“I knew I was going to play against quality players, quality strikers — I wanted to come and test myself.”
As well as enjoying the challenge on the pitch, Jurman has been particularly impressed by the fans off it, playing in front of some huge crowds at King Abdullah Sports City.
“Al-Ittihad is such a big club and even at our away games, our fans usually outnumber the home team. Seeing that type of support is fantastic. The fans are crazy, the best supporters I’ve seen.
“It seems you can’t go anywhere in Jeddah without finding an Al-Ittihad fan and that’s been eye-opening, to see just how much they love football in Saudi Arabia.”
Jurman was not the only Australian to arrive in Saudi Arabia this summer, with Socceroos goalkeeper Brad Jones moving to Al-Nassr from Feyenoord.
And after fellow Aussie Mark Milligan’s summer departure from Al-Ahli, Jurman has been grateful to have another compatriot to speak to.
“I chatted to Mark after our last game in Russia at the World Cup and he helped me make up my mind to move here. He was living in Jeddah too so it was a real shame that he left soon after. The new coach came in there and that’s how it works sometimes in football.
“Now Brad is here too and that’s been great. We’re always chatting on WhatsApp, talking about life and how we’re settling in. It’s always good to have that kind of support.
“Unfortunately for me, Brad’s team is flying at the moment. But I’m sure that before long we’ll turn things round at Al-Ittihad and then we can both be up there.”