Peru offer perfect South American test for Saudi Arabia ahead of Uruguay World Cup match

Davide Zappacosta of Italy (L) competes for the ball with Taiseer Jaber Al Jassam of Saudi Arabia during the International Friendly match between Saudi Arabia and Italy on May 28, 2018 in St Gallen, Switzerland. (Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Updated 03 June 2018
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Peru offer perfect South American test for Saudi Arabia ahead of Uruguay World Cup match

  • Arab News understands that some of the players who did not feature in the 2-1 defeat against Italy last week will get a final chance to impress the boss
  • Peru, who take on France, Denmark and Australia in Group C, have an in-demand Argentine coach of their own in Ricardo Gareca

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s friendly against Peru today is not only the last chance for five players to impress before the final World Cup squad of 23 is named tomorrow, it is the team’s first South American test in almost four years.
The last came in October 2014 when a last-minute strike from Naif Hazazi earned a 1-1 draw with Uruguay in Jeddah. The same team are the Green Falcons’ second opponents in Russia, on June 20, six days after the
opening match against the hosts in Moscow, their final group match is against Egypt on June 25.
“This is a good test for us,” coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said.
“Peru may not play exactly in the same way as Uruguay but it is still good experience for the players.”
The Argentine boss led Chile to the 2016 Copa America title and his knowledge of the continent’s teams may prove useful against a Peru side
preparing for their first World Cup since 1982.
“This is the next step in our preparations and it is a vital one,” said Pizzi, who led Saudi Arabia to victories over Algeria and Greece last month and went on to stress that the side use this match to keep implementing his
tactics ahead of the big kick-off in 11 days’ time.
“The players have been working hard and responding well in training and in games. We want to keep building on that and developing.”
Arab News understands that some of the players who did not feature in the 2-1 defeat against Italy last week will get a final chance to impress the boss. It is especially important for playmaker Nawaf Al-Abed to show he has fully recovered from a lengthy injury.
There is also, however, a feeling that this game, sandwiched between the two glamor friendlies against Italy and Germany, offers an improving Saudi Arabia a chance to collect a good result against a fellow World Cup participant. Whatever happens, heading into the opening game against Russia on the back of three successive defeats would not be ideal.
There may be a more aggressive start in St. Gallen compared to the relatively cautious first half against Italy. There is also the question over whether to start with a recognized striker in the form of Mohannad Aseri or Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, or to play with a more mobile frontline that includes speedy attackers Fahad Al-Muwallad and Yahya Al-Shehri.
Against Italy, Aseri failed to have much impact as the Italians cut off the supply line to the Al-Ahli target man but after his substitution and the introduction of Al-Muwallad, the Green Falcons started to cause problems with their pace.
Veteran midfielder Taisir Al-Jassim is a certain starter in Russia and, regardless of results, is only concerned with using these games to prepare the team as perfectly as possible for June 14.
“This training camp is about getting the team ready physically and technically,” the Al-Ahli man said.
“We can take confidence from the game against Italy and now we need to build on that against Peru and whatever the outcome of the games, they have a purpose which is to continue the team’s development.”
The second-half performance against Italy was encouraging and a continuation of that against a team that arrived in Europe from South America only on Friday, after defeating Scotland 2-0 two days earlier in a final game on home soil, is what Pizzi is looking for.
Peru, who take on France, Denmark and Australia in Group C, have an in-demand Argentine coach of their own in Ricardo Gareca.
“This is the first game in Europe and we need to become accustomed to the conditions,” he said. “We know that Saudi Arabia played well against Italy and this will be a good test.”
The South Americans have been heartened by news that star captain and all-time leading goalscorer Paolo Guerrero had a 14-month ban for cocaine use overturned earlier in the week and will be available for the tournament in Russia.


Leonard stars as Raptors claw back with win over Bucks

Updated 20 May 2019
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Leonard stars as Raptors claw back with win over Bucks

  • Milwaukee’s MVP finalist Giannis Antetokounmpo struggles to just 12 points
  • He then fouled out in the first minute of the second overtime period

LOS ANGELES: Kawhi Leonard scored eight of his 36 points in the second overtime period Sunday to lead the Toronto Raptors to a gritty 118-112 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
The Raptors, who dropped the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Milwaukee, clawed their way back to 2-1 in front of home fans and will try to level the set when they host game four on Tuesday.
Pascal Siakam scored 25 points and Spanish center Marc Gasol added 16 for the Raptors, who got off to a quick start and led much of the night but had to battle to put the Bucks away.
“We just played a lot tougher,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We were up guarding, we were physical. We were ready to play tonight.”
Milwaukee’s Most Valuable Player finalist Giannis Antetokounmpo struggled to just 12 points on five-of-16 shooting.
Antetokounmpo’s 23 rebounds helped the Bucks stay in touch, but he didn’t reach double figures in points until the middle of the fourth quarter and he produced eight of the Bucks’ 20 turnovers.
Antetokounmpo fouled out in the first minute of the second overtime period.
Moments later the Bucks managed to edge ahead 105-103 — taking the lead for the first time since Antetokounmpo scored the game’s opening basket — but Leonard and the Raptors roared back.
Leonard’s steal and dunk put Toronto ahead 112-109 and his driving bank shot gave Toronto a 114-110 lead with 32.4 seconds remaining.
Leonard played a key role in limiting Antetokounmpo and Nurse said his defensive play was “probably the biggest key of the game.”
“Not only did he just play good, but he made some huge plays with some steals and rip-aways and break aways,” Nurse said.
“Offense was hard to come by there for both teams for a while and any time you can get a steal and a break out it’s a huge momentum play.”
Toronto had a chance to win it in regulation, but they let a 96-91 lead slip away in the final 1:13 of the fourth quarter.
Milwaukee guard Khris Middleton’s putback basket from his own miss with 2.2 seconds left in regulation forced overtime.
The Raptors led 103-99 with 1:29 remaining in the first extra session.
But Malcolm Brogdon floated in a shot and George Hill drained two free throws to tie it before Leonard’s jump shot fell short.
The Raptors overcame a slow night from Kyle Lowry, who scored 11 points before fouling out with 6:12 left in the fourth.
Although Leonard scored 19 points in the fourth quarter and both overtimes, some grimaces from the Raptors star sparked concerns he might be injured.
“I’m feeling all right,” he said. “This is playoff basketball. Everybody’s hurting, you just have to keep fighting.”
Hill led the Bucks with 24 points and fellow reserve Brogdon added 20. Center Brook Lopez led the Bucks starters with 16 points.
“I feel like we gave ourselves several chances,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We weren’t able to get over the hump.
“When you have opportunities you’ve got to make them and we didn’t quite make enough of our good ones. I think we’ll be better in game four, Giannis, everybody.”