Effort and experience: Five things we learned from Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Saudi Arabia squad

Juan Antonio Pizzi has revealed the men he trusts to represent Saudi Arabia in Russia this summer.
Updated 05 June 2018
0

Effort and experience: Five things we learned from Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Saudi Arabia squad

  • Argentine boss not willing to risk unfit players in Russia.
  • A lot of pressure on Green Falcons' midfield to produce the goals.

Juan Antonio Pizzi has revealed his cards and named the 23 men he will trust to try to steer Saudi Arabia to success at the World Cup. Here are the five things we have learned from the Argentine’s selections:
YASSER AL-SHAHRANI IS KEY: It may not be that brave these days to take two recognized strikers to a major tournament but three full-backs is something else. The bonus for Pizzi is that Al-Shahrani can play on either side, providing a two-in-one option that enables the boss to load the plane with 11 midfielders.

ONLY THE FITTEST SURVIVE: Only the fittest survive: Since Pizzi arrived in November, the Argentine has tried to ramp up the intensity. There is more energy, more pressing and more sweat on display. The omission of the talented but recently injured Nawaf Al-Abed illustrates that anyone who was not 100 percent was never going to get to Russia. If Saudi Arabia have any chance of getting out of the group then hard work and effort will be key. Any player whose fitness is in question can make themselves comfortable on the subs’ bench safe in the knowledge that is where they will most likely stay.

MIDFIELD IS WHERE THE ATTACKING INTENT WILL COME FROM: Saudi 
Arabia just do not have top-quality strikers. Mohammed Al-Sahlawi and Mohanad Aseri are unlikely to strike fear into opposition defenses. There is, however, plenty of attacking talent among the raft of midfielders named and it may well be that a version of a strikerless Green Falcons is spotted in Russia this summer.

NAWAF AL-ABED IS UNLUCKY: The Al-Hilal midfielder did so much to get the Green Falcons to their first World Cup since 2006 and if Bert van Marwijk was still in charge, he would likely be in the squad despite his injury woes. Pizzi knows the player less well. Had Al-Abed been fit a month earlier to take the pitch against Algeria or Greece then things may have been different, but coming in against a rampant Peru team, one full of energy and talent, was unfortunate for a player with almost zero game time under his belt. His creativity will be missed.

EXPERIENCE MATTERS: Take the recovering Al-Abed out of the equation and all those who missed the cut were players who were far from 
national team regulars. Assaf Al-Qarni in goal, defenders Saeed Al-Mowalad and Mohammed Jahfali and midfielder Mohammed Al-Kwikbi have barely 30 international appearances between them. Pizzihas gone with experience and with 80,000 hostile fans waiting in Moscow in the opening game, perhaps it will prove to be a wise decision.


Platini released from custody after police questioning

Updated 19 June 2019
0

Platini released from custody after police questioning

  • French authorities haven’t announced any charges against Platini
  • The authorities also questioned a sport adviser from the previous French president’s administration

PARIS: Former UEFA president Michel Platini was released from custody in the early hours of Wednesday after being questioned as part of a corruption investigation into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
His communication team said that Platini’s detention ended at 12:30 a.m. local time.
Platini had denied any wrongdoing and French authorities did not announce any charges against the former France and Juventus player.
“It was long, but given the number of questions it could not be different,” Platini said after his release. “They asked me questions about the 2016 Euro, the World Cup in Russia, the World Cup in Qatar, the Paris Saint-Germain, FIFA.”
Also questioned Tuesday were Sophie Dion, a sports adviser in former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s administration, and Claude Gueant, the former secretary general of the Elysee presidential palace under Sarkozy.
Ahead of the FIFA vote, Sarkozy hosted a meeting in November 2010 that brought Platini together with Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, then the crown prince of Qatar and now its ruling emir. Al-Thani also owns the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, and Sarkozy frequently attends its games.
Qatar beat the long-favored United States 14 to 8 when FIFA selected the host country for the 2022 World Cup
As head of European soccer’s governing body UEFA, Platini was the continent’s top representative on the FIFA committee that picked Qatar.
French prosecutors are known to be investigating an array of winning bids for major sports events, including the 2018 World Cup, awarded to Russia, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and track and field world championships.

*********

READ MORE: TIMELINE: The trail of corruption allegations surrounding the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

*********