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
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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.


‘My feelings? Mixed’: Sebastian Vettel clings on in desperate Lewis Hamilton pursuit as Kimi Raikonnen wins US Grand Prix

Updated 22 October 2018
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‘My feelings? Mixed’: Sebastian Vettel clings on in desperate Lewis Hamilton pursuit as Kimi Raikonnen wins US Grand Prix

AUSTIN: Sebastian Vettel said he felt mixed emotions after keeping his slender title challenge alive by finishing fourth in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix, won by Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
The four-time champion, who started fifth on the grid after taking a three-place penalty, recovered from an opening lap spin to fight through the field in a tactical contest that left Lewis Hamilton frustrated in his bid to clinch his fifth drivers world title.
“My feelings? Mixed,” he said. “Happy. Really happy for Kimi. But not much for me. It should have been a better day.”
Vettel can only stop Hamilton taking his fifth drivers title next weekend in Mexico by winning the race and hoping Hamilton hits problems that keep him out of the top seven places.
He said he suffered a major blow when he clashed with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo on the opening lap.
“I must have been in his blind spot. I’m not sure he saw me. The corner kept tightening and we hit. It was a big loss for me.”
Vettel’s disappointment took nothing away from a resurgent Ferrari’s satisfaction in recovering their mid-season pace, after abandoning several recent upgrades, and claiming a revitalising victory.
“I am very proud of them all,” said Ferrari team chief Maurizio Arrivabene.
“I was always proud of the guys and even more when we are winning races. It’s been hard for us recently and we had a race engineer pass away last weekend.... I have nothing more to add. It was great today. Thank you USA!“
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff admitted that Ferrari had been faster than his team, as he had feared.
“We lacked the pace and I said don’t close it too early. They are very fast. Kimi winning is great for him and for Ferrari, so let’s go to the next race in Mexico now.
“It was difficult to overtake, but for us it was a strategy that got worse as it progressed. We need to re-think and see what we can do better. We put on a good show altogether and that’s what’s more important.”