Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi welcomes participation of Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah is expected to play some part in Egypt's Group A campaign. (AFP)
Updated 08 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi welcomes participation of Mohamed Salah

  • Green Falcons set to meet Egypt on June 25
  • Salah is expected to recover from shoulder injury by then

Juan Antonio Pizzi is happy Mohamed Salah will be in Russia even though the Egyptian ace could dump Saudi Arabia out of the World Cup.
A lot of the pre-tournament focus has been on Salah’s shoulder — the hopes of a nation resting on the healing powers of the Liverpool star who injured it during his side’s Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.
While it is still not known when he will be able to play, Salah did make the Egypt squad and all the noises coming out of the camp are that he will be able to get back on the pitch sooner rather than later. That means he is more than likely to line-up against Saudi Arabia in the last game in Group A, a match that could prove pivotal to both sides’ hopes of making the knockout stages.
“We are happy that Mohamed Salah is in the Egyptian squad of 23 and will be playing in the World Cup,” Green Falcons boss Pizzi said.
“We appreciate the efforts that Salah has done to be here. We know that (he) has played well for six months with Liverpool. He (has been) a great player with them and scored many beautiful goals.”
All the focus on Salah and his shoulder has removed attention away from the other 22 players, which, considering the side is without a win this year and lost 3-0 to Belgium on Wednesday, is no bad thing. But Pizzi is all too aware that a belief that Egypt without Salah, or with a misfiring Salah, are easy fodder would be wrong.
“We respect the all Egyptian National team and not just Mohamed Salah,” he said.
Before they face Egypt, however, Saudi Arabia come up against Russia on Thursday and Uruguay six days’ later — the outcomes of which will determine whether the Green Falcons go into the Egypt clash with everything still to play for.
The World Cup opener against the hosts will be Pizzi’s first competitive match as Saudi Arabia coach; the eyes of the globe will be watching but Pizzi is remaining calm.
“Sure, we have faith in our players and in the way they were prepared. It is my first World Cup opener as a coach for a national team. We have prepared the players in the best possible way and we gave them all they needed to be at the highest levels. We will wait and see how things will go in the first game.
“Of course we will play the first match and that is exceptional and everybody will be excited. We have high hopes regarding this game. All the media, people and fans are waiting for this game.”


A HAT-TRICK OF HOPES: What the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be looking for from their friendly

Updated 20 March 2019
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A HAT-TRICK OF HOPES: What the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be looking for from their friendly

  • Can the Whites and Green Falcons find the back of the net more often?
  • Both teams need to set the tone ahead of the important World Cup qualifiers.

LONDON: Ahead of Thursday’s friendly between the UAE and Saudi Arabia Arab News looks at the main priorities for both sides as they embark on their new eras after the Asian Cup and ahead of the all-important the World Cup qualifiers.

FIND THOSE SCORING BOOTS

For the past 18 months both sides have struggled for goals. Under Alberto Zaccheroni the UAE scored just 10 goals in the past nine matches — five of those coming against lowly Kyrgyzstan and India — and likewise the Green Falcons have also struggled to find the back of the net. Heading toward the World Cup qualifiers, now is the time to find those scoring boots.

PUT ON A SHOW

Both sides have technically gifted players, can keep the ball and at times trouble opposition defenses. But both have been too defensive, too safety-first and, at times, too dull. Football is supposed to be entertainment, and the friendlies ahead of the World Cup qualifiers might be no bad time to throw caution to the wind and see what the players can do in the final third.

SET THE TONE

As the modern cliche goes, a week is a long time in football. With all the sackings and player movements, it is not hard to see the kernel of truth in that overused saying. But, conversely, time can also move very fast in the “Beautiful Game.” It may be six months before the World Cup qualifiers begin, but it will be September before the coaches and players know it. Set the tone and tactics now and triumphs will be easier to come by then and, more importantly, further into the future.