Saudi Arabia feeling confident after defeat to Germany

Saudi Arabia may have been second best against Germany but they give a good account of themselves ahead of the World Cup.
Updated 09 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia feeling confident after defeat to Germany

  • Green Falcons early shock world champions in Leverkusen.
  • Players in bullish mood ahead of World Cup opener against Russia.

Saudi Arabia may have lost to Germany on Friday night but Juan Antonio Pizzi said the Green Falcons head to the World Cup full of confidence.
The 2-1 defeat went the way of the pre-match predictions — Germany at home were never likely to lose — but the performance of Pizzi’s side hinted at a new-found maturity and that the new coach’s ideas were finally being taken on board by the players.
Germany may have brought their five-game losing streak to an end but had to rely on Mats Hummels denying Mohammad Al-Sahlawi an injury-time equalizer — Timo Werner and a Omar Hawsawi own goal gave the hosts the lead they never relinquished, although a Taisir Al-Jassim stoke late on gave the world champions a nervy last six minutes.
Germany started at an electrifying pace and could have been three up after 20 minutes. But having ridden their luck Saudi Arabia settled into the match and could have snatched a last-minute goal.
Pizzi was doubtless the happier of the two managers and after the match his contentment was obvious to pick up. Just four days out from the side’s opening clash against Russia the Argentine coach is certain his team is exactly where they need to be.
“It was a very good match and were very happy to compete one of the greatest teams in the world,” Pizzi said.
“The level of our game is getting better, there was a great improvement and we had good control of the game for long period of time.
“There were moments in the match we can look back on and say we did well, we created chances. We created opportunities to score more than one goal.”
The upbeat nature of Pizzi might seem weird considering the Green Falcons head into the tournament on the back of three defeats. Losses to Italy (2-1) and Peru (3-0) before the Germany clash, however, despite the scorelines, hinted at a team on the rise and getting better with every match.
There is still little doubt that Saudi Arabia face a tough task in Russia, despite it being one of the easier groups — as well as the hosts the Green Falcons face Uruguay and Egypt — making the knockout stages will still represent a great success.
But having seen his side improve with every match during the pre-tournament friendlies, Pizzi is sure they can do well.
“Regardless of the past three defeats I still have very high hopes and confidence we’ll do well,” he said.
“Hopefully this performance sets us up for success in Russia.”
The result arguably does more for Saudi Arabia’s hopes than Germany, who, having gone into the match winless in five matches, left the pitch with still more questions than answers.
“We squandered many chances and allowed many chances today. We were even lucky in the end,” Germany coach Joachim Low said.
He remained optimistic, however.
“I’m not worried because I know that we’re going to keep improving. We’ll be ready when (the World Cup) starts,” Low said. next week.”


‘On edge’ Federer makes winning Paris return

Updated 18 min 26 sec ago
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‘On edge’ Federer makes winning Paris return

  • Angelique Kerber’s hopes of completing career Grand slam end after early exit
  • Kerber, 31, has now lost six times in the French Open first round

PARIS: Roger Federer marked his return to Roland Garros after a four-year absence with a straight sets win over Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego on Sunday, admitting he “felt on edge,” as Angelique Kerber’s hopes of completing a career Grand Slam suffered a quick kill.

Federer, a 20-time major winner, had not played the tournament since 2015 when he reached the quarterfinals.

However, on Sunday, it was as if the 37-year-old had never been away as he swept to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 victory in one hour 41 minutes on a packed, rebuilt Court Philippe Chatrier.

It was his 60th successive first round win at a Grand Slam.

“I felt on edge at the start, my heart was beating crazily,” said Federer, who hailed the new-look stadium which has been 90 percent rebuilt in readiness for the installation of a retractable roof for 2020.

“I felt great playing on this court. It looks very attractive, so congratulations to everyone involved.

“Hopefully I can play here again for my next match.”

That match will be against German lucky loser Oscar Otte who won just his second match in eight years on the tour by seeing off Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.

“I would be surprised if Roger knew my name,” said Otte, the world No. 145.

Federer broke serve five times and fired 36 winners past 24-year-old Sonego, the world No. 73 who made the quarterfinals at the Monte Carlo Masters.

German fifth seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Kerber saw her hopes of a career Grand Slam ended by Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova.

Kerber slumped to a 6-4, 6-2 defeat to 18-year-old Potapova who was making her French Open debut.

“Kerber is actually one of my idols, and when I was young I was looking for her game,” said the 81st-ranked Russian who hit 28 winners past her German opponent.

Kerber, 31, has now lost six times in the French Open first round.

The German left-hander had come into Roland Garros carrying a right ankle injury which forced her to pull out of the Italian Open and retire from her second round tie in Madrid.

“I didn’t have many expectations coming in,” said Kerber, who was broken six times in the match which brought the curtain up on the newlook Chatrier arena.

Potapova’s first win over a top 10 player gives her a second round clash against 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.

Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who stunned Federer on his way to the Australian Open semifinals and beat 11-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal in Madrid, also made the second round.

The 20-year-old sixth seed brushed aside Germany’s Maximilian Marterer 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).

The new Court Simonne Mathieu, a 5,000-capacity semi-sunken arena enclosed by greenhouses, was officially unveiled on Sunday.

It forms part of the €350 million upgrade of the entire site which will also see the demolition of the Court 1 ‘bullring’ after the 2018 tournament.

Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 champion, had the honor of opening proceedings against America’s Taylor Townsend and the 19th seed marked the occasion with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win.

“It’s cute,” said the Spaniard. “It’s not small, but it’s, you know, cozy.”

Other winners on the first day included Japanese seventh seed Kei Nishikori, a quarterfinalist in 2015, who eased past France’s Quentin Halys 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

However, Italian 16th seed Marco Cecchinato, the man who sent Novak Djokovic crashing out in the quarterfinals in 2018, fell at the first hurdle.

Cecchinato lost to 37-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Mahut —  who has slipped to 253 in the world — 2-6, 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Canada teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime withdrew from the tournament with a thigh injury, just a day after finishing runner-up to Benoit Paire in Lyon.

The 18-year-old was seeded 25 and had been due to face Australia’s Jordan Thompson in the first round on his maiden appearance in the main draw in Paris.

Auger-Aliassime’s spot in the first round draw has been taken by Spanish lucky loser Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova closed play on Chatrier with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Madison Brengle of the US.