Buck stops with Juan Antonio Pizzi for Saudi Arabia’s ‘shameful’ World Cup defeat to Russia

Saudi Arabian Football Federation said the future of Juan Antonio Pizzi will not be discussed in the media as the Green Falcons try to get to grips with the “bitterness” of the heavy defeat to Russia. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2018
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Buck stops with Juan Antonio Pizzi for Saudi Arabia’s ‘shameful’ World Cup defeat to Russia

LONDON: The vice president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation said the future of Juan Antonio Pizzi will not be discussed in the media as the Green Falcons try to get to grips with the “bitterness” of the heavy defeat to Russia on the opening night.
Saudi Arabia suffered their second heaviest defeat in World Cup history when the hosts put five unanswered goals past them at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Federation president Adel Ezzat called the performance “totally unsatisfactory” while General Sports Authority chief Turki Al-Sheikh labelled the effort “a total fiasco.”
Pizzi took his share of responsibility for matters, calling the outcome “a shameful situation” and former Green Falcons international Nawaf Al-Temyat concurred that the buck stops with the coach.
“The coach is technically responsible for the loss of our team,” said Al-Temyat in a video interview published on the Saudi Arabian Football Federation Twitter account.
“You are well aware that we cannot discuss the decisions taken by the coach during the match and the actions to be taken before the media.”
Saudi Arabia enjoyed 60 percent of possession, but failed to muster a single shot on target. Russia were more clinical in both boxes and the Green Falcons struggled to cope with their directness.
“We lost on the style,” Al-Temyat said. “We allowed them to impose their way of playing that differs from ours, and it is physical. The ball acquisition was null. It is a technical issue that needs to be addressed. They did not cooperate together as required.”
Saudi Arabia need to pick themselves up before facing Uruguay on Wednesday, but Al-Temyat believes it may take a while to get over the Russia game.
“We should not forget what happened and the bitterness of what happened (on Thursday), but this should be addressed in a proper way that reflects the players, the administrative staff and the national team,” he said.


England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

Updated 18 November 2018
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England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

  • Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from manager Southgate
  • England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead

LONDON: Harry Kane fired England into the Nations League semifinals as Gareth Southgate’s side scored twice in the last 12 minutes to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory over Croatia on Sunday.
England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead against the run of play in the second half at Wembley.
But Southgate’s vibrant young side pulled off a stirring escape act in the closing stages to gain a measure of revenge for their World Cup semifinal defeat against Croatia earlier this year.
Jesse Lingard came off the bench to poach England’s equalizer and captain Kane was on hand to turn in the winner with five minutes left.
England’s fightback took them to the top of Group A4, above Spain and relegated Croatia, and they can look forward to playing in the last four in June next year.
It was a cathartic moment for England, who have made a habit of suffering painful defeats against Croatia, with this year’s World Cup woe following the 2007 loss that cost them a place at Euro 2008.
More importantly, the performance provided further tangible proof that Southgate is building a team capable of challenging for the major prizes after years of under-achievement.
England’s appearance in the semifinals of the Nations League, which are set to be held in Portugal next June, offers another chance to reach their first major final since 1966.
Following the 3-2 Nations League win over Spain in Seville last month, this tournament has been a serious statement of intent from Southgate’s team and they will go into 2019 with great expectations.
From start to finish, England were the dominant force, although they were fortunate to escape when Ante Rebic shot over after Jordan Pickford fumbled Fabian Delph’s backpass.
Kane slipped a perfectly-weighted pass through to Raheem Sterling and the Manchester City winger’s blistering pace sent him clear of the Croatia defense.
With only Lovre Kalinic to beat, Sterling let Croatia off the hook as he directed a hesitant shot straight at the keeper.
England kept probing intelligently, with the speed of Sterling and Marcus Rashford providing their main threat.
Delph’s pass sparked a frantic sequence, forcing Kalinic to dash out of his area to head away from Sterling.
When Kalinic’s clearance fell to Kane, the England captain’s effort was headed off the line by Tin Jedvaj.
The rebound fell to Kane, but Kalinic, by now back in his goal, used his legs to foil the Tottenham striker with a last-ditch save.
It was more of the same at the start of the second half, but once again England couldn’t find the killer touch.
That profligacy looked as though it would prove fatal when Croatia snatched the lead after 56 minutes.
Kramaric was allowed time and space to turn in the area and the Hoffenheim forward took full advantage, clipping a shot that deflected off Eric Dier and looped over Pickford’s despairing dive.
Southgate responded by sending on Lingard and the change reaped an instant reward as England equalized in the 78th minute.
Joe Gomez’s long throw was flicked on by John Stones and Kane prodded past Kalinic, leaving Lingard with the simple task of tapping in from virtually on the goal-line.
England’s deserved winner arrived in the 85th minute.
Ben Chilwell curled over a teasing low free-kick and Kane timed his run to perfection, guiding his shot past Kalinic from close-range.
Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from Southgate, who leapt into the air as he punched the air on the touchline.
Kane had joked with his fiancee this week that he would cry if England ever win a trophy, but he couldn’t guarantee he would weep when they get married.
Thanks to their thrilling comeback, England could bring a tear to Kane’s eyes in the Finals next year.