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
0

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.


Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

Updated 20 July 2018
0

Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

  • Portuguese superstar has moved to Italian giants in deal worth nearly $120 million
  • Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid

LONDON: Love him or loathe him, you have to admire Cristiano Ronaldo’s character.
At a time of life when lesser mortals are lured by big paychecks to the likes of Qatar or China, the mercurial Madeiran has opted for what will be his biggest challenge yet at Juventus.
His career over the last decade has been played out under the cloud of the never-ending debate — “Ronaldo or Messi; who is better?”
Thankfully, that circus was quietened somewhat at the recent World Cup. Some flashes of pure brilliance aside, neither player made a big enough impact to lead their respective teams to glory and Messi’s wait for an international trophy goes on.
And, while both players are undeniably in a league of their own, the fact Ronaldo does have a European Championship title under his belt will always tip the argument toward the Portuguese — especially for those who measure greatness in statistics and trophies.
In fairness, Ronaldo’s statistics are mind-boggling. His stint at Manchester United, where he cut his teeth and started to show his potential as a great of the game, was instrumental in the club winning three Premier League titles and their third European crown. His staggering 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid saw him become the Spanish giant’s record goalscorer on his way to winning everything under the sun.
But the Premier League and La Liga are leagues in which attacking footballers flourish. With the dawning of wall-to-wall TV coverage, they have both been transformed to entertain the billions of people who tune in every week — and in this day and age, goalscoring superstars win you fans, not defenses.
The art of defending has all-but disappeared and the culture of building a spine through a team has slowly but surely been eroded away. Nobody wants to watch an engrossing, absorbing, end-to-end goalless draw anymore — it is all about 6-5 thrillers.
But not so in Italy.
Serie A, for all its scandals and fall from grace since its heady days of the 1990s, is still an extremely difficult league to win. It is a league in which fans and managers place great emphasis on defending, on building teams from back-to-front (not the other way around) and on the mentality of “you cannot lose if you don’t concede.”
Granted, Juventus have walked Serie A for the past seven seasons; it is to be expected from one of the richest clubs in the world. But rarely have they won it at a canter. Never once have they scored anywhere near 100 goals in a season to win it — unlike Manchester City in last season’s Premier League, or Barcelona and Real Madrid almost every season in the same period.
And not once has Serie A’s top-goalscorer reached the dizzying heights Ronaldo (and Messi) hit in La Liga season after season, nor has it always been a Juventus player claiming the golden boot.
This all points to a monumental challenge for Ronaldo. On paper, he should not find it as easy to score goals in Serie A and with the marked improvement of Napoli, Roma and Lazio recently, nor will it be an easy ride for Juventus to claim an eighth scudetto in a row this year.
So, while Messi prefers to stay in one country and within his comfort zone of the defense-shy Spanish league, if a 30-something Ronaldo succeeds in Italy — or, better yet, guides Juventus to the European glory the fans crave so much — it would be his most remarkable achievement yet.
And it would put the tiresome debate over who is the greatest ever to bed, once and for all.
No contest.