Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

Pizzi has seen the Green Falcons lose both their matches in Russia, to the hosts and group favorites Uruguay.
Updated 22 June 2018
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Juan Antonio Pizzi is still the right man to lead Saudi Arabia, says former Green Falcons boss

  • Saudi Arabia's 1996 Asian Cup-winning coach Nelo Vingada backs Pizzi to lead side into next year's Asian Cup.
  • Green Falcons face Egypt on Monday with both looking to land their first point in Russia.

MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia’s 1996 Asian Cup-winning boss Nelo Vingada has called on the country’s football authorities to keep faith with head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi despite a disappointing showing in Russia.
The Green Falcons still have to face Egypt in the final match of Group A, but have already been eliminated following a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Russia in the opening game on June 14 in Moscow and a 1-0 loss to Uruguay five days later in Rostov.
 “I was expecting a little more from Saudi Arabia to be honest,” Vingada told Arab News.
“In the first game they were disappointing but a first game of the World Cup is always hard and especially when it is the first game and everyone is watching. Plenty of teams at the World Cup did not play well in the first game.
“But playing Russia in Russia and to lose is what you would normally expect from Saudi Arabia and while it was far from positive, people should not get carried away.
“The game with Uruguay was much improved in terms of organization and defense and it showed more of the character of the Saudi Arabia team.”
In the past, coaches have been axed following disappointing World Cup campaigns but with the 2019 Asian Cup just seven months away, the Portuguese tactician would prefer to see some stability rather than yet another new man in the dugout.
 “The Asian Cup is in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will be one of the contenders,” Vingada said. “It is better to stay with the same coach. He has a vision of how he wants the team to play and he now knows the players and the players know him.”
Constant changing has not helped Saudi Arabia in the past and Pizzi himself has been in the job just seven months.
“The problem is not the coach. He should not be changed, that has happened before but results did not improve, but the mentality has to change.”
Despite that Vingada, who has coached 
Egyptian club giants Zamalek and the country’s Under-23 team, believes that the Pharaohs, also eliminated, will prevail when the two regional rivals meet on Monday in Volgograd.
 “This is an important game for pride, the players and the countries. It is still the World Cup. Egypt have a little more quality I think and have Mohamed Salah too.” 
The Liverpool striker has been recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in late May and missed the opening game 1-0 loss to Uruguay. He played in the second game, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Russia, scoring from the spot late in the match to earn a consolation.
“Any coach would take Salah because he can win you games but overall Egypt have been a little disappointing and a little unlucky.”
The bad luck came when conceding a last-minute goal to Uruguay and a fluke own goal to get Russia off the mark. “Uruguay are a tough team and it is no shame to lose 3-1 to a Russia team at home who are playing to qualify for the next round. It showed that European and South American teams still have a little more quality.”
 “Egypt just made some mistakes at the wrong time but this is football and without mistakes there are no goals.”
Ahead of the clash against Egypt Pizzi confirmed his intention to stay as Saudi Arabia boss, looking to build on the seven months he has had to imprint his ideas on the team ahead of the Asian Cup.


WHAT WE LEARNED: Reflective Cristiano Ronaldo and title-chasing Liverpool

Updated 17 September 2018
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WHAT WE LEARNED: Reflective Cristiano Ronaldo and title-chasing Liverpool

  • Liverpool look ready to mount a serious title challenge this season.
  • Barcelona unbeaten but look beatable.

LONDON: It was another busy weekend of action across Europe with all the big clubs in action ahead of the return of the Champions League. Here is what we learned.

RONALDO IS HUMAN

After three matches and no goals, everyone was wondering whether Cristiano Ronaldo had left his scoring boots in Madrid. Two hundred and seventy minutes without a goal is not so much a lean period as a drought of epic proportions for the Portuguese. But the new Juventus star was never going to wait too long for his first Serie A goal, as he got a brace in the Old Lady’s 2-1 win over Sassuolo — the first a tap in from 30cms, the second a drilled shot from the edge of the area. But even Ronaldo was forced to admit he had been worried about his “slow” start. “There’s been a bit of anxiety in general since my move from Madrid — there was a great expectation,” he said after the match. Ronaldo suffering a bit from self-doubt? That is something we thought we would never write.

LIVERPOOL ARE THE REAL DEAL

The Reds were blown away 4-1 when they faced Tottenham at Wembley last season. It was a scoreline that could have easily been far more embarrassing. This time around it was a different story. During their 2-1 win Liverpool never really looked threatened by their fellow title-chasers and while their attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino looked as impressive as ever, it was what Liverpool did without the ball that really marked this side out as different from last year’s crop. The high press, and organization from the back, combined with the intensity with which they play mean it will take a very good side to stop them from going all the way this season. If they can keep their stars fit, maintain that aggression with and without the ball, then whoever finishes above them will win the Premier League.

PERFECT RECORD NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR BARCA

With four wins from four, you would expect everyone at the Nou Camp to be happy and smiling. But you would be wrong. The Catalan club came from behind to 
win 2-1 at Real Sociedad on Saturday, but while the three points and remaining top of La Liga are nothing to be sniffed at, it was the manner of the performance that has created worry at the perennial winners. At Barcelona it is not simply enough to win and pick up trophies, you need to be playing well and put on a show for the ever-demanding fans. Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said that this is not currently the case. “It’s obvious that there are things that can be improved,” he said at the weekend. The main aim this season is Champions League glory. On the evidence of their domestic form so far that looks like a pipe dream.