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.


Oleksandr Usyk wins big fight moved from Saudi Arabia to Moscow

Updated 2 min 35 sec ago
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Oleksandr Usyk wins big fight moved from Saudi Arabia to Moscow

Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk unified the cruiserweight division by beating Russian Murat Gassiev by unanimous decision on Saturday in a fight that was originally due to take place in Saudi Arabia.
The two titans were due to meet at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on May 11, but the fight was called off because Usyk suffered an injury in training. The showdown in the final of the World Boxing Super Series was subsequently moved to Moscow and took place on Saturday night, with $10 million at stake in addition to the honor of winning the first Muhammad Ali Trophy.
Despite facing a hostile crowd in Moscow, Usyk controlled the fight with his jab to add Gassiev’s WBA and IBF titles to his own WBC and WBO belts.
Gassiev landed some heavy body shots when he got inside Usyk’s reach, but started to tire and the Ukrainian was utterly dominant in the later rounds as Gassiev swung wild haymakers.
Usyk, a former Olympic gold medalist, holds all four major titles after just 15 professional fights, all of which he won.
“Moscow, 2018. Bang! Daddy’s in the building,” Usyk said.
Usyk added he could move up to heavyweight to fight the experienced British fighter Tony Bellow.
“If he doesn’t want to drop down (to cruiserweight), I’ll happily go up to meet him,” Usyk said. “I’ll just eat extra pasta.”
It was Usyk’s third fight in 10 months as part of the World Boxing Super Series, in which he also beat German Marco Huck and the then-WBC champion Mairis Briedis.
Gassiev’s record dropped to 26-1 with one no contest. “I had the best opponent in my professional career,” Gassiev said. “I do my best, just today is Oleksandr’s day.”
Usyk was born in Crimea and has said he was forced to leave the peninsula after Russia annexed it from Ukraine in 2014. Despite the tension between the two countries, Usyk and Gassiev embraced warmly after the fight with broad smiles.
On the undercard, Cecilia Braekhus remained the undisputed women’s welterweight champion after beating the relatively inexperienced Russian Inna Sagaydakovskaya by unanimous decision.
The Norwegian, who first won a world title in 2009, has a 34-0 record.