Saudi Arabia out to make up for wasted opportunities against Egypt in World Cup dead rubber

Fahad Al-Muwallad is looking to get on the scoresheet for the Green Falcons against Egypt.
Updated 25 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia out to make up for wasted opportunities against Egypt in World Cup dead rubber

  • Green Falcons to face Egypt in final game of Group A
  • Both side already out of the World Cup after defeats to Russia and Uruguay

VOLGOGRAD: Fahad Al-Muwallad has promised to make up for wasted opportunities when he and his Saudi Arabia teammates face Middle East neighbors Egypt in their final match of the World Cup on Monday.
Al-Muwallad, the pacy forward heralded as the Green Falcons’ most dangerous goal-threat, was left on the bench for much of his team’s embarrassing opening day defeat to Russia. By the time he was introduced in the 64th minute, Saudi Arabia were already 2-0 down and would go on to concede three more without response. In their second match, the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay, the diminutive winger was recalled to the starting line-up and employed as a center forward, but struggled against a dominant defense that included the twin towers of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez. 
“The first match was very difficult,” said Al-Muwallad, who spent the past six months on loan at Levante from Al-Ittihad.
“We were surprised, taken aback and confused. We wanted to win. Our match against Uruguay then became a decisive match because we needed to get the three points, but were unable to do so. Against Egypt, we have another difficult match and hope to get the three points.”
The poor results prompted much scrutiny at the highest levels of Saudi Arabian football with Turki Al-Alsheikh, the head of the country’s General Sports Authority, simultaneously taking responsibility and blaming the players.
Al-Muwallad, when asked if the administrative issues had affected their preparations for their final Group A match, instead focused on his team’s chance to make amends.
“Everyone has done their best,” he said.
“The managers of the team gave us a great deal of support, Saudi Arabia supported us. Perhaps we wasted a few opportunities, but we have a chance to make up for what happened since the beginning. We have a bright future ahead of us as players. We want to win the three points and we want to make the Saudi fans happy and hope that we will be able to do so.”
While the Green Falcons are without a World Cup win for 12 consecutive games, a streak running back to 1994, Egypt have never won at the tournament. Yet it is the Pharaohs that have the better record against their neighbors from across the Red Sea. After six FIFA-recognized meetings, Egypt lead the head-to-head series with four wins and a draw. With English Premier League top goalscorer Mohamed Salah in their ranks, Hector Cuper’s side will enter the match at Volgograd Arena as favorites. 
“Of course our match against Egypt will be a very difficult match,” Al-Muwallad said. “Every squad and team dreams of winning a World Cup game. We want those three points, regardless of the opponent and while we respect them, I think they recognize that the Saudi team a is a team to be reckoned with. We will enjoy the match.”
Juan Antonio Pizzi, the Saudi Arabia coach, said he has no specific plan to combat the threat of Salah, much like he employed no particular man-marking plan against Uruguay’s Luis Suarez. His Green Falcons, however, are well aware of the Liverpool forward’s threat.
“When you face an opposition that has high individual qualities, you have to show this to your players and prepare them so they know what to do to stave them off,” said Pizzi. “Salah has huge qualities and it is no coincidence that he has had such a wonderful career — especially this past year in England — so we will take precautions and try to contain him — although not only him — and stave off any sort of attacking play that they might try to develop.”
With midfielder Taiseer Al-Jassem pulling his hamstring against Uruguay and Omar Hawsawi and Mohammed Al-Burayk also struggling to be fit, Pizzi will likely need to shuffle his pack. Yet while the Argentine conceded he is already thinking about next January’s Asian Cup, he said he does not intend to use the dead rubber as a chance to give younger players experience. 
“We will field the best team possible,” Pizzi said. “Of course, we have 23 players in the squad, but we will choose the team that will provide us our very best opportunity in a match that is very important for us. We will give our very best and play our best possible line-up. 
“Regarding strategies and tactics, we know how Egypt play. I have a very good relationship with Hector Cuper and have known him for a very long time. So we will try to impose our way of playing and try to prevail with a win.”


David Warner on fire in IPL return after ball-tampering ban but epic knock not enough to stop Kolkata

Updated 24 March 2019
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David Warner on fire in IPL return after ball-tampering ban but epic knock not enough to stop Kolkata

  • Warner did not play in the 2018 edition of the IPL tournament
  • During his ban, he played T20 franchise cricket in Canada, Bangladesh and the Caribbean

KOLKATA: Australia’s David Warner smashed 85 from 53 balls on his Indian Premier League comeback Sunday but his knock went in vain as Sunrisers Hyderabad lost to Kolkata Knight Riders.
Warner, who along with compatriot Steve Smith returns to the Twenty20 tournament after missing the previous edition due to a ball-tampering controversy, steered Sunrisers to 181 for three after being put into bat.
Warner did not play in the 2018 edition of the IPL tournament after organizers stopped him for his part in the scandal.
His one-year ban from international cricket ends later this month and the 32-year-old opener is expected to make Australia’s World Cup squad and play in this summer’s Ashes series in England.
During his ban, he played T20 franchise cricket in Canada, Bangladesh and the Caribbean, and grade cricket in Australia.
His efforts though were not enough, with Andre Russell hitting an unbeaten 49 off 19 balls as the Knight Riders won by six wickets with two balls to spare at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.
A pause for a floodlight failure in the 16th over re-charged Knight Riders’ chase as Russell put together an unbeaten 65-run stand with Shubman Gill, who hit 18 runs including the winning six.
Russell struck four fours and four sixes
Earlier Warner stood out during a 118-run opening stand with England’s Jonny Bairstow, who made 39, to lay the platform for their big total.
“It is good to get out there and contribute. It looked a nice wicket to bat on but it slowed down a bit which made us reassess after six overs,” Warner said after his knock.
The Australian admitted some anxiety before his big return to IPL — and an unusual solution.
“I was a bit nervous in the dressing room and kept drinking pickle juice,” he said.
Opener Warner survived a reprieve on 38 after Knight Riders captain and wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik dropped him off left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
Warner, who captained Sunrisers to their only IPL title in 2016, made the most of the spill and raced to his 37th IPL fifty with a six off Russell to signal his aggressive intent.
Bairstow was bowled by leg-spinner Piyush Chawla but Warner took the attack to the opposition, hitting nine fours and three sixes during his blitz.
Warner, who recently recovered from an elbow injury he picked in the Bangladesh Premier League, finally fell to Russell after driving the ball to cover.
Warner said his elbow “wasn’t all too bad” after doing a lot of work with his trainer back home.
Year-long bans from state and international cricket for Warner and Smith end on March 28 but the duo are keen to get among the runs in the IPL, ahead of the 50-over World Cup starting in May.
The suspension did not include club games but IPL’s governing council decided not to allow the disgraced duo in the 11th edition of the T20 league last year in a bid to avoid controversy.
The pair were banned for cheating in a Cape Town Test in March last year along with teammate Cameron Bancroft, whose nine-month ban has already finished.
Smith is expected to appear for his team Rajasthan Royals in their opening match against Kings XI Punjab in Jaipur on Monday.