Al-Hilal hire Spanish technical crew to oversee age-group teams

AL-Hilal players have be getting reacquainted with the gym before they go to Austria to step up pre-season training.
Updated 11 July 2018
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Al-Hilal hire Spanish technical crew to oversee age-group teams

  • Al-Hilal annouce Spanish team to oversee the youth setup at the club.
  • Riyadh giants to step up pre-season training in Austria which includes five friendly games against European opposition.

Al-Hilal have hired a team of Spaniards to look after their age-group teams in a further sign that the Saudi Professional League is looking to become more international in its outlook. The Spanish technical crew will look after the under-17, under-15 and under-13 teams and look to build foundations that will hopefully serve the Riyadh giants well in the future. A club announcement read: “The Spanish technical director Mr. Josep Cifre Alaminos will supervise the technical work of Al-Hilal age-group teams, meanwhile Mr. Francesc Pereto will be in charge of the U-17 team. Mr. Eduardo Balada will be the physical fitness trainer of the team. Mr. Carlos Inarejos will lead the U-15 team, Mr. Miquel Angel Ponce will be their finest coach, while Mr. Eric Barragan will mange the U-13 side.”
The move to try and inject some Spanish flavor into the Al-Hilal setup comes just months after the General Sports Authority and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation signed a deal with Spain’s La Liga to loan nine Saudi Arabian players to Spanish clubs earlier this year.
The headline names in the deal were internationals Salem Al-Dawsari, Yahya Al-Shahri and Fahad-Al Muwallad moving to Villarreal, Leganes and Levante respectively, in a the hope it would prepare them well for the Green Falcons’ World Cup campaign. But the agreement also saw younger, less well-known players move to lower league clubs in a bid to give them an insight into a different footballing culture and allow that to help them grow as players.
Before the loan signings, the vast majority of Saudi Arabia’s best players, both young and old, competed in the country’s top flight. Only one player, Mukhtar Ali, played abroad with Dutch top flight side Vitesse Arnhem.
Al-Hilal’s pre-season training is under way with the early sessions all focusing on fitness and strength work with Nawaf Al-Abed continuing his return to full fitness after a groin injury kept him out of Saudi Arabia’s squad that came third in Group A in Russia.
The pre-season workout will go up a level or two when the squad travels to Austria on Saturday for a training camp. It will be new boss Jesus Jorge’s first opportunity to drum his footballing philosophy into his new charges, a squad that will be bolstered by the the return of not only the injured Al-Abed, but also Carlos Eduardo and Omar Khribin.
Both the Brazilian attacking midfielder and the Syrian Asian player of the year missed Al-Hilal’s AFC Champions League campaign, where they crashed out at the group stage months after narrowly losing the final to Japan’s Urawa Reds.


Chile open Copa America title defense with win over Japan

Updated 18 June 2019
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Chile open Copa America title defense with win over Japan

  • The victory moved Chile to the top of Group C along with Uruguay
  • Japan, playing as a Copa America guest for the second time

SAO PAULO: Chile’s experienced Copa America team proved too good for Japan’s young squad.

The two-time defending champions opened their Copa America campaign with a 4-0 win over the Asian guests on Monday, with Eduardo Vargas scoring a pair of goals to become Chile’s all-time leading scorer in the South American competition.

Erick Pulgar and Alexis Sanchez also scored for the titleholders, which are trying to become the first nation to win three straight Copa titles since Argentina in the late 1940s. Vargas scored twice in the second half to reach 12 goals with Chile in the tournament, two more than Enrique Hormazabal.

The victory moved Chile to the top of Group C along with Uruguay, which opened with a 4-0 win over Ecuador on Sunday.

“Chile has players who are very experienced, who know each other very well,” Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda said. “The challenge today was to avoid a bad debut. We were humble and entered with our feet on the ground. We were playing against a team that was very competitive in all sectors.”

Japan, playing as a Copa America guest for the second time, brought to Brazil a young squad focused on the Olympic tournament at home next year. The Japanese youngsters struggled against the veteran Chilean squad which was in control from the start at the Morumbi Stadium.

Chile won the last two editions of the Copa America, beating Argentina in penalty shootouts in the final both in 2015 and 2016. Argentina is the only team to have won three consecutive South American titles, from 1945-47.

Boosted by most of the 23,253 fans at the Morumbi, Chile created most of the significant chances.

After Pulgar headed in a corner-kick cross by Charles Aranguiz in the 41st minute, Vargas added to the lead with a shot from outside the area in the 54th after a pass by Mauricio Isla.

Sanchez found the net with a header in the 82nd, and Vargas closed the scoring about a minute later with a long lob shot over goalkeeper Keisuke Osako as he charged from his net.

It was a good opening match for Sanchez after a difficult season with Manchester United.

“I was coming off a difficult month-and-a-half,” said the 30-year-old Sanchez, who injured his ankle late in the season. “I struggled in the first 45 minutes, I felt tired, but I improved in the second half.”

Rueda, debuting with Chile in an official tournament, has been gradually revamping the squad since he took over in 2018. Among the veterans back from the team’s recent triumphs were Vargas, Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, who also had a good opener.

Japan last played in the Copa America in 1999, when it was eliminated in the group stage. Among the youngsters in Brazil was Takefusa Kubo, the 18-year-old who has joined Real Madrid’s “B” team for next season. He played from the start and was a threat for Japan in attack. He got an ovation from the crowd at the Morumbi after getting past a defender with a ball through his legs about 10 minutes into the match. He nearly scored after a nifty move past a defender inside the area in the 65th, but his shot hit the outside of the net. Japan had a few good chances to get on the board toward the end of the game but could not capitalize on them.