Arab nations backed to learn from World Cup experience in Russia

Saudi Arabia and Egypt met in the group stage in Russia, with the Green Falcons winning 2-1. (AFP)
Updated 13 July 2018

Arab nations backed to learn from World Cup experience in Russia

  • Two leading technical chiefs give their verdict on region's challenge at World Cup
  • 'The Saudis have good technique and some fast players, and they have potential'

MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt endured a torrid time at the World Cup, winning two matches between them, but they will be richer for the experience in Russia and should return to future tournaments in better shape as long as they invest in their infrastructure, according to two leading technical chiefs.
The Green Falcons returned to the World Cup for the first time since 2006, but opened their campaign with a humiliating 5-0 defeat against hosts Russia. Saudi Arabia were left with a mountain to climb thereafter, but managed to restore some pride, slipping to a narrow defeat to eventual quarterfinalists Uruguay and then recording a first World Cup win in 24 years, a 2-1 win against Egypt. 
“The Saudi team had a difficult start playing the opening match against the host, but they improved in the second game and won the final match to regain some pride,” said Andy Roxburgh, the technical director for the Asian Football Confederation.
“The change of coach before the final tournament — it is difficult to prepare a team for the World Cup in a short space of time — and players in Spain who didn’t play regularly, wasn’t helpful.” 
The third-place finish was still a marked improvement from Saudi Arabia’s 2006 World Cup run when they finished bottom of Group H with a solitary point from a 1-1 draw with Tunisia. 
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s contract was extended after the win over Egypt and the Argentinian will lead his team out at the Asian Cup next year, where Saudi Arabia have been paired with North Korea, Lebanon and Qatar. Saudi Arabia last won the continental title in 1996 on home soil and they will be among the favorites for the tournament in the UAE. Roxburgh believes that Saudi Arabia’s future is bright. 
“The Saudis have good technique and some fast players, and they have potential,” he said. “In the long term, they need to encourage some players to play abroad, develop their league, establish youth structures and academies, and raise the level of coach education.”
Saudi Arabia and Tunisia were the only two Arab teams to register wins while Morocco drew 2-2 with Spain in their final group match, but the region’s challenge was disappointing. Even before the final round of group matches all four teams had been eliminated. Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul acknowledged that Arab teams were playing catch-up with the rest of the world. 
Brazil’s 1994 World Cup winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who heads FIFA’s technical study group in Russia, shares Maaloul’s concerns. Parreira led Saudi Arabia at the 1998 World Cup, but was sacked after two defeats against hosts France and Denmark and replaced by assistant coach Mohamed Al-Khuraishi, who oversaw the team’s final group match, a 2-2 draw with South Africa. 
“I felt that the expectation is always very high for the teams at the World Cup that are coming to the World Cup,” said Parreira at a news conference, evaluating the Arab teams’ performance in Russia. “We tell them that just qualifying for this competition is a big achievement. You must come here with the willingness to do the best. If you compare the infrastructure of the Middle East with the big countries and the big teams — no structure for youth development, no structure for coach education — then it is going to be very difficult.”
The Brazilian coached Kuwait from 1978 to 1982, leading the Al-Azraq to the World Cup in Spain, where they drew with the former Czechoslovakia and lost to European powerhouses England and France. He also managed the UAE at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Parreira has managed at six different World Cups, a record.
“When I worked with Kuwait, they were the number one team in Asia in every competition, even above Japan, Korea and Iran. We took them to England and Brazil. We prepared properly. 
“The foundation is very important — to have a stronger league, to have the patience to develop players and to expose them to international football. We took Kuwait to England, Brazil, not just one time.
“They look for results very quickly. There is no continuity, one day the coach is Brazilian, the next day it’s a French coach, the other day a Spanish coach, another day a Croatian coach, another day a Dutch coach, another day a Portuguese coach, so they have to concentrate on one school of football. That’s what I did with Kuwait. Arab countries need a better structured league, develop the coaches and the youth players, otherwise when you reach this level, you will always be missing something. Of course, in the end, history and culture count a lot.” 

Five memorable India vs, Pakistan clashes

Updated 18 September 2018

Five memorable India vs, Pakistan clashes

  • Arch-rivals to meet in Dubai on Wednesday.
  • Cricket's biggest rivalry is one of the biggest in sport.

LONDON: Sparks generally fly when India take on Pakistan at cricket, and Wednesday’s Asia Cup clash in Dubai will be an emotionally charged fixture as always.

Here are five of the most memorable clashes between the two cricketing powerhouses.


On the same day the teams were playing a one-day match at Sialkot in Pakistan on Oct. 31, 1984, the Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her bodyguards in New Delhi.
Dilip Vengsarkar and Ravi Shastri were piling on runs for India when the news came. Pakistan’s president Zia ul Haq ordered the match stopped, and India’s captain Sunil Gavaskar wanted the same.
“Obviously, we weren’t in any frame of mind to carry on and, sure enough, the ODI had to be abandoned,” Vengsarkar told India’s Telegraph later.
“Thirty years have gone by, but it’s a day one can’t forget,” he said.


Imran Khan’s best bowling figures of six for 14 were in a one-day international against India March 22, 1985, but for the swashbuckling Pakistan fast bowler it was all in vain.
Khan ripped apart the Indian batting line-up in Sharjah in the UAE to send the opposition packing for 125. But Pakistan’s own batting imploded, skittled for just 87.
Khan — now Pakistani prime minister — was still man of the match, however.


The match that will always evoke the bitterest memories for India, and the sweetest ones for Pakistan, was on April 18, 1986, again an ODI in Sharjah.
With Pakistan needing four off the last ball to win, India’s Chetan Sharma ran in and bowled a full toss — which Javed Miandad swatted for six.
Miandad, who was presented with a golden sword, became a national hero, while Sharma faced barbs and insults on his return home.


A century from Sachin Tendulkar, India’s most celebrated batsman, was usually a recipe for success in the 1990s and 2000s but not in the 1999 Test match against Pakistan in Chennai.
Chasing 271 for victory, Tendulkar brought India close with a sparkling 136, but Pakistani off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq got him out and India eventually lost by 12 runs.
A sporting Indian home crowd gave the Wasim Akram-led side a standing ovation, but Tendulkar was heartbroken.
Weeping in the dressing room, according to then-coach Anshuman Gaekwad, the “little master” refused to come out of the dressing room to receive his man-of-the-match award.


An India-Pakistan final in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup and a sell-out crowd in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2007 was a perfect setting for cricket’s newest format.
Pakistan’s Misbah ul-Haq was on the cusp of taking his team to a memorable win with his gritty batting in a chase of 158.
But then came a moment of madness as Misbah tried to play an audacious paddle shot to seal victory against paceman Joginder Sharma in the final over.
The ball went high into the waiting hands of Shanthakumaran Sreesanth. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s India celebrated like never before as Misbah missed a chance of a lifetime.