Brazil refuse to take Saudi Arabia lightly ahead of Riyadh friendly

1 / 3
Neymar is set to face the Green Falcons on Friday. (AFP)
2 / 3
3 / 3
Updated 10 October 2018
0

Brazil refuse to take Saudi Arabia lightly ahead of Riyadh friendly

  • Assistant coach Cleber Xavier tells Arab News that Samba stars know Saudi Arabia are an experienced side.
  • Brazil have one eye on Copa America, while Green Falcons are looking toward the Asia Cup.

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil’s assistant coach Cleber Xavier said his team of superstars are taking nothing for granted ahead of their clash with Saudi Arabia tomorrow night.
Neymar,  Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho are all set to feature against the Green Falcons in Riyadh’s King Saud University Stadium — the sort of firepower any team in the world would love to have.
But Xavier insisted Neymar and Co. would not be taking Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men lightly.
“(Saudi Arabia are) a team that we respect,” Xavier, who has worked as coach Tite’s assistant at various clubs since 2001, told Arab News.
“For us, it is a team that we have to pay attention to. We can’t be surprised. Each and every game more, we have that notion of respect for the opponent.
“(In September) played against the US, which is a new team, a team in transition, a team working for the Olympic Games. Saudi Arabia are more experienced.” 
Brazil are currently in a rebuilding process after the World Cup where they exited in the quarterfinals against Belgium, without ever looking like they would justify their favorites tag. 
The 23-man squad includes three fresh faces with Bordeaux defender Pablo, Hannover midfielder Wallace, and Barcelona striker Malcom. 

Roberto Firmino is just one of many big names set to be on show in the Saudi Arabia capital. 


The strategy to introduce newcomers in the team is part of the side’s planning as they seek to win the Copa America on home soil next year. 
“The Selecao are in a phase of transition,” Xavier explained.
“In the short term we look to observe and give opportunities to players we haven’t given a lot of opportunities to.
“The medium term is the Copa America. So, we have the opportunity to make a few changes in some positions, so that we have growth in the team.”
Saudi Arabia last played Brazil in February 2002 — a second-half strike from Djalminha was enough for Brazil to secure victory at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh. Having watched Saudi Arabia’s friendlies with Germany, Italy, Belgium, Peru and Bolivia, and the team’s three matches at the World Cup, Xavier expects another good contest this time around.  
“Antonio (Pizzi) plays with a 4-1-4-1,” Xavier said.
“It is a team with quick transitions, a team that doesn’t play the long ball, but likes to play for both the build-up and for transition with a compact and constructive game. The team has different, interesting players: Fahad (Al-Muwallad), the central striker; (Yahya) Al Shehri  on the right and (Salem) Al-Dawsari on the left, who is the team’s main player. He has a good strong right foot, cuts inside and finishes.
“Saudi Arabia (are) an interesting team. They are not a team that makes mistakes. They mark without making faults. It is not a team that when marking higher up will seek to construct counter-attacks with passing. We have already begun to strategize for the game.” 

Salem Al-Dawsari is the man the Selecao know well from his time at this summer's World Cup.


In September the Green Falcons drew 2-2 with Bolivia in a friendly, a disappointing result having led 2-0 after 11 minutes courtesy of goals from Al-Shehri and Al-Dawsari. After that match Pizzi was left to lament a lack of concentration and discipline.
“The (performance) against Bolivia was of inferior level to the World Cup and the preparation games for Russia,” Xavier said.
“Pizzi had an interesting game against Germany, but lost 2-1. An interesting game against Italy as well, which Saudi Arabia lost 2-1.
“Saudi Arabia also had an interesting game against Belgium, even though they lost 4-0. It is a team that seeks to play.
“Saudi Arabia has defensive problems. The team gets exposed trying to play and string passes together, and individual actions. Against Bolivia, Saudi Arabia led 2-0, but substitutions were made which is natural and in the second half you lose quality.” 
Saudi Arabia’s outing with Bolivia, the Falcons’ first match after the World Cup, began the build-up to the Asian Cup next January in the UAE, where Saudi Arabia have been drawn alongside Qatar, Lebanon and North Korea in Group E.
“There are a few plans that (Pizzi) can make specifically for this game and we have to be watchful of the danger situations,” Xavier said.
“The players up front have speed. There are transitions and we have to take advantage of Saudi’s defensive fragility.” 


Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

Updated 22 February 2019
0

Petra Kvitova positive ahead of Dubai final against Belinda Bencic

  • World No. 4 wins third three-setter of the week beat Hsieh Su-wei and claim place in the final.
  • Swiss star Bencic deals a forehand smash to Svitolina's chances of unprecedented hat-trick.

LONDON: If Petra Kvitova does get her hands on the Dubai trophy against Belinda Bencic on Saturday, she will be quick to admit she did it the hard way.
The two-time Wimbledon champion was once again made to toil at the Aviation Club as she finally overcame Hsieh Su-Wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. It was her third three-setter in four days and came about as much through sheer grit and determination as any superior groundstrokes or serves.
“Yeah, it was (tough),” the Czech said.
“It was a tough one, for sure. She really didn’t give me anything for free.
“It was a tough first set. I’m glad that I was able to came back in the second. Anyway I didn’t play great at the end of the first.”
Coming into the event the world No. 4 admitted she was undercooked and in need of some game time. While, in hindsight, the three-setters against Katerina Siniakova and Jennifer Brady in the first two rounds probably did her some good, another match that went the distance was probably not in the ideal script for the 2013 Dubai champion.
But Hsieh is a tricky opponent and she proved it once again on Centre Court. The world No. 31 hits two-handed shots off both sides and was trying to beat her fourth top-10 seed of the week. That included wins over Angelique Kerber in the third round and Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.

Bencic will try to upset Kvitova in Saturday's final at the Aviation Club (AFP) 


She started off in much the same vein as she had finished against Kerber and Pliskova, hurrying Kvitova around the court and making life as uncomfortable as possible under the hot Dubai sun.
“She’s very tricky,” Kvitova said about Hsieh, who grabbed five games in a row to take the opening set and go up 1-0 in the second.
“I didn’t really play the best at the end of the first set. But I calmed down afterwards a little bit,” Kvitova said.
“With Hsieh, I need to be a little bit patient. ... It’s not really that easy to make those winners against her.”
While she has 
not consistently displayed her A-game this week it should come as no shock that Kvitova has made today’s final. It was the second seed’s 17th victory of 2019 — a feat bettered by no one — and it will be her third final of the season and 35th of her career. She revealed that her presence in the showdown is thanks to her mental toughness and she admitted that after a long week she will have to draw on that a lot today.
“I think I’m pleased with my kind of mental focus after losing the first set, that I was more calmer when I came back and played from the beginning of the second set,” Kvitova said.
“I still kind of felt that I can do that somehow — it was something weird.
“I’m a bit tired right now, to be honest. I have a final, so I don’t know how I going to recover. Hopefully I have a few hours to do something with me.”
Of her sparkling form so far this year she said: “It’s a bit weird, to be honest. I didn’t really expect anything like that. Well, to be honest, I didn’t expect anything, which I already achieved this year. For me, everything is just bonus.
“As I mentioned, the tennis, it’s a bit like escape this week. This is unbelievable to be in the final when I’m escaping from something. Yeah, very interesting.”
In the other semifinal Bencic once again upset the odds to overcome world No. 6 Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-3, 7-6. The Swiss went into the clash as the underdog, but from the off the world No. 45 was aggressive and deservedly won.
In doing so she ended Svitolina’s 12-match winning streak in Dubai and ended the two-time defending champion’s hopes of becoming the first woman to win three Dubai titles in a row.