Brazil refuse to take Saudi Arabia lightly ahead of Riyadh friendly

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Neymar is set to face the Green Falcons on Friday. (AFP)
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Updated 10 October 2018

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.” 

Zoran Mamic warns Al-Ain they face tough task against River Plate in FIFA Club World Cup semifinal

Updated 16 December 2018

Zoran Mamic warns Al-Ain they face tough task against River Plate in FIFA Club World Cup semifinal

  • UAE side to face Argentine giants in last-four clash on home ground on Tuesday.
  • Winner likely to play Real Madrid in the final.

LONDON: Al-Ain have been told they have to turn up with their A-game against River Plate tomorrow or they can forget about a dream final against Real Madrid in the FIFA Club World Cup.
That is the message from the side’s coach Zoran Mamic, who saw “The Boss” beat Esperance Sportive de Tunis 3-0 on Saturday to book their semifinal spot against the Argentine giants.
Goals from Mohamed Ahmed, Hussein El-Shahat and Bandar Mohammed gave the hosts an emphatic victory over the African champions at their Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.
But Mamic is only too aware that beating the champions of Tunisia is one thing, taking on the Copa Libertadores winners is of another proportion entirely.
“River one of the biggest teams in the world, with a great history and we are playing against them in the semifinal of the FIFA Club World Cup, but we have to enjoy it, we have to be proud and we have to make it difficult for River,” the Croatian said.
“We watched the games against Boca and they are very very strong, we just have to be better to survive this game.”
In Al-Ain’s favor, bar playing at home, is the fact that Mamic has a good knowledge of River and Argentine football, and he, like many football fans around the world, was a keen spectator of the Copa Libertadores final when the Buenos Aires side beat their arch-rivals Boca Juniors.
“It’s a great story for me, before I became a coach I worked as a sporting director for Dynamo Zagreb and I would travel to watch players. My first time in Argentina, first match was Boca vs. River, that was maybe 10-12 years ago,” Mamic revealed.
However, anyone thinking Al-Ain will be overawed by their opponents and the occasion had better think again.
“(River’s Marcelo Gallardo) is a great coach, they have done very well and he obviously knows how to talk to his players, but they have to respect us, we have shown we can play good football. I’m sure it will be an interesting game and I hope the stadium will be full,” Mamic said. “I also hope some Argentinian fans come because they create a good atmosphere. River had a great season, they won the Copa, the coach from River Plate cannot be bad.”
Al-Ain very nearly did not make it to the quarterfinals against Esperance, let alone the last-four clash against River. 3-0 down in their opening match against Team Wellington, a side made up of amateur players, the hosts looked like they were heading for an embarrassing early exit. A remarkable comeback, however, that saw Marcus Berg equalize with just five minutes left, was completed with a 4-3 win on penalties.
“The Wellington game was a difficult one, I didn’t want there to be pressure in that match, I wanted them to enjoy it but there was pressure because everyone was saying Wellington wasn’t a strong team and we should win easily and I think we felt that pressure. Wellington started, scored perfect goals and we were shocked,” Mamic said. “Thankfully we found a way to turn things round.”
Swedish international Berg will be a key man for Al-Ain tomorrow despite suffering with a virus over the past few days. Mamic is hopeful he will be back to 100 percent and able to start against River.
“For these past four days he has been really struggling with fever and today is the first day he has been feeling better, hopefully in the next three days he will recover to start the River game,” Mamic said.
There is little doubt “The Boss” will need Berg to be fit and at his best if they are to pull off a shock and beat the South American champions. Also key could be the Al-Ain fans packed into the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium. Mamic hopes they can act as a 12th player.
“I wanted to thank our fans for their great support and making a great ambience in the stadium, it’s a pleasure to play under these conditions, a pleasure for the players, a pleasure for the coaching staff and I’m sure it will be a good game,” Mamic said.
“Against River we most be focused, motivated which won’t be a problem, River are favorites but favorites don’t always win.”