Saudi Arabia looking to use Brazil clash as Asian Cup preparation

Saudi winger Salem Al-Dawsari will be looking to cause a few problems for Brazil in Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 11 October 2018

Saudi Arabia looking to use Brazil clash as Asian Cup preparation

  • With Asian Cup just three months away Hussein Abdulghani says Green Falcons will gauge where they are at against the Samba stars.
  • Brazil arrive in the Kingdom with all their stars in tow.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia may be preparing for the glamorous and exciting friendly with Brazil in Riyadh on Friday but veteran defender Hussein Abdulghani has his sights set on next year’s Asian Cup.
The clash against the five-time World Cup winners is expected to take place in front of a sell-out crowd at the King Said University Stadium hoping to see the Green Falcons take on stars such as Neymar and Philippe Coutinho. But the Saudi Arabia players cannot afford to get star struck as they test themselves against the best, with the continental competition less than three months away.
“The Asian Cup is a big competition for Saudi Arabia,” Abdulghani, who has made 134 appearances for his country and won the tournament as a teenager back in 1996, said. “The last time the tournament took place in the UAE, we were champions and we want to have that success again. The team is going well and we need to continue the good form that we showed when finishing  the World Cup (with victory over Egypt).”
Brazil present another South American test for coach Juan Antonio Pizzi and his men following the narrow defeat to Uruguay at the World Cup, a result that they followed with a win over Egypt. Abdulghani, who has just returned to the Saudi Pro League to play for Ohod after a spell in Bulgaria did not go to Russia but is delighted to be back.
“I was so happy to get the call and if my experience can help then that would be great,” added Abdulghani who is looking forward to playing against Brazil for the third time after appearances at the 1997 and 1999 Confederations Cups.
“Brazil will be a very difficult opponent with all the world-class talent they have and this will give us a great test going forward.”
In terms of preparations for January’s Asian Cup — when Saudi Arabia take on North Korea, Lebanon and Qatar in Group E — Monday’s game with Iraq, who beat Pizzi’s side 4-1 back in February, is just as important.
“Iraq are a good team with plenty of talent and this will give us an idea of what to expect at  the Asian Cup.”
Since the World Cup, Saudi Arabia have had just one game, a frustrating 2-2 draw with Bolivia when the South Americans came back from 2-0 down.
Al-Ahli striker Mohanned Asseri is struggling for fitness and is unlikely to play any part in the two matches and a muscle strain means that Al-Nassr midfielder Abdulaziz Al-Jebreen is also a doubt. In better news for Pizzi and Green Falcons fans, Al-Hilal midfield star Salman Al-Faraj is expected to recover from a slight knock to face the Brazilians if called upon.
Brazil started training at Tottenham Hotspur’s training ground on the outskirts of London and arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday. It has been speculated in the Brazilian media that star attacker Neymar will start along Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus as the Manchester City striker returns to the team after an indifferent World Cup in which he failed to score — Brazil exiting at the quarterfinal stage after a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Belgium.
Saudi Arabia midfielder Housain Al-Moghwali said that while they are aware of the class of the South Americans, he and his teammates do not fear the Samba stars.
“Coach Pizzi has given us confidence and we are looking forward to the game against a team that needs no introduction,” the Al-Ahli man said.
“We have to make use of this for the Asian Cup. Our target is not just to get past the first round but we want to get to the final and win. This experience of playing Brazil can only help us.”

BMW’s Antonio Felix da Costa crowned champion at Saudi Arabia's Ad Diriyah E-Prix

Updated 53 min 9 sec ago

BMW’s Antonio Felix da Costa crowned champion at Saudi Arabia's Ad Diriyah E-Prix

  • The Portuguese driver held on for victory ahead of Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Jerome d’Ambrosio in the Mahindra car
  • Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi had the best start on the grid

AD DIRIYAH, Riyadh: Antonio Felix da Costa praised his BMW garage but said there is still a lot of work for him and the team to do in this year’s Formula E season after winning the inaugural Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday.

Da Costa was on pole from the beginning of the race and led away from the line, despite lining up at the front of the grid pointing toward the outside wall at a dusty and overcast Ad Diriyah circuit.

The Portuguese driver held on for victory ahead of Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Jerome d’Ambrosio in the Mahindra car.

Da Costa told Arab News that the new “cooler and futuristic” Gen 2 car gives drivers more power, stability and grip, and that there was “a lot to take in” during the race.

“It is a new car, a new track, a new way of racing, (with) ‘Attack Mode’, and I got the ‘Fan Boost’ for the first time, so there were a lot of things to do and as a team and we executed so well, so I think that is why we won today because we were not the quickest car but we just had a perfect race.

“It is amazing, it’s been really tough and long months of work, but I am really happy with that,” da Costa added.

“We definitely have some work to do as the two Techeetah cars were really fast, and even with (Vergne’s) drive through penalty, he was right there at the end.

“But it’s a good start and we’ll keep working on that and try to keep it going,” he added.

When asked about BMW being involved in Formula E as a factory team for the first time, da Costa said: “It hasn’t been easy the last two years, but as I said it has been a lot work between Indianapolis with Andretti and Munich with BMW, it is great to see and I am so happy for everyone back in Munich.”

Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi had the best start on the grid after he blasted by Jose Maria Lopez around the outside of the first corner from third place.

The front four pulled away from the rest of the pack, before Vergne — who started the race in fifth — passed Lopez on lap one of what would become a 33-lap race, with his teammate Andre Lotterer also getting past the Geox Dragon driver.

As da Costa consolidated his lead, Vergne was closing in on Buemi, eventually passing him in a great move around the outside on lap nine. The Frenchman then set about reeling in da Costa, with the Portuguese offering fierce resistance.

Vergne was then forced to serve drive-through penalties – just after he had used his first “attack mode” – for going exceeding the permitted power while using his “re-gen,” which put paid to him getting a victory.

Reigning champion Vergne, while impressed with the venue, was philosophical after the race.

“I was really hungry for a victory today, but the qualifying in the morning did not go as planned.

“Unfortunately, it was a step down from where I wanted to be, I wanted to win this one. 

“I had a fantastic car, it was incredibly fast, but a big congratulations to the BMW guys and Antonio, it was a well-deserved victory.

“What I will take as a positive from this weekend is that we have a strong team and a very strong car and I am very motivated.

“Going forward, we just need to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes that cost us the win today, but it’s a very encouraging first race and I’m looking forward to Marrakech now.”

On his drive through penalty, he said: “Yes, I had quite a few overtakes on the outside, on the inside, but it was a fun race, I honestly had a lot of fun. 

“I’m content with P2 today, and hoping to keep this package (on the car) and hopefully get some victories.”
Meanwhile, third-placed d’Ambrosio was delighted with his finish to the race.

“I am super happy, it was a great first race with Mahindra and a great start to the championship, I am lucky to be part of such a great team with some great people.

“I have come from two difficult years, so it’s great to start this new relationship with the team in this way. We worked very hard in the past few months to be ready, I think we were very fast but at the end of the race I didn’t have the confidence in the braking.

“But it makes a great to start to the season, with the podium and banking the points, and we’ll see what happens now.”

When asked about the new “attack mode” in Formula E, he said: “It is great, I actually wasn’t supposed to use it at that point of the race (when I did), but I had a good feeling and I saw Techeetah use it and start to build a gap, so I went for it and when the safety car came in I used it again.”