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.”

Unrivaled: India now 7-0 in World Cup games against Pakistan

Updated 17 June 2019

Unrivaled: India now 7-0 in World Cup games against Pakistan

  • Conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of a predominantly pro-India crowd 

MANCHESTER, UK: For such an intense rivalry, it is still a lopsided contest when India and Pakistan meet at the Cricket World Cup.

India extended their record to 7-0 against Pakistan at the World Cup with an 89-run victory in a rain-interrupted encounter Sunday that likely will remain the most-watched game of the six-week tournament.

India started ominously with Rohit Sharma scoring 140 from 113 deliveries and skipper Virat Kohli contributing 77 in a total of 336-5, a record for a One-Day International at Old Trafford.

Pakistan were always behind the run-rate required.

Fakhar Zaman (62) and Babar Azam (48) put on 104 for the second wicket but when both were dismissed by left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav within nine balls, Pakistan’s hopes faded with them.

When Hardik Pandya took wickets with consecutive deliveries in the 27th over, Pakistan were 129-5. And with a result in play because both teams had batted more than 20 overs, there was no chance of sharing points if rain prevented any more play. A delay after the 35th with Pakistan at 166-6 just prolonged the inevitable.

Pakistan were  set a revised target of 302 from 40 overs and the last five overs were a non-event with Pakistan finishing 212-6. India remained unbeaten in four games to start the tournament.

The conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of a predominantly pro-India crowd that filled the 162-year-old venue to its 23,500 capacity. Seats were in excessively high demand, after all, with the International Cricket Council reporting more than 800,000 ticket applications for the game.

There is always extra significance when the nuclear-armed neighboring countries meet at ICC tournaments because India and Pakistan play cricket so infrequently in bilateral series.

This was no different, with a 1 billion-plus TV audience and an almost football-like atmosphere at the ground.

Kohli’s single to get off the mark was met by “Kohli-Kohli-Kohli” chants from the predominantly pro-India crowd.

Sharma set the tone with his second century of the tournament, sharing partnerships of 136 with KL Rahul (57) for the first wicket and 98 with Kohli for the second.

He seemed ready to really unleash when he needlessly paddled a ball from Hasan Ali to Wahab Riaz at short fine leg in the 38th over.

Kohli continued, becoming the third Indian batter to pass 11,000 ODI runs. In doing so in his 222nd innings, he became the fastest to reach the milestone.

Kohli was on 71 and India was 305-4 when rain stopped play for the first time in the 47th over. The India captain was caught behind off Mohammad Amir’s bowling not long after he returned from the 55-minute rain break and, surprisingly, walked off before umpire Marais Erasmus had a chance to signal him out.

There was some speculation Kohli did not edge the ball but it was inconsequential in the end, as India passed Sri Lanka’s 318-7 against England in 2006 to set the highest ODI total in Manchester.

After a batting onslaught at the top, Pakistan pegged back the run-rate slightly as Amir (3-47) dismissed Pandya (26) and then had MS Dhoni (1) and Kohli caught behind — both the ex-captain and captain walking.

Things started going haywire for Pakistan after skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed won the toss and fielded, going against the advice sent via social media by Prime Minister and 1992 World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan.

Overcast and cool overhead conditions that usually would favor swing and seam bowling didn’t greatly assist the Pakistan attack, with India racing to 52-0 in its most productive opening power play of the tournament.

The Pakistan pacemen had trouble with the umpires, with Amir and Wahab each cautioned twice for running on the protected area in the middle of the pitch. One further warning would have resulted in a suspension.

It also didn’t help that opener Imam-ul-Haq got out in rare circumstances to Vijay Shankar’s very first delivery at a World Cup — it coming on the fifth ball of Pakistan’s fifth over after Shankar was asked to finish it off for injured teammate Bhuveshwar Kumar.

Pakistan’s next game is at Lord’s against South Africa, which also has three points and only remote prospects of reaching the semifinals.