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
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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.”


Jabeur becomes first Tunisian woman to make WTA final

Updated 19 October 2018
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Jabeur becomes first Tunisian woman to make WTA final

  • Jabeur, ranked 101st in the world and who came through qualifying, prevailed over Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
  • In Saturday’s final, Jabeur will face sixth-seeded Daria Kasatkina of Russia, last year’s runner-up, who put out Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-3.

MOSCOW: Ons Jabeur made history on Friday when she became the first Tunisian woman to reach a WTA final by seeing off Latvian fifth seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow.
Jabeur, ranked 101st in the world and who came through qualifying, prevailed in one hour 37 minutes.
“This is really amazing and I’m really happy. I gave it all today, and it wasn’t easy because she plays really good,” said 24-year-old Jabeur, who unleashed 45 winners on her way to victory.
“Maybe I was too relaxed in the second set. At the end, I stayed calm. It was a little bit frustrating because I missed some easy balls, but I said I was just going to play my game, and if it goes, it goes.”
In Saturday’s final, Jabeur will face sixth-seeded Daria Kasatkina of Russia, last year’s runner-up, who put out Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-3.
“They’re both playing good, so I hope they fight for four hours,” Jabeur had said. “The best win is that there is a Tunisian in the final.”
Jabeur lost her only career meeting against Kasatkina at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
“She (Jabeur) plays interesting tennis with plenty of drop shots, often advances to the net,” Kasatkina said.
“Everything is possible in tomorrow’s final and I will just come onto the court and try to play my best.”
In the ATP event, France’s Adrian Mannarino ended Egor Gerasimov’s run beating the Belarus qualifier 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 to set up a semifinal with Italy’s Andreas Seppi, who ousted fourth seeded Serb Filip Krajinovic 6-4, 7-6 (7/2).
Second seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia beat last year’s runner-up Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 will face third-seeded compatriot Karen Khachanov, who saw off Mirza Basic of Bosnia 6-2, 7-6 (7/5).