Juan Antonio Pizzi happy with Saudi Arabia progress despite Jordan draw

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Juan Antonio Pizzi said he was happy with his players and satisfied with Asian Cup preparations after Saudi Arabia earned a 1-1 draw with Jordan this week. (Twitter: @SaudiNT)
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Juan Antonio Pizzi said he was happy with his players and satisfied with Asian Cup preparations after Saudi Arabia earned a 1-1 draw with Jordan this week. (Twitter: @SaudiNT)
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Juan Antonio Pizzi said he was happy with his players and satisfied with Asian Cup preparations after Saudi Arabia earned a 1-1 draw with Jordan this week. (Twitter: @SaudiNT)
Updated 22 November 2018
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Juan Antonio Pizzi happy with Saudi Arabia progress despite Jordan draw

  • Juan Antonio Pizzi said he was happy with his players and satisfied with Asian Cup preparations
  • Pizzi said it was good to play a team with a different style to his Saudi Arabia side

LONDON: Juan Antonio Pizzi said he was happy with his players and satisfied with Asian Cup preparations after Saudi Arabia earned a 1-1 draw with Jordan this week.
The Green Falcons were pedestrian in a goalless first half but Fahad Al-Mouloud’s goal broke the deadlock in Amman before Jordan’s Ahmed Samer equalized for the home team.
Pizzi said: “I am satisfied with the result in general, it was a tough and competitive game, but we controlled most of the game.
“The level of opponent was more important to me than the performance, as although it was a friendly, it is part of our training stages for the Asian Cup,” he added.
Pizzi said it was good to play a team with a different style to his Saudi Arabia side.
“We a play a style that suits us, all about winning back the ball and putting passes together in the middle. Jordan play more of a high-ball game.
“In general, I am satisfied with what we offered, because we managed to control and play a lot of the game in the opponent’s half.”
The match served as a decent warm-up for the Asian Cup in January where Saudi Arabia will face Lebanon, North Korea and Qatar.
As well as a win over Yemen last week, the Green Falcons have had a strong preparation for the tournament in the UAE in January — with a 2-2 draw with Bolivia and a good performance against Brazil in Riyadh last month.
And the success of the U-19s earlier this month bodes well for Saudi Arabian football, something that AFC Technical Director Andy Roxburgh told Arab News earlier this month that will develop the national team in the future.
Elsewhere, the UAE continued their own Asian Cup preparations with a 2-0 win over Yemen in Dubai, with Al-Sharjah’s Said Rashid opening the scoring in the first half and Ali Salmeen of Al-Wasl sealing the win with a goal midway through the second half.
Meanwhile, an ill-tempered match in Rades saw Morocco seal an away win in Tunisia, with Youssef En Nesyri, who plies his trade at Spanish club Leganes, getting the only goal of the game in the first half, to seal Morocco’s first win in Rades in their history.


Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 21 March 2019
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Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: Getting the side to the 2022 World Cup. 

The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai (see right). While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990. 

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.  

“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 

Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017.

That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead. 

“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said. 

While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom — only a contractual dispute regarding backroom staff meant he did not stay on as Green Falcons coach for the Russia tournament — it is his time as the Netherlands coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, with only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010. 

So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race? 

“One of the reasons is the feeling. I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (which he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. 

“So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be difficult. The “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years’ work will likely depend on a new generation.

“I heard there were some young talents, so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said. “I know the team has a few very good players — the UAE has a few weapons. 

“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”