Juan Antonio Pizzi confident of title tilt at Asian Cup after battling Korea draw

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Juan Antonio Pizzi was pleased with his side’s performance after Saudi Arabia eked out a draw against South Korea. (Twitter: @SaudiNT)
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Juan Antonio Pizzi was pleased with his side’s performance after Saudi Arabia eked out a draw against South Korea. (Twitter: @SaudiNT)
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Juan Antonio Pizzi was pleased with his side’s performance after Saudi Arabia eked out a draw against South Korea. (Twitter: @SaudiNT)
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Juan Antonio Pizzi was pleased with his side’s performance after Saudi Arabia eked out a draw against South Korea. (Twitter: @SaudiNT)
Updated 03 January 2019
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Juan Antonio Pizzi confident of title tilt at Asian Cup after battling Korea draw

  • Pizzi’s men looked the stronger team at the Baniyas Stadium
  • Juan Antonio Pizzi was pleased with his side’s performance after drawing with South Korea

DUBAI: Juan Antonio Pizzi was pleased with his side’s performance after Saudi Arabia eked out a draw against South Korea in their final warm-up match ahead of the Asian Cup on Saturday.
Pizzi’s men looked the stronger team at the Baniyas Stadium. They restricted the Koreans to eight shots, none of them on target. The Green Falcons also had more of the ball and were the more disciplined of the two teams.
The Argentine was also pleased with the outcome of the final phase of Saudi Arabia’s pre tournament training program this week ahead of their first group game next week.
“We have completed the last period as planned. We are satisfied with what has been achieved and hope now to achieve the best that we can in the tournament,” Pizzi said.
“The first week consisted of the physical aspect of the program where the focus was on managing and improving the fitness of each player,” said Pizzi.
When asked about the inclusion of Salman Al-Faraj in the squad, the Argentine confirmed that in principle he will consider the extent of the player’s response to treatment and expected him to participate at same point in the Asian Cup as he continues to recoup.
In regards to the possibility of bringing in new players, Pizzi said: “We do not rule out this possibility prior to the end of the selection process, however that will only take place if we face any unfortunate obstacles with the current players.”


Inquest begins at LA Lakers as LeBron James misses out on NBA playoffs

Updated 47 min 52 sec ago
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Inquest begins at LA Lakers as LeBron James misses out on NBA playoffs

LONDON: The post-mortem on Los Angeles’ Lakers season has begun after the storied franchise missed out on the NBA playoffs for a sixth consecutive year this weekend.
It was not meant to be like this, especially after the signing of LeBron James — the man who single-handedly dragged his hometown team Cleveland Cavaliers to a championship in 2016 and was instrumental in Miami Heat’s dominance in the first half of the decade.
James’ mercurial talent was often the difference for those two franchises in clutch situations throughout the season, but for all the fanfare on his arrival at the Staples Center last summer, the “James Effect” has failed to materialize in California.
He has often called his own superhuman efforts in the run up to — and during — the postseason the “Playoff Mode,” but even the genius of James was not enough to put his new franchise into the picture.
It did not help that as soon as it became clear they were not going to be appear beyond April 10, made all the clearer by a recent humbling defeat to the league’s worst team (New York Knicks), James has been benched more and more by the management.
And it speaks volumes about the problems at the Lakers that it will be the first playoffs without James featuring since 2005. Not only had he played in the playoffs for 13 consecutive seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, he had also played in eight straight NBA finals.
Granted, James — a three-time NBA champion and four-time league Most Valuable Player — was adamant back in September that the task of rebuilding the Lakers, who had missed the playoffs for five straight seasons would be a long-term project.
“Obviously, I would love for the team to be in the post-season,” James said as soon as it became clear he and the team would miss out on the playoff party.
“But right now, it’s not the hand I was dealt, so you play the hand that you were dealt until the dealer shuffles the cards and you’re dealt another hand and can do that.”
So what has gone so terribly wrong with the Lakers this year?
A big factor was injuries, not only to James but to other key players, throughout the season.
Everything looked rosy for the Lakers toward the end of December when they thrashed reigning champions Golden State Warriors, but a groin injury to James was a sign of the bad run to come. In his 17-game absence, the Lakers won just six games.
Then Lonzo Ball sprained an ankle in January, leaving the Lakers defense very vulnerable while Brandon Ingram, who had been influential in the team reaching the dizzying heights of fourth place in the Western Conference, was ruled out for the rest of the season due to a blood clot in his arm. Those certainly were damaging injuries.
The Lakers, also, have built too much of the team and its tactics around James. They have a good core of young talent in Ball, Ingram and Kyle Kuzuma, but management has not utilized them nearly well enough. Instead, for the first half of the season definitely, there was too much focus put on James and he was expected to win games almost by himself. Even the greatest player of a generation needs help from time to time.
The boardroom has to take some responsibility, too. Letting players like Brook Lopez (having a remarkable season with this year’s huge surprise package the Milwaukee Bucks), Julius Randle who averages 20 points per game at New Orleans and Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell (picked as an All-Star this year) leave was a major mistake on the Lakers’ part.
There will need to be a big rethink in the off-season at the Lakers, but with James admitting a break from the high-pressure playoffs will give him time to “recalibrate body and mind,” you cannot rule out “King James” coming back better and stronger than ever to claim a fourth NBA title and bring back the good times to LA.