Juan Antonio Pizzi claims North Korea win banishes memories of Russia thrashing

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Salem Al-Dawsari slotted home the third goal in the Green Falcons' 4-0 hammering of North Korea in Dubai. (AFP)
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Updated 09 January 2019
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Juan Antonio Pizzi claims North Korea win banishes memories of Russia thrashing

  • Green Falcons boss says side can now lay to rest the ghosts of their 5-0 World Cup defeat to Russia.
  • Pizzi positive Saudi Arabia can improve with every match in the UAE.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s 4-0 victory over North Korea on Tuesday has helped banish the painful memories of the side’s humbling at the hands of Russia in the opening match of the World Cup last year.
That is the message from Juan Antonio Pizzi whose demeanor following the Group E win against the Koreans was in stark contrast to the figure on the touchline in Moscow some six months ago.
Back then the Green Falcons’ coach looked helpless and aghast as his side were thrashed 5-0 by the hosts. While they went on to only narrowly lose 1-0 to Uruguay and then register their first World Cup win for over 20 years with victory over Egypt, the scars of that Russia defeat still remained.
Add in the fact that opening matches of big tournaments always tend to be tight, edgy affairs and any worry Pizzi and Co. may have had before their Asian Cup clash against North Korea would have been well placed.
But having swept past Kim Yong-jun’s team Pizzi was able to breathe a sigh of relief and claim the side’s Russia demons were now firmly in the past.
“After our first loss in the World Cup in 2018, I think the team understood perfectly that they had to do everything, to be organized, to obey orders in order to be a better team,” the coach said.

Saudi Arabia lost their World Cup opener 5-0 to hosts Russia last summer. (AFP) 


“I’m personally very happy because normally the first game of the tournament there are nervous moments, especially when we knew Australia lost their opening game (to Jordan), and we didn’t want that to happen to us.”
Having got the first game out of the way, and in some style, Pizzi looked forward to the rest of the tournament, which will see Saudi Arabia face Lebanon on Saturday and then Qatar five days later.
“What was most important was that we implemented our own style of play today. We will follow the same ambition for the coming matches,” the former Spain international said.
“I’m so happy and, hopefully, we will continue with the same level throughout the tournament.”
Having only been at the helm six months before the World Cup kick-off Pizzi is now emphasizing the benefits of having had more time with his players claiming that they are getting better with every match.
“There is no doubt that the time that you spend with a team allows you to gain confidence of the players, but we also noticed our players are ready to learn and ready to do what we ask as technical staff,” the 50-year-old said.
“The have a high commitment, even the new players, and day after day, they became more consistent.”

BRILLIANT BAHBRI

The victory against North Korea was notable not just for banishing the memories of the Russia defeat but also as the side’s opener, scored by Hatan Bahbri, was the 1,000th goal scored by Saudi Arabia.
It was a goal worthy of such a milestone as he fired in from the left side of the penalty area into the far corner.
It was his first international strike, but while delighted to etch his name into the record books he claimed he was now only focused on the next match against the Cedars in Dubai.
“I am grateful and honored to have got my first international goal which was the 1000th goal in Saudi Arabia’s history,” the 26 year-old said.
“We passed the first test, but have an important match ahead against Lebanon. Lebanon are a strong side and we respect them, but we want to get all three points.
“We will forget this match and focus on giving our best in the second match.”


Ronaldo faces multi-million tax fraud fine in Madrid court

Updated 32 min 53 sec ago
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Ronaldo faces multi-million tax fraud fine in Madrid court

MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo is returning to Madrid for a court date on Tuesday in which he could be fined 18.8 million euros ($21.4 million) for tax fraud as part of a deal reached with the Spanish taxman.
As part of an agreement arranged in June with the former Real Madrid hero’s lawyers, prosecutors are also asking that the Portuguese attacker, who last summer left the Spanish capital for Italian champions Juventus, be handed a 23-month jail sentence.
However Ronaldo would not spend a day in prison as sentences of up to two years are generally not enforced in Spain for first-time offenders in non-violent crimes.
The hearing, due to start at 9:50 am (0850 GMT), is expected to last just a few minutes as the deal is officially presented to the judge.
He in turn will give the final sentence on Tuesday or the coming days, according to a spokesman for the court in northern Madrid.
Ronaldo will not be given special treatment when he arrives and will have to climb up the courthouse steps amid a likely media scrum despite the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s lawyers asking he be allowed to enter the building by car to avoid the spotlight.
The court president refused the request, saying that despite his “great fame,” he wouldn’t “compromise security” at the building, according to a court document.
His request to appear via videoconference was also denied.

Denial
Madrid prosecutors opened a probe into Ronaldo in June 2017 and he was questioned in July that same year.
“I have never hidden anything, nor have I had the intention of evading taxes,” he told the court then, according to a statement from the sports agency which represents him, Gestifute.
Prosecutors accuse him of having used companies in low-tax foreign jurisdictions — notably the British Virgin Islands and Ireland — to avoid having to pay the tax due in Spain on his image rights between 2011 and 2014.
His lawyers said there had been a difference in interpretation of what was and was not taxable in Spain.
The deal between Spain’s taxman and his lawyers has allowed Ronaldo to avoid having to sit through a long trial that could have damaged his image and seen him handed a heftier sentence.
Ronaldo is not the only footballer to have fallen foul of Spain’s tax authorities.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, once Ronaldo’s big La Liga rival, paid a two-million-euro fine in 2016 in his own tax wrangle and received a 21-month jail term.
The prison sentence was later reduced to a further fine of 252,000 euros, equivalent to 400 euros per day of the original term.

Accused of rape
But Ronaldo’s legal wrangles won’t be over after a probe was opened in the United States in October after a former American model accused him of raping her in Las Vegas in 2009.
Police in the western US city recently asked Italian authorities for a DNA sample from the footballer.
Ronaldo has always strenuously denied the accusations.
In a New Year’s Eve interview with Portuguese sports daily Record, he said he had a “calm conscience” and was “confident that everything will very soon be clarified.”