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

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.”


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.”

David Warner on fire in IPL return after ball-tampering ban but epic knock not enough to stop Kolkata

Updated 24 March 2019

David Warner on fire in IPL return after ball-tampering ban but epic knock not enough to stop Kolkata

  • Warner did not play in the 2018 edition of the IPL tournament
  • During his ban, he played T20 franchise cricket in Canada, Bangladesh and the Caribbean

KOLKATA: Australia’s David Warner smashed 85 from 53 balls on his Indian Premier League comeback Sunday but his knock went in vain as Sunrisers Hyderabad lost to Kolkata Knight Riders.
Warner, who along with compatriot Steve Smith returns to the Twenty20 tournament after missing the previous edition due to a ball-tampering controversy, steered Sunrisers to 181 for three after being put into bat.
Warner did not play in the 2018 edition of the IPL tournament after organizers stopped him for his part in the scandal.
His one-year ban from international cricket ends later this month and the 32-year-old opener is expected to make Australia’s World Cup squad and play in this summer’s Ashes series in England.
During his ban, he played T20 franchise cricket in Canada, Bangladesh and the Caribbean, and grade cricket in Australia.
His efforts though were not enough, with Andre Russell hitting an unbeaten 49 off 19 balls as the Knight Riders won by six wickets with two balls to spare at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.
A pause for a floodlight failure in the 16th over re-charged Knight Riders’ chase as Russell put together an unbeaten 65-run stand with Shubman Gill, who hit 18 runs including the winning six.
Russell struck four fours and four sixes
Earlier Warner stood out during a 118-run opening stand with England’s Jonny Bairstow, who made 39, to lay the platform for their big total.
“It is good to get out there and contribute. It looked a nice wicket to bat on but it slowed down a bit which made us reassess after six overs,” Warner said after his knock.
The Australian admitted some anxiety before his big return to IPL — and an unusual solution.
“I was a bit nervous in the dressing room and kept drinking pickle juice,” he said.
Opener Warner survived a reprieve on 38 after Knight Riders captain and wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik dropped him off left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
Warner, who captained Sunrisers to their only IPL title in 2016, made the most of the spill and raced to his 37th IPL fifty with a six off Russell to signal his aggressive intent.
Bairstow was bowled by leg-spinner Piyush Chawla but Warner took the attack to the opposition, hitting nine fours and three sixes during his blitz.
Warner, who recently recovered from an elbow injury he picked in the Bangladesh Premier League, finally fell to Russell after driving the ball to cover.
Warner said his elbow “wasn’t all too bad” after doing a lot of work with his trainer back home.
Year-long bans from state and international cricket for Warner and Smith end on March 28 but the duo are keen to get among the runs in the IPL, ahead of the 50-over World Cup starting in May.
The suspension did not include club games but IPL’s governing council decided not to allow the disgraced duo in the 11th edition of the T20 league last year in a bid to avoid controversy.
The pair were banned for cheating in a Cape Town Test in March last year along with teammate Cameron Bancroft, whose nine-month ban has already finished.
Smith is expected to appear for his team Rajasthan Royals in their opening match against Kings XI Punjab in Jaipur on Monday.