High-flying Saudi Arabia set sights on silverware ahead of Qatar clash

Updated 16 January 2019
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High-flying Saudi Arabia set sights on silverware ahead of Qatar clash

  • Green Falcons on a high as they aim to top group with victory over Qataris.
  • Winner of Group E will face Iraq in second round.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia only have one thing on their minds — lifting the trophy on Feb. 1 in Abu Dhabi.
The Green Falcons face Qatar in the UAE capital today with both sides having already confirmed their places in the second round. Juan Antonio Pizzi’s players have been impressive so far thanks to a 4-0 victory against North Korea, followed by a relatively simple 2-0 win over Lebanon.
That fine form has Fahad Al-Muwallad dreaming of the Green Falcons going all the way.
“As a player I have followed many matches in this Asian Cup and all the teams have ambitions to reach the final and win the title. We promise that within our team that our ambition is the highest among all,” the forward said.
“We only play to win the title, nothing less, regardless of who we play.”
Having started so well such confidence is understandable, not least because in their last tournament, the World Cup, the team lost 5-0 and 1-0 — to Russia and Uruguay, respectively — in their opening two clashes.
Added to that is the fact that of the favorites only Iran appeared to be on top of their game, while the likes of South Korea and Japan looked to be stuck in second gear.

Juan Antonio Pizzi is looking for victory over Qatar in a build to maintain the momentum the Green Falcons have built up during wins over North Korea and Lebanon. (AFP)


But anyone thinking Saudi Arabia are getting ahead of themselves have been told to think again. While the Green Falcons are confident and seeking to ramp up their title challenge in the knockout stages, they are aware they must win today to top Group E.
“Our qualification does not mean that we will underestimate the importance of tomorrow’s match,” Al-Muwallad said.
“We will try to play every game as hard as we can.”
That is the message being delivered by Pizzi. Having seen his team get off to such a great, positive start, the manager is keen not to lose any momentum ahead of the second round.
“What matters in such tournaments is achieving good results, which we were able to do in the first two matches against Lebanon and North Korea,” he said.
“We hope to fulfill the aspirations of Saudi football fans who watch each and every match, and we intend to play with the same importance.”
Should the Green Falcons continue their good form and beat Qatar — who have looked equally as impressive in their 2-0 win over Lebanon and 6-0 hammering of North Korea — they will top the group and face Iraq next Tuesday.
“Qatar is a team with many qualities and they have good strikers. However, we are also doing well collectively and I have full confidence that my players can get the three points,” the former Spain international said.
“We will try to do our best to win (against Qatar), even if we have qualified to the knockout rounds, our strategy to win the game will not change.”
Pizzi’s opposite number Felix Sanchez was equally adamant that his side would not play for a draw — their better goal difference would secure them top spot, however — and would aim for a win.
“We are doing exactly the same as we have for the other games, but we know it is a match which will decide top spot,” the Spaniard said.
“We will plan well, as we did for the other matches. The focus now is on Saudi Arabia and we must plan for a good game.”


Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria in Argentina's Copa America squad

Updated 11 min 48 sec ago
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Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria in Argentina's Copa America squad

BUENOS AIRES: Argentina included Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria in its Copa America squad, while Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi was left out.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni announced his list Tuesday, with the attacking trio of Messi, Di Maria and Aguero looking for their first major international title after losing three finals — at the 2014 World Cup and 2015 and 2016 Copa America.
Argentina is in Group B with Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar. Its first match will be against Colombia on June 15 in Salvador.

Squad:
Goalkeepers: Esteban Andrada (Boca Juniors), Franco Armani (River Plate), Agustin Marchesin (America de Mexico).
Defenders: Renzo Saravia (Racing), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Juan Foyth (Tottenham), German Pezzella (Fiorentina), Ramiro Funes Mori (Villarreal), Milton Casco (River Plate), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisbon).
Midfielders: Rodrigo De Paul (Udinese), Leandro Paredes, Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Roberto Pereyra (Watford), Giovani Lo Celso (Real Betis), Guido Rodriguez, Exequiel Palacios (River Plate).
Strikers: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Matias Suarez (River Plate), Lautaro Martínez (Inter Milan).