Juan Antonio Pizzi tells Saudi Arabia to improve or forget about beating Japan

Saudi Arabia looked lackluster during their 2-0 defeat at the hands of Qatar. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2019
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Juan Antonio Pizzi tells Saudi Arabia to improve or forget about beating Japan

  • Green Falcons face tough route to final starting with Japan in the second round on Monday.
  • Coach warns players they have no chance of ultimate glory unless they go up a gear in the UAE.

LONDON: Juan Antonio Pizzi has told his Green Falcons they will have to learn the lessons of their defeat to Qatar if they are to have a chance of beating Japan in the second round.
Pizzi’s players went into the Group E clash already assured of a place in the knockout stages, having beaten North Korea and Lebanon in their first two marches. But the prospect of topping the pool and avoiding four-time champions Japan was still motivation enough to avoid temptation to treat the Qatar match as a dead rubber.
In a lackluster performance — a marked contrast to the energy and creativity of their first two matches — the Green Falcons failed to impose themselves in the game and paid the price when two Almoez Ali goals gave the win and points to Qatar.
That left Pizzi annoyed, warning his players they cannot afford to make the same mistakes against Japan.
“We tried to impose our style of play on Qatar, but our finishing and our ability to make the right decisions at crucial moments were not there tonight,” Pizzi said.
“We were good in the first 30 minutes, but an individual error for the first goal and then another mistake from a set-piece saw us concede twice.
“I am just starting to think of the game versus Japan. As I have stated before, I respect all of the teams that are here and do not feel either superior or inferior to anyone.
“It is now important for us to learn from the mistakes we made against Qatar and perform better when we play Japan.”
The first rule of any tournament is to get through to the knockout stages. That Saudi Arabia have managed that, having failed in the 2011 and 2015 editions, is a success. Add to that the fact they qualified for their first World Cup in 12 years last year, and it is clear that Pizzi’s team is still one on the up.
If there is a positive to take out of the Qatar defeat it is that the side’s first poor performance in the tournament came in a group match having already made it through, rather than in a winner-takes-all encounter such as the one they face against the Blue Samurai in Sharjah on Monday.
“We will bounce back. I don’t feel that we are not as good as (Japan) in any way,” Pizzi said.


Blue Point focused on Al-Quoz glory after magical run at Meydan

Updated 15 February 2019
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Blue Point focused on Al-Quoz glory after magical run at Meydan

  • Star sprinter proves class with easy G2 win in Dubai.
  • Charlie Appleby hopeful over Al-Quoz Sprint chances.

LONDON: Star sprinter Blue Point is on course for glory in the much-anticipated Al-Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night. That is the message from Godolphin after a brilliant victory in the G2 Meydan Sprint on Thursday.
The Dubai-based stable have long held high hopes for the Shamardal horse and the five-year-old’s win confirmed that they have something special on their hands.
Blue Point took up the running from Faatinah with more than two furlongs to race and readily opened up daylight over his rivals approaching the final furlong, quickly going clear.
For Charlie Appleby the performance only went to prove that Blue Point has it in him to steal the show on Dubai World Cup night in March.
“If he brought his class, he was going to be good enough to win, but we had left a bit on him because the G1 Al-Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night is our target,” the Godolphin trainer said.
“No disrespect to this race, and we were pleased to win it, but it was the right stepping stone onto the Al-Quoz.
“I was pleased to see him in the paddock, more so than a couple of days ago when it looked like he had a couple of pounds left on him. He had tightened up a bit.
“We were always confident that he was going to come forward for whatever he did. He is a five-year-old now and a professional — getting better with racing. He came alive two furlongs down and it was only a matter of William asking him to pick up and do a bit of work.”
The “Boys in Blue” always place a lot of focus on the World Cup night and a second win in the Al-Quoz sprint — Appleby saddled Jungle Cat to victory last year — is one of the aims for the famous race meeting in March.
“I am very pleased and, all being well, he should step forward for it and all roads will now lead to the Al-Quoz Sprint,” Appleby said.
“I feel that he is not overly exposed as a sprinter — we looked after him as a two-year-old and a three-year-old, while he wasn’t over-raced last year so he is entitled still to be learning.”
Added to the optimism surrounding Blue Point is the fact that William Buick feels he is coming to form at just the right time.
“It was a nice comeback opportunity for Blue Point and he did it very comfortably, doing everything right. It was lovely to see him come back like that,” the jockey said. “He has probably matured a little bit compared to 12 months ago and the biggest difference this year is that he is a G1 winner this time. He had proved himself and feels like a very confident horse — there is no question that he is a top sprinter.”
Meanwhile, Godolphin’s star G1 performers Hartnell, Best Of Days and Alizee have been entered for the world’s richest mile race, the $5 million All-Star Mile to be run at Flemington on March 16.
Head trainer James Cummings confirmed that all three horses will seek a place in the famous race.
“We think it’s great the way in which it really engages with not only the racing audience, but potentially reaching out beyond just that and bringing in a wider audience from not only Australia, but from around the world,” Cummings said. “We’re really excited to be a part of the richest mile race anywhere in the world.”