Juan Antonio Pizzi calls for more Saudi Arabia stars to play in Europe after Asian Cup exit to Japan

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Pizzi is pointing the way to Europe when it comes to where he thinks Saudi Arabia's best players should play. (AFP)
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Updated 21 January 2019
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Juan Antonio Pizzi calls for more Saudi Arabia stars to play in Europe after Asian Cup exit to Japan

  • Green Falcons coach claims side at disadvantage by not having its best players play in the best leagues.
  • Japan hold on to 1-0 lead as Saudi Arabia exit early after promising start to campaign.

LONDON: Juan Antonio Pizzi has called for more Saudi Arabian players to play abroad if the Green Falcons want to return to the top of Asian football.
The coach was speaking having watched his side exit the Asian Cup at the hands of Japan — a Takehiro Tomiyasu header after 20 minutes the enough to see the Blue Samurai through to the last-eight.
Saudi Arabia were in the ascendancy early on but it was Japan who snatched the advantage with a straightforward goal from a set piece on 20 minutes.
From a corner, Japan defender Tomiyasu climbed above his marker and nodded firmly into the bottom corner. The Green Falcons twice came close with headers as they strived for a way back, and Hatan Bahbri curled one just 
off-target as he went for the top corner.

Saudi Arabia could find no way past a resolute Japan defence in Sharjah. (AFP) 


But they could not find a way past an organized and determined Japanese backline and paid the price with an early exit.
For Pizzi the lesson of the 
tournament is that Saudi Arabia’s finest talents need to get more experience in Europe if the side is to take on the continent and world’s best on a regular basis.
“The league has not developed enough and football in other places has improved. It’s tough to have success if you change philosophies every year. Players must go to Europe,” the former Spain international said.
“I am very satisfied with the performance of the players who adhered to my directions on the pitch, and we will analyze our mistakes right away. We just did not have the final touch in the match.”
Last year, before the World Cup, three of Saudi Arabia’s leading lights did play in Spain in a bid to get more exposure to top-class football. Salem Al-Dawsari joined Villarreal, Fahad Al-Muwallad signed for Levante, while Leganes took Yahya Al-Shehri. All three had limited game time in the five months they were in La Liga but it is clear that Pizzi wants more of his players to follow their lead.
What is also not in doubt for the coach is the effort of the players. They started their campaign off well with a 4-0 thrashing of North Korea, followed up with a 2-0 
victory over Lebanon, but were unable to maintain that form, going down 2-0 to Qatar before the Japan defeat.
“The players have not let me down throughout the entire Asian Cup, but we must not forget that we played against one of the best teams in Asia, with most of their players participating in the European leagues.
“We chose the best players who deserved to represent the team. I am satisfied with how they performed during the tournament and what they earnestly sought to apply in the games in terms of technical plans and strategies.”
Pizzi confirmed in the post-match press conference that his contract with the Saudi Federation has run out and there have been no discussions about the future.

The pain of the early exit was clear to see after the final whistle. (AFP) 


Pep Guardiola urges title calm after Manchester City edge closer after beating sorry United

Updated 45 min 20 sec ago
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Pep Guardiola urges title calm after Manchester City edge closer after beating sorry United

  • Guardiola’s City have 89 points after 35 games
  • Title rivals Liverpool are just one point behind

MANCHESTER: Pep Guardiola said both Manchester City and Liverpool deserve to win the Premier League title after his side brushed aside Manchester United 2-0 on Wednesday to top the table again.
Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane struck for the visitors in 12 second-half minutes at Old Trafford to inflict a seventh defeat in nine games on United, who remain three points adrift of the top four.
Guardiola’s City have 89 points after 35 games, with Liverpool a point behind. Both sides have just three games remaining.
“I understand the pressure we have and obviously here at Old Trafford with Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard running behind,” the City boss told Sky Sports. “I told them we needed to play to win, it doesn’t matter if we concede.
“Now we go to Burnley and we know how tough it will be. It’s important to be calm. We are still not champions with three gaurgesmes left — it’s incredible with the points we have and Liverpool have.
“I told the players don’t read tomorrow, don’t watch the television, just rest and sleep a lot and go in there against Burnley.”
“Both teams deserve the title,” he added. “But it can be just one. The team that is going to lose can’t have regrets because they have given everything. Normally with this kind of victory you can it enjoy it the most but we have to be calm.”