Pizzi lands Saudi Arabia top job

Juan Antonio Pizzi shakes hands with Saudi Arabia Football Federation President Adel Ezzat. (SAFF)
Updated 29 November 2017

Pizzi lands Saudi Arabia top job

DUBAI: Juan Antonio Pizzi is the man chosen to lead the Saudi Arabia national team to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
A statement released by the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) on Twitter yesterday announced that an agreement has been reached for Pizzi to replace fellow Argentine Edgardo Bauza in the Green Falcons hotseat.
The agreement, which comes six days after previous coach Edgardo Bauza was fired, was signed in Tokyo, where an SAFF delegation was attending the AFC Champions League final second leg, which Al-Hilal lost to Urawa Red Diamonds on Saturday.
Pizzi’s name was selected out of a shortlist of coaches that reportedly included the likes of Vicente del Bosque, the former Spain coach. Reports in the Netherlands indicated that former boss Bert van Marwijk was also one of those approached by the SAFF.
Adel Ezzat, President of the SAFF, described the new coach as “experienced and highly ambitious.” Ezzat vowed to provide all necessary support to Pizzi as he prepares the team for the World Cup finals.
The announcement did not mention the length of Pizzi’s contract, leaving question marks about whether his role will extend to leading the national team at the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE, where Saudi Arabia is targeting at least an appearance in the final on the same ground where they won the trophy in 1996.
The 49-year-old becomes the fourth Argentinian to manage Saudi Arabia after Jorge Solari, Gabriel Calderon and Bauza. Solari was the man who lead the team to the second round of the 1994 World Cup, and Calderon won them qualification to Germany 2006 before making way for Marcos Paqueta to lead the team in the finals.
Pizzi becomes the 13th managerial appointment for the post in the past decade, making the post one of the hottest seats in world football. Van Marwijk was the only coach to last more than two years in the job since Khalil Al Zayani in the mid-1980s. Van Marwijk led Saudi to World Cup qualification but left the job in September after his contract expired and he failed to reach an agreement with the SAFF on renewal terms.
Argentina-born Pizzi arrives with a rich playing and coaching pedigree. He spent most of his playing career in Spain where he turned out for La Liga sides Valencia and Barcelona. He also represented Spain in the 1998 World Cup and managed a host of clubs in Argentina, including San Lorenzo and Rosario Central in addition to Spain’s Valencia. Most recently, Pizzi was in charge of the Chile national team, leading them to 2016 Copa America glory. His stint in charge of La Roja ended last month after they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, finishing sixth in the South American qualifiers.
He now gets the chance to go to the finals with the Green Falcons. His primary objective will be to lead the country to the round of 16, a feat Saudi Arabia failed to repeat since their impressive debut on the global stage in USA 1994 when they finished second in their group before being knocked out by Sweden in the round of 16. Since then, the Falcons exited at the group stage in 1998, 2002 and 2006.
Pizzi and the SAFF delegation will fly to Moscow later this week where they will learn their three World Cup group-stage opponents on Friday when the 2018 World Cup draw takes place. Among the 32 nations competing in Russia next summer, only the host country is ranked lower than Saudi Arabia, which means the Falcons are seeded in Pot Four alongside Japan, South Korea and Australia.


Anthony Joshua wins Clash on the Dunes in Saudi Arabia on points against Andy Ruiz Jr.

Updated 3 min 54 sec ago

Anthony Joshua wins Clash on the Dunes in Saudi Arabia on points against Andy Ruiz Jr.

  • British boxer won by a unanimous decision
  • New champion thanked Saudi Arabia for hosting the fight

RIYADH: Anthony Joshua reclaimed his world heavyweight title belts after a points decision over Andy Ruiz Jr. in the Clash on the Dunes on Sunday morning in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

The British boxer won by a unanimous decision from the judges after outboxing Ruiz Jr., especially in the later rounds.

In the first heavyweight title fight to be held in the Middle East, Joshua dominated a self-proclaimed "overweight" Ruiz Jr. over 12 solid, but largely uninspiring, rounds to win back the WBA, WBO and IBF belts, and avengeget revenge for his shock upset by his Mexican-American opponent six months ago in New York.

“Sometimes simplicity is genius. I was outclassing the champion,” Joshua said.

“I am used to knocking people out, but last time I got hurt so I gave the man his credit. I said I would correct myself again.

“I just wanted to put on a great boxing masterclass and also show the sweet science of this lovely sport. It’s about hitting and not getting hit.

British boxer Anthony Joshua, right, regained his world heavyweight title last night in front of 30,000 fight fans in a thrilling contest at the new Diriyah arena outside Riyadh, against the Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr.  (Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing , Dave Thompson/Matchroom and Ian Walton/Matchroom)

"Sometimes with certain fighters you have to box smarter. I understand what Andy brought to the table so I had to decapitate him in a different way,” he said.

Ruiz Jr. admitted he hadn't trained well enough for the rematch and got “boxed around.”

“The partying got the best of me," he said.  “I didn’t prepare how I should have. I gained too much weight. I don’t want to give excuses, he won ... If we do a third fight, you best believe I’m going to get in shape. I’ll be in the best shape of my life.”

Joshua immediately paid tribute to his opponent after the fight, thanking the Mexican fighter and his family, Saudi Arabia for hosting and the traveling fans who made the journey to the Kingdom.