‘Saudi Arabia are getting better with every game’: Juan Antonio Pizzi

‘Saudi Arabia are getting better with every game’: Juan Antonio Pizzi
Juan Antonio Pizzi is happy with how the Green Falcons are shaping up ahead of the World Cup
Updated 29 March 2018

‘Saudi Arabia are getting better with every game’: Juan Antonio Pizzi

‘Saudi Arabia are getting better with every game’: Juan Antonio Pizzi

BRUSSELS: Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi dismissed concerns following his side’s one-sided 4-0 defeat to Belgium, insisting he is “satisfied” his team is learning and improving with every game in the lead-up to the World Cup in June.
A first-half brace from Romelu Lukaku and two late goals within 90 seconds from Michy Batsyuahi and Kevin De Bruyne extended Belgium’s unbeaten run to 16th consecutive matches. Pizzi, meanwhile, has just one victory in four games since being appointed head coach in late November.
However, the Argentine insisted results do not matter at this stage and the more important aspect of such games is learning about his players and instilling a footballing philosophy. During a 1-1 draw with Ukraine last week and again in the defeat to Belgium on Tuesday, the Green Falcons have looked comfortable in possession, pressing high up the pitch, but being undone by individual errors in dangerous areas.
“Bit by bit, we are trying to improve our main ideas and methodology of play,” Pizzi told media inside the King Baudouin Stadium. “Don’t forget, we are playing against one of the strongest teams in the world and with many players that played at the last World Cup.
“Over the past two to three years, they have been one of the best five teams in the world. But I am satisfied with the individual performances of some of my players, because we did well to try to match Belgium’s technical and physical levels and compete with players at this high standard,” he said.
Belgium were dominant from start to finish, but Saudi Arabia did not veer from their game-plan of short, intricate passes, pressing and attacking in numbers.
Their two best chances fell to Fahad Al-Muwallad, who saw his first shot saved by Simon Mignolet and then thought he had won a penalty for his team in the second half when he went to ground while trying to round the Liverpool goalkeeper.
“It is true that when we have the ball we are much more comfortable than before, but we are trying to work on many aspects,” Pizzi told Arab News.
“We achieved what we wanted, learned a lot, and better understand now how to combat teams that can exhaust you with their ball positioning.
“Of course, we have many things to improve. We have to work hard and learn what it is like to play in international matches of this calibre, but these games help. Their purpose is for trying new things and giving game-time to as many players as possible. The more you can do that, the more you can judge them and understand the team’s level,” Pizzi said.
With Saudi Arabia already scheduled to play friendlies against Italy, Peru and Germany and confirming two more — against Algeria and Greece in May — Pizzi is confident that his preparation schedule will ensure his side arrive in Russia ready to progress from a group that includes the hosts, Uruguay and Egypt.
“We are preparing for a World Cup and this game was, given the quality of the opposition, a kind of World Cup game.
“Belgium have players who are in the best leagues in the world, so it has been a good experience. The training camps, the friendly that we played last week, and the games we will add in May and June will ensure we reach the World Cup in the best possible condition,” the manager said.