Juan Antonio Pizzi pleased with Green Falcons' ‘Russia preparation’ win over battling Greece side

Greece's Andreas Gianniotis in action with Saudi Arabia's Fawaz Al-Qarni. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 May 2018

Juan Antonio Pizzi pleased with Green Falcons' ‘Russia preparation’ win over battling Greece side

  • A header from Salem Al-Dawsari and a late Mohammed Kanoo volley were enough to ensure the Green Falcons secured a win over Greece
  • Pizzi, a former striker, had spoken pre-match about the importance of his players showing confidence in front of goal

SEVILLE: Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi declared himself happy with his side’s performance in the 2-0 friendly win over Greece on Tuesday night, although conceded he would have liked to have seen his players capitalize on their numerical advantage following the first-half dismissal of Greek defender Dimitrios Giannoulis.
A header from Salem Al-Dawsari and a late Mohammed Kanoo volley were enough to ensure the Green Falcons secured a second win in six days. However the two goals proved to be Pizzi’s side’s only two shots on target — this despite an understrength Greece team being forced to play the entire second-half with 10-men following Giannoulis’s sending off after a last-ditch foul on Salman Al-Faraj.
“It was a good game and we dominated the ball in terms of possession,” the Argentine coach said. “Of course, the final part of the first-half there was the red card, but even before that we were controlling the game. They managed only one dangerous attack, which hit the post, so overall we are happy with the performance of our players.”
Pizzi, a former striker, had spoken pre-match about the importance of his players showing confidence in front of goal. They have now managed just nine goals in six games and Mohammed Al- Sahlawi, Saudi’s sole striker, has not featured on the scoresheet in 11 calendar months. The Al-Nassr forward showed few signs of breaking his drought inside the Estadio de La Cartuja.
“Of course, normally, when you have a one-player advantage we would expect it to have a big impact, but it wasn’t quite like that,” Pizzi said. “We dominated in the first half and hoped we could have made more of that dominance in the second half, especially against 10 players. Normally, chasing a game with one player less, you have to give an advantage to the opposition, but that didn’t happen so much.”
Yet while Saudi did not test the Greek goalkeeper as often as they should have, they did show a creative side to engineer chances from both flanks. Yahya Al-Shehri, Al-Faraj and Yasser Al-Shahrani all enjoyed plenty possession, but they could rarely work a shot at goal. Greece finished the match with more shots at goal and more shots on target than their dominant opponents.
Greece had been selected because Pizzi believes them to compare physically to Russia, who they will face in the opening match of the World Cup on June 14 in Moscow. Yet with the friendly being played outside FIFA’s international calendar, Greece coach Michael Skibbe had been forced to select only home-based players.
“We chose Greece not exactly for the team, but rather the characteristics of the players and the high-profile of the opponent,” Pizzi said. “Although we knew the two games would not be played on official FIFA dates, we wanted to face such teams because they have the potential to be very powerful. Obviously some of their more high-profile players did not play because they were involved in domestic football in the countries they play in, but we are very satisfied overall with the level and performances this month.”


Saudi Arabia’s footballers given heroes’ welcome on arrival in Palestine for World Cup qualifier

Updated 13 October 2019

Saudi Arabia’s footballers given heroes’ welcome on arrival in Palestine for World Cup qualifier

  • Green Falcons’ decision to play the AFC World Cup qualifier in Palestine was met with praise
  • Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas received Yasser Al-Mishal, the president of the Saudi Football Federation

RAMALLAH, Palestine: The Saudi Arabian national team arrived in Ramallah on Sunday ahead of their 2022 World Cup qualifying match against Palestine to a heroes’ welcome.

Earlier this month, the Green Falcons’ decision to play the AFC World Cup qualifier in Palestine was met with praise from those within the Palestinian authority.

Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Federation, told Arab News on Oct. 5 that the visit of the Saudi team has a historic and significant meaning for Palestinians.

And their arrival was met with fanfare from fans and authorities alike.

As the team arrived, the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas received Yasser Al-Mishal, the president of the Saudi Football Federation and offered a heartfelt welcome to the official and the Saudi team.

A video dedication as a message of thanks from the Palestinian people to the Saudi players was also released on Twitter.

Saudi Arabia face Palestine in Group D of the Asian section of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup having beaten Singapore and securing a draw against Yemen after two games.

Palestine, meanwhile, scored a shock 2-0 win over Uzbekistan in their first game before going down to Singapore away from home.

The match will be played at the Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium in Al-Ram on Tuesday.