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.”


Tokyo to skip one-year Olympic countdown over coronavirus: organizers

Updated 05 June 2020

Tokyo to skip one-year Olympic countdown over coronavirus: organizers

  • Games pushed back until July 23, 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak

TOKYO: Tokyo will scrap events marking a year to go until the postponed 2020 Olympic Games, organizers said Friday, citing the “current economic situation” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Games have been pushed back until July 23, 2021 because of the disease outbreak, though it remains unclear whether even that delay will be sufficient.
Last year, the city and organizers held a series of events to mark the one-year countdown, including unveiling the newly designed medals.
But given the global crisis, organizers ruled out a similar celebration.
“In view of the current economic situation, Tokyo 2020 will not be holding any events to mark the new one year to go milestone for the Games,” the organizers said.
“But we will consider what we can do to show our solidarity with the people.”
The confirmation came after reports in the Japanese media that organizers would scrap the event, fearing it was inappropriate given the global pandemic and the ongoing risk of infection inside Japan.
Kyodo News agency reported that posters and messages of encouragement to athletes might be put up and displayed online instead, adding that the organizing committee felt a more “moderate tone” was appropriate.
A nationwide state of emergency over the virus has been lifted in Japan, but a recent rise in cases in Tokyo has led to fears of a second wave.
The latest reports come after Tokyo’s governor confirmed the city and organizers are looking at ways to scale back next year’s Games.
Japanese media said streamlining plans could involve cutting the number of spectators and reducing participation in the opening and closing ceremonies.
The Yomiuri Shimbun daily quoted an unnamed source as saying that everyone including athletes, officials and spectators would be required to take a test for the virus.
Tokyo 2020 declined to comment on those reports, saying discussions about coronavirus countermeasures would be held “from this autumn onwards.”
Organizers and Tokyo officials face the twin headaches of ensuring the postponed Games can be held safely, given the pandemic, and keeping additional costs to a minimum.
But with the pandemic continuing to rage in much of the world, it remains unclear whether the Games can be held next year.
On Friday, a member of the organizing committee’s executive board said a decision on whether the Games could be held or not would need to be taken in spring.
“I think we need to decide around March next year,” Toshiaki Endo, a former Olympic minister told reporters, denying speculation that the IOC intends to make a decision in October.
IOC chief Thomas Bach said last month that 2021 was the “last option” for holding the Tokyo Games, stressing that postponement cannot go on forever.
He declined to say whether a vaccine was a prerequisite for going ahead with the Olympics, but was lukewarm on the idea of holding them behind closed doors.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said it would be “difficult” to hold the postponed Tokyo Olympics if the coronavirus pandemic is not contained.
And Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori has said the Olympics would have to be canceled if the disease isn’t under control by next year.