Juan Antonio Pizzi and Saudi Arabia have work to do before World Cup opener

Salem Al-Dawsari looked in fine form during his side's 2-0 win against Greece.
Updated 17 May 2018

Juan Antonio Pizzi and Saudi Arabia have work to do before World Cup opener

  • Tuesday's victory over Greece was the Green Falcons' third in six matches under Pizzi.
  • Saudi Arabia dominated possession but Greece had more shots on goal.

SEVILLE: The tackle was late and the decision correct, but the dismissal of Greece defender Dimitrios Giannoulis in Tuesday night’s friendly with Saudi Arabia hurt both teams. The Europeans, down to 10 men and fielding an experimental side, tired quickly and showed little ambition going forward. Meanwhile, the Green Falcons, keen to gauge their level ahead of the World Cup, ended up playing in a manner that looked like a low-intensity training session.
When Salman Al-Dawsari opened the scoring midway through the first half, the match was nicely poised. Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men were controlling possession but had to work hard to fashion any sort of opportunity in the final third. Al-Dawsari, a peripheral figure in the victory over Algeria last week, was playing like his seat on the flight to Russia depended on it.
He harried and hustled, showing a determination unseen in recent weeks. He drove through the center at pace, skipping past defenders. He chased down every loose ball. And his reluctance to let Greece settle helped spark the move that led to the red card. It was the type of first-half performance Pizzi demands — intensity, desire and attacking intent — but after the sending off, Saudi Arabia relaxed, with Al-Dawsari fading and the team losing its drive.
Yahya Al-Shehri was prominent, drifting in from the right, but with the match being played at a lower tempo, he too often passed sideways rather than probing the backline.
Full-back Yasser Al-Shahrani, excellent throughout, continued to find plenty of space on the left flank, yet consistently had a shortage of options in the final third.
Saudi Arabia may have dominated possession, but it was Greece who finished with both more shots at goal and more shots on target. Only the post stopped Efthimios Koulouris from equalising in the 79th minute.
Moments later, having been stirred by the scare, the Green Falcons added their second through a well-taken volley from Mohammed Kanoo. The strike was their only shot on target in the second half.
Asked by Arab News if he was disappointed by his side’s performance against 10 men, Pizzi dismissed any concerns and insisted it is often harder to play against a numerically weaker opponent who are unwilling to take risks.
“No, no, no,” he said. “We controlled possession even before the sending off, so I’m happy with the performance.”
The Argentine said he expects further improvement as the squad travels to Switzerland next week for their final phase of preparation.
“During this training camp, we were implementing our philosophy and it is a day-by-day, game-by-game process,” he said.
“The players are getting the main idea. This was our second-last training camp before the World Cup, so it was important. Now the players are getting the tactics and philosophy to improve their level of performance.”
Against Greece, it felt more like a missed opportunity to improve their confidence in front of goal. After all, there will be no more easy games for Pizzi’s side. Next up is Italy on May 28, then Peru and Germany. And then the small matter of the World Cup, starting June 14.


Brazilian Football Confederation confirms: Saudi Arabia to host 2nd Brazil-Argentina clash

Updated 16 October 2019

Brazilian Football Confederation confirms: Saudi Arabia to host 2nd Brazil-Argentina clash

  • The match will be held at the King Saud University stadium in Riyadh on Nov. 15

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil will take on Argentina in a friendly in Saudi Arabia for the second time in a year next month, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) announced on Monday.

The match will be held at the King Saud University stadium in Riyadh on Nov. 15, CBF said on its official website.

The newly crowned Copa America winners beat their fierce rivals 1-0 in Jeddah last year.

They beat Argentina 2-0 at home in the semifinal of the Copa America in July, a controversial match that left Argentina superstar Lionel Messi complaining the hosts benefitted from favoritism.

The Selecao went on to beat Peru 3-1 in the final.

Brazil will also play a friendly against South Korea in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 19.

Saudi Arabia is trying to promote itself as a top level sports hub.

Unified heavyweight world champion Andy Ruiz of Mexico will take on Britain’s Anthony Joshua in their rematch in Diriyah on Dec. 7.

Fellow British heavyweight boxing star Tyson Fury will switch briefly to professional wrestling on Oct. 31 in Riyadh to take on Braun Strowman in a World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE) card.

In February Saudi Arabia hosted its first European Tour golf event while it will also stage a tennis exhibition tournament in December and next year’s Dakar Rally.