Saudi Arabia all set for tough Germany test in final pre-World Cup friendly

Saudi Arabia all set for tough Germany test in final pre-World Cup friendly
Saudi Arabia will be looking to repeat their second-half performance against Italy, when they showed fight and character against the European powerhouse.
Updated 08 June 2018

Saudi Arabia all set for tough Germany test in final pre-World Cup friendly

Saudi Arabia all set for tough Germany test in final pre-World Cup friendly
  • Green Falcons head into last pre-World Cup clash on the back of two defeats.
  • Germany also in the spotlight - the World Cup champions are without a win since last July.

LONDON: There was a fear that after losing two matches on the bounce to Italy and Peru, all the pre-match pressure ahead of Saudi Arabia’s clash with Germany in Leverkusen would be on Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men.
A shock 2-1 defeat for Germany to Austria last Friday, however, means that tonight’s friendly between the Green Falcons and the defending World Cup champions has taken on an importance for both sides that few would have predicted even two weeks ago.
Germany come into the clash without a victory in five matches and with worry rather than wins on their mind. That streak may have included difficult matches against England, France, Spain and Brazil, but there is little doubting that all is not well in the German camp.
The Green Falcons, though, are not reading anything into recent results and are all too aware of the challenge they will face in their last match before the kick-off against hosts Russia on Thursday.
“We all know of the strength of Germany and this is going to be a very valuable experience for us,” Saudi Arabia skipper Osama Hawsawi told Saudi TV.
“They are the world champions and we can see the standards they have.  This has to be a real team effort and we know what we have to do.
“We have been working hard and will continue to do so ahead of the World Cup.”
While the 3-0 defeat to Peru was less than ideal, Pizzi did play a second-string side against an under-rated South American outfit buoyed by the return of their star man, Paolo 
Guerrero.
Tonight Pizzi is expected to play as close to his first-strength side as possible, sticking with the players who did well in the second half of the 2-1 loss to Italy and in the victories over Algeria and Greece.
Perhaps more than the result — the serious work does not start until the side reaches Russia — Pizzi will be looking for a good performance, one that shows that as soon as the opening game against Russia gets underway, with the eyes of the world watching, his players will not be overawed.
Much rests on the shoulders of Hawsawi, Taiser Al-Jassim, Salem Al-Dawsari and Fahad Al-Muwallad, the spine of the team expected to lead the Green Falcons’ charge in Russia.
Hattan Batehbri realizes the size of the task facing Saudi Arabia, both tonight and once the tournament kicks off.
“We are working as hard as we can to improve. We know that this game is (a step up in class), and every moment we are focused on the game so we can represent the country better,” the midfielder said.
As if failing to win in five matches was not bad enough — Germany’s most recent victory came against Chile last July — Joachim Low also has injury concerns.
Arsenal star Mesut Ozil will miss tonight’s match with a knee injury, but the attacking midfielder’s participation in the World Cup is not in danger, according to the German football federation.
The midfielder, who picked up the injury during the Austria defeat, has not taken part in full training over the past four days at Germany’s 
pre-World Cup camp in Eppan, in northern Italy.
“It’s nothing dramatic, we just don’t want to take any risk and he was able to sprint in training. I assume he will be OK for the World Cup,” Germany’s team director, Oliver Bierhoff, said.
The sole injury worry for Pizzi concerns Abdullah Otayf. The midfielder has been reportedly experiencing muscle pain, but is expected to be fine for both the Germany match and World Cup.
If there is one concern, it is that facing the world champions a week out from the tournament could backfire if Low’s side inflict a heavy defeat.
There is little doubt it will be a tough match. Pizzi will set the side up to be more compact in midfield and defense compared with the Peru 
defeat and will look to attack on the break. Those will be the tactics in Russia, and a good performance tonight, regardless of the result, is what the Chile boss will be after.