Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi's contract extended until end of Asian Cup

Juan Antonio Pizzi will lead Saudi Arabia at the Asian Cup. (AFP)
Updated 26 June 2018

Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi's contract extended until end of Asian Cup

  • Coach rewarded for win over Egypt
  • Pizzi bounces back from losing to Russia to earn new deal

LONDON: Juan Antonio Pizzi has been rewarded for choreographing Saudi Arabia's first World Cup win in 24 years with a contract extension, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) has announced.

Recruited in November to replace Edgardo Bauza, Pizzi was only contracted to the federation until the end of the World Cup and his hopes of staying on beyond the tournament in Russia looked slim when Saudi Arabia slumped to a 5-0 defeat to the hosts on the opening night, causing much embarrassment and soul-searching for the federation. Federation president Adel Ezzat called the performance “totally unsatisfactory”, General Sports Authority chief Turki Al-Sheikh labelled the effort “a total fiasco" while SAFF vice president Nawaf Al-Temyat said the buck stops with Pizzi, saying "the coach is technically responsible for the loss of our team."

There was even talk of Saudi Arabia changing coaches mid-tournament, like they did in 1998 when World Cup-winning coach Alberto Parreira was fired. But Pizzi enjoyed a stay of execution at the hands of a federation who have made ten changes in as many years and managed to stop the rot against Uruguay, losing only 1-0 to a side ranked 14 in the world. The Argentine has been around long enough to know he needed a positive result against Egypt to keep his job and his team delivered, coming from behind to beat Egypt 2-1 on Monday. Their first World Cup win since they beat Belgium in 1994 meant they finished the tournament in third place in Group A and could return to the Kingdom with their heads held high.

Federation chiefs Ezzat and Al-Temyat were with the team throughout their stay in Russia and they clearly saw enough against Egypt and in training to believe that Pizzi is the man to lead them at the Asian Cup next year and they have handed him an extension. Pizzi hinted after the game that the Green Falcons camp was a harminous one and that they have been receptive to his methods, getting better as the tournament went on.

"I’d like to reiterate that I and the whole staff is really, really happy with the players and the way they have responded together with the response we have had from the association," he said.

Pizzi has won four of his 12 games in charge but he will be expected to improve that win ratio at the Asian Cup in the UAE. Bidding to win the tournament for the first time since 1996, Saudi Arabia are one of the favorites and have been drawn in a group along with Qatar, Lebanon and North Korea.

"Now we will focus on the Asian Cup and I am 100 percent convinced that we will continue to improve over the next six months," Pizzi said.

Pizzi's results:

Beat Moldova 3-0

Lost to Iraq 4-1

Drew with Ukraine 1-1

Lost to Belgium 4-0

Beat Algeria 2-0

Beat Greece 2-0

Lost to Italy 2-1

Lost to Peru 3-0

Lost to Germany 2-1

Lost to Russia 5-0

Lost to Uruguay 1-0

Beat Egypt 2-0

Total record: P12 W4 D1 L7 GF13 GA23


Bayern stuns Barcelona 8-2 to reach Champions League semis

Updated 18 min 58 sec ago

Bayern stuns Barcelona 8-2 to reach Champions League semis

  • Paris Saint-Germain and Leipzig will play in the other semifinal of the mini-tournament being staged without fans in Lisbon amid the coronavirus pandemic

LISBON, Portugal: With four goals in the first half hour and four more in the last half hour, Bayern Munich humiliated Barcelona 8-2 on Friday to reach the Champions League semifinals for the second time in three years.
Thomas Müller scored twice and Ivan Perišić and Serge Gnabry added on in Bayern’s stunning start to the standout quarterfinal between the only past champions left in the last eight.
Joshua Kimmich, Robert Lewandowski and Philippe Coutinho (twice) piled on in the second half as Barcelona conceded eight for the first time since 1946.
Barcelona got on the board with an own-goal by David Alaba in the first half and a goal by Luis Suárez in the second among only seven shots on target.
Seeking its first title since 2013, Bayern will next face either Manchester City or Lyon, who meet on Saturday in the last quarterfinal.
Paris Saint-Germain and Leipzig will play in the other semifinal of the mini-tournament being staged without fans in Lisbon amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The humiliating loss ended a disappointing season for Barcelona, one that included a coaching change and public disputes between players and team officials. It is the first time since 2008 that the Spanish club finished a season without a significant title. It hasn’t lifted the European trophy since 2015.
The commanding victory kept alive Bayern’s quest for a sixth title, which would move it ahead of Barcelona. It will be back in the semifinals for the first time since 2018 when it lost to Real Madrid in the last four. The German champion was eliminated by Liverpool in the round of 16 last season.
It is the first time since 2007 that no Spanish club has made it to the semifinals.
The result adds pressure on coach Quique Setién, who had already been criticized after Barcelona relinquished the Spanish league lead — and title — to Real Madrid after the competition resumed following the pandemic break.
Barcelona, which was eliminated by Liverpool in last year’s semifinals, hasn’t reached the final since the title run in 2015. It got past Bayern in the last four that year. The German club has the most wins against Barcelona in the European tournament.
In a hectic start at Benfica’s Stadium of Light, Barcelona paid for defensive mistakes against Bayern’s potent attack, which reached 39 goals in nine games in this Champions League.
Just four minutes in, Müller scored from inside the area after a breakaway that started when Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets gave the ball away at midfield.
Barcelona equalized three minutes later when Alaba found his own net while trying to intercept a pass by Jordi Alba to Suárez.
Barcelona had a couple of great chances shortly after, with Suárez’s close-range strike being saved by Manuel Neuer and Messi’s curling cross shot hitting the far post.
Messi also missed after a run into the area, and Bayern went back in front with Perišić’s powerful shot past goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen.
Bayern added the third and fourth goals three minutes apart after Gnabry beat Gerard Piqué to a pass into the area, and Müller completed a cross into the area after Barcelona right back Nelson Semedo conceded possession.
Suárez pulled Barcelona closer in the 57th, but Kimmich added the fifth goal after Alphonso Davies cruised past the Barcelona defense.
Lewandowski scored with a header in the 82nd, and Coutinho — a former Barcelona player who struggled at the Catalan club — closed the scoring with goals in the 85th and 89th minutes.
With his double, Müller reached six goals in five matches against Barcelona on the occasion of becoming the German player with the most appearances in the Champions League at 113.
Bayern also had a 53rd-minute goal disallowed for offside.