Green Falcons' wings clipped, but Brazil praise Saudi Arabia showing

Neymar was on the pitch but did not manage to get on the scoresheet during Brazil's regulation 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
Updated 13 October 2018

Green Falcons' wings clipped, but Brazil praise Saudi Arabia showing

  • Samba stars stroll to 2-0 win but were impressed by Juan Antonio Pizzi's side in Riyadh.
  • Saudi coach happy with effort of his players three months ahead of the Asian Cup.

LONDON: Manchester United star Fred has paid tribute to Saudi Arabia after Brazil beat the Green Falcons 2-0 in Riyadh on Friday.
Goals at the end of each half from Gabriel Jesus and Alex Sandro, with Neymar getting the assist for both, gave the five-time world champions the victory, but the South Americans were made to work hard for the win by a committed Saudi Arabia side.
“Saudi Arabia are a good team as we saw tonight,” Fred said after the clash. “It was a close game and there wasn’t much between us. We saw at the World Cup that Saudi Arabia is not an opponent to take lightly and they pushed us all the way.”
Fred was especially impressed with the Al-Hilal midfield pairing of Salman Al-Faraj and Abdullah Otayf.
“I like the way Saudi Arabia team plays and there are a lot of excellent players in the team. I think the best were No. 7 and 14. Those two are top-class and read the game very well.”
Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi told his players that while he is never happy to lose, his charges acquitted themselves well against one of the best teams in the world. The Green Falcons got themselves into dangerous positions on a number of occasions but struggled to create clear-cut chances.
“The defeat was not satisfactory as we never like to lose but I want to say that the players carried out their tactical instructions very well,” Pizzi, who was appointed 11 months ago, said.
“We played well against a very strong opponent.”
Brazil did not have as many chances as some would expect given the difference in FIFA rankings between the two teams, with the South Americans ranked in third place, 68 spots above their hosts.
“This will be a boost for confidence,” said the Chilean coach.
“One of the biggest jobs for a coach is to instill belief in a squad of players and it was great to see the players go at the Brazil team.”
Brazil started with their big-name stars such as PSG’s Neymar and Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho but Salem Al-Dawsari believed that his teammates more than held their own.
“Obviously Brazil are a great team,” the Al-Hilal winger said.
“They are the third-ranked team in the world but we gave a good account of ourselves in front of our own fans.”
The most important part, according to the international, was that fans saw a Saudi team discovering its identity.
“We played as Saudi Arabia,” he said. “We were not just focused on stopping them playing but we tried to play our own game. We lost to a better team but we gave it our all.”
The game ended on something of a sour note as goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais, who had made a number of fine saves to deny Neymar and others, was sent off with five minutes remaining. The Al-Ahli shotstopper was somewhat harshly adjudged to have handled a shot from Everton’s Richarlison outside the area.
Now the focus turns to a meeting with Iraq tomorrow. The Lions of Mesopotamia lost 4-0 to Argentina on Thursday in the first match of the four-nation tournament. The clash should give Pizzi a very good idea of where Saudi Arabia are ahead of January’s important Asian Cup.
“The game with Iraq will be different,” Hussein Abdulghani said.
“We are more similar in terms of our level and it should be a good game. We want to give our fans a great display to say thank you for their support against Brazil, which was fantastic,” added the 41-year-old veteran defender.
Brazil go on to play South American rivals Argentina in Jeddah on Tuesday. “We have a big game coming up,” said Brazil coach Tite. “That is why it was good to have a test that Saudi Arabia gave us. It was a hard game and it is exactly what we needed.”

Gasol clinches rare NBA-World Cup double as Spain down Argentina

Updated 16 September 2019

Gasol clinches rare NBA-World Cup double as Spain down Argentina

  • Toronto Raptors center Mark Gasol becomes the second player to win an NBA title and a FIBA world gold medal in the same year


BEIJING: Three-time All-Star Marc Gasol became only the second man to win an NBA crown and the World Cup in the same year after Spain brushed aside Argentina 95-75 on Sunday.

Spain, who survived double overtime against Australia to reach the final, led throughout in Beijing to win international basketball’s biggest prize a second time.

The only previous occasion was in 2006 with the two Gasol brothers, Marc and older sibling Pau, on the team.

Pau did not feature in China because of injury.

The latest triumph was particularly sweet for the 34-year-old center Gasol, who three months ago also played a key part in the Toronto Raptors’ run to the NBA title.

Gasol, who had 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, joins Lamar Odom, a double winner in 2010 with the US and Los Angeles Lakers.

Surprise finalists Argentina had not triumphed since they hosted the inaugural World Cup in 1950.

As a contest, the final was over by the fourth quarter — although the Argentines did rally belatedly to reduce Spain’s previously mighty lead.

Fans of both teams had made it feel more like a football match, decked out in their national colors, chanting loudly and refusing to sit down.

Spain, for whom Ricky Rubio of the Phoenix Suns has been one of the leading players of the tournament in China, surged into a 14-2 lead.

In front of a capacity crowd, Argentina’s 39-year-old talisman Luis Scola could not escape the attentions of Pierre Oriola.

Led by their slick-haired Italian coach Sergio Scariolo, Spain were up 21-14 going into the second quarter and increased their advantage to 43-31 at halftime.

With Rubio prominent, drilling 20 points, Spain never looked like surrendering their lead, repeatedly thwarting Argentina’s suffocated offense.

France roared back after halftime to defeat Australia 67-59 and claim a second World Cup bronze in a row — and extend the Boomers’ long wait for a major medal.

Turkish-based guard Nando De Colo led all scorers with 19 points for France and Nicolas Batum had nine points, six assists, three rebounds and three steals.

The French, one of the tallest teams at the tournament, defeated reigning two-time holders the US in the quarterfinals, but then lost heavily to Argentina.

“For us it’s something very, very special and important we did it after a very difficult first half,” French coach Vincent Collet said.

“Many teams could have given up, even easy shots we were missing in the first half.

“We started to move the ball better in the second half and that’s why we won this game.”

It was hard on Australia, who similarly led for long periods in their semifinal against Spain.

It is still the best finish for the Boomers, who had never gone beyond the quarterfinals at 11 previous World Cups, but they are yet to claim a medal at the worlds or Olympics.

Deposed champions the US, who were missing their elite names, finished seventh, their lowest position in tournament history.

They did, at least, qualify to defend their Olympic title in Tokyo next summer. With 32 teams, this was the biggest Basketball World Cup ever.

The next one will be in 2023 in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.