Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons can fly even higher after glory at the Asian Championships, claims coach

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Turki Al-Ammar had a great tournament, scoring in the final and being named player of the tournament. (AFC)
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Updated 06 November 2018

Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons can fly even higher after glory at the Asian Championships, claims coach

  • Khalid Al-Atawi predicts a bright future for his U19 side ahead of next year's U20s World Cup in Poland.
  • Coach full of praise for star man Al-Ammar, who was named tournament's MVP.

LONDON: Victorious Saudi Arabia coach Khalid Al-Atawi said his Young Falcons have only just got started and predicted a bright future for the side.
Al-Atawi was speaking after guiding the U-19s to glory, beating South Korea 2-1 in the final of the Asian U19 Championships.
The trophy, which has returned to Riyadh for the first time since 1992, is not the only prize that has come back to Saudi Arabia. The team has also earned a ticket to Poland next year to participate in the U20 World Cup and will do so as champions of the world’s biggest continent.
And Al-Atawi claimed the future is bright for his side.
“There are bigger challenges to come but we will be ready for it,” the coach told Arab News.
“This is a great achievement. We have shown that we have talent and spirit and I knew that we could win it from the beginning.”
The young Falcons won all six of their matches at the tournament in Indonesia and flew home to a heroes welcome in Riyadh yesterday morning as deserved winners.
“The players have grown as the tournament progressed and worked so hard to win this trophy, and that started back in qualification last year,” Al-Atawi, who has won praise at home and abroad for his coaching exploits, added.
“We were the first to arrive here in Indonesia and the last to leave.”

Al-Ammar with his MVP award after Saudi Arabia's 2-1 win over South Korea in Indonesia. 

Nobody could argue that Saudi Arabia had an easy run to the title. The team taking on most of Asia’s heavyweights with Al-Atawi and his men maintaining a perfect record.
“We are so happy to win without losing a game or even drawing. We played some very good teams in the group stage, and then we played Australia in the quarterfinal and then Japan (in the last four).”
The final was a tense affair against a talented South Korean team that boasted one of the stars of the tournament in Jeon Se-jin. The Young Falcons had the perfect start, however, as talisman Turki Al-Ammar opened the scoring after just two minutes, shooting home the rebound after Abdulmohsen Al-Qahtani’s shot had been saved.
Midway through the half, Khalid Al-Ghannam curled home from outside the area to put the West Asians within touching distance of the trophy. Korea came back after the break, however, and a converted penalty kick just after the hour from Cho Young-wook reduced the arrears. With 10 minutes remaining, Jeon missed an open goal from close range and Saudi Arabia saw out the game.
There was plenty of praise for Al-Ammar from many in Indonesia and the coach was also delighted with how the Al-Shabab midfielder, who was named as the tournament MVP, had performed.
 “We knew that he would have a great tournament before it started,” Al-Atawi said. “He played excellently all the way from the start.”
Saudi Arabia Football Federation president Qusay bin Abdulaziz Al-Fawaz met the squad on their arrival in Riyadh and draped garlands around their necks.
They were also congratulated by  Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa, the president of the Asian Football Confederation.
“Saudi Arabian Football Federation deserves our praise for producing continental champions who will inspire our youths and instill the desire and willingness to succeed on the world’s biggest stage,” Al-Khalifa said.
South Korea boss Chung Jung-yong was disappointed to lose the final and a chance to win continental title No. 13, but believes that his team can go on to greater heights.
“Congratulations to Saudi Arabia for being champions and for winning all their games which is not an easy thing to do,” Chung said.
“Overall this was a good tournament for us and I am pleased with the progress we have made.
“In the final we made too many mistakes in the first half and we found ourselves two goals down. We were much better in the second half and it was a good performance all around.”

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

Updated 17 November 2019

Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

  • World Cup semifinalists ‘still have room for improvement as they chase first major title since 1966’

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”