Juan Antonio Pizzi confident Saudi Arabia can mount an Asian Cup title challenge

Salem Al-Dawsari scored for the Green Falcons during their 4-0 win over North Korea and will be a key man for the side in the UAE. (AFP))
Updated 11 January 2019

Juan Antonio Pizzi confident Saudi Arabia can mount an Asian Cup title challenge

LONDON: Saudi Arabia are feeling confident and ready to take on anyone, that is the message Juan Antonio Pizzi has delivered to the team’s title rivals ahead of today’s Group E clash against Lebanon.
The Green Falcons won their opening match in emphatic style against North Korea on Tuesday. The 4-0 win seemingly imbuing the side with a lot of belief as well as the all-important three points.
They can confirm their spot in the second round with victory over a Lebanon side who felt aggrieved during their 2-0 loss at the hands of Qatar — coach Miodrag Radulovic hitting out at what his thought was awful refereeing.
Pizzi and his players are chomping at the bit to get at the Cedars and confirm that they are one of the teams to beat in the UAE.
“If the team continues at the level that they did against North Korea, it will be difficult for any other nation in the tournament to defeat us,” the coach said.
“We are ready for (the match against Lebanon), we hope to apply what we planned for in the match. We trust in our abilities and will look to impose our philosophy.”
Such confidence is perhaps understandable. The win was Saudi Arabia’s first in an Asian Cup since 1996 and only confirmed that the good run of form shown coming into the tournament was a pointer to possible success rather than false promise.
But while confidence is clear for all too see Pizzi insisted they will not be taking victory against Lebanon for granted.
“I previously said at the beginning of the tournament that every team has its strong points, and I think Lebanon are ready to match our strengths. We know the only way to win is to do our best,” the former Spain international said.
Green Falcons midfielder Hussein Al-Moqahwi illustrated the players were singing from the same song book as their boss revealing he and his teammates were expecting a tough test against Radulovic’s team.
“Tomorrow’s game will be tough, especially since Lebanon lost their first match,” the midfielder said. “This is one of the most dangerous games, but hopefully the three points will be ours.”
Before the tournament Pizzi emphasized the benefit of finally having his players all together for a long stretch of time, saying he was able implement his ideas far better than at the World Cup, when he was only six months into the job and very much in at the deep end.
That is something Al-Moqahwi agreed with.
“We have adapted to the manager’s style of play and hopefully will be able to implement it during the match,” he said.


Saudi Arabia seal late win against Uzbekistan in Asian Qualifiers

Updated 3 min 29 sec ago

Saudi Arabia seal late win against Uzbekistan in Asian Qualifiers

  • Al-Dawsari scores winner as Green Falcons come from behind to claim three points
  • Uzbekistan hope to bounce back when they host Palestine on Tuesday

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan:  Saudi Arabia twice came from a goal to defeat Uzbekistan 3-2 in Group D of the Asian Qualifiers on Thursday. 

It was a crucial win for the Green Falcons, taking the three-time Asian Cup winners to the top of Group D.

Uzbekistan came into the tie confident, having bounced back from an opening day loss to record back-to-back victories.

The Central Asians applied heavy pressure from the start and were rewarded after just 16 minutes, with Ikromjon Alibaev forcing Saudi defender Yasir Gharsan Al-Shahrani into a poor back pass, which Eldor Shomurodov neatly intercepted and blasted past keeper Mohammed Al-Owais.

Saudi Arabia, with one win and two draws in their previous matches, were not discouraged by the early deficit, though, and they pushed the hosts back in search of an equalizer.

BACKGROUND

Saudi Arabia, with one win and two draws in their previous matches, were not discouraged by the early deficit, though, and they pushed the hosts back in search of an equalizer.

It came six minutes later when Rustamjon Ashurmatov brought down a surging Feras Tariq Al-Brikan in the box, and referee Ryuji Sato pointed to the penalty spot. Saudi skipper Salman Al-Faraj converted with ease.

Ten minutes into the second half Uzbekistan won a penalty of their own when the hapless Al-Shahrani handled in the area. Shukurov made no mistake from the spot.

Saudi Arabia’s head coach Hervé Renard then sent on Abdulaziz Al-Beshi and Nawaf Al-Abed in the 62nd and 72nd minutes to rejuvenate the Green Falcons’ attack, as the visitors threw bodies forward in search of goals.

The Uzbek defense eventually cracked in the 85th minute as Al-Dawsari’s cross was not properly dealt with by Farrukh Sayfiev, and Al-Faraj volleyed home the loose ball to make it 2-2.

Vadim Abramov’s charges were now under pressure and cracked again just before the 90th minute as Al-Dawsari beat the Uzbekistan defenders and lobbed the ball over Eldorbek Suyunov to complete the comeback.

Uzbekistan hope to bounce back when they host Palestine on Tuesday.