RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s U-23 team will on Wednesday play its final match at the Tokyo 2020 football tournament when it takes on Rio 2016 gold medalists Brazil at Saitama Stadium.
Two previous Group D losses to Ivory Coast and Germany means the Young Falcons cannot advance to the quarterfinals even with a win against the reigning champions.
But coach Saad Al-Shehri will be hoping that with no pressure and nothing to play for except pride, his team will put on a performance as good as the ones in the earlier matches, particularly the hugely unlucky 3-2 defeat against a 10-man German team.
He will also take the chance to give some game time to players who have not yet taken part in the tournament.
Goalkeeper Amin Bukhari and midfielder Mukhtar Ali were unused substitutes against Ivory Coast and Germany, while Zaid Al-Bawardi, the third-choice goalkeeper, right back Abdullah Hassoun, midfielder Nasser Al-Omran, and Firas Al-Buraikan, the striker who joined the squad after the first match as a replacement for the injured Turki Al-Ammar, have yet to make the bench.
Egypt, meanwhile, still have major ambitions to reach the quarterfinals after drawing with Spain and narrowly losing to Argentina in the first two matches of Group C.
But it will not be easy. The team will have to beat an Australian side that has already defeated Argentina, and then hope that the South Americans do not win against Spain. Even then, goal difference will come into play.
The Pharaohs will know that the first part, at least, remains a distinct possibility despite the Olyroos’ fine form. Thanks in large to the leadership of the excellent Amr Hegazi and the solid contribution of his fellow defenders, the Egyptians have conceded only one goal, though it proved decisive against Argentina.
A clean sheet would give the team a platform to attack the Australians but there would have to be a major improvement in finishing. Egypt must break the scoreless run in the tournament to have any hope of progress.