Al-Hilal hire Spanish technical crew to oversee age-group teams

AL-Hilal players have be getting reacquainted with the gym before they go to Austria to step up pre-season training.
Updated 11 July 2018
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Al-Hilal hire Spanish technical crew to oversee age-group teams

  • Al-Hilal annouce Spanish team to oversee the youth setup at the club.
  • Riyadh giants to step up pre-season training in Austria which includes five friendly games against European opposition.

Al-Hilal have hired a team of Spaniards to look after their age-group teams in a further sign that the Saudi Professional League is looking to become more international in its outlook. The Spanish technical crew will look after the under-17, under-15 and under-13 teams and look to build foundations that will hopefully serve the Riyadh giants well in the future. A club announcement read: “The Spanish technical director Mr. Josep Cifre Alaminos will supervise the technical work of Al-Hilal age-group teams, meanwhile Mr. Francesc Pereto will be in charge of the U-17 team. Mr. Eduardo Balada will be the physical fitness trainer of the team. Mr. Carlos Inarejos will lead the U-15 team, Mr. Miquel Angel Ponce will be their finest coach, while Mr. Eric Barragan will mange the U-13 side.”
The move to try and inject some Spanish flavor into the Al-Hilal setup comes just months after the General Sports Authority and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation signed a deal with Spain’s La Liga to loan nine Saudi Arabian players to Spanish clubs earlier this year.
The headline names in the deal were internationals Salem Al-Dawsari, Yahya Al-Shahri and Fahad-Al Muwallad moving to Villarreal, Leganes and Levante respectively, in a the hope it would prepare them well for the Green Falcons’ World Cup campaign. But the agreement also saw younger, less well-known players move to lower league clubs in a bid to give them an insight into a different footballing culture and allow that to help them grow as players.
Before the loan signings, the vast majority of Saudi Arabia’s best players, both young and old, competed in the country’s top flight. Only one player, Mukhtar Ali, played abroad with Dutch top flight side Vitesse Arnhem.
Al-Hilal’s pre-season training is under way with the early sessions all focusing on fitness and strength work with Nawaf Al-Abed continuing his return to full fitness after a groin injury kept him out of Saudi Arabia’s squad that came third in Group A in Russia.
The pre-season workout will go up a level or two when the squad travels to Austria on Saturday for a training camp. It will be new boss Jesus Jorge’s first opportunity to drum his footballing philosophy into his new charges, a squad that will be bolstered by the the return of not only the injured Al-Abed, but also Carlos Eduardo and Omar Khribin.
Both the Brazilian attacking midfielder and the Syrian Asian player of the year missed Al-Hilal’s AFC Champions League campaign, where they crashed out at the group stage months after narrowly losing the final to Japan’s Urawa Reds.


Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

Updated 23 January 2019
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Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

  • Can the mighty minnows continue impressive run in the UAE?
  • Or will the big guns start to fire in quarterfinals?

LONDON: Asia’s biggest sporting spectacle has reached its quarterfinal stage — and it’s time for teams to find their A-game. While there are few surprises in the last-eight lineup, the form of some of the big-name sides has been less than impressive. Here we deliver our verdict on the second round.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Saudi Arabia’s attack

The Green Falcons started the tournament at top speed. They came in as one of the cup favorites and in their opening two matches illustrated why. A 4-0 thrashing of North Korea was backed up with a relatively simple 2-0 victory over Lebanon. Understandably, that raised hopes that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men could go all the way in the UAE. Alas, it was not to be as a 2-0 defeat to Qatar in their last group clash left them with a tricky tie against Japan. For all their efforts Saudi Arabia were unable to find the back of the net, the lack of firepower upfront costing Pizzi’s team yet again.



BIGGEST SHOCK — South Korean sloppiness

Boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son Heung-Min, South Korea were rightly declared the pre-tournament favorites. They had firepower up front, intelligence and creativity in midfield, and experience at the back. In the four matches in the UAE so far, however, they have looked anything but potential champions. They labored to beat Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and China in the group stage before almost being shocked by part-timers Bahrain in the second round. South Korea now face Qatar in the last eight and, as Son said after their extra-time win over Bahrain, they need to significantly improve if they are to avoid a shock exit before the semis.



UNDER PRESSURE — Alberto Zaccheroni and the UAE



The Whites owe their place in the last eight to luck more than skill. In some ways that is not a surprise — the hosts came into the tournament without their talisman, the injured Omar Abdulrahman, and on the back of a patchy run of form. But, still, the performances on home soil have been underwhelming to say the least. That was summed up with their extra-time win over Kyrgyzstan, who were playing in their first Asian Cup. It was a far-from-convincing performance and Central Asians were unlucky not to beat Zaccheroni’s side. The UAE will have to deliver their best performance for some time if they are to progress further. Their opponents, Australia, have also performed poorly, which may offer them some encouragement.



BEST HIGHLIGHT — The mighty minnows

The big guns have not had it all their own way. That may annoy their fans, but it does show that Asian football is improving. Only a few years ago the idea that Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain and Jordan would look the equals of Australia and Co. would have seemed fanciful. But in the past two weeks the standard shown by the so-called lesser lights has been impressive — and great to watch. Last summer five Asian teams appeared at the World Cup for the first time and it was hoped that showing would act as a springboard for further progress across the continent. On the evidence of the action in the UAE that wish could be coming true.

 

PREDICTIONS