Brazil refuse to take Saudi Arabia lightly ahead of Riyadh friendly

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Neymar is set to face the Green Falcons on Friday. (AFP)
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Updated 10 October 2018
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Brazil refuse to take Saudi Arabia lightly ahead of Riyadh friendly

  • Assistant coach Cleber Xavier tells Arab News that Samba stars know Saudi Arabia are an experienced side.
  • Brazil have one eye on Copa America, while Green Falcons are looking toward the Asia Cup.

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil’s assistant coach Cleber Xavier said his team of superstars are taking nothing for granted ahead of their clash with Saudi Arabia tomorrow night.
Neymar,  Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho are all set to feature against the Green Falcons in Riyadh’s King Saud University Stadium — the sort of firepower any team in the world would love to have.
But Xavier insisted Neymar and Co. would not be taking Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men lightly.
“(Saudi Arabia are) a team that we respect,” Xavier, who has worked as coach Tite’s assistant at various clubs since 2001, told Arab News.
“For us, it is a team that we have to pay attention to. We can’t be surprised. Each and every game more, we have that notion of respect for the opponent.
“(In September) played against the US, which is a new team, a team in transition, a team working for the Olympic Games. Saudi Arabia are more experienced.” 
Brazil are currently in a rebuilding process after the World Cup where they exited in the quarterfinals against Belgium, without ever looking like they would justify their favorites tag. 
The 23-man squad includes three fresh faces with Bordeaux defender Pablo, Hannover midfielder Wallace, and Barcelona striker Malcom. 

Roberto Firmino is just one of many big names set to be on show in the Saudi Arabia capital. 


The strategy to introduce newcomers in the team is part of the side’s planning as they seek to win the Copa America on home soil next year. 
“The Selecao are in a phase of transition,” Xavier explained.
“In the short term we look to observe and give opportunities to players we haven’t given a lot of opportunities to.
“The medium term is the Copa America. So, we have the opportunity to make a few changes in some positions, so that we have growth in the team.”
Saudi Arabia last played Brazil in February 2002 — a second-half strike from Djalminha was enough for Brazil to secure victory at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh. Having watched Saudi Arabia’s friendlies with Germany, Italy, Belgium, Peru and Bolivia, and the team’s three matches at the World Cup, Xavier expects another good contest this time around.  
“Antonio (Pizzi) plays with a 4-1-4-1,” Xavier said.
“It is a team with quick transitions, a team that doesn’t play the long ball, but likes to play for both the build-up and for transition with a compact and constructive game. The team has different, interesting players: Fahad (Al-Muwallad), the central striker; (Yahya) Al Shehri  on the right and (Salem) Al-Dawsari on the left, who is the team’s main player. He has a good strong right foot, cuts inside and finishes.
“Saudi Arabia (are) an interesting team. They are not a team that makes mistakes. They mark without making faults. It is not a team that when marking higher up will seek to construct counter-attacks with passing. We have already begun to strategize for the game.” 

Salem Al-Dawsari is the man the Selecao know well from his time at this summer's World Cup.


In September the Green Falcons drew 2-2 with Bolivia in a friendly, a disappointing result having led 2-0 after 11 minutes courtesy of goals from Al-Shehri and Al-Dawsari. After that match Pizzi was left to lament a lack of concentration and discipline.
“The (performance) against Bolivia was of inferior level to the World Cup and the preparation games for Russia,” Xavier said.
“Pizzi had an interesting game against Germany, but lost 2-1. An interesting game against Italy as well, which Saudi Arabia lost 2-1.
“Saudi Arabia also had an interesting game against Belgium, even though they lost 4-0. It is a team that seeks to play.
“Saudi Arabia has defensive problems. The team gets exposed trying to play and string passes together, and individual actions. Against Bolivia, Saudi Arabia led 2-0, but substitutions were made which is natural and in the second half you lose quality.” 
Saudi Arabia’s outing with Bolivia, the Falcons’ first match after the World Cup, began the build-up to the Asian Cup next January in the UAE, where Saudi Arabia have been drawn alongside Qatar, Lebanon and North Korea in Group E.
“There are a few plans that (Pizzi) can make specifically for this game and we have to be watchful of the danger situations,” Xavier said.
“The players up front have speed. There are transitions and we have to take advantage of Saudi’s defensive fragility.” 


Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 57 min 26 sec ago
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Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: getting them to the 2022 World Cup.
The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Abu Dhabi. While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990.
“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.
“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 


Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017 after contractual negotiations broke down. That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, not least with Saudi Arabia, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead.
“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said.
While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom it is his time as the Netherland coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010.
So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race?
“One of the reasons is the feeling — I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said.
“We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.
“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (whom he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”
Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be a difficult one. The fabled “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years work will likely depend on a new generation.
“I heard there were some young talents so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said.
“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”