Juan Antonio Pizzi hoping World Cup ‘feel-good’ factor can inspire Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia in training ahead of their friendly with Bolivia. (Twitter: Saudi National Team)
Updated 08 September 2018

Juan Antonio Pizzi hoping World Cup ‘feel-good’ factor can inspire Saudi Arabia

  • Juan Antonio Pizzi want his team to carry on where they left off at this summer’s World Cup
  • Pizzi took the reins in November and, after the win over Egypt, was handed an extension until after the Asian Cup

Juan Antonio Pizzi wants Saudi Arabia to carry on where they left off at this summer’s World Cup in Russia when they face Bolivia in a friendly in Riyadh on Monday in preparation for the Asian Cup.

In Russia, the Green Falcons recovered from a 5-0 opening game thrashing against the hosts  to narrowly lose 1-0 to Uruguay before ending the tournament with a last-minute victory over Egypt, a first win on the global stage since 1994.

“I couldn’t sleep that night after the Russia game and it was a difficult day for all of us,” Pizzi told Saudi television. “I was sad and it was a disaster. The difference between the two teams was not massive on the day, it is just that we made individual mistakes.”

Under the Argentine, the Green Falcons bounced back in the following two games. 

“We showed a much better game against Uruguay and the win over Egypt was a joy and that is what we are aiming for as we move to the 2019 Asian Cup, starting now,” he added. “At the World Cup, we showed what we are capable of. We showed character and that we can play football. We have to remember that as we move forward.”

Pizzi took over the reins in November and, after the win over Egypt, was handed an extension until after the Asian Cup in January as Saudi Arabia aim to win the continental competition for the first time since 1996. At the 2019 Asian Cup, to be held in the UAE, the Green Falcons will take on Qatar, Lebanon and North Korea. 

Monday’s game against Bolivia marks Pizzi’s 13th game in charge and a chance for win number five.

There were few surprises in the squad named by Pizzi, but veteran striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi and goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, who both went to the Russia, did not make the squad selected to take on the South Americans.

“The door is still open for all players,” he insisted. “Those who perform well and show what they can do will always have a chance of being called up. It is all about putting together the right team and squad for the Asian Cup.”

There were two withdrawals from the squad — Al-Ahli center-back Motaz Hawsawi has been struggling for fitness and has been replaced by Al-Shabab’s Abdulaziz Haroon, who could make his debut. Al-Shabab teammate Hattan Bahebri has been allowed to leave the training camp on compassionate grounds after an uncle of the 26-year-old midfielder passed away.

Abdulrahman Al-Aboud may also get a chance to start. The Ettifaq midfielder has been called up for the first time and is looking forward to staking his claim for a place ahead of the Asian Cup. 

“I am delighted to be in the training camp and am enjoying it, the coach is very technical and I am always learning. It is great to be here,” Al-Aboud said.

The 23 year-old is looking forward to taking on Bolivia. “They are a good team and will give us the kind of test we need as we prepare for the Asian Cup.” 

Bolivia, preparing for the start of qualification for the 2022 World Cup, have brought a strong team to Riyadh that includes Gilbert Alvarez, the striker who joined Saudi side Al-Hazm in August. Coach Cesar Farias is looking forward to the challenge. 

“We saw Saudi Arabia at the World Cup. After the first game, they played well, they were well-organized, defended well and worked hard,” Farias said. 

Farias, familiar with his opposite number, added: “Pizzi knows how to build a team and took Chile to the Copa America title in 2016. I am sure that Saudi Arabia will be successful with him in charge.”

On Friday, it was confirmed that Saudi Arabia’s next international game will be against Brazil on Oct. 12 at Riyadh’s King Saud University Stadium.


Shaheen Afridi upstages Taylor's ton as Pakistan beats Zimbabwe in first ODI

Updated 30 October 2020

Shaheen Afridi upstages Taylor's ton as Pakistan beats Zimbabwe in first ODI

  • Zimbabwe lost by 26 runs when it was bowled out for 255 in 49.4 overs
  • Afridi outperformed everyone with 5-49

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan overcame Brendan Taylor’s century thanks to fast bowler Shaheen Afridi’s 5-49 to beat Zimbabwe by 26 runs in the first one-day international on Friday.
Taylor’s 112 off 117 balls — his 11th ODI hundred — ended up in a losing cause as Zimbabwe was bowled out for 255 in 49.4 overs.
Afridi was well supported by Wahab Riaz, who claimed 4-41.
In Pakistan’s first home international with no spectators because of COVID-19 restrictions at Pindi Cricket Stadium, left-handed batsmen Haris Sohail (71) and Imam-ul-Haq (58) propped up their team’s total of 281-8.
The three-match ODI series is part of the new World Cup Super League. Seven of the 13 teams in the league will directly qualify for the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India.
Taylor kept Zimbabwe in the hunt by hitting 11 fours and three sixes until Afridi returned in the 47th over and had him caught at mid-off. Zimbabwe lost its last five wickets for only 15 runs in the space of 18 balls.
“Pakistan’s bowlers' skill level at the death made it difficult for us," Taylor said.
On being named player of the match, he added, “I feel very lucky to get this man of the match award as I feel Shaheen should have got it. You’re up against a very skillful attack at the death and they were too good at the end."
Taylor and Wesley Madhevere (55) shared a 119-run, fifth-wicket stand that put Zimbabwe’s chase back on track after Afridi and Riaz reduced Zimbabwe to 115-4 in the 27th over.
But once Riaz broke the partnership by clean bowling Madhevere, Afridi followed up with the key dismissal of Taylor and swung the game back in Pakistan's favor.
“He (Taylor) played an outstanding innings, but I had confidence in Shaheen Afridi and Wahab Riaz,” Babar Azam said after winning his first ODI as Pakistan captain. “Once Shaheen had Taylor’s wicket, I was sure we are going to win the game.”
Earlier, Zimbabwe's players didn’t show any rustiness despite this being their first international match since March as they tied down Pakistan’s much-fancied stroke-players.
Left-arm spinner Tendai Chisoro (2-31) and fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani (2-39), who is making a comeback after two years out, were the pick of the Zimbabwe bowlers. Muzarabani got Babar caught behind on 19.
Imam survived a television referral for lbw on 11 and went on to hit six fours. However, soon after completing his half-century he fell to a bizarre run out when he and Sohail ended up at the striker’s end.
Sohail departed in the 42nd over after hitting six fours and two sixes when offspinner Sikander Raza had him caught behind. Sohail didn’t return to the field during Zimbabwe’s chase.
Pakistan made 90 runs in the last 10 overs to post a competitive total.