Juan Antonio Pizzi on the defensive after Saudi Arabia draw with Bolivia

Updated 11 September 2018

Juan Antonio Pizzi on the defensive after Saudi Arabia draw with Bolivia

  • Green Falcons let two-goal lead slip against South Americans.
  • Questions once again asked of Saudi Arabia defence with the Asian Cup just months away.

Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi admitted that his team has defensive issues after the Green Falcons threw away a 2-0 lead against Bolivia to draw 2-2 in Monday’s friendly in Riyadh.

 

There were promising signs for fans of the Green Falcons in the side’s first match since this summer’s World Cup as Yehya Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari put the hosts ahead and in control inside the first 10 minutes but
Bolivia earned a share of the spoils through a Jhasmani Campos strike and a late penalty from Marcelo Martins.

It was a frustrating evening for fans at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, who included female supporters for the first time watching the national team. Coach Pizzi had talked of carrying on from the World Cup which may have started with a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Russia but ended on a high thanks to a deserved 2-1 victory over Egypt.  

Saudi Arabia had been on course for a comfortable and morale-boosting win against a team ranked 11 places higher in FIFA’s ranking at 59 only for defensive
errors to haunt them. Pizzi was candid about the problems at the back and pledged to do everything possible to solve them by the time the Asian Cup kicks off in January, when the team take on Lebanon, Qatar and North Korea in their group.

“We have conceded a lot of goals since I started with the Saudi team so I think it is fair to say that we have some defensive weaknesses,” said Pizzi, who was appointed last November. The Argentine is ready to head to the training pitch to iron out the flaws. 

“The solution to the problem is to work and work and work, and that is what we will do in the coming weeks and months. We will work with the players to increase defensive cohesion and then prepare for the Asian Cup in the best way possible.”

The coach, whose hopes of taking Chile to the World Cup were dealt a huge blow with a defeat to Bolivia in September last year, was keen, however, to point out the positives in the display. 

“Overall, the game was generally good. We started well but Bolivia managed to get a goal in the first half that owed a lot to luck and then they scored again late in the game.”

Pizzi called upon his players to return to their clubs and work hard in the Saudi Pro League in the coming weeks and months. 

“The players who were called
up in the last camp we had were chosen because they had performed well in the league. I will probably do the same again, so I will be keeping a very close eye on the league. Any player can join the team if he is playing well for his club and is ready for the step.”

Young striker Haroune Camara impressed in his first start for the national team and Fahad Al-
Muwallad and Salem Al-Dawsari also looked sharp in attack.

“Camara was with us at a Spanish training camp before the World Cup though was not at his best at the time,” Pizzi said. 

After a fine display at the Asian Games with the Under-23 team, the 20-year-old did enough to earn a place in the squad. 

“His performance was convincing and his future looks bright as he develops in the coming period.”

An official at the Saudi Arabia Football Federation shared the general frustration, but pointed out that there is still some time before the Asian Cup next year. 

“This is just the first game and the season has just started,” the
official told Arab News. 

“A win would have been great, but there were some positive signs especially in attack against a strong South American team. There is still time to go before the Asian Cup and this was just the first game in preparation.”

The Green Falcon’s preparations for the Asian Cup continue in October with a prestige friendly against five-time world champions Brazil in Riyadh. The team will then travel to Amman in November to take on Jordan.


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

Updated 50 min 35 sec ago

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.