Saudi Arabia's new coach Pizzi looking for team to make good start in Russia

Gary Meenaghan
Sun, 2017-12-03 03:00

MOSCOW: For Saudi Arabia’s national football team, next summer’s Eid Al-Fitr will be unlike any that has ever come before. On Jun. 14, while hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world are gathering to mark the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan, the Kingdom’s Green Falcons will be contesting the opening game of the World Cup in Moscow.
Having qualified for the global showpiece for the first time since 2006, Saudi Arabia were drawn in Group A alongside hosts Russia, South American heavyweights Uruguay and Arab counterparts Egypt. They will feature in the first match of the tournament at the revamped 81,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium. 
Russia are the lowest-ranked team in the competition at 65th in the world and Saudi Arabia are marginally higher at 63rd, so while the hosts could not have dreamt of a more willing opponent in which to raise the curtain, it is not necessarily the glamor tie that Brazil would have been. The Green Falcons’ Argentinian coach Juan Antonio Pizzi admitted as much, adding the opportunity to play in the opening game against the host nation can be seen as both a blessing and a curse. 
“I think everyone came here with uncertainty and excitement regarding seeing which group each country will be in,” the Argentine said on the sidelines of the draw inside the Kremlin Palace.
“We’re involved in the opening game and, well, it will be difficult. Playing against the hosts, there are always a lot of nerves — opening games are always like that — but for anyone it’s always something you hope for.”
Pizzi has yet to meet his players, having been hired less than a week ago following the dismissal of his compatriot Edgardo Bauza after only two official friendly matches. He arrives in the Kingdom, however, with an impressive track record, including leading Chile to victory at last year’s Copa América Centenario. 
“It’s a very balanced group,” he added. “We know it is important to get off to a good start in the early stages. We hope we can prepare well and compete against the best. Nowadays all the information is available and that is very important for coaches, so we’re going to come up with the best plan we can in order to compete.”
In that sense, Pizzi may have an advantage over his opponents: Nobody knows how he will set up his new side.
“We don’t know much about the Saudi Arabia team, but it must be a disciplined and stubborn team,” said Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko.
While Pizzi repeatedly spoke of “competing,” Adel Ezzat, president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, has higher hopes than merely putting up a fight. He told Egyptian sports website that he expects Pizzi to deliver victories and lead the Green Falcons to the knockout stages.
“We are extremely happy that we are in the same group as Egypt,” Ezzat said. “Egypt and Saudi Arabia are sisterly nations; football and many other things are common between us. I hoped this would be the outcome and I expect that both countries will join each other in the last 16.”
With Egypt being led by Héctor Cúper, both nations have Argentinian managers and Uruguay coach Celso Otero knows he is likely to have more revision to do than his opponents. “They’ll know us inside out whereas we’ll have to familiarize ourselves with the way they’re likely to play,” said Otero. “But what team is easy
these days?”

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Source: arabnews
Saudi Arabia's new coach Pizzi looking for team to make good start in Russia