» Saudi Arabia take part in their fifth World Cup this summer. talkSPORT.com take an in-depth look at the Group A nation. MANAGER Juan Antonio Pizzi became the third man in as many months to take the Saudi Arabia hotseat when appointed manager in November 2017. The 49-year-old Argentine replaced fellow countryman Edgardo Bauza, who was sacked after winning just two of the five matches he led the team in since he was named Green Falcons boss in September.
Bauza himself succeeded Bert van Marwijk, the former Netherlands boss, who guided Saudi Arabia successfully through their qualifying campaign. The 2010 World Cup runner-up failed to agree a contract extension with the Saudi Football Federation just days after they defeated Japan to book their place at this summer?s finals. This is Pizzi?’s second international managerial spell, having been in charge of Chile from January 2016 to October 2017.
He claimed the gold medal in the Copa America Centenario, while Chile finished runners-up to Germany at the Confederations Cup last summer. He resigned after the final matchday in Chile?s World Cup qualifying campaign, a 3-0 defeat to Brazil, which saw the nation miss out on a place in Russia. Saudi Arabia have played four matches since Pizzi?s appointment, drawing against the UAE and the Ukraine, beating Moldova, but suffering a resounding 4-0 defeat at the hands of Belgium.
CAPTAIN Osama Hawsawi will wear the armband for Saudi Arabia in Russia having been skipper for the last couple of years.1xbet.com english The 34-year-old centre-half has represented his nation 131 times since making his debut in 2007, but silverware continues to elude Hawsawi at international level; he was part of the side which reached the 2007 Asian Cup final and the 2009 and 2014 Gulf Cup of Nations finals, but the Green Falcons suffered defeat in all three matches.
Success has been more forthcoming for Hawsawi at club level, with trophies won while playing for both Al-Hilal and Al-Ahli in his homeland, as well as with Anderlecht – although he only ever made one league appearance while playing in Belgium. He recently won his fifth Saudi Professional League with Al-Hilal, but he is leaving the club at the end of the season.
4 KEY PLAYER Mohammad Al-Sahlawi scored 16 goals in just 14 matches to finish the AFC qualification campaign as joint-top scorer with Ahmed Khalil of the UAE. However, there are suggestions he is no more than a flat-track bully, as 14 of those goals came in the weaker first group stage rather than the tougher second group stage. To be fair, he did play just five of those latter games, and a record of two goals in five appearances is not too shabby.
Still, he is the nation?s biggest goal threat with 36 per cent of Saudi Arabia?s goals in qualifying scored by Al-Sahlawi, and Pizzi will be hoping he hits a run of form in the opposition?s box heading into the tournament. Al-Sahlawi has represented Al-Nassr in his homeland since 2009, and has almost a scoring rate better than one every two games at club level. The 31-year-old made his international bow in 2010 and has scored 28 goals in 36 appearances to date.
ONE TO WATCH Versatile full-back Yasser Al-Shahrani could catch the eye in Russia. He made 11 appearances throughout qualifying to take his total caps for Saudi Arabia up to 31, playing on both the right and left side of defence, as well as in a wide midfield role if necessary. He?s won a wealth of silverware since joining Al-Hilal in 2012, and a promising tournament could see a move to Europe on the cards.
Al-Shahrani has quite an attacking mentality as all modern full-backs do, and he has ironed out many of the defensive fragilities he showed as a young player. However, these weaknesses may resurface when Saudi Arabia come up against top class opposition this summer considering Al-Shahrani regularly plays against teams in the Saudi Professional League of a rather poor standard.
FIXTURES Thursday, June 14: RUSSIA v Saudi Arabia (Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow) – 16:00 Wednesday, June 20: URUGUAY v Saudi Arabia (Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don) – 16:00 Monday, June 25: Saudi Arabia v EGYPT (Volgograd Arena, Volgograd) – 15:00 KITS 4 RECORD IN QUALIFYING Saudi Arabia had to progress through two rounds to reach the World Cup, the first a group stage of eight five-team groups, the second a group stage with two six-team groups. They topped their group in the second round by three points, finishing ahead of the UAE without losing a single one of their eight games, but they only finished second to Japan in their third round group.
Saudi Arabia?s place in this summer?s finals was actually only guaranteed on goal difference, as they finished level on points with Australia but having scored one goal more and conceded one fewer, meaning they clinched the final of four automatic qualification spots. Finishing third would have sent Saudi Arabia to the fourth round play-off against the third placed team from the other group, and the victor of that had to play the fourth placed team from the CONCACAF qualification campaign in an inter-confederation play-off.https://ko.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010년_FIFA_월드컵
TOURNAMENT PREPARATIONS The Green Falcons played an incredible five matches in the build up to the World Cup, with their first fixture coming on May 9 against Algeria in Spain, which they won 2-0. They stayed in Spain to play Greece six days later, running out 2-0 winners again, before travelling to Switzerland for a double-header against Italy then Peru.
They were beaten 2-1 by Italy and 3-0 by Peru and finished their preparations on June 8, six days before their opening fixture at the finals, with a visit to Leverkusen to play Germany, losing 2-1 to the reigning world champions. BASE CAMP Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, Saint Petersburg.
PROBABLE LINE-UP talkSPORT will be with listeners all day and all night at this year?s 2018 FIFA World Cup? with over 800 hours of World Cup content and all 64 games live across the talkSPORT network. » » Brock Lesnar’s WWE future always seems to be the topic of conversation when Wrestlemania approaches. He was expected to drop the Universal Championship to Roman Reigns at The Show of Shows last year and leave the company.
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