Dubai: The last time the UAE hosted an AFC Asian Cup in 1996, Saudi Arabia had emerged as the champions — and it’s no wonder that their head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi wants to make use of the good omen.
“We believe we have selected the best players for the squad and the focus now is on making sure we are ready. In terms of preparation, the squad is exactly where we wanted them to be at this stage,” Pizzi told the Saudi Arabian Football Federation website.
Three-time champions Saudi Arabia are in Group E of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 with Qatar, Lebanon and DPR Korea. They open their campaign against DPR Korea on January 8 and then play Lebanon four days later and Qatar on January 17.
With just 10 days to go before the continental showpiece kicks off, Pizzi said the players selected are the best to carry Saudi Arabia’s challenge in UAE 2019.
“We have been watching and evaluating the performance of each player with his club and we examined all possibilities as to what they can provide to the team, the veteran coach said, before adding: “We also took into consideration whether they participated in previous training camps and know the way the technical staff work.”
The last of their triumphs came in ‘96 and Saudi Arabia are upbeat after their 2018 Fifa World Cup campaign which they ended on a high note despite suffering a 5-0 defeat to Russia in their opening match.
Pizzi was the mastermind behind the rebound, which saw Saudi Arabia defeating Egypt 2-1 in their final group game, and the Argentine is now plotting for an extended AFC Asian Cup campaign.
Praising his players, Pizzi said: “I think these players are in their best technical and physical form at the moment. We are determined to show an outstanding level and we having had a good preparation process, I am sure we can do well at the AFC Asian Cup.”