Riyadh: New Saudi Arabia coach Roberto Mancini said his main goal is for the men’s national team to win the Asian Cup after 27 years, at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) presentation event in Riyadh on Monday.
The former Italian coach outlined his aspirations to raise the team’s level in Asia, and detailed his long and short-term plans, adding he will evaluate the players to complete the objective to win the continental tournament.
20-day training camp
“Our target is to win the Asian Cup after 27 years. Our target before that is that we have four friendlies, we have two World Cup qualifiers and after that we have a 20-day training camp to prepare for the Asian Cup,” Mancini said in a statement.
“I am not a magician, we have exceptional talents and we can achieve our goals through continuous work. We have good players, the previous coach did a great job, and in the coming period we have to translate our words into realities on the field.”
Pulling off an upset
Former coach Herve Renard led the Saudi team at the Qatar World Cup, where they pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history by defeating eventual champions Argentina in their opening match before being eliminated in the group stage.
Mancini also spoke about the state of Saudi football, drawing parallels with what happened in his home country: “Many great foreign players came to Italy and we improved a lot. It’s good for Saudi players.”
The country is heavily investing in its top-flight football league, with the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) announcing the Sports Club Investment and Privatisation Project, involving league champions Al Ittihad, Al Ahli, Al Nassr and Al Hilal.
“Saudi Arabia has become an attractive country for all global names” President of SAFF Yasser Al Misehal said.
Numerous top players have been lured to the country following the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo last year. More recently Karim Benzema and Neymar are among those who have joined Saudi clubs along with English coach Steven Gerrard.