Dubai: Gulf heavyweights Saudi Arabia have promised to take a cue from results of the first two days of not taking their encounter against DPR Korea for granted in their Group E match of the 2019 Asian Cup on Tuesday.
As former three-time champions — including the last one held here in 1996 — Juan Antonio Pizzi’s boys will be looking to forget their performances in the last two editions in 2011 and 2015. The 2011 edition is one for the annals of history after Saudi Arabia finished bottom of their group behind Japan, Jordan and Syria, while in 2015 they were eliminated early following defeats to China and Uzbekistan.
After a dismal showing at the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia, Pizzi took charge in November and Saudi Arabia has since been trying to mark their presence on the continental stage.
“I respect all teams we will play against. We know these teams, but history counts for nothing as we have to play each of them and win. If we can’t win then we won’t get the points. Tomorrow we need to go out there and win those three points,” Pizzi said at the pre-match conference on Monday.
“It’s not going to be easy. There are pros and cons and the job of the strikers is to score goals so that we can win. We trust in all our players and they will give their best to ensure we take the three points,” he added.
This will be DPR Korea’s fifth appearance and they will be keen to replicate what they achieved in 1980 where they finished fourth after losing to Iran in the third place play-off. They had to wait for another 12 years before they qualified to a second tournament, and since then they have appeared in 2011 and 2015 — on all three occasions bowing out in the group stages.
“This is our first match and it’s a very important one to us. I cannot predict a result, but I can say that so far we have worked hard to be at our best and hopefully that should be good enough for us to prove to our country that we are here to give off our best,” coach Kim Yong-jun said.
“Our focus is on both attack and defence and it is a good feeling to have all my players up for selection for tomorrow’s tough game against Saudi Arabia. I know it won’t be easy for us, but they [Saudi Arabia] will not have it easy as well,” he promised.