Dubai: Saudi Arabia’s nearly flawless performance to become the sixth team to advance to the next stages with a game in hand has left their coach Juan Antonio Pizzi a happy man at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup so far.
The Green Falcons scored on either side of half-time to secure a 2-0 win over Lebanon and along with it six points from two games and advance to the Round of 16 with a mouth-watering clash with neighbours and bitter foes Qatar in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
“First, we need to pay heed to the recovery of players so that they are all at their best to deliver in our next match and top the group. The good thing is that we have five days now, and I am confident that even if the first-choice players are unavailable then our bench strength is equally good and at a high level to start for their country,” Pizzi told media in his post-match evaluation late on Saturday.
“I don’t want to think too far ahead and see who our next round opponents would be. Would it be Iran? Or would it be Iraq or would it be Japan perhaps? Our next match is against Qatar and we need to win this one and finish at the top. We will never want to depend on other team so that we can benefit from their results. And secondly, it really doesn’t matter which team we are up against in the next round. We are here to play and impose our style of football,” the Argentinian added.
When asked about the amazing performances from midfielder Hatan Bahbri, Pizzi was quick to point out that his emphasis was not on any particular player but on one solid unit. “There is no doubt that he [Bahbri] has been at a very good level even though he joined the squad after an injury during the first stage of our camp. He is such a delightful player to have in any team, and I can see him improve with each and every match. But then, we also have other players who are equally good and that happens to be our true strength as a team,” Pizzi remarked.
“So far, our hallmark has been that we have had total control of both games and this will continue in the next game as well. We want to impose our style and play according to a plan. Of course, our tactics will be known by other teams, but our job is to make the changes as per the needs of the team and continue deep into this competition,” he added.
Lebanon coach Miodrag Radulovic was disappointed with his team’s loss especially after missing two clear scoring chances in the first half. “I am happy with the intensity of their play, and if we lose then we need to lose this way,” the coach from Montenegro observed.
“We came into this competition after 19 years to top our group and advance to the next stage. Our aim now will be to defeat DPR Korea and return home with three points,” he added.