After dozens of coaching changes in the last 25 years, Saudi Arabia has a proven winner in charge for the World Cup.
Juan Antonio Pizzi led Chile to the 2016 Copa America title, but it won’t likely be easy for the Argentine to get his new team to play the same kind of high-octane, pressing style he used in South America.
Most of the squad heading to Russia doesn’t have any significant experience playing club football outside their homeland. And at No. 67, the Saudis are the lowest ranked of the teams that qualified for the World Cup. Russia slipped four spots to 70 in the latest rankings but qualified as host.
Saudi sports authorities tried to boost the experience of the squad by sending nine players, including four internationals, on a half-season loan to Spanish clubs in January. Although wingers Fahad Al Muwallad and Salam Al Dawsari, and midfielder Yahya Al Sherhi were exposed to different training methods, their combined playing time was minimal.
The Saudis made their World Cup debut in 1994, reaching the round of 16. Since then, the team has gone through more than 30 coaching changes while qualifying for the 1998, 2002 and 2006 tournaments and going out in the group stage.
Bert van Marwijk, who coached the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final, led Saudi Arabia through the most recent qualification campaign but failed to agree on a new contract to lead the team in Russia. Instead, he is coaching Australia at the tournament on a short-term contract.
Edgardo Bauza replaced van Marwijk in the Saudi job but he lasted only two months. The Argentine was fired in November after underwhelming performances in five friendlies and was replaced by Pizzi.
Here’s a closer look at the Saudi Arabia team:
Pizzi took over after failing to qualify for the World Cup with …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – Sports