Saudi Arabia feeling confident after defeat to Germany
Saudi Arabia may have lost to Germany on Friday night but Juan Antonio Pizzi said the Green Falcons head to the World Cup full of confidence.
The 2-1 defeat went the way of the pre-match predictions — Germany at home were never likely to lose — but the performance of Pizzi’s side hinted at a new-found maturity and that the new coach’s ideas were finally being taken on board by the players.
Germany may have brought their five-game losing streak to an end but had to rely on Mats Hummels denying Mohammad Al-Sahlawi an injury-time equalizer — Timo Werner and a Omar Hawsawi own goal gave the hosts the lead they never relinquished, although a Taisir Al-Jassim stoke late on gave the world champions a nervy last six minutes.
Germany started at an electrifying pace and could have been three up after 20 minutes. But having ridden their luck Saudi Arabia settled into the match and could have snatched a last-minute goal.
Pizzi was doubtless the happier of the two managers and after the match his contentment was obvious to pick up. Just four days out from the side’s opening clash against Russia the Argentine coach is certain his team is exactly where they need to be.
“It was a very good match and were very happy to compete one of the greatest teams in the world,” Pizzi said.
“The level of our game is getting better, there was a great improvement and we had good control of the game for long period of time.
“There were moments in the match we can look back on and say we did well, we created chances. We created opportunities to score more than one goal.”
The upbeat nature of Pizzi might seem weird considering the Green Falcons head into the tournament on the back of three defeats. Losses to Italy (2-1) and Peru (3-0) before the Germany clash, however, despite the scorelines, hinted at a team on the rise and getting better with every match.
There is still little doubt that Saudi Arabia face a tough task in Russia, despite it being one of the easier groups — as well as the hosts the Green Falcons face Uruguay and Egypt — making the knockout stages will still represent a great success.
But having seen his side improve with every match during the pre-tournament friendlies, Pizzi is sure they can do well.
“Regardless of the past three defeats I still have very high hopes and confidence we’ll do well,” he said.
“Hopefully this performance sets us up for success in Russia.”
The result arguably does more for Saudi Arabia’s hopes than Germany, who, having gone into the match winless in five matches, left the pitch with still more questions than answers.
“We squandered many chances and allowed many chances today. We were even lucky in the end,” Germany coach Joachim Low said.
He remained optimistic, however.
“I’m not worried because I know that we’re going to keep improving. We’ll be ready when (the World Cup) starts,” Low said. next week.”