Coach gutsy as Cedars brace for Saudi Ara­bia

Crit­i­cized for tac­tics against Qatar, Radulovic aims to be ‘dis­ci­plined’ from start

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - SPORTS - FOOT­BALL By James Jabra

BEIRUT: Le­banon coach Mio­drag Radulovic urged his play­ers to put their Asian Cup opener against Qatar be­hind them as the Cedars gear up for a daunt­ing clash with re­gional jug­ger­naut Saudi Ara­bia.

Le­banon suf­fered a sober­ing 2-0 de­feat to would-be World Cup hosts Qatar Wed­nes­day, with Radulovic’s tac­tics the source of much con­ster­na­tion among Cedars fans.

But the Mon­tene­grin was de­fi­ant ahead of Satur­day’s meet­ing with the five-time cham­pi­ons, who are rid­ing high after a thump­ing 4-0 win over North Ko­rea in Group E – the sec­ond big­gest mar­gin of vic­tory, after Iran’s 5-0 win over Ye­men.

“I told my play­ers we have to for­get what hap­pened in the last game, and all our fo­cus is for the next game,” he said at a news con­fer­ence Fri­day. “Saudi Ara­bia, I re­spect this team be­cause they are a top level team, a World Cup team even.”

“Play­ers of Saudi Ara­bia have ex­pe­ri­ence in big com­pe­ti­tions like the World Cup and some play in Europe. They are very or­ga­nized and have qual­ity in each po­si­tion.”

“It will be a very dif­fi­cult game for us but I told my play­ers dur­ing prepa­ra­tion that to achieve a good re­sult, we need to think pos­i­tively.”

Le­banon, who have yet to regis­ter a win at the Asian Cup, are mak­ing just their sec­ond ap­pear­ance at the qua­dren­nial event since host­ing the tour­na­ment in 2000.

“Maybe we don’t have ex­pe­ri­ence in such a com­pe­ti­tion and maybe we lost some con­cen­tra­tion and were un­lucky against Qatar, but now I hope it will be to­tally dif­fer­ent from the start,” Radulovic said.

“I hope to­mor­row we will be se­ri­ous and dis­ci­plined from the first minute un­til the end of the game.

“It will be dif­fi­cult but ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble. I re­peat, I re­spect Saudi Ara­bia but I re­spect my team, and I be­lieve in the char­ac­ter and qual­ity of my play­ers. There’s still two games, ev­ery­thing is open and we are go­ing game-by-game.”

Le­banon suf­fered a 2-0 de­feat to Qatar in their first Asian Cup game.

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