Pizzi backs Bah­bri to get even bet­ter for Saudis

The National - News - - ASIAN CUP 2019 SPORT - PAUL RADLEY

Juan An­to­nio Pizzi, the Saudi Ara­bia man­ager, be­lieves Hatan Bah­bri can still im­prove, de­spite his sparkling start to the Asian Cup.

The Green Fal­cons ad­vanced to the knock­out stage of the com­pe­ti­tion with a game to spare, after adding a 2-0 win over Le­banon on Satur­day night to their open­ing match thrash­ing of North Ko­rea.

Al Shabab winger Bah­bri again caught the eye, just as he had done when scor­ing in the 4-0 win over the North Kore­ans.

The Saudis fi­nally quelled the re­sis­tance of a dogged Le­banon side when Hus­sain Al Mo­qahwi scored the sec­ond, which was brought about by some fine wing play from Bah­bri.

The 26-year-old missed Saudi’s first train­ing camps due to in­jury but Pizzi has been de­lighted with Bah­bri’s fo­cus since his re­turn.

The Ar­gen­tine man­ager said: “He showed full ded­i­ca­tion, con­cen­tra­tion and a big ef­fort. He is a good player, the sort of player you like to have in your team be­cause of his qual­ity.

“I hope he will not re­lax, but to push on to raise his level, and get bet­ter and bet­ter. He has a chance to play to an even bet­ter level.”

Pizzi’s team will likely play ei­ther Ja­pan or Iraq in the next round, de­pen­dent on the re­sult in their fi­nal pool match against Qatar. The man­ager says they are only think­ing about vic­tory next time out.

“We won’t ever worry about what oth­ers are do­ing,” Pizzi said. “We are con­cen­trat­ing on our job against Qatar, not on whether it will be Ja­pan or Iraq in the next round.”

Mio­drag Radulovic, the Le­banon man­ager, be­lieves his side can still progress, de­spite no wins and no goals in their open­ing two matches.

The Mon­tene­grin, who also be­lieves Saudi Ara­bia could win the com­pe­ti­tion, is hope­ful a win over North Ko­rea in their last Group F game could see them through as a lucky third-placed side.

“Saudi Ara­bia can go min­i­mum to the semi-fi­nals,” Radulovic said. “For my team now, it is im­por­tant to have good rest and re­cov­ery. Three points in the next game should be enough to make the next round.

“My play­ers are not used to play­ing after three days at such a level and they are very tired. We made a good per­for­mance [against Saudi] and I am not dis­ap­pointed with this. If we need to lose, we need to lose like this.”

Juan An­to­nio Pizzi’s side are through to the next stage

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