June 21, 2018 / 11:58 AM / 6 months ago

Saudi Arabia take positives for Asian Cup after Russia exit

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia are looking toward the Asian Cup with hope after they showed signs of progress in their 1-0 defeat to Uruguay as they exited the World Cup on Wednesday.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Group A - Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia - Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don, Russia - June 20, 2018 Saudi Arabia players look dejected after the match REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

The Saudis were crushed 5-0 by hosts Russia in the opening game of Group A before a goalkeeping blunder from Mohammed Al-Owais handed Uruguay their place in the last 16 and eliminated the Green Falcons.

Saudi Arabia, however, were competitive throughout, playing neat football and enjoying most of the possession at the Rostov Arena.

“We played at a much better level than in the Russia game, and that is more our style of play, but we just did not have the right tools to break Uruguay down,” said Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi.

Despite occasions of clever passing, the Saudis rarely threatened and managed only three shots on target in their two matches in Russia.

“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”

“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” he added.

“We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forwards are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”

Efficiency is something Saudi Arabia will have to massively improve on for the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates but at least, in one game against Uruguay, they showed pride.

“The difference between this display and the first game was massive, the change was obvious, it gives us tranquillity for the future for the months ahead,” Pizzi concluded.

“We’ll make Saudi Arabia proud even though we are out of the tournament.”

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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