New Saudi coach says his team will rebound

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New Saudi coach says his team will rebound

Post by BLACK on Thu Jan 13, 2011 4:51 am

DOHA: New Saudi Arabia coach Naser Al-Johar expects his team to come back strong when it faces Jordan on Thursday in its second Group B match at the Asian Cup.

The Saudis lost to Syria in their opening match of the tournament in Qatar, and coach Jose Peseiro was fired shortly thereafter.

Like his Portuguese predecessor, Al-Johar is under pressure to perform well in Qatar following Saudi Arabia's failure to qualify for last year's World Cup and the loss of the Gulf Cup title to Kuwait.

Al-Johar said Wednesday the team will do their “best to bring the Saudi team to its well known distinguished level.” “I promise to show you a good match against Jordan,” Al-Johar said, adding that his team has learned lessons from the 2-1 loss to Syria. “I don't have a magic wand to change things suddenly, but I have big hopes for the Saudi national team.” Al-Johar has coached the Saudi national team twice before, as well as working with the team through 2010 World Cup qualifying. He said the sudden dismissal of Peseiro has not affected the squad ahead of Thursday's match, which will likely decide if the team advances to the quarterfinals of the continental tournament.

“I am no stranger to them,” Al-Johar said of his players. “They know me very well and we interact with each other well.” Al-Johar said he will make changes to the lineup and shift tactics when Saudi Arabia meets Jordan, which drew 1-1 with Japan in its opening match.

Jordan coach Adnan Hamed said morale in his squad is high after the good performance against Japan.

“There's pressure to win, but there's also ambition to go on to the next stage,” Hamed said. “I hope we will manage to turn this pressure into a positive performance.” Hamed said injured captain Hatem Aqel and the team's key defender Bashar Yaseen will miss Thursday's match, which Hamed said was “decisive for both teams.” “Saudi Arabia is an important, respectable team, capable of a strong comeback,” Hamed said.

In 2007, Saudi Arabia lost the Asian Cup final to Iraq.

The Saudi team last won the tournament in 1996 and was also runner-up in 2000.

Of the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia was expected to have the best run in the tournament in Qatar. The team has long had one of the most potent attacks in the region, but it struggled to score goals on its way to losing to Kuwait in the Gulf Cup final this year and has dropped in the rankings from 48th in December 2008 to its current 81st.

The 107th-ranked Jordan has never done much on the international stage. It participated in the continental tournament only once, in 2004 in China when it nearly caused one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition by coming a penalty away from eliminating East Asian power Japan from the quarterfinals.

There were few signs Jordan can match the 2004 performance in Qatar.

But Japan again narrowly avoided a Jordan upset on Sunday when defender Maya Yoshida scored an injury-time goal to earn a 1-1 draw in the Group B opening match on Sunday.

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