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Jamaica game provides useful practice, says Saudi coach

Saturday, October 07, 2017

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Having already sealed their place in Russia for next year's World Cup finals, the Saudi Arabian football team will use today's game against Jamaica to kick-start preparations for the FIFA showpiece event.

Game time is 8:45 pm (12:45 pm Jamaica time) at King Abdullah Sports City.

“It's our first friendly match after the qualification of the World Cup and we have a new coach since a few weeks ago, so for us it's an important game for the new coach to get to know the group, and we are looking forward to the result of this match,” Mohammad Alhemaid, general coordinator for Saudi Arabian National team told the Jamaica Observer last evening.

The Saudis qualified under Dutchman Bert van Marwijk, but Argentinian Edgardo Bauza replaced him nine days later.

Bauza joined the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as coach in May, after being sacked as the Argentina coach following a string of poor results which left the two-time World Cup winners in danger of failing to qualify for Russia 2018.

However, The UAE, Bauza and the Saudis were able to reach an agreement for the South American to assume his new role with the three-time Asian Cup champions.

“Since the hiring of the new coach he decided to have some new players start the preparations for the World Cup early to see if there is potential in the performance from the friendly games — in order to have a bigger group and a bigger picture for the final squad for the World Cup,” Alhemaid said.

He noted that there are 35 players in this group and about 10 are new players who haven't played for the national senior team before.

He noted that Saudi Arabian football is well known for being skilful, allied with intelligent players. “We are well known in Asia to be a football nation and we are always producing good players, good talent. We didn't qualify for the last two World Cups, but this World Cup, thank God, we made it and this generation of players, we are looking forward for them to shine and carry Saudi football to another level afterwards.”

Alhemaid revealed that the Saudi fans are excited after qualifying for the World Cup and that he expects a good number of supporters today, especially after celebrating the oil-rich nation's World Cup finals qualification at the same venue (King Abdullah Sports City).

“So I believe the fans are looking forward to come and see the team play its first game since,” he ended.

—Ian Burnett