Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi insists he has no special plans for Egypt superstar Mohamed Salah in Monday’s closing World Cup Group A match.
Both sides are already eliminated ahead of their meeting in Volgograd, with Pizzi’s improving in terms of performance if not points when they went down 1-0 to Uruguay on the back of a 5-0 opening-night thrashing against Russia.
Egypt lost by the same scoreline to the South American group favourites and were unable to stop the hosts’ juggernaut earlier this week, beaten 3-1 in St Petersburg.
Salah returned from a shoulder injury to win and score a consolation penalty in that match but appeared significantly short of fitness.
Luis Suarez netted the only goal against Saudi Arabia in Rostov-on-Don but was largely well shackled and former Chile boss Pizzi believes that showed the best approach against such stars is a collective one.
“We didn’t mark Suarez in a particular way but, of course, we saw certain qualities there,” he said.
“When you have that high individual quality, you have to show this to the players and show what we have to do is stave that off.
“When it comes to Mohamed Salah it’s the same thing. He has huge qualities. He has had a wonderful career, especially this last year in England.
“Of course, we will take precautionary measures – not specifically for him but in general terms.”
— Saudi National Team (@SaudiNT_EN) June 24, 2018
A major talking point heading into the tournament was the agreement between the Saudi General Sports Authority and LaLiga that saw three of the country’s leading players – Salem Al Dawsari, Fahad Al Muwallad and Yahya Al Shehri – head on loan to Villarreal, Levante and Leganes respectively in January, only to compile a grand total of three substitute appearances between them.
When challenged on the matter at his pre-match news conference, Pizzi insisted Saudi Arabia had nevertheless benefitted from the arrangement and would continue to do so.
“I would like to be very forceful on that – 100 per cent,” he replied.
“I think that was absolutely correct [despite] the fact that they’ve not participated in any of the matches and only started playing here
“We see that they have developed leaps and bounds over the past four months.
“We hope that these experiences can be repeated. Not just in the Spanish league but in other leagues.
“Hopefully, as a consequence of these experiences, they can bring that experience to bear for the national side.”
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