The 14th Asian Cup started on Saturday in Thailand with an opening ceremony that had to be cut short due to bad weather conditions. You can find out the results of the first few days of the tournament here, but what I want to focus on in this post is the chances of the Saudi team. Looking back at history, it is obvious that Saudi Arabia is always a favourtie to win the Cup. Since 1984, the Green Falcons were always present at the final match of the tournament, except for the last Asian Cup in China, where the team produced some forgettable performances leaving in the group stage.
Saudi Arabia will start their Asian campaign today when they face rivals South Korea in a classic continental clash. Saudis have always enjoyed the upper hand when they met Koreans in the past, including winning home and away in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers. Last time the two teams met in the Asian Cup was in 2000 in Lebanon, where Saudis won 2-1 in the smei-final thanks to a double by Talal al-Misha’al.
However, and despite their glorious history in Asia, it is definitely not easy to expect the outcome of the Saudi team. This is mainly due to the fact that Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) likes to change managers very often. The current manager, a “third-class” Brazilian called Helio dos Anjos, has been with the team for only a few months, and it was very obvious from his squad selection that he could not learn much about Saudi players during the brief time he spent in the country. After a long and exhausting local season, Anjos had to take more than 30 players to Turkey in order to get to know them better, only to leave two of his most important players out of the tournament.
Now I honestly cannot, and will not, tell you what I think of the manager because we are yet to see him in a true competition, and the few friendlies the team have played are not much of indication. But based in previous experiences, I find myself very skeptical that they will repeat what they have done in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000. Probably it won’t be disastrous as it was in 2004, but I think we should be happy if they could advance to the knock-out stage.
Expect more posts about the tournament in the coming days…
One thought on “On the Asian Cup”
It always has been like a weird loop that happens in Asian tournaments:
Saudi Arabia > Korea,
Korea > Japan,
And Japan > Saudi Arabia!
Ironic… Isn’t it?
As for the national team performance, I just want to say that the Saudi Soccer Association’s main problem was always because of their focus on treating the symptoms rather than the root cause.
The problem has never been related to the team’s nemours managers, who took the responsibility of managing the team, as the association’s officials regularly claim. It just can’t be because the team simply had, at several occasions, coaches who led their teams to win the world cup many times and despite this fact, the team’s performance is not getting any better.
The true problem, as many observers believe, is the type of mentality and the lack of leadership that the association’s current officials posses. Just compare the team’s achievements in the last 8 years with achievements in the past 20 years. We had “national” coaches back then and achieved double what we are achieving now.
Many good players in the national league can’t make it to the national team because their clubs don’t appeal to those officials while other players who reached their forties continue to reserve their places in the first team.
It’s also worth mentioning that many of those coaches had resigned voluntarily, in spite of the high compensation they initially signed for, because of what they call “interferences” from “officials” to change the coach’s game plans or players’ selection criteria even in middle of games sometimes !
And I guess some of you already recall the famous incident that occurred in the 1994 world cup in front of millions of viewers when the Saudi team coach was holding a cell phone talking in the middle of an important world cup game!
Soon after he hanged up he made a quick substitution in the playing field. What is funny here is that the player whom he asked to come out of the field was the same player that he sent in the field 15 minutes earlier !
Anyways, I think you are all smart enough to figure out that he wasn’t holding the phone talking to his wife !
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