‘Saudi need a bigger effort in semis’

‘Saudi need a bigger effort in semis’

The ground, this time, was almost at capacity and Caro’s men responded with another success to seal their progression as pool-phase winners.



By Alex Leach (Reporting from Riyadh)

Published: Fri 21 Nov 2014, 2:03 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:39 PM

Tayseer Al Jasim fights for the ball with Hamada Al Zobairi. — AFP

Saudi Arabia coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro urged the home fans to continue to get behind him and his incrementally improving players after the Falcons qualified for the Gulf Cup semi-finals here.

The Spaniard and his side came under scrutiny following their opening Group A outing last Thursday night, when they drew 1-1 with fellow last-four qualifiers Qatar in front of a half-empty King Fahd International Stadium.

However, Caro’s continual appeals for support have clearly found a receptive audience and the Saudis’ subsequent 3-0 victory over Bahrain set the scene up nicely for their final-round clash against a heavily-backed Yemen XI on Wednesday evening. The ground, this time, was almost at capacity and Caro’s men responded with another success to seal their progression as pool-phase winners.

“I have repeatedly said that success requires the concerted efforts of everyone and the support of all of the Saudi football fans and people,” the former Celta Vigo, Levante and Racing Santander boss, 51, said. “Changing the head coach is not always the solution to the problem. The Saudi team will only advance with the support of everyone.

“It was not easy to qualify and I would like to congratulate my players for their commitment in all aspects. I’m very proud of our fighting spirit. I hope that the team continues to improve and gets even better still because we will need a bigger effort in the semi-finals.”

For Yemen coach Miroslav Soukup, the Saudi defeat represented the end of an adventure that had seemingly surpassed even his expectations. A slice of sporting history was made for the football-mad nation with 0-0 draws against Bahrain and Qatar as the Yemenis achieved two points for the very first time at this — or any other — Gulf Cup competition.

Those two results ultimately helped them finish in third above the Bahrainis, which would have been an unimaginable outcome for Soukup and Co beforehand and now the emphasis is on what next for the plucky minnows. “This tournament was one big experience for us,” the Czech, 49, admitted. “We finished third in our group and only one point behind Qatar.

“If someone had told me that before the Gulf Cup, I’d have maybe replied that he was crazy because it would have seemed like it was impossible for us to stay there. Our players have played only six games together after all, two of which were just before this competition.

“We’ve taken two or three small steps forward over the last six months. I know we still make a lot of mistakes and we’re not a strong team. Our level remains very low, but we are on the right track and our team has good potential for next year. Only a great tournament like the Gulf Cup can make you open your eyes to your mistakes. Now, we have a lot of things to improve upon in the future.

“There’s a lot of emotion swirling around right now, but we must sit down after this period and quietly think about the future; all of the players and analyse their individual performances.

“We must continue working with this team and maybe change a few players and watch some others from the Yemeni League to see if they are better.”

alex@khaleejtimes.com


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