Asian Cup: Saudi football chief unhappy with Mancini's penalty walkout

Following a 1-1 draw, South Korea won 4-2 on penalties against Saudi Arabia and will face Australia in the Asian Cup quarterfinals

By AFP

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Saudi Arabia's Italian coach Roberto Mancini (centre) gestures before the start of the penalty shootout. — AFP
Saudi Arabia's Italian coach Roberto Mancini (centre) gestures before the start of the penalty shootout. — AFP

Published: Wed 31 Jan 2024, 2:52 PM

Last updated: Wed 31 Jan 2024, 2:53 PM

The president of Saudi Arabian football said Roberto Mancini's disappearing act before the end of the penalty shootout in the team's Asian Cup exit was "completely unacceptable".

The Italian did not stick around to see South Korea's Hwang Hee-chan eliminate his Saudi side in the last 16 in Doha with the decisive spot-kick.

Following a 1-1 draw, South Korea won 4-2 on penalties on Tuesday and will face Australia in the quarter-finals in Qatar.

Mancini, 59, apologised afterwards for walking down the tunnel before their fate was sealed, saying: "I thought it was finished."

“When you lose a penalty (shootout) you are sad because it is difficult, but this is football,” Mancini said. “We have to accept this. I am very happy with my players because they played a very good game against one of the best teams in the world.”

But Saudi Football Federation president Yasser Al-Misehal made clear his unhappiness in an interview with Saudi broadcaster SSC.

"The coach's exit is completely unacceptable and we will discuss with him why this happened," he said.

"He has the right to explain his point of view and then we will decide the appropriate action."

Mancini took Italy to European Championship glory in 2021 and was appointed Saudi coach in August last year on a deal until 2027, taking him beyond the next World Cup.

It was reported that he was offered more than $25 million to join the big-spending Saudis, who are set to host the World Cup in 2034.

Mancini's job does not appear to be at immediate risk, despite the defeat extending Saudi Arabia's wait for a fourth continental crown. They last won it in 1996.

"Technically we are satisfied with the performance presented in the Asian Cup," said Misehal, adding: "I do not like to rush into anything."

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