Saudis fear nobody at Asian Cup, says Mancini

They have already qualified for the knockout rounds after two wins in Qatar and will top Group F with a win or draw against Thailand on Thursday

By AFP

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Wed 24 Jan 2024, 3:01 PM

Roberto Mancini said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia fear no team at the Asian Cup and will not try to duck out of a potential last-16 clash with South Korea.

The Saudis have already qualified for the knockout rounds after two wins in Qatar and will top Group F with a win or draw against Thailand on Thursday.

That would set them on a collision course with South Korea in the last 16 if Jurgen Klinsmann's side finish second in Group E, where they currently sit after a win and a draw.

Saudi Arabia will play after South Korea's final group game against Malaysia has finished but Mancini dismissed suggestions that his team could take it easy against Thailand.

"Our calculation is always to win all the games we play," said Mancini, who won the European Championship with his native Italy in 2021. "That is the calculation, we don't have another."

Mancini has repeatedly played down Saudi Arabia's chances of winning the Asian Cup saying Japan, South Korea, Iran and Australia are favourites. But the Italian believes his team "can beat anyone".

"If you want to arrive at the end, you have to play the best teams," he said. "We don't know who we will play in the next game but our focus is on the Thailand game."

Saudi Arabia had to come from behind to grab a last-gasp 2-1 win over Oman in their opening game. They then struggled in front of goal in a 2-0 win over a Kyrgyzstan side who played almost half the game with nine men. Mancini substituted star player Salem Al-Dawsari in both games.

But the coach insisted that "the way is very long" and he must keep his players fresh.

"We play many games, every three or four days. We need some time to recover from what we do in the games," he said.

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