June 24, 2018 / 4:38 PM / 3 months ago

No regrets for Saudi coach after bruising World Cup

VOLGOGRAD, Russia (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said on Sunday he had no regrets about his team’s unsuccessful World Cup campaign which started with a 5-0 hammering by hosts Russia and will end on Monday against Egypt, who are also heading home early.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Saudi Arabia Press Conference - Volgograd Arena, Volgograd, Russia - June 24, 2018 Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi and Fahad Al-Muwallad during the press conference REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Pizzi said he would not change anything in the Saudis’ approach to the tournament if had the chance.

“It’s very easy with hindsight, after the results that we have had, to come up with situations that you’d like to change,” he told reporters. “But unfortunately we coaches have to take most of our decisions before things pan out.”

After the thrashing by Russia, Argentine-born Pizzi spoke of his feeling of shame and said it was understandable that questions were being asked about his grip on the job which he began in November.

But the Saudis took comfort from a tight 1-0 defeat to Uruguay in their next game, even though it meant they would not progress from the tournament’s Group A and had still failed to score a goal.

Pizzi said the World Cup campaign left Saudi Arabia well prepared to mount a challenge to win the Asian Cup in early 2019.

“We’ve seen that certain concepts work, we’ve seen alternatives, we’ve tried to bring in new players as well, and this experience that we have had specifically in the run-up to this World Cup has been very important,” Pizzi said.

“We will focus on the Asian Cup and I am absolutely convinced, 100 percent sure, that we will continue to improve in the next six months and that we will be able to compete at the highest level and go there to win the cup.”

The United Arab Emirates will host the Asian Cup in January and February. Saudi Arabia have won the tournament three times, most recently in 1996.

Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ian Chadband

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