Saudi Arabia ratings as Yasser Al Shahrani shines with an 8 in defeat to Uruguay

Matt Jones 20/06/2018
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Saudi Arabia are out of the 2018 World Cup but they put in a much improved showing as they were downed 1-0 by Uruguay who booked their place in the knockout stages of with a stoic and workmanlike performance.

Luis Suarez, so ineffective as La Celeste scraped a late 1-0 win in their opener against Egypt, leapt into life at the Rostov Arena, converting Carlos Sanchez’s first-half corner into an empty net after Mohammed Al Owais came for the cross through a crowd of bodies and soon regretted his decision.

Much like in their opening game it was a tense affair against a vastly improved Saudi side, who huffed and puffed but simply didn’t have the quality required to equalise and keep their hopes of progression alive.

Here, we rate the Saudi players:

SAUDI ARABIA (4-2-3-1)

Mohammed Al Owais – 5:

Brought in after Abdullah Al Mayouf shipped five in the Russia rout, but came through a sea of bodies and

Mohammed Al Breik – 7:

Had his hands full with vivacious veteran Cristian Rodriguez coming at him relentlessly. Completed 85.5 per cent of his 60 passes.

Osama Hawsawi – 7:

A far more solid showing from the one-time Anderlecht man. Superb alongside the all-action Al Bulayhi.

Ali Al Bulayhi  – 7:

Great early block from Suarez and a terrific tackle on the same player close to half-time was sublimely timed. Injected much needed energy into his side.

Yasser Al Shahrani  – 8:

This is what we’re used to seeing from the flying full-back, the Al Hilal man haring down the wing and swinging in inviting crosses.

Taisir Al Jassim  – 6:

Veteran set the tone for his side, but sadly had to depart with an injury.

Abdullah Otayf – 7:

A rock in the heart of the Saudi midfield, with four tackles and three interceptions, as well as completing a fine 91.2 per cent of his 90 passes – more than any player on the field.

Hattan Bahebri – 6:

Squandered a presentable opening from Al Shahrani’s fine cross, stabbing over after stealing in. Otherwise a solid showing.

Salman Al Faraj – 8:

Buzzed around the Uruguay half looking for any hole to exploit. Probed and prodded and Uruguay always had to be alert with him on the ball. Completed 79 passes (second among Saudis), including three key passes.

Salem Al Dawsari – 6:

Two key passes from another Hilal man, just wasn’t able to find the killer one to unlock Uruguay’s defence.

Fahad Al Muwallad – 7:

Mobile and menacing – two things the aging Mohammad Al Sahlawi certainly wasn’t against Russia. Worked tirelessly across the front line

SUBS:

Housain Al Mogahwi – 7:

Came in for the injured Al Jassim and rallied the troops, whose heads never dropped.

Mohamed Kanno – 5:

One shot on target after entering the fray, but did precious little else.

Mohammad Al Sahlawi N/A:

Introduced late on but the aging striker couldn’t affect proceedings.

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Peru won't be bullied by France and other talking points ahead of World Cup Group C clash

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France will be hoping to make it two wins in two when they take on Peru in a World Cup Group C clash.

Les Bleus didn’t exactly set the stage alight with their performance against Australia and will hope to put in a more dominant display.

Here are a few talking points ahead of the encounter.

LACKING DIRECTION

France avoided the disastrous start that befell so many of the big hitters at this World Cup and sit on top of Group C. However, their 2-1 win over Australia was anything but convincing. Didier Deschamps has failed to implement a fundamental style of play and identity for his side.

After predominantly opting for an underwhelming 4-4-2 formation over the last couple of years, he belatedly turned to a 4-3-1-2 system, often resembling a 4-3-3, with Antoine Griezmann in a more withdrawn role behind two wide forwards in Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe.

While Deschamps should at least be credited for attempting to be more attack-minded as the inclusion of that front three and Corentin Tolisso in Blaise Matuidi’s stead would suggest, it hasn’t produced fluid football.

Tolisso in particular looked lost in Les Bleus’ tournament opener. He didn’t seem to know exactly what his role was and the same could be said of several other players who started the encounter, making for a disjointed display. Given that Deschamps has been in charge since 2012, there can be no excuse for his team’s lack of direction.

The 49-year-old has singled out Griezmann – who scored from the spot against Australia – to “do more”. But if England’s Golden Generation has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t field your best players and simply expect them to deliver results when there are serious flaws in the system or the execution of it.

Deschamps’ side lacks an identity.

PERU WON’T BE BULLIED

Peru coach Ricardo Gareca is adamant that his side will not be bullied by overwhelming favourites France in their Group C clash.

Following their impressive display against Denmark, despite losing 1-0, many will be inclined to believe the 60-year-old.

“This involves playing to our style and not letting France push us around. We are obviously not going to be able to control France all the time but we want to develop our style of play. Our intention is to win,” he said at a press conference.

While Peru may be well short of the quality France possess, they seem determined not to exit their first World Cup campaign in 36 years with a whimper.

They had 17 shots and six on target to Denmark’s 10 and three in the first round and the greater share of possession. Had Christian Cueva not skied his penalty in the first half, it could’ve been a different story for Peru. France will have to be on their guard.

Ricardo Gareca.

Ricardo Gareca.

SHORT OF LEADERSHIP

One of the reasons Deschamps called upon Griezmann to be more influential following the game against Australia is because he’s one of the few leaders in the team.

“Antoine is Antoine: he is our attacking leader and he will remain our leader of attack,” Deschamps said.

He’s not wrong. France have a wealth of talent at their disposal but do seem to have a dearth of strong characters capable of providing leadership on the pitch.

For all the ability that Dembele and Mbappe are blessed with, they did seem to require guidance in the first game. Both youngsters repeatedly attempted to cut inside, unwittingly narrowing the play, stifling their own midfield players and making it easier for Australia to contend with.

The more mature Nabil Fekir was far more decisive with his efforts when he came on for Dembele, linking up well with Paul Pogba.

Meanwhile, Samuel Umtiti posted a picture of his handball incident on his Instagram story – which he has since deleted – with a basketball hoop inserted as if he were going for a dunk. Making light of what could’ve been a costly error speaks volumes of the level of immaturity several of France’s key players are guilty of.

France have a dearth of leadership.

France have a dearth of leadership.

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Uruguay flatter to deceive again as they edge past Saudi Arabia 1-0 at the World Cup

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Uruguay booked their place in the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup with a stoic and workmanlike 1-0 victory over resurgent Saudi Arabia.

Luis Suarez, so ineffective as La Celeste scraped a late 1-0 win in their opener against Egypt, leapt into life at the Rostov Arena, converting Carlos Sanchez’s first-half corner into an empty net after Mohammed Al Owais came for the cross through a crowd of bodies and soon regretted his decision.

Much like in their opening game it was a tense affair against a vastly improved Saudi side, who huffed and puffed but simply didn’t have the quality required to equalise and keep their hopes of progression alive.

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