Saudi Arabia's new coach Jose Peseiro is adamant he can revive the Gulf side's flagging qualifying campaign to avoid the almost unthinkable prospect of missing out on a 2010 World Cup finals berth. The former Sporting Lisbon and Panathinaikos manager, who last month became the Saudis' 20th coach in 15 years, plans to instil a sense of self-belief in his under-performing players to ensure safe passage to their fifth successive finals.
The stuttering Saudis are midway through the final qualifying stage but find themselves second from bottom in the five-team Group B on four points from four games, with only the top two finishers guaranteed a place in the South Africa finals. "My players have the ability, the quality and technical capability to get to the World Cup, I have no doubt about this," the Portuguese coach said. "It has not been good so far, it will be difficult but we have to believe we can do this. I have to get this into the heads of my players, I have to make them believe. If they want it, they can have it."
Peseiro, who was assistant coach to Carlos Quieroz at Real Madrid from 2003-2004, accepts the Saudis may have to rely on the play-offs to reach South Africa 2010, with leaders South Korea and regional powerhouse Iran likely to take the automatic berths. The two third-placed sides from the Asian groups will contest a play-off, with the winners taking on Oceania champions New Zealand for the last remaining place at the 32-team finals.
* With agencies