2019 Asian Cup: Juan Antonio Pizzi backs Hatan Bahbri to get even better for Saudi Arabia
Winger put in another commanding display as Green Falcons beat Lebanon to confirm place in last 16
Juan Antonio Pizzi, the Saudi Arabia manager, believes Hatan Bahbri can still improve, despite his sparkling start to the Asian Cup.
The Green Falcons advanced to the knockout stage of the competition with a game to spare, after adding a 2-0 win over Lebanon on Saturday night to their opening match thrashing of North Korea.
Again, Al Shabab winger Bahbri caught the eye, just as he had done in scoring in the 4-0 win over the North Koreans.
The Saudis finally quelled the resistance of a dogged Lebanon side when Hussain Al Moqahwi scored the second, which was brought about by some fine wing play from Bahbri.
“Although he wasn’t participating in our first training camps because of injury, he has been very good since we first started training the team,” Pizzi, the Argentine coach of Saudi, said of Bahbri.
“He showed full dedication, concentration and a big effort. He is a good player, the sort of player you like to have in your team because of his quality.
“I hope he will not relax, but to push on to raise his level, and get better and better. He has a chance to play to an even better level.”
Pizzi’s team will likely play either Japan or Iraq in the next round, dependent on the result in their final pool match against Qatar. The manager says they are only thinking about victory next time out.
“We want to play a good game against Qatar, and we won’t ever worry about what others are doing,” Pizzi said.
“We are concentrating on our job against Qatar, not on whether it will be Japan or Iraq with us in the next round.”
Miodrag Radulovic, the Lebanon manager, believes his side can still progress, despite no wins and no goals in their opening two matches.
The Montenegrin, who also believes Saudi Arabia could win the competition based on the evidence of their win over his side, is hopeful a win over North Korea in their last Group F game could see them through as a lucky third-placed side.
“I think Saudi Arabia can go minimum to the semi-finals,” Radulovic said.
“For my team now, it is important to have good rest and recovery. I think three points in the next game should be enough to make the next round.
“My players are not used to playing after three days at such a level, and they are very tired.
“We made a good performance [against Saudi] and I am not disappointed with this. If we need to lose, we need to lose like this.”
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Updated: January 13, 2019 11:13 AM