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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Juan Antonio Pizzi: Game against Iraq 'of great importance' to Saudi Arabia

Saudis looking to test themselves against regional opponents ahead of the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE

Saudi Arabia manager Juan Antonio Pizzi has stressed the significance of Monday’s friendly against Iraq as his side continue preparations for the 2019 Asian Cup.

The Saudis, three-time continental champions, will bring an end to their latest camp with the match in Riyadh, where they will hope to build on an encouraging performance in Friday’s 2-0 friendly defeat to Brazil at the same venue.

The fixture at the King Saud University Stadium pits Pizzi’s men against an Asian Cup rival. The tournament kicks off the in the UAE in January, with Saudi Arabia drawn in Group E alongside Qatar, Lebanon and North Korea. They open their campaign against North Korea in Dubai on January 8.

Iraq, meanwhile, are in Group D together with Iran, Vietnam and Yemen.

"In the previous game we faced a strong team [Brazil] where we played a big game against them, and we are ready to face Iraq, which is of great importance,” Pizzi said. "Our match against Iraq will not be like the Brazil match, certainly in terms of the nature of our competitor and our playing style.”

Pizzi confirmed the Saudis will concentrate on Asian opponents from now until the continent’s showpiece event in little under three months’ time, with negotiations with prospective national teams apparently already under way.

Saudi Arabia last won the Asian Cup in 1996, the only other time the tournament was staged in the Emirates, while their best recent performance was a runner-up finish 11 years ago.

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