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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Saudi Arabia's players accused of only giving '5 per cent' in World Cup loss to Russia

Turki Al Sheikh, head of country's sports authority, voices anger at display by Juan Antonio Pizzi's side in a social media video

It was a miserable start to the World Cup for Saudi Arabia and their coach Juan Antonio Pizzi. Peter Powell / EPA 
It was a miserable start to the World Cup for Saudi Arabia and their coach Juan Antonio Pizzi. Peter Powell / EPA 

Turki Al Sheikh, the head of Saudi Arabia’s sports authority criticised the players of the national team for only giving “5 per cent” effort following their 5-0 defeat to the host nation in the opening game of the World Cup in Russia.

In a video posted on his twitter account, Mr Al Sheikh said that he took full responsibility for the outcome of the game on Thursday, which was watched live in Moscow by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and many fans who travelled from the kingdom.

However, he said, that the embarrassing result had come despite every effort in recent years to support the team, known as the Falcons, in their preparations ahead of the tournament.

He also made clear the necessity for the implementation of new methods and to make changes, especially regarding future World Cups including 2026 which will be jointly hosted by the US, Canada and Mexico.

However, despite qualifying for their first World Cup since 2006, the build up to it has not been ideal.

The man in charge of the Russia game from the dugout, Juan Antonio Pizzi was third manager after qualification had been sealed.

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Bert van Marwijk had already gone back in September, despite securing for Saudi Arabia a first World Cup since 2006. By that time, the Dutchman had turned around a struggling squad, but a lingering problem regarding the amount of time spent in his adopted country was cited as the principal reason for a parting of the ways.

Edgardo Bauza was selected to fill the void, the Argentine fetched from neighbours UAE in what always seemed a strange arrangement. The wrong man at the wrong time. If his tenure in the Emirates was brief – he was there four months – it was even shorter in the Kingdom.

Two months in, Bauza had been dismissed, an appointment over not long after it had begun.

Saudi’s next game is against Uruguay in Rostov on Wednesday.