World champions Germany the final test for Juan Antonio Pizzi and Saudi Arabia before World Cup
Last warm-up game on Friday night for the Green Falcons before they head to Russia
Germany have got previous for inflicting sizeable scorelines on opponents in the World Cup arena.
Twelve years before Germany burst the bubble of Brazilian brilliance with a 7-1 demolition in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup, they had an emphatic victory over Saudi Arabia in the group stages at the 2002 tournament.
Their 8-0 win in Japan at the 2002 tournament remains the four-time champions’ biggest win at the Fifa showpiece. Germany were ranked 11th at the time and had been failed to progress to the knock-out rounds of the previous European Championships; Saudi were ranked 34th and had reached the final of the 2000 Asian Cup.
On Friday, for the first time since, the two sides meet again in what will be the final preparation match for both sides before the World Cup kicks off next Thursday.
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This time, however, Germany are the reigning world champions and Saudi, at 67th, are the lowest-ranked team heading to Russia.
Given Germany already have a 100 per cent record and an aggregate score of 17-0 from their three games against the Green Falcons, Saudi’s scheduling of such a friendly just six days before they raise the iron curtain against the hosts appears questionable.
It should be noted that Juan Antonio Pizzi, Saudi’s Argentinian coach, had no hand in the planning of the friendly at the BayArena in Leverkusen. The 50-year-old was only appointed in November and although he did set out a five-stage preparation plan in January that included matches against the likes of Belgium and Italy, the final friendly with the world champions was already in place.
Pizzi said he is simply looking for his squad to gain experience of playing against the side who moved to No 1 on the Fifa rankings on Thursday.
Saudi have had a mixed build-up to the World Cup. They picked up encouraging wins against Algeria and Greece last month, before going down narrowly to Italy.
But, they were beaten by fellow World Cup qualifiers Peru on Monday and Germany will be a useful test of the confidence in the squad.
While not choosing to face Germany, Pizzi is responsible, however, for electing not to take Nawaf Al Abed as part of his 23-man squad.
The Al Hilal playmaker is regarded as one of Asia’s most creative midfielders and was crucial in his country’s qualification campaign as well as Hilal’s run to the AFC Champions League final last year.
The 28-year-old, however, was forced to undergo surgery on a groin issue in January and only made his comeback in the 3-0 friendly defeat to Peru. Pizzi decided Al Abed’s fitness was not at a sufficient level to risk taking him to Russia where they face the hosts, Egypt and Uruguay in Group A.
Positive news for Saudi is that midfielder Abdullah Otayf - whose teammates call him the Riyadhi Luka Modric - has shaken off a muscle injury and could feature tonight, while teammate Hattan Bahebri said he is hoping for “technical gains alongside a positive result”.
“Everyone is investing every minute in the current program in order to be ready for the next stage,” added Bahebri. “We all feel the importance.”
Meanwhile, Germany coach Joachim Low will also be without a tricky winger tonight after opting to leave Leroy Sane at home this summer.
Sane helped Manchester City win the English Premier League title and was named PFA Young Player of the Year, but his national team coach has reportedly been left unimpressed by the 22 year-old’s attitude, leading to his omission from the squad.
Manuel Neuer and Toni Kroos are expected to start this evening for the Germans, who slipped to a surprise 2-1 loss to Austria last weekend.
But one man who will be missing is Mesut Ozil. The Arsenal midfielder will be rested due to a knee injury.
Updated: June 8, 2018 11:49 AM