Asian Cup notebook: Defeat to Syria is enough for Saudi Arabia to dispense with the services of Jose Peseiro while Japan's Shinji Kagaw has been voted the top discovery in the Bundesliga.
Syria defeat for Saudi Arabia to dispense with Peseiro
Saudi Arabia have sacked Jose Peseiro after their surprise 2-1 defeat to Syria in their opening game of the Asian Cup. The Portuguese coach, a former assistant at Real Madrid, was appointed in February 2009 but saw his position come under question after failing to guide the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup. The Saudi Football Federation have now decided to act following their latest defeat, with Nasser al Johar - who took the Saudis to the final of the 2000 Asian Cup - named as Peseiro's replacement for the remainder of the tournament, according to the Asian Football Confederation's official website. "The performance was bad and we want to correct things before the next two matches," said Prince Sultan bin Fahd, the Saudi federation president, in a televised interview. Al Johar must now lift the team for their remaining Group B fixtures against Jordan and Japan if they are to avoid crashing out at the group stage for only second time.
Shinji Kagawa, the Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder, has been voted by his Bundesliga peers the top discovery of the season. The 286 Bundesliga players polled by Kicker magazine gave the Japan international 29.3 per cent of the votes. Kagawa arrived in Dortmund virtually unknown in Germany but scored eight goals in helping Dortmund take the league lead. Kagawa played a big part in helping Japan draw their opening game 1-1 with Jordan on Sunday.
Hatem Aqel could miss the remainder of the tournament after injuring his knee in his side's opening 1-1 draw with three-times champions Japan. Aqel, 32, the Jordan captain, left the field on a stretcher after going into a challenge with Makoto Hasebe, the Japan captain, during the second half of the opening Group B match on Sunday and was seen leaving the stadium in a wheelchair to go for an MRI scan. "It is not feeling good as I am in a lot of pain right now," said Aqel, who plays for the Saudi Arabian club side Al Raed. The loss would be a huge blow to Jordan's hopes, with the defender producing a stellar performance to keep favourites Japan at bay for most of the game before the Blue Samurai equalised in stoppage time when he was off the field.
Waleed Tabra, Iraq's general manager, said that none of the players or coaching staff would be thinking of anything other than winning the intriguing match against Iran. "Iran and Iraq are friendly neighbours. We have a shared border, a deep history and relationship that goes back centuries," Tabra told Reuters. "We have the same religions, Iranians marry Iraqis, Iraqis marry Iranians, it's good for the two countries. But football is something different, it's competitive. We are playing to win, they are playing to win. It has nothing to do with what happened in the 1980s."
Four years ago, after Southeast Asia hosted the Asian Cup, the 10 countries in the region are watching from the sidelines after none qualified for the continent's biggest football tournament. Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam played well enough while co-hosting the 2007 tournament to spur hopes they might be ready to challenge for the title this year. But the region's 10 countries had a dismal qualifying campaign for the 2011 Asian Cup, winning just two of the 20 matches they contested and scoring a measly 15 goals in total.