Shaken Saudis look to salvage reputation

Saudi Arabia are looking to salvage their reputation when they face fellow three-time champions Japan in their final group match on Monday after their humiliating exit from the tournament.

Last Updated: Jan 16, 2011, 18:53 PM IST

Doha: Saudi Arabia are looking to salvage
their reputation when they face fellow three-time champions
Japan in their final group match on Monday after their
humiliating exit from the tournament.

"We will exert every effort to perform well," Saudi
Arabia coach Nasser Al Johar said on the eve of the Group B
match.

"We will also try to think about our destiny, our name
and our reputation."

"Our players hope they will use all their potential to do
that and restore our reputation again."

Saudi Arabia were stunned by unfancied Syria 2-1 and then
bowed 1-0 to Jordan to assure themselves of bottom spot on the
group table.

After the first defeat, their Portuguese coach Jose
Peseiro was fired and the fallout continued after the Jordan
loss with King Abdullah removing Prince Sultan Bin Fahd as
president of the Saudi Football Federation.

Al Johar refused to comment on the prince`s dismissal
with a conference moderator limiting questions to issues
directly related to the tournament.

It is only the second time in Asian Cup history that
Saudi Arabia have not made it to the knockout stages.

"We are able to restore our reputation in the tournament.
We`ll have to win," Saudi defender Mohammed Massad said.

"Even though we have been eliminated, this is a destiny
by God. We`ll prepare ourselves for the coming days."

Japan boss Alberto Zaccheroni, a former AC Milan coach,
warned against Saudi Arabia`s potential.

"While Syria and Jordan fight by forming blocks, Saudi
Arabia have techniques," he said.

"I expect them to fight with a creative and imaginative
flair. We cannot afford to loosen up and we must fight
courageously."

It was Saudi Arabia who crushed Japan`s hope of lifting a
third straight title in 2007 by beating them in the
semi-finals.

With four points from a draw with Jordan and a 2-1 win
over Syria, the Blue Samurai can qualify for the last-eight if
they draw or beat the Saudis. Japan can still go through
depending on the margin of a loss to Saudi Arabia.

Japan captain and Wolfsburg midfielder Makoto Hasebe
said: "We haven"t got anything yet. We will be outdone if we
let our guard down. We can win if we continue to fight as we
did against Syria when players on the pitch and players on the
bench played with one mind."

Zaccheroni played down the absence of World Cup
goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima due to a red card controversially
imposed on him in the Syria match when he brought down a
Syrian player flagged offside.

The referee overturned the offside call.

Tomsk midfielder Daisuke Matsui is also expected to miss
the Saudi match due to a fresh leg injury and CSKA Moscow
midfiedler Keisuke Honda is nursing his right ankle which was
hurt in the Syria match.

Bureau Report