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10 December 2023

Saudi coach sacked after shock defeat

Syria’s Ali Dyab (left) fights for the ball against Saudi Arabia’s Naif Hazazi during their AFC Asian Cup group B match in Qatar on Sunday. (AP)

By Agencies

Saudi Arabia sacked Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro after Sunday’s shock 2-1 defeat by Syria in their opening Asian Cup match.

Nasser Al Johar, one of Peseiro’s backroom staff for the tournament in Qatar, was named as his successor by the Saudi Arabian Football Association.
Al Johar also took over as coach at the 2000 Asian Cup when the Saudis sacked Czech Milan Macala following a 4-1 opening-match defeat by Japan. He went on to steer the team into the final where they again lost to the same opposition.
The FA acted on Sunday after rowdy Saudi reporters gave Peseiro a grilling for the second successive day when his team were beaten in a lively Group B match at the Al Rayyan Stadium.
“The quality of the players was not as we wished, they didn’t play with their hearts. I blame the players and have released the coach,” said FA president Prince Sultan bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz in a statement.
“It is not acceptable for Saudi Arabia. The coach has had enough time, more than a year and a half, to do a perfect job.”
Peseiro, 50, in charge since February 2009, was already under intense pressure after the team failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup in South Africa - the first time they had missed the finals since 1990.
He was given an uncompromising reception by reporters on Sunday immediately after the Saudis, triple Asian champions, lost to Syria for only the second time in 24 meetings dating back to 1976.
“Do you take responsibility for that, and if you do, are you going to resign?”, he was asked at a news conference while other reporters criticised his team selection.
“I believe in this team, I believe we are winners,” Peseiro replied with a look of anger in his eyes.
“Look at Spain in the World Cup, they lost the first match and finished as champions. If we beat Jordan and Japan in our next two matches we will go through to the next phase.”
Peseiro, who includes a spell working with Carlos Queiroz at Real Madrid on his impressive CV, was also asked whether the Saudi media were correct to criticise him in the build-up to the match because their observations had been borne out with defeat.
“Do you blame us for this defeat now?”, one asked sarcastically.
“I am not playing against the media, I am playing against Japan, Jordan and Syria,” replied Peseiro.
“Listen, it was not a good result, but we did not play all that badly. We showed some good spirit and we deserved a better result.”
Saturday’s pre-match news conference was also a shouting contest between Peseiro and reporters, with the coach saying he was only answerable to his employers, not to journalists.
“You are free to write what you like about me but don’t demoralise my players,” he told them before learning of his sacking later.
Saudi Arabia’s next game is against Jordan on Thursday.