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Striker shortage and captain chaos

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Author: Gary MeenaghanSun, 2017-11-12 03:00ID: 1510427614141331600VISEU, Portugal: After Saudi Arabia’s 3-0 defeat to Portugal Edgardo Bauza will be well aware of the big issues he has to deal with before boarding the plane to Russia. Here are the five things we learned from the loss in Visnau.Mr Unpopular
Bauza showed he is not scared of being unpopular. In a match that doubled up as a fundraiser for victims of the forest fires that recently swept the region, he refused to engage in a toe-to-toe. While predecessor Bert van Marwijk stuck rigidly to 4-3-3, Bauza employed a bank of five defenders against the European champions, bringing criticism from local media. It is an early insight into how he is likely to approach the more dangerous teams next summer and conceded afterwards he had treated the match solely as an opportunity to learn about his defense.Striker Shortage
Bauza’s decision to focus on defense was likely easier given his shortage of options in attack. With Fahad Al-Muwallad injured and Mohammed Al-Sahlawi left at home despite scoring 16 times in qualifying, Bauza has only three recognized strikers here. Against Portugal, he handed a debut to Hazaa Al- Hazaa, but the Al-Ettifaq forward was left isolated. During a 75-minute run-out, he showed a couple of nice touches after dropping deep, but failed to muster anything meaningful inside the penalty area. His replacement, Muhannad Assiri, provided more of a physical presence, but was similarly starved of service. Both men finished the match without a shot on target.Less Fast Food, More Fitness
In Saudi’s only previous defeat under Bauza, a 3-0 reverse in an unofficial friendly with Ghana, the Green Falcons tired as the game drew on, culminating in Thomas Partey scoring in the 88th minute. Against Portugal it was a case of lesson unlearnt. In added time and with the score at 2-0, the Gulf side’s marking evaporated, leaving João Mário free to take two touches on the edge of the area before drilling past Mohammed Al-Owais. Bauza will need to address his team’s ability to last the pace at this level. A good first step would be to prohibit post-match trips to McDonalds, which is where the majority of Saudi players headed after leaving the stadium on Friday.Captain Chaos
The five-man Saudi defense, while strong in the air, struggled to deal with the ball on the floor. The speed with which the Portuguese switched play had them chasing shadows and they could have been two goals down inside the first 15 minutes. While Motaz and Omar Hawsawi eventually settled, 32-year-old captain Osama appeared to be a penalty waiting to happen. Swinging wildly at clearances and slow to react in one-on-one situations, the Al-Hilal skipper eventually let show his frustration, screaming at the referee. Lucky not to be booked for dissent, he will almost certainly go to Russia, but on this performance it should be solely for his off-field leadership.No Surprise: No. 7 Shines
Cristiano Ronaldo was absent, but the shirt number he has come to personify still proved the focal point of much of his country’s positive play. Gonçalo Guedes, who will turn 21 later this month, was given a rare chance to wear the famous No. 7 and notched an assist and a goal to help push his case for a seat on the plane to Russia. In 2015, Guedes became the first 18-year-old to play for Portugal since Ronaldo and it was clear to see why he is so highly rated. On loan at Valencia from Paris St. Germain, his clever movement and ability to beat his man caused Saudi problems all night. Little wonder full-back Mohammed Al-Burayk appeared to arrange a full-time shirt swap after only 70 minutes.
Main category: Sports

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