Kuwait 1-2 Saudi Arabia Gulf Cup: match report
Kuwait 1-2 Saudi Arabia: match report
Saudi Arabia saw off a late Kuwait surge having taken a 2-0 lead into the 60th minute in the opening game of the Gulf Cup of Nations in Kuwait.
Salman Al Moasher opened the scoring after some slack defending from the host nation after 13 minutes and he assisted for Mukhtar Fallatah to make it 2-0 in the second half on 53 minutes.
It looked like Saudi Arabai, who brought a B side to the tournament, were home and dry but Kuwait were buoyed by Abdullah Al Buraiki, who was only on the field 10 seconds before he drove a shot home to make it 1-2.
The home fans were delighted and they nearly carried their side over the line but it wasn't to be as they ran out of steam with Saudi Arabia happy to hear the final whistle as it was a lot closer than they might have liked and than it maybe should have been.
Kuwait v Saudi Arabia: as it happened
Kuwait v Saudi Arabia: Gulf Cup live online preview
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait kick off the 23rd edition Gulf Nations on Friday afternoon with plenty of noise around the game. Saudi Arabia, a team who were not going to enter the tournament before relenting and sending a second team along with Kuwait, returning from a ten-year ban from Fifa.
The competition, which has taken place on a biannual basis since 1970, is not recognised by Fifa but that won’t stop Kuwait trying to restore pride in the national football team as they return from that two-year ban imposed by Fifa.
As far as history and structure of the Gulf Cup of Nations goes, the competition has traditionally featured seven countries, with the six Gulf Cooperation Council members along with Iraq in the mix. In 2003, however, Yemen were admitted into the tournament. The teams broken into two groups of four and the top two in each group will face each other the semi-finals.
The home side are returning to international football for the first time in two years having been banned by Fifa for political interference. They are the record title holder of the Gulf Cup with ten but the halcyon days of the early 70’s and 80’s when they ruled football in this part of the world are behind them now.
Their ban has seen them slip to 188th in the world according to Fifa’s latest rankings and the fans, mostly at home and in massive numbers, will be looking for a win to start a run into the latter stages of the competition.
Some notable names in Boris Bunjak’s squad include most-ever capped player (156 caps) midfielder Bader Al-Mutawa, alongside defenders Ali Maqseed (31 caps), Fahad Al-Hajri (24 caps) and Khaled Al-Qahtani (16 caps), and midfielders Fahad Al-Ansari (31 caps) and Abdullah Al-Buraiki (13 caps).
They are more than 100 places behind Saudi Arabia in Fifa’s rankings but on home soil, with two years worth of football pent up inside them and with Saudi bringing a weakened squad, they are hoping for a win to kick things off in style on Friday afternoon.
Juan Antonio Pizzi took over the team after Eduardo Bauza, the former Argentina manager was sacked from his role. Pizzi, the former Chile coach, will not travel with the team to Kuwait, however, as the handling of first team duties has been handed to Krunoslav Jurcic.
“This selection does not mean that we underestimate the competition,” said Saudi spokesperson Mohamed Al-Shaikh. “It is part of the strategy agreed with coach Pizzi.”
Saudi Arabia have won the competition three times but not since 2003 in Kuwait.
They will have an eye on the World Cup in Russia, as they play the hosts to kick off the competition in June. They bring a young squad to Kuwait with them with Krunoslav Jurcic, Pizzi’s assistant, selected as the man to guide the Green Eagles in Kuwait. They have sent what some are calling a B side with one eye on the World Cup and with many of the younger, fringe players trying to stake a claim for a World Cup spot.
Six players born in Saudi Arabia to foreign parents have been included, including Hammam Al-Ajaj, Ali Al-Nimr and Ali Yahya, who come from Yemeni families.