Brazil were given much more of a game by Saudi Arabia than they were expecting, but eventually sealed the win deep into injury time.
Saudi Arabia - Brazil live online: match report
Brazil ran out 2-0 winners against Saudi Arabia in Riyadh this Friday, thanks to goals coming from Gabriel Jesus and Alex Sandro late at the end of each half.
Third-ranked Brazil were probably expecting a much easier ride against 73rd-placed Saudi Arabia. But the stubborn hosts did not make it easy for Neymar and Co. and they were almost awarded for their efforts with a stale mate at half time. But after having created several chances, which the Saudis had done well to deal with, Brazil scored in the 43rd minute, when Neymar sucked in three defenders to leave Gabriel Jesus in space down the right. The PSG man played a pin-point pass into the path of the unmarked number 9, who, from just 8 yards out, dinked it past the keeper to give Brazil the expected advantage at the break.
Ten minutes into the second half and Brazil were almost two up, but Neymar’s curling left-footed effort hit the far upright. After that and for about 15 minutes, Brazil were quiet as Saudi Arabia enjoyed their best spell of the game – the best chance falling to their best player on the night Al Faraj, who found himself in space at the edge of the box and on the end of a pass back from Al Dawsari. But he scuffed his shot and it went well wide of the left post. During that 15-minute spell, the Green Falcons showed some intent and passed well, but just lacked the capability to really break open the Brazil defence.
Saudis down to ten
Any hopes of a Saudi equaliser were dashed, however, when their keeper was sent off for handling the ball outside his box with about ten minutes to go. In an effort to stop substitute Richarlison, who was storming towards goal, Al Oswais came rushing off his line to stop the attack, but he was well outside the area when his arm made contact with the ball. And after calling for VAR to review the incident, the referee gave him his marching orders. It was a sad ending for the goalkeeper, who had had a decent game up to that point, which included a stunning save to deny the well-struck header of Gabriel Jesus in the 26th minute.
Brazil take back control
With the Saudis down to ten men, Brazil took control and made a couple of chances, with substitute Walace almost making it two in the 89th minute when his glancing header from a Neymar corner was just shy of goal. Five minutes later and deep into injury time, it was looking like it would finish 1-0, which would have been an embarrassing score line for Brazil, but a thoroughly respectable one for the Saudis.
But with the last play of the game, Neymar put in yet another great delivery from a corner, and Alex Sandro, who was first to meet the in swinging cross, nodded it past the substitute Saudi keeper in front of goal to make it 2-0 – a score line which was somewhat more of a fair reflection on the game.
Brazil face a much sterner test against Argentina on Friday. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, can leave the stadium with their heads held high, after giving Brazil much more a fight than they had been expecting. Up next they have a much more winnable game against neighbours and rivals Iraq.
Saudi Arabia - Brazil live online: latest updates
Saudi Arabia - Brazil live online: match preview
Saudi Arabia host Brazil at the King Saud University Stadium on Friday with both sides approaching the game with different priorities. The Green Falcons have played just once since the 2018 World Cup, a 2-2 draw against Bolivia in September, and are using the four-team mini-tournament that also features Argentina and Iraq as preparation for the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE next January, where Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side have been drawn against North Korea, Lebanon and Qatar in Group E.
Dubbed the “Super Clasico” tournament with Argentina and Brazil to square off at the King Abdullah Sports City next week, Saudi Arabia will face a strong if experimental Brazil side on Friday as Tite looks ahead to the 2019 Copa América, where the pressure on the Canarinha to lift the title for the first time since 2007 on home soil will be immense.
The last time the sides met was in 2002 in Riyadh, Brazil edging the game 1-0. In total they have met on four occasions, Brazil winning all four by an aggregate score of 16-3.
The Green Falcons performed broadly as expected at the 2018 World Cup, going out at the first hurdle as they had done on their previous three appearances at the tournament. A final game victory over Egypt added a little lustre – it was the country’s first win at the World Cup in 24 years – and Pizzi, who was installed as manager in November 2017, will be expected to build upon that in the upcoming Asian Cup.
In recent years Saudi Arabi have underperformed at the regional tournament, going out in the group stage in 2011 and 2015 having been either champions or runners-up in six of the seven previous editions stretching back to 1984.
Pizzi is somewhat hamstrung by a squad entirely composed of players from the Saudi Pro League, a circumstance the Saudi FA attempted to remedy by sending several players to LaLiga last January to gain experience. Only Fahad Al-Muwallad made an appearance in the Spanish top flight, a 10-minute substitute cameo for Levante and he has been omitted from the latest Green Falcons squad, which features veteran left back Hussein Abdulghani and promising young Al-Qadsiah striker Haroune Camara.
After exiting the World Cup at the quarterfinal stage in Russia, Tite’s side have been in action twice, beating the USA 2-0 and El Salvador 5-0 in a pair of Brasil Global Tour friendlies in the states.
The well-travelled coach, who had brief stints in charge of Al Ain and Al Wahda in the UAE on his CV, was perhaps lucky to retain his post after what was ultimately viewed as a disappointment for one of the pre-tournament favourites and will be expected to deliver when the Copa América is staged in Brazil next summer.
The Canarinha coach has retained much of his squad from Russia and has no shortage of firepower with Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Richarlison, Malcom and Roberto Firmino being joined in attack by Lucas Moura, who received his first call-up for two years in place of injured Grêmio forward Éverton.
Tite’s midfield is also better-stocked and more finely balanced than many of his predecessors but if there is one area Saudi Arabia can exploit it is at the back, where in the absence of Thiago Silva, Dani Alves and injured Real Madrid full back Marcelo there are a distinct lack of caps behind the likes of Danilo, Filipe Luis and Miranda, who are unlikely to make the Copa América squad next season, leaving Tite to examine options including uncapped Bordeaux central defender Pablo and 20-year-old Porto right back Éder Militão.