Saudi Arabia's Young Falcons soar to shock tournament favorites China at Asian Games

Saudi Arabia's Young Falcons soar to shock tournament favorites China at Asian Games

Saudi Arabia's Young Falcons soar to shock tournament favorites China at Asian Games

JAKARTA: Keen to leave a lasting impression on national team manager Juan Antonio Pizzi who was watching from afar, young Saudi Arabian striker Haroune Camara netted a hat-trick to help defeat hotly tipped China 4-3 and book the Young Falcons a place in the Asian Games quarterfinals.
China had arrived at the Patriot Chandrabhaga Stadium as favorites, having scored 11 times and conceded just once during a group stage in which they finished top, with three wins from three. Yet Camara, who broke into the Al-Qadisiyah first team last season and trained with Pizzi’s senior national team ahead of the World Cup, had other plans.
The 20-year-old had yet to score at this month’s U23 tournament, but that changed in the 17th minute when he won the ball in midfield, capitalised on China’s high defensive line and raced through to fire past Wei Chen. He added his second five minutes after Saad Al-Selouli had doubled Saudi Arabia’s lead and, in the second half and with China getting a foothold in the game, he found space to smash home a half-volley to complete his hat-trick.
“I am very happy with my performance,” he said, posing with the match-ball.
“This competition is very important to us and every player tried to do his best today because we know coach Pizzi is watching. We hope to leave a good impression. It was a difficult game, but we made it easier for ourselves because we took our chances in the first half.”
As Saudi Arabia’s full-backs visibly tired, China rallied, scoring three times in the last 10 minutes to set up a nervy finish, but Saad Al-Shehri’s side held on to progress to the last-eight, where they will meet Japan on Monday.
For 75 minutes, Saudi Arabia looked like the team Al-Shehri had spoken about; a team capable not only of creating goals but of taking them too. In the opening period, they scored with their only three shots on target, Al-Salouli’s coming after a superb dribbling run from Abdulrahman Ghareeb who drew in two defenders before releasing his teammate who lofted a perfect finish over the outrushing Chen. Ayman Al-Khulaifi and Yousef Al-Harbi again impressed.
“I am proud of the players for what they did in this game, especially the 75 minutes in which we fought,” said Al-Shehri. “We ran a lot and played against a very good team that has been preparing for this tournament for the past two years. China are here with players all born in 1995 while we have came with all players born in 1997, so we must be very proud.”
China coach Massimiliano Maddaloni struggled to explain his team’s first-half performance, but insisted his side were still in the match until Camara netted the Young Falcons’ fourth on the hour mark.
“In the first half, they attacked our centre-backs, which gave us big problems,” said the Italian. “Their movement created chaos for our defensive organisation and we suffered a lot. In the second half though, we had many opportunities to make goals and if we didn’t concede that fourth, we could have got back in it. If the game had lasted even a little bit longer I think we would have equalized.”

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