Saudi coach Nasser Al-Johar issued a defiant riposte here Tuesday to his many critics following the 8-0 hammering by Germany declaring the same people had been happy to hail him as a hero when he guided the Saudis to the 2000 Asian Cup final and through the World Cup qualifiers second stage.
The 42-year-old, known prior to the German result as Mr Fixit for his ability to come in and turn the side’s fortunes around following the exit of a highly-paid foreign coach, added he and his squad still believed they could make the second round.
« All those people who are criticising me now are the same ones who wrote or said I was a hero after the Asian Cup in Lebanon and after the final stage of qualifying for this World Cup.
« It’s not true at all that we went into the match without any strategy, the players trained hard to apply it – which was demonstrated prior to the finals in the good results from the warm-up matches.
« What happened against Germany was abnormal and unbelievable. »
However, Al-Johar said he would make some changes to the side for Thursday’s match with African champions Cameroon, one of which will see Fawzi Al-Shehri replace Abdullah Al-Shahrami as a link between the defence and midfield because of the latter’s lack of pace.
One player who will not be dropped is veteran goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Deayea according to team manager Faisal Abed Al Hadi.
« I expect one or two players to be replaced against Cameroon but I insist that the goalkeeper should play because he remains one of the most talented guardians in Asia, » he told AFP./p
« If any player makes mistakes it doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to play for his national team. »
Al Hadi said all they were demanding of the players was that they played to their real level and not the dreadful one they had produced against the Germans.
« We are not asking our players to do something extraordinary.
« It’s just what we need from them is to play at their normal level and I am sure they will do it and we will get good results in the final two matches because we have faith in their ability. »
Al Hadi said that it was pointless to change coaches at this stage, although he made little secret that if the thrashing had come under the auspices of a foreign coach then he would have been gone immediately.
« We need Al-Johar a lot in this situation because he is Saudi and he can understand the players, » he said.
Al-Hadi said skipper and veteran striker Sami Al-Jaber would be able to train on Tuesday after missing the last two days because of a right ankle problem and the medical staff were hopeful the 29-year-old would be able to play against Cameroon.