African champions Cameroon are rested and ready to fend off a Saudi Arabia side looking to restore some pride in Thursday’s World Cup Group E match here.
The Saudis were humiliated 8-0 by Germany in their opening match, managing just three shots at goal, while the jet-lagged Africans let a first-half lead slip to draw 1-1 with Ireland.
« You must never underestimate them according to the match against Germany, » said Cameroon coach Winfried Schafer. « Of course they will try to play a lot better against us. »
« We have to put pressure on them as the Germans did, attack very early, go inside the box, create many chances, and also play a lot more aggressively and focus on finishing. That’s more important, » said Schafer.
The German coach said the Olympic champions blamed the tiredness in the second half on their mammoth trip to Japan from Europe.
They arrived on May 23 after a bizarre four-day delay because of a dispute over bonus payments and the absence of permission to fly over several countries.
« But our team has achieved a turning point and I’m very optimistic and I’m very confident that our team will have a much better game against Saudi Arabia, » Schafer said.
Saudi coach Nasser Al-Johar said he and his squad still believe they could make the second round despite their drubbing by Germany.
« 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, » said al-Johar.
« 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. »
The coach and players will have the words of prince Sultan Ben Abdel Aziz, the Saudi defence minister, ringing in their ears when they take to the field.
« I wish you all good luck … and ask you to deploy more effort in the remaining matches, » he said after the German debacle.
Saudi Arabia need skipper Sami al-Jaber to recover from an ankle injury he picked up during the first match and Al-Johar said he would make some changes to the side for Thursday’s match.
One 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 as they try to come to terms with the physical approach of Marc-Vivien Foe, Salomon Olembe and Geremi Njitap.
One player who will not be dropped is veteran goalkeeper Mohammed al-Deayea.
« 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 goalkeepers in Asia, » team manager Faisal Abed al-Hadi said.
« If any player makes mistakes it doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to play for his national team. »
Al Hadi said all he demanded of the players was that they showed what they were really capable of and not the toothless performance they produced against the Germans in Sapporo.
« We are not asking our players to do something extraordinary, » al-Hadi said.
« 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. »