Tuesday 28 November 2017, 08:43

Pizzi takes charge of Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia appoint Argentinian coach Juan Antonio Pizzi to lead team

  • Replaces fellow countryman Edgardo Bauza in taking charge of the Green Falcons

  • Third coach to take the role since their qualification for Russia 2018

Juan Antonio Pizzi has been handed the reins at 2018 FIFA World cup Russia™-bound Saudi Arabia, taking over from fellow Argentinian coach Edgardo Bauza, who was relieved of the role last week.

Pizzi becomes the third man to sit in the Green Falcons hot seat since September, after Dutch tactician Bert van Marwijk had led the Asian side to automatic qualification for next year’s global finals. The former Chile boss will discover his side’s opponents in Russia at the Final Draw on 1 December in Moscow.

He had hoped to already be looking ahead to the extravaganza in June next year, but after leading La Roja to Copa America Centenario success in 2016 and the final of the FIFA Confederatons Cup Russia 2017, they fell at the final hurdle in Russia 2018 qualifying. A 3-0 defeat to leaders Brazil saw them slip from third to sixth in the standings on a dramatic last day, and meant they missed out on even a play-off spot.

The former Barcelona striker takes over after seeing Bauza win just two of the five games he led the side in – the latest being a 1-0 defeat to Bulgaria – and now has just over six months to hone the team ahead of their first appearance on the global stage since Germany 2006.

Saudi Arabia qualified in second from Asia’s Group B, clinching their passage on the final day thanks to victory over leaders Japan.