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Saudi Arabia too strong for NKorea

Iraq survive Vietnam scare

Saudi Arabia midfielder Salem al Dawsari (right), battles for the ball with North Korea forward Han Kwang Song during the AFC Asian Cup Group E soccer match between Saudi Arabia and North Korea at the Rashid Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Jan 8. (AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Jan 8, (Agencies): This time, Saudi Arabia were on the right side of a rout in their opening game at a major tournament. The Saudis beat North Korea 4-0 on Tuesday at the Asian Cup with two goals in each half. At the 2018 World Cup, coach Juan Antonio Pizzi’s team lost 5-0 to host Russia in the first game. The 69th-ranked Saudis – fifth best in the 24-team Asian Cup – are favored to top a politically charged group that includes Qatar.

On Wednesday, Qatar begin their campaign against Lebanon. Earlier Tuesday, Iraq scored in the 90th minute to win 3-2 against Vietnam, which led twice in the first half.

Defender Ali Adnan, who plays in Italy for Atalanta, sealed the victory with a perfectly placed free kick. Meanwhile Australia must adapt to the defensive style of their Asian Cup opponents as they prepare for a Palestine side who could prove as troubling as Jordan were in their opener, Socceroos assistant coach Rene Meulensteen has said. Defending champions Australia suffered a surprising 1-0 loss to Jordan in their opening match in Al Ain on Sunday, dominating for long spells but unable to cancel out Anas Bani Yaseen’s 26th minute header in the Group B clash at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. The Socceroos, who won the 2015 tile on home soil, face Palestine on Friday in Dubai and Meulensteen said their opponents were likely to set up the same way as Jordan. “We can expect the same thing from Palestine,” said the Dutchman.

“It’ll be a very defensive setup. This is a team that sets themselves up with everyone behind the ball. “We will have a lot of the ball and the most important thing for us is to use it well, to be patient, to keep the quality, to keep the speed of play and eventually open them up. “It’s about constant movement of the ball and players, dragging them in, dragging them out … and be clinical when the opportunities present themselves.”

The Socceroos underwent an overhaul in tactics under new coach Graham Arnold following their group stage exit at last year’s World Cup and are more aggressive, pressing higher up the pitch and more attack minded. They had scored 13 goals, and conceded just one, in four friendlies against Asian opposition since Arnold took over, therefore few saw the defeat to Jordan coming. “We’re obviously disappointed to come away with a loss. But if you look at it, we dominated the game,” Meulensteen said.

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