Football: Saudis struggling with fatigue ahead of Asian Cup opener, warns coach

Saudi Arabia's starting eleven pose for a group picture ahead of the final of the 22nd Gulf Cup football match against Qatar at the King Fahad stadium in Riyadh, on Nov 26, 2014. Saudi Arabia's Asian Cup coach Cosmin Olaroiu has warned there was
Saudi Arabia's starting eleven pose for a group picture ahead of the final of the 22nd Gulf Cup football match against Qatar at the King Fahad stadium in Riyadh, on Nov 26, 2014. Saudi Arabia's Asian Cup coach Cosmin Olaroiu has warned there was little he could do to whip the fatigued three-time winners into shape before Saturday's opener against China. -- PHOTO: AFP

BRISBANE (REUTERS) - Saudi Arabia's Asian Cup coach Cosmin Olaroiu has warned there was little he could do to whip the fatigued three-time winners into shape before Saturday's opener against China.

The Romanian was drafted in last month on a loan from Emirati club Al Ahli but has so far only been able to oversee a eye-catching 1-4 friendly loss to Bahrain last week and 2-0 defeat by South Korea on Sunday.

Olaroiu replaced Juan Ramon Lopez Caro after the Saudis lost at home to Qatar in the final of the Gulf Cup in November, part of an extensive period of fixtures for the Green Falcons that has hampered progress, he said.

"I try my best, we talk a lot, we work a lot with the players and I'm happy that they take some benefits from our work," the Romanian, who won the Saudi title with Al Hilal in 2008, said after the Korea loss. "The problem is that they cannot improve, it's difficult to improve if we're going to play every four days.

"The players come after a very long period of games, Gulf Cup, many games in the league cup, Al Hilal players play continuous from August in the AFC Champions League and the league and then they play almost every three or four days from August until now.

"So the most important thing is to recover. To prepare will be impossible in terms of the physical condition over a couple of days."

The Saudis held fellow Asian Cup finalists South Korea for 68 minutes in Parramatta before Osama Hawsawi scored an own goal, with debutant striker Lee Jung Hyub making the game safe with a second in stoppage time.

Olaroiu said he was pleased with what he witnessed in their final warm-up before the Group B fixtures against a youthful China, who are on an unbeaten 10-game run, North Korea and Uzbekistan.

"As you see, when they are in good condition, they press and they play very aggressively," he said. "After we conceded, we couldn't play in the same way and we conceded a little bit more and that changes the game.

"We have made one step forward in terms of organisation on the field... (but) it's hard to recover, to be fresh for the start of the competition.

"The most important thing is to try to build the spirit of the team. Somebody can be better than us, can be faster than us, can be stronger than us but we have to want it more than them and this is our target."