Roberto Mancini warned Saudi Arabia against falling victim to the kind of Asian Cup shock suffered by favourites Japan when his side face Kyrgyzstan on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia fought back to beat Oman 2-1 in stoppage time in their opening match in Qatar and can seal their place in the knockout rounds.
Mancini’s team are ranked 56th in the world and are one of the contenders for the title. Kyrgyzstan are 98th and lost 2-0 to Thailand to start their Asian Cup.
But a strongly-fancied Japan fell 2-1 to lower-ranked Iraq on Friday and the Italian coach Mancini said that should serve as a warning.
“Kyrgyzstan are a very good team. You know what happened yesterday with Japan against Iraq — nobody thought Iraq can beat Japan,” he said on Saturday.
“If you want to win you need to keep good concentration.
“What we did in the first match is in the past. This match will be very difficult.”
The 59-year-old Mancini, who led Italy to European glory in 2021, took over ambitious Saudi Arabia in August last year.
He has won three, lost three and drawn one of his seven games in charge and cautioned that it would take more time to stamp his mark on his squad.
“You need time and with the national team sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to manage the team, and you need more time,” he said.
“We are here and we want to try (to win the title), but it is not easy.”
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