FIFA International friendlies: USA held by Saudi Arabia; Morroco plays 0-0 draw against Paraguay

The United States was held to a 0-0 draw by Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain on Tuesday as it again struggled to create chances in its final friendly before the World Cup.

Christian Pulisic and Johnny of the U.S. with Saudi Arabia‘s Nawaf Alaqidi after the match.

Christian Pulisic and Johnny of the U.S. with Saudi Arabia‘s Nawaf Alaqidi after the match. | Photo Credit: REUTERS/Pablo Morano

The United States was held to a 0-0 draw by Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain on Tuesday as it again struggled to create chances in its final friendly before the World Cup.

The United States was held to a 0-0 draw by Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain on Tuesday as it again struggled to create chances in its final friendly before the World Cup.

The pressure was on the U.S. after a woeful 2-0 defeat by Japan in its penultimate warm-up when it failed to record a shot on goal and left fans with plenty to worry about ahead of the finals in Qatar as it failed to break down the Saudis.

A pair of brilliant saves from Matt Turner kept out a low shot in the first minute from Sultan Al Ghannam and a 70th-minute effort by Haitham Asiri.

But the performance left little cause for optimism as the Americans get set to return to the World Cup stage four years after failing to qualify.

With just two shots on goal, the lacklustre U.S. created few opportunities and the departure of midfielder Giovanni Reyna in the 30th minute as a precautionary measure was a heavy blow.

Mohammed Al-Rubaie saved Weston McKennie's shot from outside the box in the ninth minute while forward Jesus Ferreira squandered a prime opportunity to get on the scoresheet when he fired straight at the Saudi goalkeeper.

"I can't fault the effort but we need to keep improving," U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. "It's nervy times - people are worried about being on the roster or not... The confidence isn't there yet but we'll get there."

The U.S. will play in Group B with England, Iran and Wales at the tournament, which begins on Nov. 20. Berhalter is expected to announce his final squad for the World Cup on Nov. 9.

Saudi Arabia faces Group C rivals Argentina, Mexico and Poland in Qatar.

Morocco held by Paraguay in goalless stalemate in Spain

Morocco produced another impressive performance but was held to a 0-0 draw with Paraguay in their friendly in Spain on Tuesday.

Morocco, warming up for the World Cup in Qatar in November, had beaten Chile 2-0 in Barcelona last Friday and came close to another success against its South American opponents at Real Betis’ Benito Villamarin Stadium.

Morocco had the ball in the Paraguay net midway through the second half, only for the effort by Ryan Mmaee to be ruled offside.

It also had to battle to keep a clean sheet in a fast tempo game as Paraguay’s Miguel Almiron threatened its goal on several occasions.

It was the second game in charge for new Morocco coach Walid Regragui, appointed earlier this month to replace Vahid Halilhodzic, who was fired following a dispute over the selection of Hakim Ziyech.

Ziyech had been left out of Morocco’s team after last year being accused by Halilhodzic of feigning injury to skip playing friendly matches.

The impasse between the Chelsea forward and the national team coach saw him miss the World Cup qualifying campaign and the Africa Cup of Nations finals at the start of the year.

But pressure on Halilhodzic to restore Ziyech to the team, and no reconciliation between the pair, led to the coach being fired last month.

Regragui drafted Ziyech straight into the starting lineup on Friday and he played again against Paraguay on Tuesday.

“It is hard to understand how anyone could leave out a player like him,” Regragui told a pre-match news conference on Monday.

Morocco plays at the World Cup in Qatar in Group F against Belgium, Canada and Croatia.

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