Saudi coach Cosmin Olaroiu still seeking recipe for success
Three-times champions Saudi Arabia are living on borrowed time in their ninth straight Asian Cup after a 1-0 defeat against China
Saudi Arabia coach Cosmin Olaroiu is a big a fan of the writings of John Wooden and will be hoping his players can follow the basketball icon's most famous maxim by making Wednesday their own Asian Cup "masterpiece".
Three-times champions Saudi Arabia are living on borrowed time in their ninth straight Asian Cup after a 1-0 defeat against China in the Group B opener and desperately need a victory against North Korea in their second match in Melbourne.
Olaroiu has had precious little time to put in place many changes to the team tactically since taking over as coach in early December, making his ability to inspire a playing group often described as 'difficult' all the more important.
The 45-year-old's track record of club success in Romania, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates should have been enough to earn him the respect of the players.
In Romania, he inspired two unfashionable clubs to top four finishes before getting his chance at Steaua Bucharest, leading them to the league title and the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2006.
Taking his talents to the oil-rich Gulf, he won the Saudi title and two cups with Al-Hilal, the Qatari Stars Cup with Al Sadd before moving on to the United Arab Emirates, where he won back-to-back league titles with Al Ain in 2012 and 2013.
A controversial defection to Al Ahli followed but Olaroiu's midas touch did not desert him and he led the Dubai club to the UAE title last year.
It was to help inspire the team for their title defence that Olaroiu turned to the "Leadership Game Plan for Success" written by late college basketball coaching great Wooden, whose most famous quote was "Make each day your masterpiece".
"Motivation is the key to success in all sport," Olaroiu told the Gulf News in October.
"This book speaks about success in (basketball), but I find that it can be applied to all sports including football, basketball, tennis and golf. The measures and guidelines laid down are like a recipe towards success."
In the short period he has been in charge of the Green Falcons, Olaroiu has just about had enough time to throw together a sandwich from the ingredients at his disposal, let alone a gourmet meal.
What will not help in keeping up the spirits of his side was the bad luck he bemoaned after the loss to China, who scored the winner from a deflected free kick and also saved Naif Hazazi's penalty.
That match came hot on the heels of Asian player of the year, the prolific striker Nasser Al Shamrani, being ruled of the tournament with an abdominal injury.
"We just have to look forward to the game against North Korea," Olaroiu said after the match. "We still have a chance to qualify -- it's not finished after just the first game. We have to win the next two games and we can do it."
Their first chance to get back to winning ways comes against the North Koreans -- the lowest ranked team in the tournament -- at the Rectangular Stadium in Melbourne on Wednesday.
They stay in Melbourne to conclude their group action against Uzbekistan on Sunday.
The Saudis may yet emulate the 2011 squad by crashing out without a point after the group stage but that will not be through lack of effort from Olaroiu -- at least if he is true to his philosophy.
"It's not important for me to win a trophy," the Romanian said last April. "What's important is that I can go home having done everything possible to win every day."
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