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Sunday / May 19.

Saudi Arabia confident they can cause a few shocks at World Cup

LONDON: Key midfielder Abdullah Otayf has underlined the growing sense of ambition in the Saudi Arabia squad by claiming they have their sights set on going deeper into the tournament than any Green Falcons team before them.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side will launch the tournament against Russia on Thursday but the team’s aspirations go way beyond having the distinction of taking part in the opening game. Saudi Arabia reached the last 16 in 1994, but Otayf has seen enough in friendlies and in training to believe the class of 2018 can not only match that, but surpass it.
“We have great ambitions and this is reflected through the support via various social media networks and the supports of our leaders,” he said in the pre-match press conference in St. Petersburg.
“As I said we have great ambitions, but what matter most is that we play as a one team and present a performance worthy of Saudi football, and we will achieve great results. We have great ambitions and we hope to be able to reach round of 16 and round of 8. This needs great efforts but we hope to be able to reach our goal. We are very well prepared and ready at all levels. Everything is going smoothly.”
Saudi Arabia will be hoping to seize on the fact that Russia have not played a competitive game for more than a year and that they might feel the pressure of an expectant home crowd. The Russians have not won a game since the 4-3 win over South Korea in October.,
“Russia are a good team with great players,” Otayf said.
“We won’t pay any attention to the things happening outside the field. We must focus on our own game. The team with the highest focus and the least errors will win.”
Yahya Al-Shehri should get the nod to play in one of the three midfield positions behind the lone striker and he watched a re-run of the Russians’ 1-0 loss to Austria and their 1-1 draw with Turkey.
“We watched the warm-up match that took place lately,” he said.
“We watched the previous warm-up matches, they have a good team with great players, I don’t have a specific name in my mind. They have in place an integrated system, whether in term of attack or zone defense. That’s what I have noticed. But it does not show the true caliber of Russia team. The performance of the team during an official match differs a lot than warm-up match. We must focus on the weaknesses of the Russia squad and exploit them. We must focus on our game and present and excellent performance so as to win.”
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation have pulled out all the stops for the Kingdom’s fifth appearance at the finals. They have arranged five training camps and nine friendlies this year. No team at the finals will have played more warm-up games than the Green Falcons.
“We are hoping for the best thanks to our preparations and trainings during the past period,” Al-Shehri said.
“We have completed our preparations and spent a big deal of time together. I think the game against Russia will be very difficult and I hope, we will be able to beat Russia because we came here to achieve our ambitions.”

via AN