Saudi Arabia aiming to silence home fans in World Cup opener


A plane carrying the Saudi Arabia squad arrived in Russia last Saturday

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Saudi Arabia will play without fear when they look to upset hosts Russia in the opening game of the 2018 World Cup, says manager Juan Antonio Pizzi.

The two lowest ranked teams at the tournament meet in Group A at the Luzhniki Stadium on Friday (16:00 BST).

There is pressure on Russia to perform at their home World Cup but Pizzi said his side can silence the home fans.

“Our goal is to beat Russia. We are ready, we are not afraid,” added the Argentine.

Russia have slipped to 70th in Fifa’s rankings, three places lower than their opponents.

Saudi Arabia have not won a game at a World Cup since 1994 but former Chile boss Pizzi said his players are capable of making a winning start after qualifying for the first time since 2006.

“We are planning on being the protagonists and we will try to control Russia’s virtues, which are many,” he said.

‘Biggest event of our lives’

Russia midfielder Aleksandr Samedov has labelled the opening game of the tournament as “the biggest event of our lives”.

The hosts have not won a match since last October and are desperate to get off on the right foot in front of their fans.

“We are ready. The opening game of a home World Cup is going to be the biggest match of my life, for sure,” said the Spartak Moscow player, 33.

“We’ve learned about Saudi Arabia, we know that they like to keep the ball and are a technical team.

“We’ve got our plan for how to succeed against them.”

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