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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

World Cup 2018: Saudi Arabia focus on 'performing at a high level and taking three points' against Russia

The Gulf side, competing at a global finals for the first time in 12 years, will on Thursday become the first Asian country to open the tournament when they take on the hosts at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium

Saudi Arabia midfielder Abdullah Otayf speaks at a press conference in Saint Petersburg. AFP 
Saudi Arabia midfielder Abdullah Otayf speaks at a press conference in Saint Petersburg. AFP 

Saudi Arabia say they will put to one side the pomp and pageantry that will accompany their World Cup opener against Russia and focus simply of achieving a positive result.

The Gulf side, competing at a global finals for the first time in 12 years, will on Thursday become the first Asian country to open the tournament when they take on the hosts at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

The match, the first in a Group A also containing Uruguay and Egypt, pits against one another the event’s lowest-ranked teams, with Saudi 67th in the current Fifa standings and Russia 70th.

Saudi’s preparations appear to have gone better than their opponents, though, with the team improving recently, particularly in friendlies against Italy and world champions Germany, despite being defeated in both. Russia, meanwhile, come into the tournament winless in their past seven matches.

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Speaking before their training session in Saint Petersburg on Monday evening, Saudi midfielder Abdullah Otayf told a press conference: "Three days remain to the game, and we will continue our preparations today and tomorrow, and we will be fully ready, God willing, on the day of the match.

"The Russian national team is not easy. It's been chosen to host the tournament, so our focus will be on just what happens inside the pitch. The team who make the least mistakes and has high concentration will win."

Saudi’s preparations have been extensive, encompassing five training camps with manager Juan Antonio Pizzi, stretching back to January.

"We are happy to be among the best teams in the world, and I hope that the long period we have spent together in the camps will give us the positive result we expected," attacking midfielder Yahya Al Shehri said.

"We have seen the Russian team in their friendly matches, but it is not a measure for us, especially since appearances in official matches are quite different from friendlies. We look forward to performing at a high level and take three points."