‘Nothing is impossible’ says Osama Hawsawi ahead of Saudi Arabia’s World Cup opener against Russia

Juan Antonio Pizzi and his skipper Osama Hawsawi were in relaxed mood in Moscow.
Updated 13 June 2018
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‘Nothing is impossible’ says Osama Hawsawi ahead of Saudi Arabia’s World Cup opener against Russia

  • Coach and caption in relaxed, confident mood ahead of Moscow opener.
  • Squad excited to play against hosts and get their campaign started.

MOSCOW: Ambitious, excited and intent on victory. Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi has the perfect plan to lead Saudi Arabia to three points in the opening game of the World Cup against hosts Russia this evening at Luzhniki Stadium: Capitalize on their opponent’s weaknesses, control their strengths, and enjoy the experience.
On the eve of Saudi Arabia’s first World Cup match since 2006, the Argentine said his inexperienced side are feeling confident as they prepare to face a Russia team under intense pressure to perform. Since the World Cup was first held in 1930, a host nation has never lost the opening match, but Pizzi’s team arrived in Moscow with one objective: Victory.
“I am extremely excited to play the opening match,” said Pizzi, who is coaching at the World Cup for the first time.
“There are very few opportunities in life to live this type of event. We have been the chosen ones. We have great enthusiasm and want to do our best, give our everything to try to satisfy and make Saudi citizens happy. I’m sure that will be the case. Our ambition is to beat Russia.”
After two months in which he has managed to keep his squad largely out of the limelight with training camps in southern Spain and rural Switzerland, Pizzi was yesterday called upon by FIFA to address the world’s media alongside captain Osama Hawsawi ahead of the much-anticipated curtain-raiser. 
Speaking in rapid Spanish, the 50-year-old described his football philosophy, discussed his plans to combat his opponent’s game-plan, and dismissed suggestions external pressure will impact the match. The team, he said, is focusing completely and absolutely on the first game and nothing else.
“My style is that of competing,” said Pizzi. “We want to compete for every single ball, tackle every situation on the pitch, and try to have a winning style. We want to be better physically, tactically, and in terms of technique. We want to be the best. I am in favor of being under the spotlight. That is what I have always tried to do as a manager and that is what I am trying to convey to my players.
“We are super-focused and believe that the only way we can achieve success is to really focus on each of the matches that we have to play.
“So, right now, the only thing on my mind is the match against Russia. For now, that is the most difficult game we are going to face at this World Cup. We know perfectly well how Russia is going to play against us. We will try to capitalize; to exploit their shortcomings and use all our tools to counteract their virtues, of which there are many.”
Hawsawi, the veteran center-back who has benefitted from Pizzi’s emphasis on fitness, said he and his teammates are living a dream. Before addressing the media, the 34-year-old Al-Hilal defender took a moment to savour the cauldron-like Luzhniki Stadium, taking selfies and videos from the pitch. 
 “Every player in the world wishes to play in the World Cup,” said Hawsawi, who will lead his country out in front of 81,000 fans this evening.
“We have to do our best and progressing to the next stage is not impossible.
“There are so many unpredictable things that can happen at a World Cup. We are focused now on the opening game and that will set the tone for the other matches. We are playing the hosts and are very ambitious. Like all the squads, we want to qualify for the finals if we can. Nothing is impossible.”


Mayweather rematch closer as Pacquiao signs to face ‘top PBC fighters’

Updated 24 min 13 sec ago
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Mayweather rematch closer as Pacquiao signs to face ‘top PBC fighters’

  • Pacquiao said that he was “90 percent” sure a bout with former four-division world champion Adrien Broner would happen in January
  • Unbeaten Mayweather said in September he would come out of retirement to face Pacquiao later this year

MANILA: A potential blockbuster rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather moved a step closer as the Filipino icon confirmed he has signed with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC).
Eight-weight world champion Pacquiao said he would close out his storied career by facing “top PBC fighters” in announcing late Monday the tie-up with influential Mayweather adviser Haymon’s organization.
“My team will work closely with Al Haymon for the remainder of my career to deliver the most anticipated fights with the top PBC fighters,” Pacquiao said in a statement.
“Those are the fights the fans want to see and the ones I want to have to close out my career,” he added.
Pacquiao said last week that he was “90 percent” sure a bout with former four-division world champion Adrien Broner would happen in January, possibly in Las Vegas.
“Pacquiao’s first defense of the World Boxing Association welterweight world title will kick off the new partnership,” Haymon’s PBC said in a statement without giving further details.
“The new alliance will have team Pacquiao and Haymon work together to navigate the remainder of his illustrious career,” it added.
The deal could pave the way for a Pacquiao-Mayweather rematch of the 2015 megafight which generated a record 4.6 million pay-per-view buys earning $600 million and ended with the American winning on points.
Unbeaten Mayweather, who hasn’t fought since knocking out mixed martial artist Conor McGregor last year, said in September he would come out of retirement to face Pacquiao later this year.
The American, 41, has since hinted at taking a warm-up fight first, talking on social media of a “huge boxing event” in Tokyo and then last week said he would be willing to accept a challenge to fight against McGregor’s MMA conqueror Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The deal with Haymon represents a new chapter for the 39-year-old Pacquiao, who has been promoted for the majority of his 20-year professional career by Bob Arum’s Top Rank organization.
“I wish him the best of luck, a tremendous warrior, and whatever he’s doing in the future, he deserves,” Arum said of Pacquiao on Fighthub TV in Las Vegas at the weekend.
Pacquiao pumped new life into his storied career in July when he delivered his first knockout in nine years against Lucas Matthysse of Argentina.
Ahead of the fight against big-punching Matthysse, Pacquiao said he considered himself the “underdog,” but he rolled back the years to register a 60th win and take the Argentine’s WBA welterweight belt.