‘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.”


Saudi Arabia out of Asian Cup after 1-0 defeat to Japan

Updated 21 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia out of Asian Cup after 1-0 defeat to Japan

  • Tomiyasu goal enough to give Japan place in the quarterfinals.
  • Green Falcons struggled to break down a determined Japan side.

LONDON: Takehiro Tomiyasu's lone strike sent Saudi Arabia crashing out of the Asian Cup as Japan beat the three-time champions 1-0 to reach the quarterfinals.
Tomiyasu's first-half header was enough to seal it for Japan as the last-16 game between two teams with seven titles between them failed to live up to its billing.
Japan, record four-time winners of the Asian Cup, march on to a quarter-final with Southeast Asian champions Vietnam despite not yet hitting top form at the tournament.
Saudi Arabia were in the ascendancy early on but it was Japan who snatched the advantage with a straightforward goal from a set piece on 20 minutes.
From a corner, Belgium-based defender Tomiyasu climbed above his marker and nodded firmly into the bottom corner for his first of the tournament.
The Saudis twice came close with headers as they strived for a way back, and Hatan Bahbri curled one just off-target as he went for the top corner.
Yoshinori Muto's shot was blocked on the hour-mark but most of the chances were falling to Saudi Arabia, who will rue some wasteful finishing.
Bahbri's shot from outside the box crept narrowly wide and Ali Al-Bulaihi powered a strong header over when the ball was knocked back into the area after a free-kick.
But despite a late flurry it remained another goalless outing for the Saudis, who haven't hit the net since scoring six goals in their first two group games.