Saudi Arabia could take advantage of 'huge pressure' on Russia

Juan Antonio Pizzi will lead Saudi Arabia at the World Cup. (AFP)
Updated 14 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia could take advantage of 'huge pressure' on Russia

  • Jose Mourinho feels Russia need to deliver in the opening game
  • Green Falcons are bidding for only their third ever win at the finals

Jose Mourinho believes all the pressure will be on Russia in the World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia.
The hosts last win came on Oct. 7 when they beat South Korea 4-2 in a friendly in Moscow and president Vladimir Putin this week raised the stakes when he said that "our team have not achieved big results in recent times."
Despite being ranked three places lower in the rankings, Russia are favorites for the match at the Luzhniki Stadium and Mourinho, the Manchester United manager, feels they need to deliver in front of an expectant nation.
"There will be huge pressure for Russia," Mourinho said in an interview for RT. "They start the World Cup at home and the world is watching them and the big chance to qualify (for the round of 16) is to beat Saudi Arabia. In spite of some talent Saudi Arabia is a naive team from a different reality and Russia has to win it."
Saudi Arabia go into the game on the back of three straight defeats, but they showed enough in narrow losses to Italy and Germany that they could challenge Russia and Egypt for the runners-up spot behind Group A favorites Uruguay.

This is Saudi Arabia's fifth appearance at the finals and their first since 2006. The high point was a run to the last 16 in 1994 which was achieved on the back of group wins over Morocco and Belgium, the Green Falcons' only wins at the finals in 13 matches. 


Formula E boss says Saudi race well on track

Updated 1 min 16 sec ago
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Formula E boss says Saudi race well on track

  • The Riyadh Formula E race will be international motorsport’s first move into Saudi Arabia, with all eyes on the Ad Diriyah track
  • Formula E supremo Alejandro Agag expressed his excitement that Saudi Arabia, as with former Formula One hero Massa, is making its bow in the sport

RIYADH: With motor racing star Felipe Massa set to make his Formula E debut, the inaugural Saudi Arabia E-Prix in Riyadh was always likely to be a stunning spectacle of speed.

But the sport’s supremo Alejandro Agag has promised race fans yet more big surprises before the green light signals go at the Ad Diriyah street circuit on Dec.15, claiming the Kingdom is “the home of Formula E.”

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative conference in the Saudi Arabian capital, Agag expressed his excitement that Saudi Arabia, as with former Formula One hero Massa, is making its bow in the sport and predicted the country would have a big influence on its future.

“This is now the home of formula E,” Agag said.

“Thanks to the vision of HRH Crown Prince Mohammed, for the first time in Saudi Arabia these cars will be here, it’s the motorsport of the future.”

While he refused to reveal any of the big announcements surrounding the race he did praise the forward thinking of a country with the largest oil exports in the world going full-throttle in embracing electric cars.

That forward thinking has been matched away from the track, with Agag acknowledging the Vision 2030 reforms made by Kingdom’s rulers over the past two years.

“We could not race in Saudi Arabia if women could not drive. I think that Saudi Arabia is taking the right steps, and that is what attracted us,” the Spaniard said.

Thanks to the Bahrain and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Middle East has long been associated with motorsport, and it is well known that the region is awash with petrolheads. The Riyadh Formula E race, however, will be international motorsport’s first move into Saudi Arabia, so all eyes will be on the Ad Diriyah track. Located in the birthplace of the Kingdom the circuit, revealed last month, has excited the drivers, Agag revealed.

The drivers cannot wait for the season to start in Riyadh, they are looking forward to racing around the new track, he added.

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of Ad Diriyah gate development, is certain the Middle East’s newest track will not disappoint the racers and all the petrolheads set to descend on the capital.

“The preparations are fabulous,” Inzerillo told Arab News.

“Everybody has to come out and see it, it will be so much fun.”

Touching on plans for the wider development, to be announced in the coming weeks, he added: “It’s going to be the jewel of the Kingdom as it already is. There is a very bold masterplan, but when you see what is planned, Ad Diriyah as it should be is going to be the great gathering place for people all around the world. It is certainly the soul of the Saudi nation.”