Saudi Arabia confident they can cause a few shocks at World Cup

Abdullah Otayf is in a confident mood ahead of Thursday's opening clash against Russia.
Updated 13 June 2018

Saudi Arabia confident they can cause a few shocks at World Cup

  • Midfielder certain side can create history by making the last-eight in Russia.
  • Green Falcons reached the last 16 at USA 94.

LONDON: Key midfielder Abdullah Otayf has underlined the growing sense of ambition in the Saudi Arabia squad by claiming they have their sights set on going deeper into the tournament than any Green Falcons team before them.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side will launch the tournament against Russia on Thursday but the team’s aspirations go way beyond having the distinction of taking part in the opening game. Saudi Arabia reached the last 16 in 1994, but Otayf has seen enough in friendlies and in training to believe the class of 2018 can not only match that, but surpass it.
“We have great ambitions and this is reflected through the support via various social media networks and the supports of our leaders,” he said in the pre-match press conference in St. Petersburg.
“As I said we have great ambitions, but what matter most is that we play as a one team and present a performance worthy of Saudi football, and we will achieve great results. We have great ambitions and we hope to be able to reach round of 16 and round of 8. This needs great efforts but we hope to be able to reach our goal. We are very well prepared and ready at all levels. Everything is going smoothly.”
Saudi Arabia will be hoping to seize on the fact that Russia have not played a competitive game for more than a year and that they might feel the pressure of an expectant home crowd. The Russians have not won a game since the 4-3 win over South Korea in October.,
“Russia are a good team with great players,” Otayf said.
“We won’t pay any attention to the things happening outside the field. We must focus on our own game. The team with the highest focus and the least errors will win.”
Yahya Al-Shehri should get the nod to play in one of the three midfield positions behind the lone striker and he watched a re-run of the Russians’ 1-0 loss to Austria and their 1-1 draw with Turkey.
“We watched the warm-up match that took place lately,” he said.
“We watched the previous warm-up matches, they have a good team with great players, I don’t have a specific name in my mind. They have in place an integrated system, whether in term of attack or zone defense. That’s what I have noticed. But it does not show the true caliber of Russia team. The performance of the team during an official match differs a lot than warm-up match. We must focus on the weaknesses of the Russia squad and exploit them. We must focus on our game and present and excellent performance so as to win.”
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation have pulled out all the stops for the Kingdom’s fifth appearance at the finals. They have arranged five training camps and nine friendlies this year. No team at the finals will have played more warm-up games than the Green Falcons.
“We are hoping for the best thanks to our preparations and trainings during the past period,” Al-Shehri said.
“We have completed our preparations and spent a big deal of time together. I think the game against Russia will be very difficult and I hope, we will be able to beat Russia because we came here to achieve our ambitions.”


England cricket players donate, take pay cuts amid COVID-19 crisis

Updated 05 April 2020

England cricket players donate, take pay cuts amid COVID-19 crisis

  • The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has said the season will not start before May 28
  • ECB’s centrally contracted women players to take a salary reduction for the months of April, May and June

LONDON: England’s centrally contracted male cricketers will donate £500,000 ($613,000) to the Board and charities while their women’s team counterparts have volunteered a three-month pay cut amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the players’ association (PCA) said.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has said the season will not start before May 28 and speculation has been mounting over how their leading players would respond to the situation.

“Following a meeting today of all of the England men’s centrally contracted cricketers, the players have agreed to make an initial donation of £0.5 million to the ECB and to selected good causes ...” the Professional Cricketers’ Association said in a statement.

“This contribution is the equivalent of all of the England centrally contracted players taking a 20 percent reduction in their monthly retainers for the next three months.

“The players will continue to discuss with the ECB the challenging situation faced by the game and society as a whole and will consider how best to support the ECB and both the cricketing and wider community going forward.”

The ECB’s centrally contracted women players have volunteered to take a salary reduction for the months of April, May and June in line with their coaches and support staff.

England women’s captain Heather Knight said: “All the players felt like it was the right response in the current climate to take a pay cut in line with what our support staff are taking.

“We know how the current situation is affecting the game and we want to help as much as we can.

“We will be discussing with the ECB further ways we can help the game in the coming weeks,” added Knight, who has signed up with the National Health Service (NHS) as a volunteer.

The ECB has announced a 61 million pounds aid package to help the local game withstand the financial impact of the pandemic.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler is currently auctioning the shirt he wore in England’s 2019 World Cup final victory to raise funds for efforts to fight the coronavirus.