Juan Antonio Pizzi confident Saudi Arabia can bounce back at World Cup after Russia loss

Manager responds to questions over his future after 5-0 defeat in Group A opener by saying he is "giving my all"

epa06807932 Omar Othman (L) of Saudi Arabia reacts during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group A preliminary round soccer match between Russia and Saudi Arabia in Moscow, Russia, 14 June 2018.

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Juan Antonio Pizzi was forced to field questions regarding his future following Saudi Arabia’s resounding defeat to Russia in the World Cup’s opening match on Thursday.

The Gulf side, participating in a first global finals in 12 years, were beaten 5-0 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, conceding twice to the hosts in injury-time.

Many had expected the match would be a much closer affair, especially given that Russia were criticised heavily in the build-up and under significant pressure to perform.

At 70th in the Fifa standings, the home side are the lowest-ranked team at the event, although Saudi are placed only three spots higher.

Pizzi will now have to pick up his side quickly, with their second Group A encounter, against pool favourites Uruguay, to come on Wednesday before Saudi face Russia five days later in their final group assignment.


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Appointed last November, Pizzi was asked on Thursday night that, considering his employers’ track record regarding managers, if his short tenure was already at risk.

“That is a very pertinent question and a great one given how I feel right now,” the Argentine said. “Listen, I have my own philosophy and try to things the best I can and try to convey it the best I can. Everything I do, I do giving my all.

“There are certain situations I cannot control - I cannot control that. I have trust in my players and fully trust that we will have a better performance during the next game.”

Pizzi denied his side had been caught by surprise by Russia, saying he had studied their opponents extensively.

Saudi came into the tournament as one of the most prepared teams, having had five training camps dating back to February. In that time, they played nine friendlies, including last week’s promising 2-1 defeat to world champions Germany.

Pizzi conceded his game plan against Russia was rendered redundant, whether by the Eastern Europeans or the occasion.

“I am not sure if it is because it was the first game against the hosts it had an impact on the result or not, but for sure we were not doing what we wanted to do,” he said.

“The opposition really didn’t have to make a huge effort to win by a landslide. This is something that is not very common in these sorts of games.

"That’s what happened and we have to recover and overcome this situation; this shameful situation. And then thinking about the next match."

When it was put to him that Saudi had not progressed during his tenure, Pizzi countered: “No, I don’t agree at all. I have seen a development since we started working together with the Saudi team. Of course, today’s game is not the point of reference for me.

“I already said we did not play as we had planned to. But on the other hand we have seen that certain things are better. Of course we can and will improve. But it takes time. We have to plan for next game, be positive and try to recover.

“I believe that we have arrived here well prepared. We have been preparing for this and my players have shown they are ready to play a World Cup. I can only say what I have said before: this game cannot be the reference.

"It’s true we have not done what we came here to do. We have not done what we have done in previous matches that gave us good results.”