Pizzi plays down expectations ahead of World Cup opener with Russia

Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi has played down the expectations weighing on World Cup hosts Russia and claimed all teams “come with pressure”.

Pizzi’s men open the tournament on Thursday when they face off against Russia in front of a sold-out Luzhniki Stadium and millions of television viewers worldwide.

Pizzi insists the match carries the same expectancies for both teams.

He said: “I think all the teams come with pressure. Sometimes we create our own pressure and that helps us do a good job.

“Obviously, the fact we are playing against the hosts, that is another factor. But when we play the match I don’t think that creates any extra pressure for either of the teams.”

Pizzi, who led Chile to the 2016 Copa America title but quit when they failed to qualify for the World Cup, took on the Saudi job in November and is thrilled to see his new players on such a big stage so early in his tenure.

He added: “I’m extremely excited to play the opening match, there are very few opportunities to live this type of event and we are the chosen ones.

“In terms of our squad, we are extremely excited and we will play with great enthusiasm.

“We want to do our best so that we can make the Saudi Arabian citizens happy. I am sure that will be the case.”

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