Saudi Arabia coach says players ‘were all calm’ when their plane’s engine caught fire

"It won't affect our performance tomorrow."

Saudi World Cup Plane Incident
Saudi Arabian soccer team disembark the plane upon their arriving at the Rostov-on-Don airport, Russia. –The Associated Press

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s national team endured an engine malfunction on the flight to Rostov-on-Don. That’s not exactly the best preparation for a World Cup match against Uruguay.

The Saudis landed in the southern Russian city late Monday after flames were seen coming out of one of the engines. Team officials refused to speak to reporters after the incident, but the country’s soccer association confirmed the episode and said all its players and staff were fine.

“The pictures speak for themselves and point to some kind of emergency,” Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said Tuesday. “But the players were all calm. It won’t affect our performance tomorrow.”

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Saudi Arabia needs points against Uruguay on Wednesday after a 5-0 loss to Russia in the opening match of the World Cup. Uruguay won its first match against Egypt 1-0.

“We are not happy with the way the first match went, but will trust in our ability to go out and win the next game,” Pizzi said.

The Saudis came to the World Cup after three coaching changes in the months leading up to the tournament, picking Pizzi for his attack-minded record as coach of Chile’s national team.

Pizzi refused to say whether he would field a more defensive lineup in the second match, but added he was seeking victory at all costs.

Against the Russians, Saudi Arabia fielded a Brazilian-looking 4-1-4-1 formation with forward-leaning midfielders surrounding center forward Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. But they failed to produce a single shot on target.

Things won’t likely be any easier against Uruguay, a team with two of the best forwards in the game in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.

“We know who we are playing against,” Pizzi said. “We will have to match them for their quality and their energy.”

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