Saudi Arabia stayed calm after plane engine caught fire - Juan Antonio Pizzi
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia - Saudi Arabia manager Juan Antonio Pizzi said that he and his players didn't feel afraid when the team's plane engine caught on fire as it flew to Rostov-on-Don, and that the incident won't impact his side's preparations for Wednesday's World Cup match against Uruguay.
On Monday, the team were travelling on a Rossiya Airbus A319 from St Petersburg, and as it came in to land, the plane "suffered a technical fault with one of its engines, with a bird getting caught seen as the preliminary cause," a Rossiya airlines spokesman said in a statement.
"The whole delegation is well," midfielder Hattan Bahebri said in a video shared on the team's official Twitter page. "Of course, we were a bit frightened, but thank God," he added, laughing.
Pizzi insisted that the team remained composed throughout the incident.
"We didn't feel afraid, there was no panic, we fully trusted the pilot and those in charge of the plane," said Pizzi through a translator during the team's prematch news conference.
"We were cool and calm at all times. Although the pictures do speak for themselves, and point to some emergency, we certainly didn't feel uncomfortable, and it certainly does not affect and will not affect our performance for [Wednesday]."
Midfielder Taisir Al-Jassim said the team is looking forward to facing Uruguay and is eager to forget the 5-0 defeat to Russia in the tournament's opening match.
"Now that we have come to the hotel, we have forgotten all the events that took place, whether it is the previous match or the accident of yesterday," he said. "We are focused on the match with Uruguay. Each and every player in the Saudi squad aims at changing the image that we have conveyed in the opening match, because it is not the true image of Saudi players, the Saudi squad and Saudi football. We are focused on bringing a brighter image tomorrow."
It is expected that against an Uruguay squad featuring strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, Pizzi will adopt a more defensive approach, but the Saudi Arabia manager says improvement for his team goes beyond tactics.
"I think this squad has players that from a technical standpoint have great virtues, and when we manage to reach that level of competitiveness that we are demanding, I think the Saudi side intends and will propose to play very well, and that is what we shall try to do [Wednesday]," he said.
"I really want to stress this point. We have a different priority. It's not a question of defending with one or four or five players, or to play more defensively or offensively. I want to see a competitive team on the pitch tomorrow. "
Pizzi also declined to directly address criticism leveled at the team by the chief of Saudi Arabia's sports authority, Turki Al-Sheikh. In a video that he posted on Twitter, al-Sheikh accused the team of giving "less than five percent effort" in the defeat to Russia.
"I really do not want to have a view or give an option on what other people say in their statements," said Pizzi. "What I can say is that we are being very critical towards ourselves, we are not happy with what we did in our first match. I am the top person in charge here, and in our mind we have the priority of trying to turn the tables around.
"We want to change the impression that people have from our opening match. We are fully prepared to do that, and we trust our ability to play a great match tomorrow."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.