ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (Reuters) - As if a 5-0 World Cup thrashing by Russia had not shaken them enough, Saudi Arabia suffered a mini plane scare as they landed in Rostov-on-Don on Monday, but they insisted nothing would affect their confidence when they take on Uruguay this week.
Saudi Arabia were humbled by the hosts in the tournament’s opening match and Uruguay seem an even tougher opponent for Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side in Group A on Wednesday.
On Monday, Russia’s aviation watchdog Rosaviatsya said that during the landing there was a brief fire in one of the engines on the plane carrying the team and that it would investigate the incident.
Social and Saudi media footage also appeared to show one of the engines catching fire, but a spokesman for airline Rossiya denied an engine malfunction had occurred and said the fault was due to a bird strike.
“We forgot about it as soon as we got to the hotel,” Saudi Arabia midfielder Taisir Al-Jassim told a news conference on Tuesday.
“Actually both the first game and the plane incident are forgotten.”
Coach Pizzi added the whole team remained calm.
“We did not feel afraid and we didn’t panic. We fully trusted the pilot. We were cool and calm at all times,” the Argentine said.
“We did not feel comfortable but this will not affect our performance.”
“We want to prove that we are competitive, that is our priority,” he added.
Russia take on Egypt, who lost 1-0 to Uruguay in the first game of the group, later on Tuesday.
“We are anxious to change our image, we need to forget our problems and focus on the positive elements to bring happiness to the hearts of the Saudis,” said Al-Jassim.
Among the challenges facing Saudi Arabia will be how to contain Luis Suarez, but Al-Jassim does not want to obsess over the influential Uruguay striker.
“They are an excellent team and they have many players but we need to focus on being competitive and think of ourselves,” he said.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge