Juan Antonio Pizzi goes on the attack with rebooted Saudi Arabia team

Coach has worked at the highest level and friendly results have given Saudis hope before World Cup opener against Russia

Red Square was closed off to the public on Tuesday as celebrations for Russia Day took place but a group of Saudi Arabian fans were happy to watch from afar. On Thursday, however, they will be at the very centre of the main event, taking on the hosts in Moscow in the opening match of the 2018 World Cup and while the team may not be as openly confident as those singing supporters in predicting some precipitation on the home parade, Saudi Arabia are feeling positive.

Much of that is down to Juan Antonio Pizzi. The man who led Chile to the 2016 Copa América title but not to the World Cup has been busy since taking the job last November when he succeeded Edgardo Bauza only two months after his fellow Argentinian had replaced Bert van Marwijk. The seven months since have seen three European training camps, a lot of friendlies and plenty of time spent with his players in an intensive buildup not unlike 1994 when Saudi Arabia reached the second round at their first World Cup and very different to the chaotic preparations for the disastrous 2002 tournament.

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