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Qatar World Cup: MBS tells national team nil points is okay

Mohammed bin Salman urges players to play for enjoyment and not think about the pressure
Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, speaks to members and football players of the national team ahead of the World Cup, 23 October 2022 (Twitter/@spagov)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks to the national team and staff ahead of the World Cup, 23 October 2022 (Twitter/@spagov)

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told his country's football players that no one expects them to win any points in the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. 

In a reception ahead of the tournament, the crown prince said on Sunday that he doesn't want the players to feel they were "under pressure".

"I know our group is difficult in the World Cup, and nobody expects us to secure a win or a draw. So what I want to say is just be comfortable, play your game and enjoy the tournament," Mohammed bin Salman said, addressing the national team and staff. 

Saudi Arabia is in Group C of the World Cup, along with Argentina, Mexico and Poland. The "Green Falcons", as they are nicknamed locally, will kick off their tournament on 22 November against Argentina, twice a winner of the World Cup in 1978 and 1986.  

"I don't want any of you to be under psychological pressure that will affect your spontaneous performance," the crown prince affirmed.

"What's important to me is that they enjoy the three matches," he added, while addressing the Saudi minister of sport.

The Saudi national football team has won three matches out of 16 fixtures they played in the World Cup across five tournaments between 1994 and 2018.

Led by the French coach Herve Renard, the Saudi national team has demonstrated its eagerness to put on a good show in the World Cup by starting preparation 10 days earlier than other teams competing in Qatar.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly preparing to launch a bid to host the World Cup in 2030, along with Greece and Egypt. 

The Gulf state has invested heavily in sport in recent years, acquiring the rights to host Formula One and major international boxing events, as well as investing in the English Premier League football club Newcastle United.

Such investments have been mired in controversy, with human rights groups accusing Riyadh of sportswashing its human rights abuses.

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