The national football team of Saudi Arabia used to be among the so-called permanent participants at the World Cups in the 90s and in the first few years of the 20th century. Saudi Arabia’s debut at the World Cup was in 1994 in the USA. In this tournament, the Arabs registered 2 wins that let them participate in the Round of 16 part of the tournament which is the best accomplishment in the history of the country. Unfortunately for everyone in Saudi Arabia, since this tournament the team played in three more World Cups, registering 7 loses, 2 draws and 0 wins. In addition, the last World Cup in which Saudi Arabia competed was the one from 2006 in Germany. Now the team is back among the best in the world and will compete in the same group with Russia, Uruguay and Egypt. The hopes of the Saudi Arabians are to register a win or at least a draw coming from the starting position of an absolute outsider not only in the group but in the whole tournament.
HEAD COACH AND LINEUP
The head coaching position of Saudi Arabia has been fairly turbulent in the last couple of years. Plenty of coaches had been changed through the years. The last changed happened at the end of 2017. After a lost against Bulgaria and couple of bad results, Edgardo Bauza was released from the head coaching position just 2 months after signing for this place. His place was taken by one of the most energetic coaches in the world – Juan Antonio Pizzi. Pizzi is originally from Argentina, but he had represented Spain as a player. Through the years Pizzi had coached teams like Valencia and the national football team of Chile. During his time as coach of Chile, he won the Copa America and led the South Americans to the final of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. All this is showing that he has the potential for great things. The question is if the Saudi Arabian players are good enough to accomplish such kind of great things. Since he started coaching Saudi Arabia, the team had started to play on a much better and attacking level, but still, there is much that needs to be done in order for the nation to compete with the best in the world. Saudi Arabia is clearly on the right path with good performance like the one in their last friendly game against Ukraine (1-1).
Saudi Arabia does not have lots of famous players, most people in the world might not have heard about any of the Saudi players but we cannot miss mentioning some of the names of the key players from the team. The best goalie of Saudi Arabia is the goalkeeper of the Saudi club team Al Nassr – Waleed Abdullah Ali. Ali has more than 70 participations for the national team. He is a fairly good goalkeeper for the standards of the Asian football and he will surely need to perform on a good level, counting the fact that Saudi Arabia will mainly try to keep a clean sheet.
When we speak about defense, we cannot miss to mention the key player in this line for the Arabs. This is Osama Hawsawi from Al-Hilal. Hawsawi used to be in a really good form a few years from now which had led to a transfer in the best team in Belgium – Anderlecht. His time in Belgium was not successful, but in general, he had been the most consistent player for the Saudi Arabian national team with more than 130 games.
Saudi Arabia has few fairly young wingers that are part of teams from La Liga (even though not playing a lot), but the most important player in the midfield line of the team is called Taisir Al-Jassim. Taisir is basically the engine of this team and his performance will be important for the Saudi Arabian fans.
During the World Cup, Saudi Arabia will most likely have limited number of goal scoring chances. For this reason, they will need a ‘’deadly’’ striker that can score a goal even with having only a few chances. Such striker is the striker of Al-Nassr – Mohammad Al-Sahlawi. He had scored more than 100 goals in around 150 games for his club team as well as 28 goals in 35 games for the national team. There is no doubt that he is capable of scoring, but could he have the chance to score at the biggest tournament in the world, we will see in few months…
STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
The biggest weakness of the Saudi Arabians is the lack of players with experience from top-level leagues. There is no even a single player that had played games for teams from top-level European teams. This could be a problem since the lack of experience might be dangerous in such a huge tournament. On the other side, the strength of Saudi Arabia or we can call it the advantage is the fact that everyone will underestimate them heavily. The Saudi Arabians can only win from their participation at the World Cup and for this reason, this team should mainly have fun at the stadiums in Russia.
|Date||Team 1||Team 2||Venue||Local Time|
|14-Jun||RUSSIA||SAUDI ARABIA||Luzhniki Stadium||18:00|
|20-Jun||URUGUAY||SAUDI ARABIA||Rostov Arena||18:00|
|25-Jun||SAUDI ARABIA||EGYPT||Volgograd Arena||17:00|
Saudi Arabia opens the World Cup with a game against the hosts on June 14th. The good thing for the team is that in many cases the opening games of the big football tournaments provide surprising results. Six days after that on June 20th, the Arabs will face Suarez and Uruguay in a game that will be a huge test for the Asians. The group stage games for Saudi Arabia finish on June 25th in a game against Egypt. It will be shocking if Saudi Arabia achieves anything more than a single win or a draw, but everything is in the hands of the Saudi players.