FIFA World Cup 2018 team profile: Saudi Arabia seek solid showing on world stage

Saudi Arabia are a force to be reckoned with in Asia but have never managed to make a serious impact on the world stage, something they will hope to change in the FIFA World Cup 2018.
Saudi Arabia and manager Juan Antonio Pizzi will be hoping for a good showing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.(Getty Images)
Saudi Arabia and manager Juan Antonio Pizzi will be hoping for a good showing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.(Getty Images)
Updated on Jun 02, 2018 05:51 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByShayne Dias

World ranking: 67

Head coach: Juan Antonio Pizzi

FIFA World Cup history: Qualified four times; best – Round of 16 (1994)

Qualifying route: Round 1 – bye; Round 2 – Group A winners (W6 D2 L0) ; Round 3 – Second in Group B (W6 D1 L3)

Squad (28-man preliminary): Goalkeepers - Assaf Al-Qarny, Mohammed Al-Owais, Yasser Al-Musailem, Abdullah Al-Mayuf; Defenders - Mansoor Al-Harbi, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohammed Al-Breik, Saeed Al-Mowalad, Motaz Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Omar Hawsawi, Mohammed Jahfali, Ali Al-Bulaihi; Midfielders - Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Abdulmalek Al-Khaibri, Abdullah Otayf, Taiseer Al-Jassim, Houssain Al-Mogahwi, Salman Al-Faraj, Nawaf Al-Abed, Mohamed Kanno, Hattan Bahebri, Mohammed Al-Kwikbi, Salem Al-Dawsari, Yehya Al-Shehri; Forwards - Fahad Al-Muwallad, Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, Muhannad Assiri.

Saudi Arabia are three-time AFC Asian Cup champions and are generally considered one of the stronger sides in Asia. Yet they have only made the FIFA World Cup four times and have only made the knockouts once.

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The Saudi Arabia national football team are easily the weakest team on paper in Group A. They haven’t been helped by three managerial changes in the last year and current coach Juan Antonio Pizzi will have his work cut out for him in the group stages of the FIFA World Cup 2018.

The team is top-heavy and relies heavily on their attackers although they have experience to marshal them at the back, something that will come in handy in the tournament.

Their players are all based at home but it’s worth noting that nine of the current players in the squad have trained with La Liga sides and also managed some game-time in Spain this year thanks to loan deals.

Juan Antonio Pizzi is no stranger to winning trophies; after all, the man led the Chile national football team to the Copa America title in 2016, which was the centenary edition of the tournament no less.

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The final of that tournament is perhaps best remembered for Lionel Messi’s subsequent albeit temporary retirement, but it shows that Pizzi is a man who can bring out the best from his players and get them to work as a team.

Key players

Mohammad Al-Sahlawi – The striker who represents Al-Nassr was a key part of Saudi Arabia’s qualifying campaign, scoring three goals to help them make it to Russia. Saudi fans will hope he continues his good run of form in the finals.

Fahad Al-Muwallad – A speedy player with a penchant for scoring goals, this 23-year old winger scored the goal that sent his country to the World Cup. He’s a good prospect for his country and his form will be key for Saudi Arabia if they are to have any chances of making it to the knockout stages.

Salem Al-Dawsari – This Al-Hilal winger isn’t a prolific goal-scorer but he is someone who can make a difference with his passing. Just ask Real Madrid; when Al-Dawsari played one game for Villareal on loan, he came off the bench to set up two goals as they came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 vs Real in a La Liga game.

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