Pele, Maradona and...Al-Jaber | india | Hindustan Times
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Pele, Maradona and...Al-Jaber

It's not often that a Saudi footballer, who has spent virtually all of his career in the isolation of the Gulf finds himself bracketed with Pele and Maradona.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2006 16:57 IST

It's not often that a Saudi Arabian footballer, who has spent virtually all of his professional career in the isolation of the Gulf, finds himself bracketed with Pele and Diego Maradona.

But 33-year-old Sami al-Jaber can now sit comfortably in that company after his goal in the 2-2 draw with Tunisia made him only the fourth player in history to score goals in World Cup finals 12 years apart.

Pele grabbed six goals in 1958, one in 1962, one in 1966 and four in 1970.

Maradona found the target twice in 1982, five times in 1986 and added one more in 1994 with Germany's Uwe Seeler also making the list with two in 1958, two in 1962, two more four years later and three in 1970.

Jaber's record is one each in 1994, 1998 and 2006.

"I was really surprised, I didn't know anything about it," said the striker who plays for Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia but once spent an injury-plagued five months with Wolverhampton Wanderers in England.

"I'm really proud of myself and it was great to be able to help the team when I came on. Those things don't happen every day.

"Im proud about scoring with my first touch of the ball. We battled away, and well keep on battling against Spain and Ukraine (in the remaining Group H games). We know we have to work harder."

Jaber scored just two minutes after coming on as a substitute in Wednesday's match to bring back memories of the form he first displayed back in 1994 when the Saudis, in their World Cup finals debut, made the second round.

Tunisia coach Roger Lemerre was more than impressed with the veteran whose goal had given the Saudis a 2-1 lead.

"Bringing on Jaber was very important -- he's a very experienced and important player," said the Frenchman.

Jaber won his 161st cap on Wednesday and scored his 44th international goal.

He now sits third behind teammate and goalkeeper Mohamed al-Deayea (181 caps) and Mexico's Claudio Suarez (178) on the list of all-time appearances.

He made sure of his position as a national hero when he scored a hat-trick in the 4-3 win over Iran which qualified the Saudis for their first World Cup in 1994 in the United States.

Jaber, who stands at a lightweight 1.76m and 72kg, was also influential in the 2002 campaign which collapsed in a nightmare in Japan when the Saudis were humiliated 8-0 by Germany.

He was injured, underwent surgery for appendicitis in Tokyo and missed the last two matches of the tournament.

Despite announcing his international retirement, Jaber, who also helped the Saudis to the 1996 Asian Cup title, was tempted to come back and that decision paid dividends on Wednesday.