Factfile on Saudi Arabia who are in World Cup Group C:
Best World Cup performance: Round of 16 in 1994.
Other notable performances: AFC Asian Cup winners in 1984, 1988, 1996.
FIFA ranking: 51.
Main clubs: Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad.
How they qualified: Saudi Arabia finished first in Asia zone qualifying Group B.
Coach: Herve Renard, 54, was appointed to lead the Green Falcons in 2019. The Frenchman played as a defender for multiple clubs in his home country before embarking on a coaching career in 1999 that has involved stints in Europe, Asia and Africa. He won the Africa Cup of Nations with Zambia in 2012, and followed that up by making Ivory Coast champions of the same tournament in 2015 –- becoming the first manager to win it with different teams. Renard had less success in the Africa Cup of Nations with Morocco, resigning in 2019 after a surprise early loss to Benin.
Key player: Winger Salem al-Dawsari, nicknamed “Tornado”, is participating in his second World Cup after the 2018 tournament in Russia, where he scored the deciding goal in a 2-1 win over Egypt in the final seconds. He has also notched goals in the 2019 Asian Cup and the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo. During World Cup qualifiers, the 31-year-old saved Saudi Arabia from a humiliating loss to Yemen, scoring to force a 2-2 draw. He also gave his team three valuable points by scoring the winner against Uzbekistan, again in the dying seconds.’
Expectations and key players according to Abdulaziz Al Rabah, Alarabiya.net:
“Saudi Arabia has a very interesting team in this tournament – it has a mixture between experienced players and youth, plus this team has continuity (10 players played in Russia 2018) which can be something encouraging to achieve better results comparing to the 2018 edition. Against Argentina it is hard to expect much, considering the latter’s form since 2019 and the desire to be world champions again. So, against Poland it is still a tough game especially comparing the physicality and areal threat from the Polish side, but it would be possible to get a point at least, and in Mexico’s game would be the decisive if a point is secured at least.”
“Nine of these players played in the last Olympic Games at Tokyo and despite the three losses, the team was brave to compete against Ivory Coast, Germany and Brazil, losing each game in a really slight margin.”
November 22: Argentina v Saudi Arabia
November 26: Poland v Saudi Arabia
November 30: Saudi Arabia v Mexico
Squad to be selected from:
Goalkeeper: Mohammed Al-Owais (Al-Hilal), Mohammed Al Rubaie Al-Yami (Al-Ahli), Amin Bukhari (Al-Nassr), Nawaf Al-Aqidi (Al-Nassr).
Defenders: Saud Abdulhamid (Al-Hilal), Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal), Mohammed Al-Breik (Al-Hilal), Ali Al-Bulaihi (Al-Hilal), Sultan Al-Ghanam (Al-Nassr), Hassan Tambakti (Al-Shabab), Abdulelah Al-Amri (Al-Nassr), Ziyad Al-Sahafi (Al-Taawoun), Ali Lajami (Al-Nassr), Abdullah Madu (Al-Nassr), Ahmed Bamsaud (Al-Ittihad).
Midfielders: Salman Al-Faraj (Al-Hilal), Salem Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal), Abdullah Otayf (Al-Hilal), Hattan Bahebri (Al-Shabab), Mohamed Kanno (Al-Hilal), Sami Al-Najei (Al-Nassr), Ali Al-Hassan (Al-Nassr), Nasser Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal), Abdulrahman Al-Aboud (Al-Ittihad), Fahad Al-Muwallad (Al-Shabab), Nawaf Al-Abed (Al-Shabab), Riyadh Sharahili (Abha), Awad Al-Nashri (Al-Ittihad).
Forwards: Firas Al-Buraikan (Al-Fateh), Abdullah Al-Hamdan (Al-Hilal), Saleh Al-Shehri (Al-Hilal), Haitham Asiri (Al-Ahli), Haroune Camara (Al-Ittihad).
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