We conclude with the Group A “Team Talks” for the FIFA World Cup 2018 with this final part. In this last part, we take a look at Asian powerhouse Saudi Arabia.
Team : SAUDI ARABIA
Coach: Juan Antonio Pizzi
Captain: Osama Hawsawi
Nickname(s): Green Falcons
Last Qualified in: 2006
Result in 2014: Did not qualify
Qualified as: AFC Third Round Group B Runners Up (05 September 2017)
Previous World Cup Appearances: (4 Times) 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006.
Best World Cup Finals Result: Round of 16 in 1994.
Assaf Al-Qarny, Mohammed Al-Owais, Yasser Al Mosailem, Abdullah Al-Mayuf; Mansoor Al-Harbi, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohammed Al-Breik, Saeed Al-Mowalad, Motaz Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Omar Hawsawi, Mohammed Jahfali, Ali Al-Bulaihi; Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Abdulmalek Al-Khaibri, Abdullah Otayf, Taisir Al-Jassim, Houssain Al-Mogahwi, Salman Al-Faraj, Nawaf Al-Abed, Mohamed Kanno, Hattan Bahebri, Mohammed Al-Kwikbi, Salem Al-Dawsari, Yehya Al-Shehri; Fahad Al-Muwallad, Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, Muhannad Assiri.
1) Yasser Al Mosailem:
The 33-year old Saudi goalkeeper has been at Al-Ahli all his career making as many as 213 appearances since 2005. After having made his international debut in 2007, he has earned 32 national caps and was a part of the runner up team in the AFC Asian Cup that year. The 22-year old will be going to his first world cup in Russia, as the number one under the bar for the Saudis.
2) Osama Hawsawi:
The 34-year old is the Gulf Nation’s 6th most capped player with 134 caps. Much like Mosailem, the UAE born defender also was a part of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup runners up team. The Al-Hilal centre back will have the additional responsibility of leading the side this time, in addition to his defensive duties.
3) Taisir Al-Jassim:
Al-Jassim made his international debut 14 years back in 2004 and has since made 130 appearances in white and green, making him the 8th highest cap holder. Pretty much like Mosailem and Hawsawi, Jassim also got a runners up medal in AFC Asian Cup 2007. The Al-Ahli midfielder will be the driving force for the Green Falcons at the centre of the pitch.
4) Mohammad Al-Sahlawi:
The 31-year old forward has been in red hot form for his national side as he was the joint top scorer (16 goals) in the world cup qualifying rounds, alongside Robert Lewandowski and Ahmed Khalil. The Al-Nassr forward, who was involved in the highest transfer in Saudi football ($8 million), will be the target man for the returning Asian powerhouses in Russia.
Saudi Arabia have played 15 international matches since confirming their world cup qualification. They have won 6 of those matches against Jamaica, Latvia, Kuwait, Moldova, Algeria and Greece. They have lost 7-times and drew twice since. They lost their last match against Italy on 28th of May 2018.
Saudi Arabia have been drawn in Group A alongside hosts Russia, African powerhouse Egypt and former 2-time Champions Uruguay. They will play Russia in the opening match on 14th of June, followed by Uruguay and Egypt on 20th and 25th June respectively.
Drawn in a very tough group with hosts Russia, African powerhouse Egypt and 2-time World Cup winners Uruguay, the odds are very much stacked against the Saudis to progress further than the group stages. Antonio Pizzi’s side will need to produce an upset or two to avoid a highly likely group stage exit.
Saudi Arabia shocked the world when they progressed to the round of 16 of the FIFA World Cup in their debut appearance in 1994. In their last world cup group match against Belgium midfielder Saeed Al-Owairan scored a spectacular solo goal, after running from inside their own half and going passed 5 defenders before beating the keeper. This goal was voted to be the sixth best, in “Goal of the Century” rankings.
How far do you think Saudi Arabia will progress in this World Cup? Comment below!
Photo by Nasya Bahfen