Saudi Arabia squad guide: Full fixtures, group, ones to watch, odds and more

PROFILE: With the tournament only days away we take an in-depth look at all 32 teams in Russia

Jack Watson
Tuesday 05 June 2018 12:50 BST
2018 Russia World Cup in numbers

Arriving as the tournament’s lowest ranking side, Saudi Arabia may not be the most prolific achievers at a World Cup but history has shown they are not just heading to Russia to make up the numbers. In the 1994 World Cup, Saudi Arabia’s first, they qualified from their group with wins against Morocco and Belgium to set them up with a last 16 tie against Sweden which they lost 3-1.

Saudi Arabia’s revolving door managerial policy has seen six managers come and go in the last five years, including three managers in as many months between September and November 2017. Their current manager, Juan Antonio Pizzi, only took charge in November 2017 after resigning as Chile manager having failed to qualify for the World Cup. Pizzi, who used to play for Barcelona, led Chile to Copa America triumph in 2016 and has over ten years of managerial experience.

In January, Spain’s footballer union said a deal between the Saudi Arabian Football federation, the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia and La Liga, which saw nine Saudi players join first and second division teams on loan, had sacrificed “the essence of this sport.”


Russia vs Saudi Arabia – 16:00, Thursday 16 June
Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia – 16:00, Wednesday 20 June
Saudi Arabia vs Egypt – 15:00, Monday 25 June

Key Players

Salman Al-Dawsari: On loan at Villarreal from his parent club Al-Hilal Riyadh, Salman Al Dawsari is a relatively experienced central midfielder and infrequent goal scorer. Without suggesting he is a world beater, he came on for Villarreal against Real Madrid in the 57th minute after Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo gave Los Blancos a first-half two-nil lead. The match ended 2-2. Enough said.

Nawaf Al-Abed: At the age of 27, Nawaf Al Abed is being described by regional media as “on the brink of being one of Asia’s best”. Al Abed was credited with scoring the fastest-ever goal in association seconds when he wasted no more than 2.4 seconds to lob the goalkeeper after the ball was rolled to him from kick off. The match was declared void due to an ineligible player being fielded, therefore the legitimacy of his goal is dubious.

Nawaf Al-Abed in action for Saudi Arabia against Yemen
Nawaf Al-Abed in action for Saudi Arabia against Yemen (Getty)

Mohammad Al-Sahlawi: La Liga was not the only top league in Europe to home some of Saudi Arabia’s finest talent. It was confirmed in March that Manchester United would allow Mohammad Al-Sahlawi to train with the club for three weeks as part of a commercial agreement, as well as give the prolific forward exceptional preparation for the World Cup. Al-Sahlawi’s 28 goals in 38 caps for Saudi Arabia marks him out as their go-to man for goals. Defenders, beware.

One to watch

Fahad Al-Muwallad: It’s been suggested that Fahad Al-Muwallad’s form will be key in determining Saudi Arabia’s success in this tournament, and with good reason too. His stunning strike against Japan was the only goal in the vital play-off match which has granted Saudi Arabia’s safe passage to Russia. Since then his ability has become apparent and he was soon sent packing to Spain. Al-Muwallad joined La Liga side Levante but only managed two substitute appearances despite impressing with his raw pace.

How did they get here?

In round one of Asia’s qualifying, Saudi Arabia finished second in their group on 19 points, one below Japan and ahead of Australia on goal difference. The final game of the group stage against Japan was a must-win for Saudi Arabia, who were keen to avoid the play-offs which would await them if they did not get all three points. Fahad Al-Muwallad scored the only goal of the game as the Green Falcons safely advanced to their first World Cup since Germany 2006.

Juan Antonio Pizz was the former Chile manager
Juan Antonio Pizz was the former Chile manager (Getty)

How will they do?

To stand any chance of qualifying from their group they must win against Russia in the first game of the tournament. The chances of Uruguay or Egypt slipping up against them are very slim, but three points from Russia and a draw against one of the other sides could be enough to advance to, and equal, their record finish in the last 16. They showed a good account for themselves in a 2-1 friendly defeat to a rejuvenated Italy so they could prove to be a tricky opponent.

Odds of winning the tournament: 1000/1


Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al-Owais, Yasser Al-Musailem, Abdullah Al-Mayuf.

Defenders: Mansoor Al-Harbi, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohammed Al-Breik, Motaz Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Omar Hawsawi, Ali Al-Bulaihi.

Midfielders: Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Abdulmalek Al-Khaibri, Abdullah Otayf, Taiseer Al-Jassim, Houssain Al-Mogahwi, Salman Al-Faraj, Mohamed Kanno, Hattan Bahebri, Salem Al-Dawsari, Yehya Al-Shehri.

Forwards: Fahad Al-Muwallad, Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, Muhannad Assiri.

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