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Saudi Arabia World Cup 2018 profile: Ones to watch, best bets and more

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia ahead of the World Cup in Russia
All you need to know about Saudi Arabia ahead of the World Cup in Russia

Competing at their fifth World Cup, Saudi Arabia are 2000/1 to win the competition. Here's the lowdown on the Middle Eastern nation...

Saudi Arabia Factfile

  • FIFA World Ranking: 67
  • Sky Bet outright winner odds: 2000/1
  • Best Bet: Group Goals Scored – 0 – 9/2
  • World Cup appearances: 4
  • Best World Cup finish: Second round (1994)
  • Nickname: Al Sogour Al Akhdar (The Green Falcons)

Coach – Juan Antonio Pizzi: Pizzi led Chile to Copa America Centenario glory in 2016 before taking them to Confederations Cup final last summer where they were beaten by world champions Germany. The former Spanish international left his role as Chile boss after failing to qualify for Russia and was swiftly appointed to succeed Edgardo Bauza as Saudi Arabia’s head coach.

Legend – Majed Abdullah: The Arabian Jewel Majed Abdullah netted a hugely impressive 71 goals in 116 appearances for Saudi Arabia during 16 years playing for his nation.

He was voted Asian Footballer of the Year on three occasions and scored a remarkable 260 goals in 240 appearances for Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr FC.

Star Man – Mohammad Al-Sahlawi: Sixteen goals in 14 games throughout qualifying sounds like a return worthy of the Messis and Ronaldos of this world. But when you consider eight of those came against Timor-Leste it seems somewhat less impressive. Al-Sahlawi managed just one goal in three games against Japan and Australia and will have to be more clinical in the summer if Saudi Arabia are to cause an upset.

Did you know? No goalkeeper has conceded more goals at World Cups than Mohamed Al-Deayea, who shipped in 25 goals over four World Cups from 1994 to 2006.

Fun Fact: Saudi Arabian legend Majed Abdullah, 59, has more Twitter followers than Jesse Lingard - 1.13 million at the last count.

Qualifying: Group B runners-up in Asian qualifying, pipping Australia on goal difference after finishing one point behind Japan.

Group E Fixtures: Russia (4pm, June 14, Moscow), Uruguay (4pm, June 20, Rostov-On-Don), Egypt (3pm, June 25, Volgograd)

Saudi Arabia squad

Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al Owais (Al Ahli), Yasser Al Mosailem (Al Ahli), Abdullah Al Mayouf (Al Hilal).

Defenders: Mansoor Al Harbi (Al Ahli), Yasser Al Shahrani (Al Hilal) Mohammed Al Breik (Al Hilal), Motaz Hawsawi (Al Ahli), Osama Hawsawi (Al Hilal), Omar Hawsawi (Al Nassr), Ali Al Bulaihi (Al Hilal).

Midfielders: Abdullah Al Khaibari (Al Shabab), Abdulmalek Al Khaibri (Al Hilal), Abdullah Otayf (Al Hilal), Taiseer Al Jassim (Al Ahli), Houssain Al Mogahwi (Al Ahli), Salman Al Faraj, Mohamed Kanno (both Al Hilal), Hattan Bahebri (Al Shabab), Salem Al Dawsari (Al Hilal), Yahya Al Shehri (Al Nassr), Fahad Al Muwallad (Al Ittihad).

Forwards: Mohammad Al Sahlawi (Al Nassr), Muhannad Assiri (Al Ahli).

Saudi Arabia Profile

Lining up alongside the hosts Russia is Saudi Arabia, who find themselves as 2000/1 outsiders, the joint-biggest priced team.

Fabio Cannavaro selects Saudi Arabia in the 2018 World Cup draw
Fabio Cannavaro selects Saudi Arabia in the 2018 World Cup draw

Regardless, they will aim to match their best performance so far in 1994, where they got past the group stage and into the round of 16.

Juan Antonio Pizzi is the coach for Saudi Arabia, and has a decent CV which will help in giving them some hope.

He replaced Jorge Sampaoli as Chile boss in 2016, leading them to victory in the Copa America Centenario in the same year. They beat Mexico 7-0 on their way to the trophy, defeating Argentina in the final.

Chile’s failure to reach the World Cup saw him leave the role, and he will be hoping that his new side can cause some upsets on the big stage.

Who to watch out for

Mohammed Al-Sahlawi is the star man and will the hopes of Saudi Arabia fans.

The 31-year-old striker has 11 goals in 20 appearances for Al-Nasr Riyadh in the Saudi league this season and should start for his country in Russia.

His record for Saudi Arabia is even more impressive, scoring 28 goals in 38 appearances for the Green Falcons. Al-Sahlawi’s goals have helped to make him a star on the Saudi football scene.

Fahad Al-Muwallad is another player worth keeping an eye on. He scored the winning goal in a crucial final day victory over Japan, helping to end their 12-year absence from the tournament.

How did they qualify?

Despite their big odds, they did secure automatic passage by finishing second in Group B qualification of the Asian Football Confederation.

They secured 19 points from their ten games, finishing runners-up to Japan, who managed to gain one point more.

The highlight of the qualification campaign came in that final day victory over the eventual group winners, doing enough to pip Australia to second on goal difference.

Saudi Arabia found themselves in the tougher of the two groups but came out of it with a spot in the finals so maybe that will give them a bit of belief to do the unthinkable, or at least make it out of the group stages.

Any interesting facts about Saudi Arabia?

The landscape of Saudi Arabia sees large parts of the country covered in desert, with the temperatures reaching as high as 53 degrees Celsius last year.

Saudi Arabia is also the largest country in the world without a permanent river, due to the terrain and conditions.

With a size of 830,000 square miles, Saudi Arabia is the 13th largest country in the world.

The desert can be problematic enough, but winds from the north - known as shamal - can blow for days at a time and can reach speeds up to 50 miles per hour.

Any famous football moments?

Their best finish came in 1994, and with it came some of their most famous moments.

For Saudi Arabia, this was their ‘golden generation’.

During the tournament in the USA, they shocked Belgium with 1-0 victory.

Most notably, Saeed Al-Owairan’s goal sticks in the memory with ITV commentator John Helm shouting that it was "the greatest goal of the tournament”.

Picking up the ball in his own half, the midfielder ran the length of the field before firing low into the net, despite appearing to never really have full control.

Despite the highs, there have been some lows and Saudi Arabia have also been on the wrong side of World Cup history.

Miroslav Klose’s hat-trick was the highlight for Germany in 2002 as they hammered Saudi Arabia 8-0 in their Group E encounter. They would leave the tournament failing to score a single goal.

Odds correct as of 1500 BST 28/05/18

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