Five Things to Know About the Saudi Arabia U-20 MNT
After picking up four points through the first two games, the United States Under-20 Men’s National Team will finish group play at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup against Saudi Arabia, who comes into the match with three points. The final match of the group stage will take place on Sunday, May 28 at 5 a.m. ET and will be televised live on FS1 and Telemundo.
Here are five things you should know about Saudi Arabia.
How They Qualified
Saudi Arabia reached the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup through the 2016 Asian Football Confederation U-19 Championship where they finished as runners-up after falling to Japan on 5-3 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 draw. Sami Alnajai and Abdulrahman Alyami were the joint leading scorers at the tournament with four goals each.
Oct. 13, 2016 – 3-2 L vs. Bahrain
Oct. 16, 2016 – 4-0 W vs. Thailand
Oct. 19, 2016 – 2-1 W vs. South Korea
Oct. 23, 2016 – 2-2 D (6-5 W on penalties) vs. Iraq
Oct. 27, 2016 – 6-5 W vs. Iran
Oct. 30, 2016 – 0-0 D (5-3 L on penalties) vs. Japan
U-20 World Cup History
Saudi Arabia is making its eighth all-time appearance at the U-20 World Cup, but just its second since 2003. The Green Falcons’ most recent appearance came at the 2011 tournament, where they made it out of the group stage for the first time. Saudi Arabia finished runner-up in a group with Nigeria, Guatemala and Croatia before falling 3-0 to eventual champion Brazil in the Round of 16.
Saudi Arabia’s group stage wins against Croatia and Guatemala in 2011 were its first wins in the tournament since 1989, when it the nation hosted the competition and earned a victory over Portugal.
The Danger Man
After scoring four goals to tie for the tournament lead at the 2016 Asian Football Confederation U-19 Championship, Abdulrahman Alyami scored a pair of goals for Saudi Arabia in its 2-1 victory against Ecuador on May 25. Alyami is in the youth system for Riyadh-based Al Hilal, the the most successful club in Saudi Arabia having won 57 major trophies, including the Saudi Professional League 14 times. Alyami has not made an appearance for the Al Hilal first team.
Saad Alshehri took over last fall as the head coach of the Saudi Arabia U-20 National Team after winning youth championships with Al Ittifaq and Al Nassr. As a player, Alshehri represented Saudi Arabia at the 1999 U-20 World Cup in Nigeria, seeing action in a pair of matches against Australia and Republic of Ireland.
He had ambitions of representing his country at the highest level in the 2002 FIFA World Cup before injury ended his career. Following his injury, Alshehri began working as a physical education teacher which would lead to his career in coaching.
Penalty Save Specialist
Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Amin Albukhari was in the spotlight for The Green Falcons in their second group stage match against Ecuador when he saved Bryan Cabezas’ penalty kick in first-half stoppage time. It was not the first time that Albukhari had been the hero for his country on a penalty kick. In the 2016 Asian U-19 Championship Quarterfinals, the goalkeeper made a pair of saves in the Saudi Arabia’s shootout win against Iraq, helping clinch their place in the 2017 U-20 World Cup.