Five Things To Know About Saudi Arabia

Watch Saudi Arabia-USA on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. ET (FS1, UniMás, TUDN)
Michael Lewis

For the seventh time in its history and for the first time since 1999, the U.S. Men's National Team will take on Saudi Arabia, this time in its final match before the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The USA is No. 14 in the latest FIFA world ranking, while Saudi Arabia comes in at No. 53. Kickoff from Estadio Nueva Condomina in Murcia, Spain on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. ET (FS1, UniMás, TUDN)


FOOTBALLING HISTORY

Saudi Arabia’s rise to prominence in Asian soccer started in 1984, when it qualified for that year’s Olympics in Los Angeles. Ten years later in 1994, the team qualified for the first of six FIFA World Cups. The Green Falcons had a strong debut showing, reaching the Round of 16 by virtue of a second-place finish in Group F. After topping Morocco and Belgium in the group stage, the Saudis fell to Sweden in the Round of 16.

After missing the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, Saudi Arabia is making consecutive appearances at the World Cup for the first time since 2002 and 2006. The Middle Eastern nation has not advanced out of the group stage since its 1994 competition debut.

The Green Falcons are also three-time Asian Cup champions, securing the trophy in 1984, 1988 and 1996. Most recently, the Saudis reached the Round of 16 in 2019. At the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup, held in Qatar last November/December as a test event for the World Cup, Saudi Arabia finished third in Group C behind Morocco and Jordan.

 

USMNT HISTORY VS. SAUDI ARABIA

The USA and Saudi Arabia have met six times since 1992, with the USA holding a 3-2-1 edge.

In the first meeting, the Saudis netted three goals in the second half to secure a 3-0 win in the King Fahd Cup – later rebranded as the FIFA Confederations Cup -- in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Oct. 15, 1992. 

The Americans recorded their first win against the Green Falcons on April 9, 1993, a 2-0 victory in Riyadh as Joe-Max Moore and Janusz Michallik tallied within a four-minute span in the second half. Michallik set up Moore in the 79th minute before Cobi Jones assisted on his 25-yard goal in the 83rd minute.

In a World Cup warm-up just weeks prior to the tournament, the nations battled to a scoreless draw in Piscataway, N.J. on May 25, 1994. Play in the second half was delayed 23 minutes because of a thunderstorm.

Later that year, Fahad Al Khosayan scored with only 10 seconds remaining to lift the hosts to a 2-1 win in Dharhan, Saudi Arabia on Oct. 19, 1994. The Saudis went on top early in the second half before Frank Klopas converted a penalty kick to equalize following a foul on Cobi Jones. Current USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter came off the bench to make his international debut.


 

One of the most memorable comebacks in USMNT history came against Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 19, 1995. The USA stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 at RFK Stadium, the first time the U.S. had won a game after trailing by three goals. The Green Falcons went up 3-0 in the first 30 minutes of play, but Tab Ramos teed up Alexi Lalas for the opening goal in the 36th. Moore pulled another one back just after halftime off an assist from Claudio Reyna, while Roy Lassiter set up Ramos for the equalizer in the 63rd. The duo combined again for the winner just four minutes later, with Lassiter scoring off a ball from Ramos.

The most recent meeting came in the third-place match of the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico. A 2-0 triumph for the USA, Paul Bravo and current USMNT general manager Brian McBride scored to secure the bronze medal.

 

RECENT MATCHES

The Green Falcons booked their ticket to Qatar on the penultimate matchday of Asian Football Confederation qualifying when Japan topped Australia, 2-0. Saudi Arabia finished atop Group B with a 7-2-1 record against the likes of Japan, Australia, Oman, China and Vietnam. Forward Saleh Al-Shehri scored four of Saudi Arabia’s 12 goals during the third round of qualifying.

During the June international window, Saudi Arabia hosted two South American nations in Murcia, dropping 1-0 results to Colombia on June 5 and Venezuela on June 9. They began the September window with a 0-0 draw against Ecuador on Friday.

 

 

While this is the USMNT’s final match before Qatar 2022, Saudi Arabia has six more friendlies lined up outside of FIFA international windows in October and November to prepare for the World Cup.

 

SAUDI ARABIA MANAGER

Herve Renard, 53, assumed the coaching responsibilities for Saudi Arabia in July 2019. Just two months later, he guided the Saudis in their first qualifying match for Qatar, registering a 2-2 draw at Yemen. The team won its second round AFC qualifying group with a 6-0-2 mark and Renard has recorded the most victories (18) as a foreign-born manager in team history.

After playing career that spanned 16 years for Cannes and Stade de Vallauris in France, Renard embarked on a coaching career at the club and international level. He has also led the national sides of Zambia (twice), Ivory Coast and Morocco. He’s the first coach to direct two countries to the Africa Cup of Nations title, completing the feat with Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015. In addition to the international game, he has also coached seven club teams, including Cambridge United, Cherbourg, Sochaux and Lille.

 

ROSTER

Renard selected 26 domestic-based players for these two friendlies, with the entire roster coming from seven teams in the Saudi Professional League.

Defending champion Al-Hilal leads the way with eight players in the squad, followed by Al-Nassr (six), current league leader Al-Shabab (five), Al-Ittihad (three), Al-Ahli (two), Abha (one) and Al-Fateh (one).

Midfielder Fahad Al-Muwallad is the most capped player with 70 appearances, followed by defender Yasser Al-Shahrani (69) and midfielders Salman Al-Faraj (68) and Salem Al-Dawsari (65). Al-Faraj is also the team’s oldest player at 33. Al-Muwallad and Al-Dawsari are tied for the most goals scored on the roster with 17 each.

Al-Dawsari scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time of the Saudis’ 2-1 win against Egypt in the teams’ final group stage match of the 2018 World Cup. It was Saudi Arabia's first World Cup victory since its 1-0 victory vs. Belgium in 1994. Al-Faraj converted a penalty kick in first-half stoppage time in that match to equalize and set the stage for the late winner.

The three forwards called up have a total of 31 international caps, with Firas Al-Buraikan netting all six goals.

 

SAUDI ARABIA ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)

GOALKEEPERS (4): Mohammed Al-Owais (Al-Hilal; 36/0), Fawaz Al-Qarni (Al-Shabab; 10/0), Mohammed Al Rubaie (Al-Ahli; 0/0), Nawaf Al-Aqidi (Al-Nassr, 0/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Hassan Tambakti (Al-Shabab; 13/0); Abdullah Madu (Al-Nassr; 11/0); Ahmed Bamsaud (Al-Ittihad; 0/0); Saud Abdulhamid (Al-Hilal; 15/0); Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal; 69/2); Abdulelah Al-Amri (Al-Nassr; 12/1); Ali Al-Bulaihi (Al-Hilal; 30/2); Sultan Al-Ghanam (Al-Nassr; 21/0)

MIDFIELDERS (11): Salman Al-Faraj (Al-Hilal; 68/8); Hattan Bahebri (Al-Shabab; 35/4); Salem Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal; 65/17); Nawaf Al-Abed (Al-Shabab; 48/8); Ali Al-Hassan (Al-Nassr; 7/1); Sami Al-Najei (Al-Nassr; 13/2); Nasser Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal; 6/3); Awad Al-Nashri (Al-Ittihad; 0/0); Riyadh Sharahili (Abha; 0/0); Mohamed Kanno (Al-Hilal; 31/1), Fahad Al-Muwallad (Al-Shabab; 70/17)

FORWARDS (3): Firas al-Buraikan (Al-Fateh; 22/6), Haroune Camara (Al-Ittihad; 9/0), Haitham Asiri (Al-Ahli; 3/0)

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