Coach: Juan Antonio Pizzi
The three-time Asian Cup winners reached the World Cup after failing to qualify in 2010 and 2014, and this is their fifth participation. Saudi Arabia made it to the Round of 16 in their first appearance in USA 1994, but they struggled in the next three tournaments, recording just two draws and seven defeats with a goal difference of 4:26.
Saudi Arabia’s opponents
Saudi Arabia was drawn in the Group A together with the hosts Russia, the group favorites Uruguay, and Egypt, and they will likely struggle to win a single point even though the group is not particularly strong. Saudi Arabia is the group’s worst-placed team in the 70th spot in the FIFA world ranking, Uruguay is in the 17th position, Russia is ranked in the 66th, while Egypt is in the 46th place.
Saudi Arabia’s strengths
The Green Falcons weren’t satisfied with some of their previous head coaches and appointed Juan Antonio Pizzi in November 2017 to lead the team at the World Cup. The Argentina-born Spaniard and the former striker has a couple of admirable achievements in his managerial career that started in 2015, but the biggest one is surely the winning of Copa America in 2016 with Chile.
Pizzi also led the Chileans to the Confederations Cup finals in 2017 in Russia, but after losing 1-0 to Germany, he failed to qualify for the World Cup following a 3-0 defeat to Brazil in the final game of the qualifications and decided to resign. He opted to take charge of the World Cup participants, and although Saudi Arabia is not near strong as Chile, it’s going to be a whole new adventure for the Spaniard and Pizzi is certainly the strongest link in this national side.
Saudi Arabia’s weaknesses
The lack of international players is Saudi Arabia’s biggest issue as they have only three individuals that are playing abroad; Salem Al-Dawsari, Yahya Al-Shehri, and Fahad Al-Muwallad, who are all loaned to Spanish teams this season. However, the trio is not playing important roles in their respective clubs, and the quality of football in Saudi Arabia is not at the particularly high level, so I believe they can’t be a threat to the rivals without players who earn their bread in Europe.
To Reach Semi-Finals: +10000
To Reach Quarter-Finals: +1400
Group Qualifying Yes/No: +700/-1200
Group Phase Matches:
Saudi Arabia’s player to watch
Mohammed Al-Sahlawi is the biggest star in Saudi Arabia and he already scored 28 goals in 38 caps for the national side, while winning the best player of the league award twice in a row in 2013/2014 and 2014/2015. Al-Sahlawi finished the qualifications as the top scorer in Asia with 16 goals and added 11 goals with three assists in 20 games this season for his club Al-Nasr Riyadh, and he will undoubtedly be the biggest threat to the opposing defenses in the Group A.
Saudi Arabia’s World Cup 2018 Prediction
Alongside Panama, Saudi Arabia has the smallest chance to win the World Cup, and although nobody expects them to do that, not even the biggest optimists in their own country believe they will progress to the Round of 16. I anticipate them to finish at the bottom of the Group A, and one point seems to be their maximum at the moment if they manage to win even that one.