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Last Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Saudi Arabia team guide

A one-stop guide to all you need to know about Saudi Arabia ahead of the 2006 World Cup.

Fixtures (Group H):

  • v Tunisia - 14 June, 1700 BST, Munich
  • v Ukraine - 19 June, 1700 BST, Hamburg
  • v Spain - 23 June, 1500 BST, Kaiserslautern

    How did they get to Germany: Convincing qualifiers in going unbeaten and conceding only one goal in six games on the way to topping their group ahead of South Korea.

    Qualifying star: Mabrouk Zayed, who is regarded as the number one goalkeeper in Asia. Successor to the legendary Al Deayea, who played in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 finals for Saudi Arabia, Al-Ittihad stopper Zayed is keen to win a move to Europe.

    Manager: It is not one of the most secure jobs in world football. Former Argentina international Gabriel Calderon replaced Gerard van der Lem after a poor showing at the 2004 Asian Cup to lead the Saudis through qualifying but has since been replaced by Brazilian Marcos Paqueta who describes himself as an "educator".

    Sami Al Jaber

    Captain: Sami Al Jaber, who spent a short loan spell in English football with Wolverhampton Wanderers, is a Saudi footballing superstar and has played for his country for half his life having made his debut as a 17-year-old.

    World Cup pedigree: The Saudis have now qualified for four tournaments in a row having made their first appearance in 1994, a tournament in which they reached the second round.

    World Cup high: That debut. Well not the first game defeat, but thereafter they beat Morocco and Belgium to qualify for the knockout phase where they came up short against Sweden, who went on to finish third.

    World Cup low: Pretty much everything since, which amounts to one draw - against South Africa in 1998 - and five defeats. The worst of those was an 8-0 drubbing against Germany in Japan four years ago - a three-match campaign in which they failed to score.

    World Cup legend: Al Jaber scored his first national goal on his debut in 1990 and the 2006 finals will be his fourth World Cup tournament. In 1994 he scored against Morocco in a 1-0 win to secure the nation's first victory in the World Cup finals.

    Present star man: That man Al Jaber again. The 34-year-old came out of international retirement to guide his country to the finals with two goals against Uzbekistan. His experience will be vital.

    Hamad Al Montashari

    Strengths: A mean defence marshalled by central defender Hamad Al Montashari, Saudi Arabia conceded just one goal in six World Cup qualifiers with Zayed starring in between the sticks.

    Weaknesses: Handicapped by a lack of players who have experience in the world's top leagues. Only Al Jaber (Wolves) and Fahd Al Ghashayan's (AZ Alkmaar) have played in Europe in the history of Saudi Arabian football.

    Did you know? The Saudi Arabian royal family banned football in the kingdom until 1951.

    World ranking: 34

    Odds: 750/1

    Local view: "We are delighted that the best four teams in Asia have qualified. However, qualification is the easiest part of the World Cup process. They will have to seriously start preparing for the World Cup." Peter Velappan, Asian Football Confederation chief.

    Our verdict: The Al Sogour - or Falcons - will be flying home before the business end of the tournament.

    Ranking and odds correct at 22 May. Odds supplied by William Hill.


    Pick your Saudi Arabia XI
    31 May 06 |  Squad selectors
    Country profile: Saudi Arabia
    03 Nov 05 |  Country profiles


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