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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Saudi Arabia's road to the finals
Saudi Arabia fans are hoping Nassar Al Johar can take them to victory
Saudi Arabia fans watched a rocky qualifying campaign
Saudi Arabia have reached their third successive World Cup, but the journey there was not without its traumas.

As well as the traditional sacking of the coach during the campaign, the Saudis waited until the last minute to once again pip bitter rivals Iran to an automatic qualifying berth.

Yugoslavian coach Slobodan Santrac had led the team into the qualifying tournament, but in nail-biting style it was left to predecessor Nasser Al Johar to finish the job.

Qualifying campaign
First round
W 6-0 Mongolia (h)
W 3-0 Bangladesh (a)
W 5-0 Vietnam (h)
W 6-0 Mongolia (a)
W 6-0 Bangladesh (h)
W 4-0 Vietnam (a)
Second round
D 1-1 Bahrain (h)
W 2-0 Iran (a)
W 1-0 Iraq (h)
W 3-1 Thailand (a)
W 4-0 Bahrain (a)
D 2-2 Iran (h)
W 2-1 Iraq (a)
W 4-1 Thailand (h)

Al-Johar was first installed as coach in 2000 as a short-term measure following the sacking of the Czech Milan Macala after just one match in the Asian Cup in Lebanon.

Although Al-Johar picked the team up from a 4-1 demolition by Japan and took them to the final, he was overlooked when Santrac was selected as a long-term replacement.

But Santrac soon discovered that long-term does not mean that long.

A home draw with Bahrain and a defeat against in Iran in the final round of World Cup qualifying saw him dismissed in August.

Al Johar returned as coach and put the team back on track, despite the absence of Asian Player of the Year Nawaf Al Temyat, who missed the qualifying matches because of a serious knee injury.

Wins against Iraq and Thailand as well as a 4-1 hammering of Bahrain seemed to put the Saudis in pole position for qualification.

Nassar Al Johar has finally been handed the chance to take Saudi Arabia to glory
Nassar Al Johar helped Saudi Arabia reach their third successive World Cup

But a 2-2 draw with Iran in Jeddah put their hopes of going to Korea and Japan in doubt and in need of a huge favour from close neighbours Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia would have to win their last game against Thailand and hope Bahrain could defeat Group A leaders Iran.

In dramatic style, they pulled it off, beating Peter Withe's Thais 4-1 as Bahrain won 3-1 against Iran, and secured their place in the game's greatest championship.

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GROUP E
  P GD PTS
GERMANY 3 +10 7
IRELAND 3 +3 5
CAMEROON 3 -1 4
SAUDI ARABIA 3 -12 0

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