Competition whipping boys
A qualifying record of six wins, one draw and three defeats doesn’t exactly fill backers with confidence for the summer ahead, but it was enough to see Saudi Arabia qualify behind Japan and ahead of Australia, finishing just a point off the league leaders. They shouldn’t get anywhere near as much joy here.
Odds compilers are so confident the Green Falcons will get nothing from this summer’s tournament they are offering a staggering 2000/1 on them lifting the trophy and even that won’t be enough of a price to attract too much interest. Personally, we think the money men could go a little further on that one and push it out to around the 5000/1 mark. Regardless of what they trade, Saudi Arabia will be friendless in the betting ring.
They play their part in opening the show when facing Russia in game one, a tie you can follow live on ITV from 4.00pm on Thursday 14th June. The start of a feast of football that will unite a planet of sport lovers. Here’s three men you should know about…..
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Step up in class for all concerned
Mohammed Al Sahlawi
Favourite in the Saudi Arabia top goal scorer market he’s currently available at 3/1 with Bet Victor. That price means Sahlawi scoring more than any of his team mates is just as likely as the country failing to hit the net in their three group games. The 31-year-old striker has represented his nation at every level from U20 to the senior squad.
Since making his full debut in 2010 the man from Hofuf has helped himself to 28 goals in 38 games and his club record is just as impressive, 102 in 174 for Saudi Professional League team Al-Nassr. Obviously, he faces a giant leap up in standard here but he’s a man with confidence and a man who knows exactly where the net is. Certainly poses a threat.
Nawaf Al Abid
28-year-old winger who bookies have as his team’s second biggest goal threat behind Al Sahlawi with 8/1 in places. Al Abid may not be a household name among British football fans, but lovers of a pub quiz may just have heard him mentioned as the man who scored the fastest goal in professional football with his effort crossing the line in just two seconds.
Playing for Al-Hilal in the Prince Faisal Cup vs Al-Shoulla he wrote his name into the history books, but the match was cruelly cut-short as Abid’s team broke the rules, fielding more players over the age of 21 than they were allowed. Never far from the headlines in his country he loves the big stage and will be desperate to perform again.
Most of the team play their club football in the Saudi Professional League but Al-Dawsari has had a taste of the good life having featured in the Villarreal squad. He arrived in La Liga in 2018 on loan but didn’t make too much of an impact and it’s unlikely he’ll be brought in on a permanent basis. The 26-year-old winger did get a run-out vs Real Madrid in an entertaining 2-2 draw in May, coming off the bench with 30 minutes remaining.
He also saw game time in a friendly defeat vs Portugal in November of last year when his boys ended on the wrong side of a 3-0 drubbing by the European champions, Fernandes, Guedes and Mario the scorers. Has netted eight times in 43 international games since his 2011 debut but won’t have many chances to build on that.