World Cup 2022 Group C: Saudi Arabia out to spring a surprise

Renard's side were impressive in qualification and will hope to use underdog status to their advantage

Saudi Arabia midfielder Salem Al Dawsari, left, in a World Cup 2022 Asian Qualifiers game against China in March, 2022.   AFP
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Saudi Arabia can perhaps count themselves unlucky to be placed in a group with two-time World Cup winners Argentina, alongside formidable opposition in Poland and Mexico.

However, the Falcons will take great pride in appearing in their second consecutive World Cup finals.

Herve Renard’s side impressed in qualifying as they topped their group – which included the likes of Japan and Australia. Saudi Arabia suffered just one defeat in their 10 qualifying matches, which can be put down to their resolute defence. They conceded just six goals, which enabled them to grind out hard-fought wins, such as their crucial 1-0 victory at home against Australia.

If Saudi Arabia are to have any chance of advancing from the group stages, they will need Salem Al Dawsari and Saleh Al Sheri to chip in with goals as they did throughout qualifying. The pair ended the campaign with seven goals each, highlighting their importance to the side. With chances against the other three teams in Group C likely to be at a premium, they will need to be clinical.

Saudi Arabia struggled at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, losing the opening game 5-0 to the hosts, before a 1-0 defeat to Uruguay. They signed off with a 2-1 win over Mohamed Salah's Egypt, demonstrating their ability to compete with high-quality opposition.

The Falcons will hope they can use the underdog status to their advantage as they did in 1994, when they qualified from a group that contained the Netherlands, Morocco, and Belgium. They were eventually knocked out in the last 16 by Sweden, and a similar showing would represent a very good tournament for Saudi Arabia.

While advancing from Group C looks tricky for Saudi Arabia, they can be thrilled with their qualifying efforts in reaching their sixth World Cup.

Manager: Herve Renard

Star player: Salem Al Dawsari

One to watch: Saleh Al Sheri

World Cups appeared in: 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2018

Fixtures: Nov 22 - Argentina v Saudi Arabia; Nov 26 - Poland v Saudi Arabia; Nov 30 - Saudi Arabia v Mexico

Updated: September 28, 2022, 8:57 AM
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