Saudi change World Cup campaign fixtures to face Palestine in March

2018 World Cup qualifiers prepare with friendly against Kuwait

Saudi Arabia in action against Jamaica in November, 2020. Courtesy SAFF
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Saudi Arabia will resume their World Cup qualification campaign next month against Palestine, in a change to their fixtures announced on Saturday.

Herve Renard’s side, second in Group D, were initially to take on Yemen in one of only four Asian qualifiers to go ahead in March, as the continent’s governing body confirmed the majority of second-round matches would be postponed until June.

However, the Saudi national team have announced they will play a friendly against Kuwait on March 25 in preparation for their qualifier against Palestine five days later. Both matches will take place in Riyadh. Saudi had been scheduled to face Yemen in Group D on March 25.

At present, the three-time Asian champions sit second in Group D, one point off Uzbekistan with four matches remaining, although they have played a game less. Saudi’s most recent qualifier was in November 2019, when they came from behind to defeat the Uzbeks late on in Tashkent. Palestine are currently bottom, with one win from five games.

Saudi had still to play Yemen and Uzbekistan at home and Singapore away, but the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has since decided to stage each group’s remaining fixtures in centralised venues in June. Fifa states that the second round of qualification must be completed by June 15. Saudi is expected to host Group D, with a decision to be taken by the AFC on March 15.

Only the group winners are guaranteed to progress to the third round of qualification, alongside the four best runners-up from the eight pools. The third round is scheduled to begin in September.

Saudi participated in the 2018 World Cup – their first appearance at a global finals in 12 years. The current side played two friendlies in November, both against Jamaica in Riyadh, winning the first match 3-0 and losing the other 2-1.