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Saudi Arabia: Green Falcons Hoping For A Miracle To Go Past The Group Stage At The FIFA World Cup

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The Saudi Arabian national football team is easily the weakest team on paper in Group A. They haven't been helped by the three managerial changes in the last year and current coach Juan Antonio Pizzi will have to work wonders for the team in the group stages of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They stand at the 67th place in the FIFA World Rankings.

History

Saudi Arabia: Green Falcons Hoping For A Miracle In Russia© Reuters

Arriving as the tournament's lowest-ever ranked side, Saudi Arabia may not be the most prolific achievers at the World Cup, but their football history states that they are not just heading to Russia for the sake of showing up. In the 1994 World Cup, the Saudi Arabia team had qualified from their group with wins against Morocco and Belgium to set them up with a last-16 tie against Sweden which they lost 3-1.

Saudi Arabia is a three-time AFC Asian Cup champion and is generally considered one of the strongest sides in Asia. This will be Saudi Arabia's fifth World Cup appearance; the last time they qualified for the World Cup was 12 years ago, back in 2006. They've failed to make it out of the group stage in all of those attempts, the exception came in 1994 when they lost to Sweden 3-1 in the Round of 16 in the USA.

Current Form

Saudi Arabia: Green Falcons Hoping For A Miracle In Russia© Reuters

Saudi Arabia's revolving-door managerial policy has seen six managers come and go in the last five years, including three changes in the months between September-November 2017. Their current manager, Juan Antonio Pizzi, only took charge in November last year after resigning as Chile's manager, after they failed to qualify for the World Cup.

The team is top-heavy and mainly relies on their attackers. However, they do have the experience to help them in their defence - something that may come in handy during the tournament.

Their players are all based at home, but it's worth noting that nine of the current players in the squad have trained with La Liga sides and did manage to get some game time in Spain this year - thanks to the loan deals.

Expectations At The World Cup

Saudi Arabia: Green Falcons Hoping For A Miracle In Russia© Reuters

To stand any chance of qualifying from their group, Saudi Arabia must win against Russia in the first game of the tournament. The chances of Uruguay or Egypt losing against them are very slim, but three points against the hosts and a draw against one of the other sides could be enough for them to advance and equal their record finish in the last 16. 

They might have lost 2-1 in the friendly against Italy, but the Green Falcons showed a lot of heart which confirms that they could prove to be a tricky opponent in Russia.

While the group they have been handed is far from difficult, Saudi Arabia's lack of quality and experience in top-class tournaments makes it unlikely for them to reach the knockout stage. But they will at least have the honor of becoming the first Asian nation ever to play in the opening game when they take on Russia in Moscow on 14th June.

In their group, Uruguay, undoubtedly, have the best chance to finish the group stage at the top of the table with the other spot is likely to be secured by Egypt, considering Salah's love affair with goals this year. Saudi Arabia will have to rely on miracles if they are to progress further into the competition.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al-Owais, Yasser Al-Musailem, Abdullah Al-Mayuf.

Defenders: Mansoor Al-Harbi, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohammed Al-Breik, Motaz Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Omar Hawsawi, Ali Al-Bulaihi.

Midfielders: Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Abdulmalek Al-Khaibri, Abdullah Otayf, Taiseer Al-Jassim, Houssain Al-Mogahwi, Salman Al-Faraj, Mohamed Kanno, Hattan Bahebri, Salem Al-Dawsari, Yehya Al-Shehri.

Forwards: Fahad Al-Muwallad, Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, Muhannad Assiri.

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