Saudi Arabia got to the world through automatic qualification after finishing second behind Japan and above Australia thanks to the goal difference.
With Juan Antonio Pizzi,former Argentina manager and Copa America winner with Chile in 2016, the Green Falcons have a solid squad, with 12 wins 3 draws and 3 losses in the qualifiers here is how they play.
After the loss of Nawaf Al Abid to a groin injury whom was one of their most crucial players, in fact the playmaker scored 5 goals in the Asian World Cup qualifiers. Their key players now are the strike force of Fahad Al Muwallad and Al Sahlawi(top scorer in the qualifiers with 16 goals), Al Dawsari on the Left wing, Al Shahrani a full back that can play on both flanks and finally Taisir Al Jassim the beating heart of the team.
The Green Falcons line up in 4-3-3 and switches to a 4–1-4-1 in defense.
4-3-3: Al Maiouf(GK) Al Shahrani(RB) Omar Hawsawi and Othman Hawsawi(CB) Al Harbi(LB) Otayf/Al Moqawhi (CDM) Al Faraj/Al Khaibri(LCM) Taisir Al Jassim(RCM) Al Dawsari(LW) Yehia Al Sheri(RW) Fahad Al Muwallad/ Al Sahlawi.
4-1-4-1: This squad is gifted with incredible pace and quality and that’s why they are likely to sit back and rely on the counter attack: Al Dawsari would support Al Harbi and Al Sheri would do the same with Al Shahrani while Otayf or the defensive midfielder would protect the center backs. That way they would stay in their own half and close down as much spaces as possible.
What happens when they get the ball ?
With players like Al Shahrani at the back and Al Dawsari up front, that’s where this team is strong. However pace is not enough, to build an effective counter attack you need a decent transition, and the answer to that is Taisir Al Jassim, their most consistent player(only player alongside Sheri to play all 18 games in the qualifiers) , I like to call him the “Arab Kanté” this box to box player can play for hours and would still be able to create problems for the opposition.
Al Jassim is a great passer and has the pace to break out and can also send long balls from the back of the fullbacks or the forwards are in front of him, not only that, Al Jassim has the freedom to roam between the 2nd and the final third of the pitch and when he pushes forward he creates overload on the opposition’s defence and is the reason why there is always a free man we’ve seen it in his goal against Australia and with Al Abid’s goal against UAE.
Going forward their biggest threats are Al Harbi, Al Shahrani that will be overlapping, Al Dawsari and Al Sheri will be cutting inside and the will be causing a lot of issues for the opposition with their dribbling and pace and finally they have their goal scorer Al Sahlawi and Muwallad in the centre.
–Positives: With a great run in the qualifiers this team showed that they can defend in a decent way, conceding 14 goals and are even better attacker with 45 goals scored. Their counter attacks are pretty effective and they have got the quality players they need. This team is arguably ready for the World Cup then.
–Negatives: However despite their solid performances and organized style a few points need to be improved: a few players like Al Dawsari are great on the ball and pose a lot of danger to the opposition but need to improve their finishing for a better end result. Another point is that the 4 midfielders in the defensive state tend to press high and that isn’t always a good idea since this squad finds it hard to deal with passes in behind and players roaming between the lines and that cost them games after solid performances like their recent loss to Germany(2-1).
Finally, that means that if they kept their solid shape we can witness a surprise….