Saudi Arabia World Cup 2022 guide: Key players, injuries, tactics & tournament prediction

Saudi Arabia are feeling good
Saudi Arabia are feeling good / Briony Painter | 90min

There is optimism that Saudi Arabia have their strongest team in years and led by the experienced Herve Renard, who won the Africa Cup of Nations with both Zambia and Ivory Coast and led Morocco at the 2018 World Cup, they have hopes of making it past the group stages.

It will be the sixth World Cup appearance for the Green Falcons, who topped Asian qualifying Group B ahead of both Japan and Australia, losing just a single game in the process. That being said, a tough group draw alongside one of the favourites Argentina, Poland and Mexico means that they will have it all to do to match their performance at USA 1994.

They will, at least, be accustomed to conditions in neighbouring Qatar and have that as an advantage if nothing else. Here's what to expect from Saudi Arabia at the 2022 World Cup.

When are Saudi Arabia's group games?

  • Argentina vs Saudi Arabia (November 22, 10:00 GMT)
  • Poland vs Saudi Arabia (November 26, 13:00 GMT)
  • Saudi Arabia vs Mexico (November 30, 19:00 GMT)
  • Saudi Arabia vs Argentina H2H record: Played 4, Drawn 2, Lost 2
  • Saudi Arabia vs Poland H2H record: Played 4, Lost 4
  • Saudi Arabia vs Mexico H2H record: Played 5, Drawn 1, Lost 4

Who is in Saudi Arabia's confirmed 26-player squad for the World Cup?

Goalkeepers: Mohamed Al-Owais (Al-Hilal), Nawaf Al-Aqidi (Al-Nassr), Mohamed Al-Yami (Al-Ahly).

Defenders: Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal), Ali Al-Bulaihi (Al-Hilal), Abdulelah Al-Amri (Al-Nassr), Abdullah Madu (Al-Nassr), Hassan Tambakti (Al-Shabab), Sultan Al-Ghanam (Al-Nassr), Mohammed Al-Breik (Al-Hilal), Saud Abdulhamid (Al-Hilal).

Midfielders: Salman Al-Faraj (Al-Hilal), Riyadh Sharahili (Abha), Ali Al-Hassan (Al-Nassr), Mohamed Kanno (Al-Hilal), Abdulelah Al-Malki (Al-Hilal), Sami Al-Najei (Al-Nassr), Abdullah Otayf (Al-Hilal), Nasser Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal), Abdulrahman Al-Aboud (Ittihad), Salem Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal), Hattan Bahebri (Al-Shabab).

Forwards: Nawaf Al-Abed (Al-Shabab), Haitham Asiri (Al-Ahly), Saleh Al-Shehri (Al-Hilal) Firas Al-Buraikan (Al-Fateh).

Which Saudi Arabia players are missing the World Cup through injury?

The only injury concern for Saudi Arabia heading into the tournament is Al-Hilal forward Saleh al-Shehri, who has recently returned from an Achilles tear and came off the bench in the friendly (and scored) against North Macedonia. He's made the squad but just how fit he is remains to be seen.

Star player Salem al-Dawsari had appendix surgery in September but appears fully recovered after taking part in Saudi Arabia's October and November friendlies.

Who are Saudi Arabia's best players?

Salem A-Dawsari
Al-Hilal winger Salem Al-Dawsari will carry the hopes of his nation / Francois Nel/GettyImages

Salem al-Dawsari

Described by then-club teammate Bafetimbi Gomis (who else?) as 'the best Asian player' on Instagram, Al-Dawsari even tasted European football while on loan with Villarreal, coming on for half an hour in La Liga in his only appearance for the club. Despite failing to make the grade there, Al-Dawsari has an impressive goal record both domestically and at international level for a winger and will likely be Saudi Arabia's most dangerous attacking threat.

Yasser al-Shahrani

A stalwart for both Al-Hilal and Saudi Arabia for the past decade, left-back Yasser al-Shahrani goes into the tournament as one of his country's most dependable and consistent players. With 71 caps to his name at 30 years of age, the full-back will combine with club teammate Al-Dawsari down Saudi Arabia's left flank and look to overlap as the winger cuts inside on his dangerous right foot.

Salman al-Faraj

Finally, there is their captain Salman al-Faraj, an icon for club and country and a man who has won it all for Al-Hilal, including two AFC Champions League trophies. An intelligent and tidy left-footed midfielder, the 33-year-old will look to orchestrate for his team as something of a deep-lying playmaker.

Saudi Arabia predicted starting lineup

It's hard to predict exactly how Herve Renard will set his team up in Qatar, mostly because he has ditched a 4-2-3-1 shape that got the team through qualifying for a 4-3-3 in recent warm-up fixtures.

Renard has plenty of options in midfield and on the wings to fluctuate between the two systems although he could well start the first game against Argentina with a more defensive 4-5-1.

Saudi Arabia predicted starting XI: Al-Owais; Abdulhamid, Al-Amri, Al-Bulaihi, Al-Shahrani; Al-Faraj, Kanno, Al-Najei; Asiri, Al-Buraikan, Al-Dawsari.

Saudi Arabi's form going into the World Cup

Saudi Arabia have only played friendlies since a 1-0 win at home over Australia in World Cup qualifying all the way back in March. Of the nine games since, they've won two, drawn five and lost two.

The wins were narrow 1-0 victories over North Macedonia and Iceland, while the losses were defeats to Colombia and Venezuela by the same scoreline. It suggests Herve Renard will attempt to take the pragmatic approach and make his side hard to beat, looking to snatch a goal and see games out rather than expose themselves to potential thrashings, such as the 5-0 defeat suffered at the hands of Russia at the 2018 World Cup.

Saudi Arabia's last five results (all competitions)

Saudi Arabia 1-0 North Macedonia
Saudi Arabia 1-1 Albania
Saudi Arabia 0-0 Honduras
Saudi Arabia 1-0 Iceland
Panama 1-1 Saudi Arabia

Where will Saudi Arabia finish at the World Cup?

Of their five previous World Cup appearances, Saudi Arabia have only made it past the group stage once - at their debut tournament, USA 1994. In fact, since 1994 they have only won a single game at the tournament (of 12), a dead rubber final group fixture against Egypt in 2018.

Drawn in a relatively tough group containing Argentina, Poland and Mexico, it's hard to see that streak changing in Qatar. Saudi Arabia will struggle to make it past the group stage.

Prediction: Group stage exit