Saudi Arabia World Cup PreviewPosted: Monday May 27, 2002 5:45 PM
How they line up
Nasser Al-Johar relies mainly on a 4-4-2 formation but will sometimes go to 4-5-1 if the midfield needs shoring up.
Keeper Mohammed Al-Deayea will appear at his third World Cup, vowing it will be his last despite being just 30. The Al Hilal player has the experience required to marshal his back line well, but his susceptibility at crosses always leaves an air of unpredictability about the Saudi defense.
However, the long-standing central defensive pairing of Abdullah Zubromawi and Mohammed Al-Khilaiwi offers stability. Should any problems occur, Al Hilal's Ahmed Khalil Al-Dosari should deputize. He has been unfortunate not to win more caps, but has been kept out by the consistency of the first-choice duo.
Full-backs Ahmed Dukhi Al-Dosari, on the right, and Hussain Sulimani, on the left, like to go forward. Dukhi, in particular, presents a threat with his crossing. Former regular Mohamed Al-Jahani provides cover on the right, with Saleh Al-Saqri the reserve on the left.
Omar Al-Ghamdi and Mohammed Hawsawi anchor the midfield, although there is the option of playing with just one of them, probably Al-Ghamdi. In that case, he would play just in front of the back four with a midfield perming three from Nawaf Al-Temyat, Saad Al-Dosari, Abdullah Al-Wakad and winger Mohammed Al-Shlhoob. Otherwise, it is likely that Al-Dosari and Al-Wakad would give way. Al-Temyat is the creative center of the team and pitches in with the odd goal -- he is particularly impressive from long range. Al-Shlhoob is a tricky player who has flourished at Al Hilal in recent seasons.
Other midfield options include Ibrahim Al-Harbi and Ibrahim Al-Shahrani -- squad regulars but who rarely make the first team -- and the pacy Abdullah Jumaan Al-Dosari, often used off the bench and famed for his powerful, long-range shot.
Up front, Sami Al-Jaber is likely to remain in the starting line-up, playing behind the tall battering-ram Talal Al-Meshal. Al-Meshal, who missed the second phase of the Asian World Cup qualifiers through injury, will take a lot of the pressure off Al-Jaber if he is given enough possession.
That was the root of Saudi Arabia's problems in France, where Al-Jaber played as a lone striker and was isolated for much of the time because of his teammates' inability to keep the ball. This time, with Al-Meshal's physical strength giving opposition defenders something to think about, the ex-Wolves striker could drop into midfield, allowing him to run at the defense in the manner he prefers. The tactic would also allow the Saudis to pack the midfield, which is a likely requirement given the difficulties they expect in a group featuring Germany, Cameroon and the Republic of Ireland.
Forward line alternatives are Al Ahli's Obaid Al-Dosari, who was second top scorer during the qualifiers, and Al Ittihad's Marzouk Al-Otaibi.
From World Soccer magazine.