The Saudi Arabian team, dubbed the Green Falcons, last participated in the FIFA World Cup in 2006. Now, qualifying for the first time in 12 years, the team is determined to make a name themselves among the international teams.
Saudi Arabia’s 23-man squad is now facing millions of viewers across a range of media outlets, compared to 6000 on average back home.
In a bid to prepare them sufficiently for the added attention, the country’s football federation earlier this year recruited Chelsea’s head of sports science and psychology Tim Harkness on a temporary basis, who over the years has prepared the English side for the pressures of key Champions League matches and cup finals.
That’s one thing we recently found out. Here are 7 other things you might not have known about the Kingdom’s national team.
1. This is their first ever Opening Match at the World Cup
The 2018 World Cup will kick off on Thursday, June 14, with the Russian home team paired against the Saudi team. This marks the Green Falcons’ first-ever Opening Match since they first qualified for the championship.
2. They qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 1994
The country’s football federation was established in 1956, and they first opted to participate in the FIFA World Cup in 1978. Their debut, however, came at the tournament’s 1994 iteration, when it was hosted by the United States.
3. So far, they’ve qualified for the tournament 5 times
The team qualified in the years 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, and most recently, in 2018. The 12-year gap followed the departure of star player Sami Al-Jaber in 2006, after a relatively storied career. The gap was also attributed to a handover in players, as Al-Jaber pointed out in an interview with FIFA back in February.
4. Sami Al-Jaber scored the most goals for the team in the World Cup
He scored in 1994, 1998 and 2006. He managed to score a goal in World Cups 12 years apart, an achievement held by football legends such as Pelé, Diego Maradona, and Miroslav Klose.
5. Mohammed Al-Deayea participated in the most World Cup matches
Goalkeeper Mohammad Al-Deayea participated in 10 matches, the highest amongst the Saudi team. He is closely followed by Sami Al-Jaber, Abdullah Zubromawi and Hussein Abdulghani at 9 matches each.
6. The team has played 13 matches in the World Cup since 1994
The team has 13 World Cup matches under its belt, their first ever being played against Morocco in their 1994 debut, where they won 2-1.
7. The average age of the current members is approximately 29
Rounded up, the average age of the current team equals to 29. The average ages per player position are as follows:
Goalkeeper: 30 years avg.
Defender: 28 years avg.
Midfielder: 26 years avg.
Forward: 31 years avg.