Saudi Arabia Team will appear in their second straight World Cup after an impressive qualification run. They will be in Group C in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar alongside Argentina, Poland, and Mexico, making it a tough group. They are not only the lowest-ranked team in this group at 53 by FIFA as of June 2022 but also one of the lowest-ranked teams in the World Cup. Still, underdogs always have a chance, and these are five reasons why Saudi Arabia can make it to the Round of 16 for the team’s second time in their history.
Strong Qualification Performance
Saudi Arabia’s ranking seems low based on how they performed in qualifications. Saudi Arabia tied for the second-most points in qualification in Asia, finishing off with 23 points, earning an automatic spot in the World Cup. In their 10 games, they went 7W-2D-1L, with their only loss coming against Japan, a team that finished with 22 points. Japan is ranked 24 by FIFA, and the first time they matched up in qualification, Saudi Arabia beat them 1-0. With such a strong qualification performance, it seems weird that Saudi Arabia has dropped from March, being ranked at 49.
The Importance of Team Unity
Many of the best teams in the World Cup have players that are on rosters in Europe. Saudi Arabia has no players in those leagues. All the Saudi Arabia national team players play within the country’s domestic league. This may be in the team’s favor, as all the players are familiar with each other. This builds camaraderie and helps them be more organized than their opponents. One of the biggest issues for the bigger nations in the World Cup is that their many players don’t play together enough, which can lead to issues, and Saudi Arabia will not have that problem.
Traveling Home Crowds
Saudi Arabia is on the border of host nation Qatar for the 2022 World Cup and is expected to have many fans make the trip to the games. Unlike fans of other teams, they don’t have to travel as far and maybe not have to pay for hotels if the game is close enough to the border. On top of that, some of Saudi Arabia’s best wins in qualification came at home against Japan and Australia. The team can draw confidence from their fans, which might give them an added advantage other teams will not have.
A Possible Second Place Spot
The clear favorite to win the group is Argentina, ranked third by FIFA, and Saudi Arabia will begin their World Cup against them. If Saudi Arabia can make it a challenge for Argentina, positive outcomes against Mexico, ranked 12, and Poland at 26 may be possible. Mexico is a solid team but has proven to be beatable, sometimes struggling against lesser teams. Poland relies on one player in Robert Lewandowski, and if Saudi Arabia can make him have a small impact, they will have a chance. If Saudi Arabia can draw and win a game against Poland and Mexico, there is a chance they could surprise the world and make it out of the group.
The First Time Saudi Arabia Made it to the Round of 16
In 1994, Saudi Arabia was one of the two teams from Asia to participate in the World Cup, and it was their first appearance. In that World Cup, they also made their only advance out of the group stage, winning two games and losing one for six points, in a three-way tie for first. They moved on to the Round of 16 based on goals, scoring four, two more than third-place Belgium. Their only loss in the group stage was to The Netherlands, who, at the time of the World Cup, ranked second in the world by FIFA. Saudi Arabia, ranked 34, the second-lowest in that World Cup, was able to beat Belgium, ranked 27, and Morocco, ranked 28, to advance.