As Saudi Arabia returns to the FIFA World Cup after an absence of 12 years, it will mark the Green Falcons’ fifth appearance in the global soccer tournament.
1994 World Cup – United States
Saudi Arabia qualified for its first FIFA World Cup in 1994. The Green Falcons drew Group F, alongside Belgium, Netherlands and Morocco. In the group stage, Saudi Arabia lost to the Netherlands 2-1, defeated Morocco 2-0 and defeated Belgium 1-0. With six points in group play, Saudi Arabia went through to the knockout stage. Saudi Arabia faced Sweden in the Round of 16, where they lost 2-1. Sweden ultimately won third place in the tournament.
1998 World Cup – France
The Green Falcons returned for the 1998 World Cup in France. Saudi Arabia was placed in Group C, alongside host country France, Denmark and South Africa. Saudi Arabia lost its opening match 1-0 to Denmark, lost to France 4-0 and played South Africa to a 2-2 draw. Only earning a single point in group play, Saudi Arabia failed to advance to the knockout stage.
2002 World Cup – South Korea/Japan
Saudi Arabia returned to soccer’s world championship for the third consecutive time in 2002. The Green Falcons drew Group E alongside Germany, Cameroon and the Republic of Ireland. Saudi Arabia lost to 8-0 to Germany, 1-0 to Cameroon and 3-0 to Ireland.
2006 World Cup – Germany
The most recent appearance by the Green Falcons took place at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Saudi Arabia drew Group H alongside Spain, Tunisia and Ukraine. In their first match in the group stage Saudi Arabia played Tunisia to a 2-2 draw. Saudi Arabia subsequently lost 4-0 to Ukraine and 1-0 to Spain. Saudi Arabia failed to advance to the knockout stage.
2018 Looking Ahead to Russia With an Eye on the Past
As Saudi Arabia prepares for Russia, the history of past national teams serves as an inspiration for the current roster of the Green Falcons. In a 2015 interview with FIFA.com, Saudi striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, one of the leading scorers in World Cup qualification, discussed his love of the Saudi national team as a youth. “I still remember Saeed Al-Owairan’s goal against Belgium and Fahad Al-Ghesheyan’s goal against Sweden in 1994,” he said. “It was a historic performance for Saudi Arabia, and they played in the next three World Cups as well, in 1998, 2002 and 2006. Since then, we’ve not managed to make it, but I hope that I and my team-mates can achieve that dream.”