2018 will be a big year for the Green Falcons of Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom’s national football (or soccer, for our U.S. folks) team will be making their fifth appearance in the FIFA World Cup and will face off Russia, Uruguay, and Egypt in Group A. In the group stage of the World Cup, teams play a round-robin style tournament with the top two finishers moving to the second stage also known as the Knockout Round.
The Green Falcons previously competed in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006. The best showing by the Saudi National Team was in 1994, when they advanced to the Round of 16.
Mark Your Calendars
June 14: Saudi Arabia vs. Russia
The Saudi Arabia National Team faced Russia once before on October 6, 1993 in Dammam at Prince Mohammed bin Fahd Stadium. Saudi Arabia was victorious by a score of 4-2. That match was seen by 20,000 people. This time, the two sides will compete in Moscow at Luzhniki Stadium in the opening game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The game looks to be evenly matched as Saudi Arabia is ranked at 63 according to FIFA/Coca-Cola World Men’s Rankings. Russia is ranked at 65. Yet, with the added pressures of Russian national expectations and the global attention the first game of the World Cup presents, the Green Falcons must be ready.
June 20: Saudi Arabia vs. Uruguay
Rostov-on-Don, Russia will serve as the host city for the second group stage match for Saudi Arabia. The Green Falcons will challenge South American powerhouse Uruguay in the city by the river. The two sides met twice before—once in 2002 and again in 2014. Saudi Arabia won the first match 3-2 and ended the second in a draw, 1-1.
By world rankings alone, this match should prove to be tougher for the Saudi national team as Uruguay is No. 21 in the world. The Uruguayans, known as La Celeste, are bolstered with the talents of players like Luis Suarez of Spanish giant FC Barcelona and French Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani.
June 25: Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt
The final match for Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side will be against Egypt in Volgograd. The Pharaohs are historically a tough match for Saudi Arabia, and with their position as No. 31 in the world, Egypt still presents a large hurdle. The Green Falcons hold a single win over their geographical neighbors—coming in 1999. Prior to that win, Egypt won five times and drew only once. That came during the 1988 Arab Cup.
However, new history has a chance to be written. The game will focus on the all-star Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah and the Pharaohs’ defensive back-line against Saudi Arabia’s power plater Mohammad Al-Sahlawi. The 30-year-old striker was instrumental in helping the Saudis reach the tournament with 16 goals in the qualifying matches.