2018 FIFA World Cup Qualification: Saudi Arabia’s Road to Russia

World Cup qualification
Fahad Al-Muwallad scores against Japan. The 1-0 victory qualified Saudi Arabia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. PHOTO CREDIT: Saudi Press Agency

The Saudi Arabia Men’s National Football Team completed its successful 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification in the Asian Football Confederation. The Green Falcons became the eighth team to qualify for Russia.

AFC World Cup Qualification: Round 2

The Green Falcons began their World Cup qualification in Round 2 of the Asian Football Confederation, as the Saudi team received a bye in Round 1. Saudi Arabia drew Group A in Round 2, alongside Malaysia, Timor-Leste, Palestine and the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia vs Palestine

In its opening World Cup qualification match, Saudi Arabia defeated Palestine 3-2 on June 11, 2015 at Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium in Dammam. Saudi midfielder Yahya Al-Shehri opened the scoring in the 6th minute. Saudi striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi opened the second half with a goal in the 46th minute. Palestine rallied to tie the match with goals by Pablo Tamburrini in the 51st minute and Matías Jadue in stoppage time. The winning goal was scored by Al-Sahlawi just before time expired, four minutes into stoppage time.

Saudi Arabia vs Timor-Leste

Saudi Arabia defeated Timor-Leste 7-0 on September 3, 2015 at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. Yahya Al-Shehri kicked off scoring in the 2nd minute. Saudi striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi scored on a penalty kick in the 23rd minute, followed by another goal in the 26th minute. Scoring continued in the first half with goals by Salman Al-Faraj in the 30th and Taisir Al-Jassim in the 32nd minute. At halftime, Saudi Arabia led Timor-Leste 5-0. In the second half, the Green Falcons rounded out their scoring with goals by Al-Sahlawi in the 71st minute and Fahad Al-Muwallad in the 73rd minute.

Malaysia vs Saudi Arabia

The Green Falcons notched their third consecutive win in World Cup qualifying by defeating Malaysia on September 8, 2015 in Shah Alam Stadium in Malaysia. After a scoreless first half, Malaysia scored first with a goal by Mohammad Safiq in the 70th minute. Saudi Arabia drew even with a goal by Taisir Al-Jassim in the 73rd minute, and a go-ahead score by Mohammad Al-Sahlawi in the 76th minute. In the 87th minute, the match was abandoned when fans began throwing flares and fireworks on the pitch, forcing Malaysia to forfeit the match.

Saudi Arabia vs United Arab Emirates

Saudi Arabia continued it’s winning streak in Group A, winning a match against the United Arab Emirates 2-1 on October 8, 2015 at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. Forward Ahmed Khalil scored first for UAE with a goal in the 18th minute. Saudi striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi scored the equalizer in the 45th minute, and scored again on a penalty kick in the 90th minute.

Palestine vs Saudi Arabia

To begin the second leg of round robin play in Group A, Saudi Arabia settled for a 0-0 draw against Palestine on November 9, 2015 at Amman International Stadium in Jordan.

Timor-Leste vs Saudi Arabia

The Green Falcons’ return engagement with Timor-Leste resulted in a 10-0 victory on November 17, 2017 at Dili Municipal Stadium. Saudi striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi kicked off scoring with a penalty kick in the 29th minute. Before the end of the first half,  Omar Hawsawi contributed a goal in the 34th minute, Yahya Al-Shehri scored in the 35th minute, and Al-Sahlawi scored again in the 42nd minute. During the second half, Al-Sahlawi added another penalty kick in the 55th minute and scored again in the 70th minute to make the score 6-0. Before the final whistle, the Saudi side contributed another flurry of goals by Taisir Al-Jassim in the 85th minute, Al-Sahlawi again in the 89th minute, Naif Hazazi in the 90th minute, and Fahad Al-Muwallad two minutes into stoppage time.

Saudi Arabia vs Malaysia

Saudi Arabia defeated Malaysia 2-0 in a match on March 24, 2016 at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. Both goals in the match came in the second half, with Mohammad Al-Sahlawi scoring in the 50th minute, and Taisir Al-Jassim in the 74th minute.

United Arab Emirates vs Saudi Arabia

In the concluding match of Group A, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates played to a 1-1 draw on March 29, 2016 at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Saudi midfielder Taisir Al-Jassim scored first with a goal in the 24th minute. In the second half, Emirati midfielder Omar Abdulrahman contributed the equalizer in the 52nd minute to tie up the match.

Saudi Arabia concluded Round 2 of World Cup qualification with six wins, two draws and zero losses. Saudi Arabia won Group A with 20 points and advanced to the 3rd Round of AFC World Cup qualification.

AFC World Cup Qualification: Round 3

Saudi Arabia drew Group B in Round 3, alongside the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Thailand, Australia and Iraq.

Saudi Arabia vs Thailand

Saudi Arabia defeated Thailand 1-0 on September 1, 2016 at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh. The lone goal of the match came on a penalty kick by Nawaf Al Abed in the 84th minute.

Iraq vs Saudi Arabia

The Green Falcons defeated Iraq 2-1 on September 6, 2016 at Shah Alam Stadium in Malaysia. Iraqi striker Mohannad Abdul-Raheem scored first with a goal in the 18th minute. Two late penalty kicks, by Nawaf Al Abed in the 81st and 88th minute, lifted Saudi Arabia to victory.

Saudi Arabia vs Australia

Saudi Arabia and Australia played to a 2-2 draw on October 6, 2016 at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. Taisir Al-Jassim kicked off scoring for the Green Falcons in the first half with a goal in the 5th minute. Trent Sainsbury scored the equalizer for Australia in the 45th minute to close out the first half. Striker Tomi Juric put the Socceroos ahead with a goal in the 71st minute. Saudi Arabia tied it up with a score by Nasser Al-Shamrani in the 79th minute.

Saudi Arabia vs United Arab Emirates

Saudi Arabia defeated the United Arab Emirates 3-0 on October 11, 2016 at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. All three Saudi goals came in the second half — by Fahad Al-Muwallad in the 73rd minute, a goal by Nawaf Al Abed in the 79th minute, and by Yahya Al-Shehri two minutes into stoppage time.

Japan vs Saudi Arabia

The Green Falcons fell to Japan 2-1 on October 11, 2016 at Saitama Stadium in Japan. Japanese midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake closed out the first half with a penalty kick in the 45th minute. Genki Haraguchi added a second goal in the 80th minute. Saudi Arabia’s only goal came from Omar Hawsawi in the 90th minute.

Thailand vs Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia defeated Thailand 3-0 on March 23, 2017 at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok. Saudi striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi kicked off scoring with a goal in the 26th minute. Thai midfielder Tanaboon Kesarat scored an own goal in the 84th minute when an errant attempt to clear the ball instead sent it into his own net. Two minutes into stoppage time at the end of the match, Salman Al-Moasher scored a third goal for Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia vs Iraq

Saudi Arabia posted a 1-0 victory against Iraq on March 28, 2017 at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. The lone goal of the match came from Saudi midfielder Yahya Al-Shehri in the 53rd minute.

Australia vs Saudi Arabia

Australia defeated Saudi Arabia 3-2 on June 8, 2017 at Adelaide Oval in Australia. The Socceroos kicked off scoring in the 7th minute with a goal by Tomi Juric. Salem Al-Dawsari tied the match with a goal in the 23rd minute. Juric contributed another goal in the 36th minute, and Saudi striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi scored two minutes into injury time at the close of the first half. In the second half Australian midfielder Tom Rogic scored the winning goal in the 64th minute.

United Arab Emirates vs Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia was defeated 2-1 by the United Arab Emirates on August 29, 2017 at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Nawaf Al Abed began scoring for the Green Falcons with a penalty kick in the 20th minute. UAE struck back immediately, Emirati forward Ali Mabkhout scored in the 21st minute. In the second half, Ahmed Khalil scored the go-ahead goal in the 60th minute.

Saudi Arabia vs Japan

Saudi Arabia defeated Japan 1-0 on September 5, 2017 at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. Fahad Al-Muwallad scored in the 63rd minute for the only goal of the match. Saudi goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf kept a clean sheet for the Green Falcons, turning away three Japanese shots on goal.

In World Cup qualification, Saudi Arabia ended Round 3 with 19 points, tied for second place with Australia in Group B. On the goal differential tiebreaker, Saudi Arabia (with a +7 goal differential) advanced over Australia (+5 goal differential).