Saudi Arabians seeking to make history.
FIFA U20 World Cup
29 July - 20 August 2011
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Samuel Philip Steinbock
Saudi Arabia enters the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia seeking to make history by reaching the knockout stage for the first time.
Despite being one of the most successful teams in Asia, winning the African Youth Championships twice, they failed to progress past the group stage on each occasion at the World Cup.
The closest they got was in 1985, where they held Spain in their opening game in a goalless draw. Their next game saw them scrape a 1-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland before going down to eventual winners Brazil 1-0. They finished third on goal difference as Spain scored more goals.
Their lack of goals is a problem that exists today, with the team scoring just five goals in as many games in qualifying, the least proficient in attack of the four semi-finalists. However, Coach Al Koroni has done an excellent job of moulding a number of talented hopefuls into a well-organised team.
Their strength lies in midfield, where Abdullah Otayf pulls the strings in both attack and defence. The gifted Number 14 was instrumental in their decisive victory over Uzbekistan, equalising in the closing stages to force extra time, where they went on to prevail courtesy of Fahad Al Johani's winning goal.
Saudi Arabia is a team that likes to keep the ball and maintain possession in the middle of the park, and the qualifying tournament has given the players plenty of experience that will be good for Saudi Arabia’s future.
The players are showing their potential to play at higher levels with the Olympic team and national senior team and a good showing in Colombia may well prove vital to the country's development as a footballing nation.