3251: Saudi Arabia:World Cup History
by : Sam Cullen
Germany 2006 will see Saudi Arabia's 4th consecutive World Cup appearance which in itself is no mean feat seeing as sides such as England or France can’t currently boast this fact. Yet the Middle Eastern side go into the tournament with few bookies, pundits or neutrals predicting anything but misery for the side.
USA '94 saw Jack Charlton’s temper tantrums, Diego Maradona's expulsion and Saudi Arabia's World Cup debut. It almost began perfectly for the Saudi’s as they led at half time in their opening group game against the established power of the Netherlands, but they were pegged back by two 2nd half goals. This near miss didn’t phase them as they went on to beat both Morocco and Belgium, the latter of which included a brilliant goal from Saeed Owairan. The player later gained notoriety for a 6 month prison sentence for drinking alcohol for a non Muslim woman. Their good run came to an end in the last 16 with a 3-1 defeat at the hands of eventual 3rd place winners Sweden.
France '98 proved far less memorable for the Saudi's, who were drawn in Group C with hosts France, Denmark and newcomers South Africa. After a 1-0 defeat in their opening game against Denmark eventual winners France then dispatched them with relative ease in a 4-0 drubbing, making qualification to the last 16 impossible. They did however reclaim some credibility in their final group game against South Africa, a game they seemed destined to win until Shaun Bartlett scored a 94th minute penalty, which resulted in them finishing bottom of their group.
It just went from bad to worse for their trip to the Far East in 2002. Drawn in Group E against Germany, Republic of Ireland and Cameroon, their campaign began in the worst possible fashion with a memorable 8-0 drubbing by Germany in the eerily atmosphere drained Sapporo Dome. Their next group game against Cameroon proved to be far less of a goal glut as they were narrowly edged out 1-0 before being defeated 3-0 by Ireland in their final game. During the competition the side failed to score a goal, and with 0 points and a goal difference of -12 were officially the weakest side in the competition, statistically.
Will better fortunes await them in Group H? whatever the eventual outcome, it remains hard to see them doing any worse than 2002!
6 June 2006