rain.png
Friday December 9th, 2022 2:25PM

Big upset puts global spotlight on Saudi Arabia's players

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — With a squad full of domestic league players and a French coach, Saudi Arabia's shocking upset of Lionel Messi and Argentina suddenly put the team in the international spotlight.

A skyscraper in downtown Doha was lit up with the image of Saudi Arabia's flag Tuesday night as fans throughout the Middle East celebrated the unexpected victory. In London, the Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat read: “The Green Magicians Defy Expectations.”

So just who are these guys?

While Saudi Arabia, the second lowest-ranked team in the tournament, doesn’t have a big star like Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, many of the players were also part of the squad that went to the 2018 World Cup. But none play outside of their home country.

Saleh Alshehri and Salem Aldawsari became instant national heroes with second-half goals in the 2-1 victory over the Argentines. Both play for Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia's top league, as does goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais, who preserved the win with a pair of late saves. All three also played in Russia four years ago.

In fact, 12 players on the team's 26-man roster are with Al Hilal, which has won a record 18 Saudi league championships and is coached by Ramon Diaz of Argentina. Al Nassr boasts six national team players.

SALEM'S MOMENT

Aldawsari scored the winner in the 53rd minute against Argentina, celebrating with a cartwheel and a backflip.

He's one of the best known players on Saudi Arabia's squad. While he has played for Al Hilal since 2011, he was briefly loaned to Spanish club Villarreal and made one appearance.

Now he owns one of the nation's biggest-ever goals, joining Saeed Al-Owairan, who scored the lone goal in a victory over Belgium at the 1994 World Cup.

FRENCH CONNECTION

The Saudi team is led by Renard, a 54-year-old French coach who has jumped around a bunch of national teams.

Before taking over at Saudi Arabia in 2019, he coached Morocco at the 2018 World Cup. He is the only coach to have led two different national teams to African Cup titles: Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast three years later.

When Renard was starting his coaching career, he worked as a janitor and eventually opened his own cleaning company.

“When you are coming into a World Cup, you need to believe in yourself. Everything can happen in football. Sometimes the opponent isn’t at their best motivation," Renard said. "This has happened to us when playing a lower-ranked team. This is what other people don’t understand."

CLUB WORLD CUP

Al Hilal is one of Asia's top clubs. Based in Riyadh, the team went to the Club World Cup semifinals in February. But Chelsea beat Al Hilal 1-0 on Romelu Lukaku’s close-range goal in the 32nd minute. Chelsea went on to win the event, beating Palmeiras in the final.

UP NEXT

After besting Messi, Saudi Arabia gets a shot at another of the game's biggest stars, Robert Lewandowski, on Saturday against Poland.

Poland settled for a scoreless draw with Mexico in its Group C opener after Lewandowski's second-half penalty attempt was stopped by Guillermo Ochoa.

The Green Falcons, currently at the top of the group, wrap up the opening stage on Wednesday against Mexico.

___

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Walmart manager opens fire in break room, killing 6
Authorities and witnesses say a Walmart manager opened fire on fellow employees in the break room of a Virginia store, killing six people
10:47AM ( 19 minutes ago )
Japan gets 2 late goals to beat Germany 2-1 at World Cup
Substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored late goals to give Japan a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Germany at the World Cup
10:40AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Britcher, Sweeney giving women's doubles luge a try for US
Summer Britcher and Emily Sweeney have been USA Luge teammates for years
10:26AM ( 40 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
No. 1 Georgia puts 11-0 record on line against Georgia Tech
Georgia will be looking to cap an undefeated regular season and protect its No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 this week
9:27AM ( 1 hour ago )
Georgia Tech's Key adds vigor to rivalry with No. 1 Georgia
Georgia coach Kirby Smart sees a change in Georgia Tech’s play under interim coach Brent Key
9:25AM ( 1 hour ago )
Denmark reignites European dispute with FIFA at World Cup
European soccer has again showed public frustration with FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the World Cup
9:17AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
Walmart manager opens fire in break room, killing 6
Authorities and witnesses say a Walmart manager opened fire on fellow employees in the break room of a Virginia store, killing six people
10:47AM ( 19 minutes ago )
Japan gets 2 late goals to beat Germany 2-1 at World Cup
Substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored late goals to give Japan a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Germany at the World Cup
10:40AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Britcher, Sweeney giving women's doubles luge a try for US
Summer Britcher and Emily Sweeney have been USA Luge teammates for years
10:26AM ( 40 minutes ago )
Twin blasts shake Jerusalem, killing teen and wounding 18
Two blasts have gone off near bus stops in Jerusalem at the height of rush hour, killing a Canadian-Israeli teenager and injuring at least 18, in what Israeli police said were attacks by Palestinians
10:12AM ( 53 minutes ago )
Protesting workers beaten at Chinese iPhone factory
Police beat workers protesting conditions at the world’s biggest factory producing the Apple iPhone
9:54AM ( 1 hour ago )