Preview: Soccer might not be the first thing that comes to mind when
you think about Saudi Arabia, but the international sport is huge in this rich oil-producing nation.
Much funds have been pumped into the soccer program in hopes of improvement over
a horrible showing in 2002, where they were outscored 12-0 in three games.
The fortunes of the Saudi's were much improved when
striker Sami Al-Jaber returned from international retirement and was a major
factor in World Cup qualification. Unfortunately, very few Saudi players
have any kind of experience playing outside of the country, and the team has
gone through 16 coaches in the past 11 years. The present coach,
Marcos Paqueta, coaches Al Hilal, the best club team in Saudi Arabia, and many
of his former players are on the national team. This familiarity should
help the team as it looks to build any kind of positive result at the World Cup.
Despite a 4-0 drubbing by Ukraine,
Saudi Arabia managed a draw against Tunisia,
and allowed just one goal in their match against Spain.