22.4 C
Brunei
Thursday, February 9, 2023
22.4 C
Brunei
Thursday, February 9, 2023
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    Saudi Arabia exits World Cup with newfound confidence

    LUSAIL, QATAR (AP) – From a generational-defining win over Lionel Messi and Argentina to the recent reports that Cristiano Ronaldo could soon be on his way to play soccer in the kingdom, Saudi Arabia has caused a sensation at the World Cup.

    The Green Falcons have nothing to be ashamed about after being eliminated following a 2-1 loss to Mexico yesterday. The second-lowest ranked team in the tournament at No 51 – one spot behind host Qatar – and ahead of only 61st-ranked Ghana, Saudi Arabia was competitive from start to finish at the first World Cup in the Middle East.

    “We did our best. Today it was more difficult for us,” said Hervé Renard, Saudi Arabia’s French coach. “But we don’t have to forget what we did together.” The Saudis opened with a surprising 2-1 victory over Argentina and also played solidly in a 2-0 loss to Poland before conceding two second-half goals to Mexico to finish last in Group C.

    Salem Al-Dawsari, the team’s star No 10, pulled a goal back in added time, before the Saudi players bent over on the field at the final whistle in prayer and then stood up to applaud their fans.

    Strong goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais prevented Mexico from scoring another goal.

    Instead, it was Argentina and Poland who advanced in the most wide-open group of the tournament.

    With Renard motivating the team in his emblematic white shirt on the sidelines, Saudi Arabia proved tough to beat with a team featuring players based at home. The fact that none of the Saudis play abroad may have been a surprise factor but the reality is that the country’s best players don’t need to go to Europe for rich contracts when they are paid handsomely in the lucrative Saudi league.

    Team Saud Arabia. PHOTO: AP
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