AFC 2020 Asian Cup U-23 finalists Saudi Arabia play with home money in their first Olympic tournament in a quarter of a century. It comes three years after an appearance for the senior national team at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, possibly marking the start of a promising era of football for the Saudis. The country’s top national league, the Saudi Professional League, has continued to improve in recent years. This is to the advantage of the Olympic team of Saad Al-Shehri, which withdraws the 22 players from the SPL.
YOUNG PLAYER TO WATCH – Abdulrahman Gharib
The Saudis have a promising young goalscorer in 24-year-old winger Abdulrahman Gharib. Coming from quadruple SPL champion Al Ahli, Gharib has scored 11 goals in 70 appearances in all competitions. He has also entered the senior national ranks in recent years, scoring once in 12 appearances since his debut in 2018.
VETERINARY LEADER – Salem Al-Dawarsi
Salem Al-Dawarsi and another over-aged Olympic team player Salman Al Faraj scored for Saudi Arabia in their only 2018 World Cup win, a 2-1 group stage victory over Egypt. It was Salem’s 90th-minute goal to give Saudi Arabia all three points, just one of his 15 goals for his country in 56 appearances. Salem, 29, has played his entire career with Saudi Arabia’s most successful club, Al-Hilal.
Salem Al-Dawarsi (left, # 18) celebrates scoring the winning goal in Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 victory over Egypt at the 2018 FIFA World Cup
SAUDI ARABIA OLYMPIC TEAM
Goalkeepers: Zaid Al-Bawardi (Al-Shabab), Mohammed Al Rubaie (Al-Ahli), Amin Bukhari (Al-Ain)
Defenders: Saud Abdulhamid (Al-Ittihad), Abdulelah Al-Amri (Al-Nassr), Khalifah Al-Dawsari (Al-Qadsiah), Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal), Hamad Al-Yami (Al-Qadsiah), Abdullah Hassoun (Al-Ahli), Abdulbasit Hindi (Al-Ahli)
Midfielder : Turki Al-Ammar (Al-Shabab), Salman Al-Faraj (Al-Hilal), Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal), Ali Al-Hassan (Al-Nassr), Ayman Al-Khulaif (Al-Wehda), Sami Al-Najei (Al-Nassr), Nasser Al-Omran (Al-Shabab), Mukhtar Ali (Al-Nassr), Abdulrahman Ghareeb (Al-Ahli),
Forward: Abdullah Al-Hamdan (Al-Hilal), Salem Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal), Ayman Yahya (Al-Nassr),