The National Football Team will be the first Arab team to take part in the World Cup opener. The team will face the hosts Russia on June 14 in the first World Cup match, part of Group One matches, which includes Egypt and Uruguay.
The road to Russia
The National Team will participate for the fifth time in the World Cup following its 1-0 win against Japan in the final round of qualifications which was held on 5 September 2017. The National Team was, as such, the first Arab team to reach the World Cup. The Green Falcons’ journey to the World Cup was not easy. During the first home-and-away qualification round, the team played against the United Arab Emirates, Palestine, East Timor and Malaysia, where it managed to score 20 points.
Then, the team qualified for the second round during which it faced Thailand, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Australia and Japan and scored 19 points that were sufficient to qualify for the finals. Upon qualification for the World Cup, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz, May Allah Protect Him, officially received the team’s delegation headed by the Mr. Turki bin Abdulmohsen Al-Sheikh, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Sport Authority, the players of the team and its administrative and technical staff, at the Peace Palace in Jeddah.
Contract with Pizzi
On 28 November, the Saudi Football Federation announced its contract with Argentinian Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi to lead the technical team during the World Cup. Before playing in the World Cup, the Green Falcons conducted five local and overseas preparation stages, during which the team played a number of international matches, through which the Coach managed to identify the readiness of players. 5 stages to prepare for the World Cup The first stage was held in Riyadh from 21 to 27 January. The second was held from 21 to 27 February, during which the Green Falcon team played two friendly matches; a 3-0 win against Moldova and a 4-1 loss against Iraq in Basra.
The third preparation stage for the FIFA World Cup was held from 15 to 27 March, during which Green Falcon team established an overseas camp in Spain and Belgium. The Green Falcon team played two friendly matches; a 1-1 tie against Ukraine and a 4-0 loss against Belgium. The Green Falcons had a 2-0 win in the friendly match against Algeria at the beginning of the fourth preparation stage which was held from 26 April to 15 May. They had a 2-0 win against Greece at the end of the fourth stage.
The Green Falcons concluded the preparation stage during which they had a 2-1 loss against Italy and a 3-0 loss in its friendly match against Peru. The team concluded its friendly matches before the World Cup with a 2-1 loss against Germany.
Best Participations in 1994
Green Falcons first participated in the World Cup in 1994. Its group included Morocco, Belgium and the Netherlands. The team was second in its group and qualified to the second round following a 2-1 win against Morocco, a 1-0 win against Belgium and a 2-1 lost against the Netherlands. Following their 3-1 loss against Sweden, the Green Falcons was knocked out during Round 16. In its second participation in 1998 in France, Green Falcons were drawn with the hosts, along with Denmark and South Africa. They had a 4-0 loss against France, a 1-0 loss against Denmark and a 2-2 tie against South Africa.
In the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, Green Falcons third participation was no better than its previous participations. Green Falcons were knocked out during the first round following an 8-0 loss against Germany, a 3-0 loss against Ireland and a 1-0 loss against Cameroon. In its last participation in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, The Green Falcons were knocked out during the first round following a 1-0 loss against Spain, a 4-0 loss against Ukraine and a 2-2 tie against Tunisia.
Historically, football national teams have made a number of achievements, including a three-time Asian Cup victory, qualification for the Olympic Games on two occasions, a two-time AFC Youth Championship. The Youth National Team made a world achievement by winning the World Youth Championship in 1989 and the Special Needs Team won the World Cup three consecutive times in 2006, 2010 and 2014.