key players and expert predictions

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This article is part of the Guardian’s 2018 World Cup Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 32 countries who have qualified for Russia. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.

Juan Antonio Pizzi took his place in the Saudi Arabia dugout for the first time in November 2017 yet he is still waiting for his his first competitive game in charge of the Green Falcons - that comes against Russia in the World Cup’s opening match. During his seven-month tenure the Argentinian has packed in as many friendlies as possible to gauge where the side are and what needs to be done before the eyes of the world will be on them on 14 June.
During qualification under Bert van Marwijk, the Green Falcons usually played in a 4-3-3, happy to sit back against the better teams, look to hit on the break and get the ball forward quickly. Pizzi has been trying to get the players to play Jarran Reed Womens Jersey the ball out from the back more. It has worked to a certain extent and there has been a certain tidiness about the team in recent, if low-key, friendly victories over Algeria and Greece, which represented a clear improvement on a 4-0 loss to Belgium in March. The team have been keeping the ball better and moving it quickly. They are also adept at slowing down games, disrupting opponents’ rhythm and being generally frustrating.
Pizzi, a former Chile manager, looks likely to play a compact 4-2-3-1, with the attacking three midfielders ready to drop deep to ensure that there are plenty of bodies in midfield.
With goals potentially hard to come by, the Green Falcons will focus on being solid. There is experience at the back, though that comes with susceptibility to pace and a lack of exposure to top-class attackers. Osama Hawsawi is the leader in defence, strong and physical, but, at 34, he is slowing down. The good news is that Omar Hawsawi (no relation) next to him has been in excellent form this season. There are also a number of decent options at full-back with players such as Yasser al-Shahrani able to play on either side and get forward quickly.
The experienced Taisir al-Jassim will sit alongside the underrated Abdullah Otayf in midfield. Both use the ball well, though the Moe Harkless Jersey latter may not be able to get forward as much as he would like.
The attacking three players are the true standouts. Salem al-Dawsari, Yahya al-Shehri and Fahad al-Muwallad are the team’s creative heartbeat with the ability to unlock Asian defences, though their greatest tests remain. The trio spent the second half of the season on loan to La Liga clubs, recording only two appearances between them.
How sharp they are in Russia could determine how the team perform. The two wide players are capable of getting behind defences and, if Shehri can find space behind the main striker, the Green Falcons could cause problems. There is also Nawaf al-Abed, another creative talent who was a mainstay in qualification but the playmaker has struggled with injuries all year.
The lack of a regular goalscorer is an issue. Mohammad al-Sahlawi is likely to play up front but there are other options, such as Muhannad Assiri, who is an aerial threat and can hold up the ball better.
Fahad al-Muwallad is an exciting talent and the kind of player fans love to watch, provided he receives the ball in the right areas. If he is given a little freedom by the coach then he has the potential to make things happen and put fans on the edge of their seats. wholesale nfl jerseys wholesale jerseys wholesale jerseys cheap jerseys free shipping


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