Saudi Arabia play host to Oman on Thursday evening knowing that victory will take them a step closer to securing their place at the World Cup. While the home side currently sit at the top of Group B, Oman are in fourth position, four points adrift of third-placed Australia. Having been drawn in a group involving Japan and Australia, there was a strong argument that Saudi Arabia were third favourites to prevail in top spot of Group B. However, 16 points have been collected from a possible 18, their only draw coming Down Under, and there is now every confidence that Saudi Arabia will upstage their more illustrious opponents.
Having scored seven goals in his first 13 outings for Saudi Arabia, Al-Shehri should continue to lead the line. Ivankovic could be prepared to name as much of the team which pushed Tunisia in the last eight of the Arab Cup as possible.
Saudi Arabia and Oman will battle for three points in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier on Thursday. The hosts will be looking to get back to winning ways following their disappointing sojourn in the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup, where they finished bottom of Group C. They were last in action when they fell to a 1-0 defeat to Morocco, with Karim El Berkaoui scoring the match-winner in the first half. Oman made it to the quarterfinal of the same competition before falling to a 2-1 defeat to Tunisia. Selfedine Jaziri and Youssel Msakni got on the scoresheet to help the Carthage Eagles advance to the last four.
Since their last World Cup qualifying fixture, Oman have played games in the Arab Cup, reaching the quarter-final stage before losing 2-1 to Tunisia. Their opponents eventually made the final, only losing to Algeria in extra time, and it should give Branko Ivankovic and his squad the belief that they can cause their hosts problems on Thursday. Sultan Al-Ghanam may deputise at left-back for Saudi Arabia with Nasser Al-Dawsari unable to reprise his role from the latest World Cup qualifier against Vietnam. Salman Al-Faraj misses out through injury, leaving Sami Al-Najei in line to come into a creative role in midfield.
Saudi Arabia had a torrid time in the recently concluded FIFA Arab Cup, going winless in their three fixtures. They will want to put it behind them as they look at their final four qualifying fixtures for the 2022 World Cup. Unlike the Arab Cup, they are unbeaten in the qualifiers, winning five of their six fixtures. The same cannot be said about Oman who are languishing in fourth place in Group B. History is in favour of the Green Falcons who won in their last two meetings, both of which were on the road.
Herve Renard has made it to the top of the qualifying slots thanks to their prudence in attack and at the back. They have scored nine goals in their six qualifying fixtures whilst only conceding three in the process. The scoreline read Under 2.5 goals in four of these meetings and we are expecting the same in this meeting. Oman has the same tally of Under 2.5 matches and a worse goal scoring record with just six strikes to their name.
Saudi Arabia currently top the standings in Group B of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, having garnered 16 points from six matches. A win on Thursday could see them qualify for their sixth appearance at the Mundial depending on results elsewhere.
A meeting with Japan is to follow this contest, a potentially pivotal clash in the grand scheme of things, but the Green Falcons will be focused on trying to take advantage of this game. When the two teams met on matchday two, Saleh Al-Shehri scored the decisive goal, and Saudi Arabia have now gone 15 World Cup qualifying fixtures without suffering defeat.
Herve Renard will be optimistic about that becoming 16 on Thursday, although there will be no complacency within their ranks as their opponents look to stay in contention. Oman already have a win over Japan in this group, and even collecting a point will keep the pressure on Australia, who they play next Tuesday, as they bid to earn a playoff tie.
NAME: Saudi Arabia – Oman
DATE: 27 Jan 2022
TIME: 17:15 UTC
VENUE: King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
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