Fahad Al-Muwallad will be Saudi Arabia's key player the FIFA World Cup

FIFA World Cup preview: Saudi Arabia

Remember when Australia lost to Thailand in the FIFA World Cup qualifier?

That put the Socceroos' position at the World Cup in severe jeopardy, and played a large role in Australia having to qualify the hard way.

But that also opened the door for Saudi Arabi, who hadn't been present at the finals since 2006.

Australia's wobbles allowed the Saudi's to qualify along with Japan in our group from Asia, which came down to a Fahad Al Muwallad strike against Japan in the final match of qualifying.

Two wins, two draws and nine losses in five World Cups does not make for encouraging reading for the Saudis, but they have got luck of the draw with host nation Russia in their pool.

All four teams would fancy their chances of escaping Pool A, which means this could be a big year for Saudi Arabia if they are up to the task.

Saudi Arabia's FIFA World Cup draw

15 June v Russia

21 June v Uruguay

26 June v Egypt

The star players

Saudi Arabia are the lowest ranked finalist at the World Cup, have a history of being cannon fodder at the World Cup and lack any serious big names from the world's big leagues. Looks tough for the Green Falcons.

Fahad Al-Muwallad is obviously a threat up front, so too is Nawaf Al Abed. But both play in the Saudi Arabian, which is several notches below the top Euro competitions.

If a star player is to emerge from this squad, it is likely to come as a shock to the football world.

What needs to go their way

Avoiding the likes of Spain and Germany in the pool draw was a huge bonus for Saudi Arabia.

The match against Russia shapes up to be critical for them, and the other teams in their pool.

Egypt are beatable, although Uruguay will present an enormous challenge. A win against Russia and one of Egypt or Uruguay should be enough to reach the knockout stage.

On paper, all sides could and should defeat Russia, but home ground advantage could play a role.

Whichever side blinks and loses to the host nation is likely to be bundled out early, something Saudi Arabia cannot allow to happen.

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About the Author Josh Alston

Josh Alston is a hack with over 12 years industry experience, covering sport across all codes for newspapers and online agencies. Known to frequent grade matches because of their cheap tinnies. Eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism and a Masters in sitting on the hill when the local cricket side was playing. Softball premiership winner, rugby league legend in Year 10 and no stranger to Doomben Racecourse.

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