Saudi Arabia boss names squad for World Cup warmup matches

The ESPN FC crew preview Saudi’s Arabia chances of advancing out of their group for the second time in their World Cup history.

Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi has named a 28-man squad for the pre-World Cup friendlies against Italy, Peru and Germany.

The Green Falcons, who open the tournament against hosts Russia in Group A on June 14, returned to Riyadh on Thursday after a three-week Spanish training camp that featured wins over Algeria and Greece.

There were few surprises in Pizzi’s selection, which includes three players — Fahad Al-Muwallad, Salem Al Dawsari and Yahya Al-Shehri loaned to La Liga clubs in January.

Al Hilal midfielders Nawaf Al Abed and Salman Al-Faraj have recovered from recent injuries, but there is no place for 2014 Asian Player of the Year Nasser Al-Shamrani, rookie striker Haroune Camara and veteran midfielder Mohammad Al-Shalhoub.

“We finished the first stage of the final preparation of the World Cup,” captain Osama Hawsawi told local television after the training camp. “It was a very productive 20 days.”

“We now have four days off. “We then continue and we need to keep improving, but we are on the right track. We have great ambitions for the happiness of the Saudi people at the 2018 World Cup.”

Saudi Arabia squad:

Goalkeepers: Assaf Al-Qarny (Al-Ittihad), Mohammed Al-Owais (Al Ahli), Yasser Al-Musailem (Al Alhi), Abdullah Al-Mayuf (Al Hilal).

Defenders: Mansoor Al-Harbi (Al Ahli), Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al Hilal) Mohammed Al-Breik (Al HIlal), Saeed Al-Mowalad (Al Ahli), Motaz Hawsawi (Al Ahli), Osama Hawsaw (Al Hilal)i, Omar Hawsawi (Al Nassr), Mohammed Jahfali (Al Hilal), Ali Al-Bulaihi (Al Hilal).

Midfielders: Abdullah Al-Khaibari (Al Shabab), Abdulmalek Al-Khaibri (Al Hilal), Abdullah Otayf (Al Hilal), Taiseer Al-Jassim (Al Ahli), Houssain Al-Mogahwi (Al Ahli), Salman Al-Faraj, Nawaf Al-Abed, Mohamed Kanno (all Al Hilal), Hattan Bahebri (Al Shabab), Mohammed Al-Kwikbi (Al Ettifaq), Salem Al-Dawsari (Villarreal, Spain), Yehya Al-Shehri (Leganes, Spain).

Forwards: Fahad Al-Muwallad (Levante, Spain), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (Al Nassr), Muhannad Assiri (Al Ahli).

Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.