WC participations 3 (1994, 1998, 2002)
WC honours Last sixteen (1994)
Continental Titles Asian Cup 3 times (1984, 1988, 1996), Gulf Cup twice (1994, 2002)
Calderon leads Saudis through to fourth finals
Saudi Arabia qualified comfortably for their fourth consecutive FIFA World Cup™ finals, going undefeated through 12 qualifiers and beating the 2002 semi-finalists Korea Republic both home and away. After sailing through the preliminary group stage, winning all six games against Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Turkmenistan, the Saudis knew the serious business would start in the final round and they delivered there too.
A goal from veteran striker Sami Al Jaber on his international comeback earned them a 1-1 draw in Uzbekistan in their Group A opener in February 2005 and the following month they secured a 2-0 victory over Korea Republic in Dammam – a result which boosted morale after their poor display in the 2004 AFC Asian Cup, which they exited at the group stage. They booked their ticket to Germany on 8 June with a 3-0 home success against Uzbekistan and ended their campaign in style two months later as Mohamed Al Anbar’s goal secured a 1-0 win in Seoul.
Saudi Arabia have been Asian champions three times, in 1984, 1988 and 1996. Those continental crowns encouraged the country's authorities to introduce full professionalism and this paid off with a first FIFA World Cup finals appearance at USA 94. The Saudis made a favourable impression on their tournament debut by beating Morocco and Belgium to advance to the second round where they lost to Sweden. After that memorable start, however, their subsequent appearances at France 98 and Korea/Japan 2002 have yielded one draw and five defeats from six matches.
The Saudi Arabia coach is former Argentine international Gabriel Calderon, who replaced Dutchman Gerard van der Lem following their poor showing at the Asian Cup. Calderon, whose first task was to raise morale in the squad, introduced an attacking style that impressed his employers and he can now look forward to becoming the second Argentinian to lead Saudi Arabia into a FIFA World Cup finals after Jorge Solari at USA 94.
Calderon’s squad blends youth and experience, notably in the attacking duo of the 34-year-old Al Jaber and Yasser Al Qahtani, a decade younger but already his country’s most expensive player following his $10million transfer to Al Hilal. Calderon recalled Al Jaber more than two years after his last international appearance in the 8-0 humbling by Germany in Korea/Japan, and the veteran showed why he is such a revered figure in Saudi football with three goals in the final qualifying round.
Saudi Arabia qualified for their third successive FIFA World Cup™ finals in 2002. The royal family had forbidden football in the kingdom until 1951. In 1994, shock wins over Belgium and Morocco saw them reach the second round, where Sweden proved too strong and triumphed 3-1.
Four years later they failed to progress from the group stage after being overpowered by Denmark and eventual winners France.
In 2002, Saudi Arabia opened their tournament with an 8-0 loss at the hands of Germany. Subsequent, though more moderate, defeats to Cameroon and Republic of Ireland were merely exercises in damage limitation.