In Qatar in 2011, Saudi Arabia lost all three group matches, conceding eight goals, but they should start Saturday’s opening match versus China with some confidence due to their three-game unbeaten run against the Chinese.
The Saudis defeated China 4-1 in a friendly in 2009 and 2-1 in their home qualifier for this year’s Asian Cup in February 2013, before the Chinese claimed a scoreless draw in Xi’an nine months later.
Saudi Arabia are unlikely to let anyone or anything stand in their way of an improved showing in Australia.
In the lead-up to Saturday’s clash in Brisbane, Cosmin Olaroiu’s men trained at an unauthorised venue to avoid the media, while star striker Nasser Al Shamrani was involved in an altercation with a fan in Geelong after a friendly last month.
Al Shamrani is well known to Australian fans with the recently crowned Asian Player of the Year having spat at Western Sydney Wanderers defender Matthew Spiranovic during the second leg of the AFC Champions League (ACL) final.
Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic labelled Al Shamrani “a child” on Thursday.
“He’s just a stubborn little bloke on the field who, if things don’t go his way or things are said against him, he arcs up and, you know, he probably expects things on a platter and when it’s not given to him he’s a child,” Covic told The World Game.
Despite his questionable behaviour, Al Shamrani is set to be Olaroiu’s main man up front, with the Al Hilal striker entering the tournament with six goals in nine games in the Saudi Pro League this term and 10 in 13 in the 2014 ACL.
China are set to have a large contingent of fans at Suncorp Stadium with Brisbane’s Chinese community having reserved a block of 3,000 seats.
Alain Perrin’s team have played 13 friendlies since qualifying for the Asian Cup and have not lost in their past 10 matches, including a 4-1 win over Oman in Sydney last week.
Saudi Arabia’s form, however, is mixed as they finished second in November’s Gulf Cup before losing both pre-tournament friendlies to Bahrain and South Korea.
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