Saudi Arabia will make its first appearance at the FIFA World Cup since 2006 when they take on host nation Russia in the tournament opener on June 14. The Green Falcons return to soccer’s biggest international stage after an impressive run through AFC World Cup qualifying, but will travel to Russia 2018 sporting an unimpressive 0-2-7 win-draw-loss record in their past nine tournament matches, which resulted in three straight group stage exits.

The Saudis also enter this year’s tournament as one of the lowest-ranked teams on the FIFA World Ranking, listed at No. 63 entering last December’s World Cup draw, ahead of only No. 65 Russia. However, the Green Falcons have produced promising results in recent friendlies, including consecutive clean-sheet victories over Greece and Algeria, both on European soil.

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Saudi Arabia’s Odds to Win World Cup: +100000

As the second-lowest ranked national side heading to Russia 2018, it is not surprising that Saudi Arabia trails in World Cup betting, joining Panama at the bottom of the World Cup futures as +100000 long shots.

After scoring just four total goals over their past three tournament appearances, Saudi Arabia has a mountain to climb to achieve respectability at the World Cup, but with continued strong play could be well positioned to play spoiler after drawing into a group alongside Egypt, Russia and Uruguay.

Saudi Arabia’s Odds to Win Group A: +4000

Despite owning strong track records in past meetings with their Group A opponents, Saudi Arabia enters group stage action as a distant +4000 long shot to finish atop the Group A table.

The Green Falcons can contribute to their own cause by avoiding defeat in the tournament opener against Russia. The Saudis are pegged as massive +1100 underdogs on the game line odds in their date with Russia, but posted a 4-2 victory 25 years ago in their only previous meeting with Russia, which is winless in five straight outings, all against World Cup-bound squads.

Saudi Arabia also eked out a 1-1 draw in their only previous meeting with Group A favorite Uruguay, whom they face on June 25 as +1000 underdogs. The Green Falcons have dropped a pair of one-goal decisions to Egypt, but tallied a lopsided 5-1 victory in their only competitive meeting at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup.

With a single victory possibly enough to claim a top-two spot on the Group A table, Saudi Arabia sits as a +900 bet to reach the knockout stage, while taking a flyer on a group stage finish that has Uruguay atop the Group A table and Saudi Arabia finishing second pays out on +2200 odds.

Saudi Arabia’s Best World Cup Bets

The Green Falcons are coming off a pair of shutout victories, but high-scoring affairs have not been uncommon in their recent outings, with three or more total goals scored in three of their past six, and nine of 18 outings overall.

Russia has also been regularly involved in goal-filled contests, with the Russians and their opponents averaging 3.5 total goals over their past eight meetings. However, the total in the Green Falcons’ date with this year’s hosts sits at just 2.5, with +125 odds available on the OVER.

While Saudi Arabia deserves consideration as a dark-horse candidate to escape from the group stage, they are an equally solid +800 bet to see their tournament end in the Round of 16, where they would face one of the advancing squads from Group B, which includes defending European champions Portugal and 2010 World Cup champions Spain.

Saudi Arabia’s Player to Watch: Mohammad Al-Sahlawi

Striker Mohammad Al-Sahlawi has played a pivotal role in the Green Falcons’ return to the World Cup. The 31-year-old, who plays his league football with Al Nassr of the Saudi Pro League, scored 16 times in 14 appearances with the Green Falcons in CAF World Cup qualifying, and is listed as a +5000 bet to lead all Group A players in goal scoring.

Saudi Arabia’s Road to Russia 

Saudi Arabia dominated in second-round action during CAF World Cup qualifying, amassing a 6-2-0 record while surrendering just four total goals to finish atop the Group A table. The Green Falcons faced a rougher road in the third round of qualifying, falling to defeat in two of their final three matches, including a pair of one-goal losses to Australia and United Arab Emirates, but managed to clinch a berth in Russia 2018 with a narrow 1-0 win over Japan in their World Cup qualifying finale.

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Saudi Arabia’s 2018 World Cup Squad
Number Player Position Club Caps
1 Abdullah al-Mayouf GK Al-Hilal 10
21 Yasser al Mosailem GK Al-Ahli 32
22 Mohammed al-Owais GK Al-Ahli 6
2 Mansoor al-Harbi DEF Al-Ahli 39
3 Osama Hawsawi DEF Al-Hilal 134
4 Ali al-Bulaihi DEF Al-Hilal 3
5 Omar Hawsawi DEF Al-Nassr 41
6 Mohammed al-Breik DEF Al-Hilal 10
13 Yasser al-Shahrani DEF Al-Hilal 36
23 Motaz Hawsawi DEF Al-Ahli 17
7 Salman al-Faraj MID Al-Hilal 42
8 Yahya al-Shehri MID Al-Nassr 56
9 Hattan Bahebri MID Al-Shabab 4
11 Abdulmalek al-Khaibri MID Al-Hilal 36
12 Mohamed Kanno MID Al-Hilal 6
14 Abdullah Otayf MID Al-Hilal 15
15 Abdullah al-Khaibari MID Al-Shabab 4
16 Houssain al-Mogahwi MID Al-Ahli 17
17 Taisir al-Jassim MID Al-Ahli 131
18 Salem al-Dawsari MID Al-Hilal 32
10 Mohammad al-Sahlawi FWD Al-Nassr 39
19 Fahad al-Muwallad FWD Al-Ittihad 44
20 Muhannad Assiri FWD Al-Ahli 18
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