RIYADH — Saudi Arabia’s officials and football fans are extremely enthusiastic and confident about the Green Falcons’ (Al-Akhdar) capability to win the key qualifier against China in the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying round.

The Saudi national team will play against China in the ninth round of the final Asian qualifiers at the Sharjah Sports Stadium on Thursday.

The Saudi team is fully geared to repeat its victory over China, which lost to the Green Falcons in the first leg qualifying match held at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in October 2021.

A win over China will ensure Saudi Arabia’s qualification to the World Cup. If Saudi Arabia qualifies then it will participate in the World Cup finals for the sixth time in its history.

The Green Falcons might qualify to the World Cup even before the start of Thursday’s match against China if Japan wins over its host Australia, in a match that starts six hours earlier.

The Saudi team maintained the top spot in the Group B standings with 19 points from seven matches while China is ranked fifth with five points. Japan is second in the group with 18 points while Australia has 15 points.

Saudi Arabia’s FIFA World Cup hopes suffered a blow with a loss to Japan in Sitama, Japan, on Feb. 1. A win over Japan would have guaranteed the Green Falcons’ sixth World Cup qualification in its history, two rounds before the conclusion of the qualifiers.

Herve Renard, the French coach of the Saudi team, pinned great hopes on Green Falcons’ entry into the World Cup. “With this group of players everything is fine so far, and I am very confident that they will come up with a ticket to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

“The most important concern for us is to secure the qualification card for the World Cup, and everything is now in our hands in the qualifiers,” he said.

Saleh Al-Naima, former captain of the national team who lifted the Asian Cup in 1984 and 1988, is also optimistic over the team’s qualification to the World Cup. In a recent press briefing.

He said: “The results have been encouraging since the beginning of the qualifiers, and Coach Renard has succeeded in finding an appropriate combination, and he also succeeded in employing the players in an optimal way.

“We hope that Al-Akhdar would continue its brilliant performance and qualify for the finals, and its performance level in the sixth participation in the World Cup with this distinguished generation, are better than the previous ones.”

On his part, Khalil Al-Zayani, the dean of Saudi coaches, praised Saudi team’s professional competency in the qualifiers.

“We have a strong team with promising names that can compete for several years to come. The Saudi team and the promising squad for Al-Akhdar are a result of the league’s strength, and we are confident that our Green Falcons will be able to qualify on Thursday evening,” he added.

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