It has been rather a year for football in Saudi Arabia, with the national team qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup group C with Mexico football team, Poland Football World Cup team and Argentina football team and Al-Hilal being crowned winners of Asia. Here is our look back at the best of 2021.
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Player of the Year: Salem Al-Dawsari
Some years it is tough to pick the Football World Cup player who has climbed above the others, but in 2021 it is a cooler choice than usual. Salem Al-Dawsari has been the best player in the Saudi Professional League with the side that was crowned winners. He was the best player in the side that won Asia’s major club prize, the AFC Champions League. He was the finest player in the side that has been the best execution in qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
If Asia was having an honour this year, then Al-Dawsari would confidently be pictured lifting the trophy in some swanky ceremony in an Asian capital. As it is, he will have to make do with being named the MVP of the AFC Champions League and, of course, this Arab News tribute. The winger has not put a foot wrong all year and 2021 has been superior with goals, support and just all-around quality play at every level he has achieved at.
The goal of the Year: Nasser Al-Dawsari vs Pohang Steelers on Nov. 23
There can’t have been a more important goal in Asian club football for some time and it came in the major game of the year. This was the AFC Champions League final against Pohang Steelers in Riyadh, this was a game that Al-Hilal were anxious to win and become the first team in the history of Asian football to win four continental championships.
Football World Cup Coach of the Year: Herve Renard
There are not many national sides anyplace that have better as much in 2021 as Saudi Arabia. When it was underway, there was work to do to even be sure of a place in the final round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup. As the year ends, the Saudi Arabia football team is the form team in Asia and already has one foot in Qatar. For more to know about Football World Cup Tickets Click here.
The team have taken 16 points from six games, four points above Japan in second and five above Australia in third. They will have to mess up not to end in the top two. It is not just about the consequences, the win over Japan or the disciplined draw in Sydney, but the way this progressively tight unit is playing. Renard has presented a level of intensity not seen for some time and the team is now as hard-working as they come.
New players come in and know what they have to do and it was hopeful to see the Frenchman send a U-23 team to the Arab Cup to gain skill and competitive international action while he sat in the stands and observed. It was a far-sighted decision but, for now, the Qatar FIFA World Cup is close.
Game of the Year: Al Fateh 5-5 Damac on November 25
Just two days after Al-Hilal pick up the AFC Champions League trophy, there was a breath-taking game in the Saudi Pro League between two sides that don’t always make the headings. In the previous 11 games, Al-Fateh had counted just 10 goals. In the previous 11, Damac had passed the same number. There was little to suggest that this meeting would be the most exciting of the year.
There is not sufficient space to go into details of what happened on that Thursday as a team fighting downgrade that had lost the previous three games dealt goal after goal with the team in second. It was 2-2 after 19 minutes with Damac ahead on the stroke of half-time and then 4-2 up just after the hour. Then Al-Fateh hit three in seven minutes but the visitors still create time to make it 5-5.
There is not much of a discussion with this one. When a team wins the domestic title and then goes and wins the biggest continental prize then it is hard to look away. Al-Hilal finished four points ahead of Al-Shabab with Bafetimbi Gomis marking 24 times, but there is such a strong point in depth. The full-backs Yasser Al-Shahrani and Mohammed Al-Breik are one of the best pairs around.
Then there is the skill and culture of Salman Al-Faraj and Salem Al-Dawsari and the energy and drive of Mohamed Kanno. Add strikers like Gomis and Moussa Marega and there is real firepower and added to the inspiration of Matheus Pereira. It is a tough team that can go through three trainers in 2021 and still keep winning. It has been a year to recall for Al-Hilal.
Young Player of the Year: Nasser Al-Dawsari
While there are high expectations over Al-Taawoun’s teenage defender Sulaiman Hazazi, Al-Dawsari, who turned 23 last week, has recognised himself as a significant player for both club and Football World Cup sides. This year, the handy player who can do a job in midfield or defence has made over 30 entries in the league for the champions. His presentations were so imposing that he earned a call-up to the World Cup team from Renard.
An entrance came in a March friendly against Kuwait but the first good start came in the Saudi Arabia football team’s toughest game of the year, Australia in Sydney. It was a mature performance at left-back with the youngster coping well with the physical challenge offered by the Socceroos on their home turf. Throw in his vital and spectacular goal in the final of the AFC Champions League and you have a remarkable season. For more to know about the Saudi Arabia Football World Cup Team Click here.
Saudi Arabia FIFA World Cup strategies. The suggestion from the Saudi Arabia Football Federation that FIFA looks into the option of holding the World Cup every two years instead of the current four has become a huge issue in football. It has divided the game with the response from Europe and South America largely negative, but with more backing coming from Asia and elsewhere.
Azteca Stadium & SoFi Stadium along with 16 sites for the next World Cup
Mexico City’s iconic Azteca Stadium and the Los Angeles Rams’ multi-billion-dollar SoFi Stadium are between 16 locations to host games at the 2026 Football World Cup. The first 48-team World Cup will be held in 16 sites across 11 US cities, along with three venues in Mexico and two in Canada. It marks the first time three nations have presented in the competition.
The Azteca Stadium will also be the first site to feature in three separate FIFA World Cups. Los Angeles’ Pasadena Rose Bowl, which held the 1994 Football World Cup Final, has not been included. Another famous absence was the US capital, Washington DC, which was one of nine host towns the last time the US staged the competition.
The joint bid from Washington DC and Baltimore, Maryland, was one of six that were not selected alongside Cincinnati, Denver, Nashville, Orlando and Edmonton. It’s been an extremely competitive procedure. All the cities have been astonishing. This was a very, very difficult choice, said FIFA’s chief competitions and events officer Colin Smith. You can’t imagine a World Cup coming to the US and the capital city not taking the main role as well.
All 11 stadiums in the US are home to NFL teams and include the New York Giants’ MetLife Stadium and $5bn SoFi Stadium that held this year’s Super Bowl. Both venues are candidates to host 2026 final, but Fifa president Gianni Infantino said world football’s leading body will take their time with a choice. But every game will be a final at this FIFA World Cup.
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