5th Minute, Saeed Al-Owairan, Saudi Arabia v Belgium, 1994 World Cup Group Stage
Saudi Arabian football first announced itself to the world with two superb triumphs in the Asian Cup during the eighties. This marked the beginning of a golden era for Saudi Arabia as they became one of the most successful sides on the continent. Despite their success in the cups in Asia and the Gulf, they were disappointing in qualifying for the 1986 and 1990 World Cups. The nineties proved to be their time, although it started with a heartbreaking defeat to Japan in the final of the 1992 Asian Cup. They finally qualified for a World Cup in 1994 and they didn’t let their country down.
In their first match they gave the Netherlands an almighty scare as they led the Dutch at half-time but a cracker from Wim Jonk and a terrible goalkeeping error gifted the Dutch the three points. The Saudis managed to beat Morocco in their next match where they benefitted from a goalkeeper error themselves, to set up the chance of progressing with a win or a draw against Belgium who were fresh from beating their great neighbours.
Saudi Arabia get off to a dream start as Saeed Al-Owairan scores one of the greatest World Cup goals ever…
What Happened Next?
Saudi Arabia held on to win 1-0 and finish second in the group. They were knocked out by Sweden in the last sixteen, and this was as good as it ever got for the Saudis at the World Cup. In the next three World Cups they crashed out at the group stage and in 2002 suffered the dishonour of being ranked as the worst side in the competition. They did however continue to perform strongly on the contitent, winning the Asian Cup in 1996 and were twice runners-up in 2000 and 2007.