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Saudis optimistic as team qualifies for 2018 FIFA World Cup

Saudi Arabia players celebrate after winning the 2018 World Cup group B qualifying soccer match between Saudi Arabia and Japan in Jeddah on Sept. 5, 2017. (AP Photo)
RIYADH: It was a big day on Tuesday for the 65,000 spectators at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah who witnessed a memorable moment — seeing their team qualify to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Team Saudi Arabia secured their place for the 2018 FIFA World Cup next summer by winning a 1-0 crucial match against top scorer Japan in the last AFC Round 3 Group B match. With the win, Saudi Arabia finished in second place in the group behind Japan.
As soon as the referee blew the final whistle to announce the end of the match, the house-packed stadium burst into celebration, as was the case in Saudi cities and villages, with people watching the most-awaited result on TV screens.
Reacting to the victory Mona Salahuddin Al-Munajjed, a Saudi team fan, on Wednesday told Arab News: “This is indeed a great achievement for our football team; we are very proud of them taking the green flag high to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.”
“It is an honor for us to go to Russia in 2018,” she added. She exuded hope that the march to victory will prevail and, “Inshallah, the team will keep the flag high, playing very well in the World Cup and succeed in raising the trophy.”
Speaking to Arab News, Majed Abdullah Al-Hedayan, another fan, expressed his delight over the decisive win saying: “The national football team was able to outplay the Japanese team and surpass a lackluster Japan in Jeddah on Tuesday night with a spectacular winning goal from Fahad Al-Muwallad, and qualified the side for the FIFA World Cup, for the first time since 2006.”
The disciplined team, united in rank and file, showed their playing abilities by controlling the ball well, which speaks volumes about their place at the regional, Arab and international levels, he said.
Moreover, the presence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had a positive impact on the team, he said, adding that the prince’s strong support for the team raised their morale, which pushed them to make the extra effort to qualify for FIFA 2018.
Echoing the sentiment, a keen sports enthusiast, Abdullah Inayat, who watched the crucial match in Jeddah, told Arab News: “We are proud of our team which played an outstanding match to ensure a place in the FIFA 2018.”
“We salute the team for this extraordinary result by outplaying the powerful Japanese side,” he said.
FIFA 2018 will be the fifth appearance for Saudi Arabia in the World Cup after qualifying for the first time back in 1994. The team featured in three consecutive World Cups afterwards (1998, 2002 and 2006) before missing the last two editions in South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014.

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