Saudi Arabia's final World Cup squad omits Nawaf Al-Abed, Mohammed Al Kuwaykibi
Juan Antonio Pizzi has cut star playmaker Nawaf Al-Abed from Saudi Arabia's final 2018 World Cup squad of 23, shortly after watching his team lose 3-0 to Peru in Switzerland on Sunday.
The Al Hilal man scored four goals in the final round of qualification as the Green Falcons booked their first World Cup spot since 2006, but has been battling injuries for much of the year. Al-Abed made his first appearance of 2018 for the national team against Peru but did not do enough to convince the former Chile boss, appointed in November.
Pizzi cut four other players from a preliminary squad of 28 named on May 18. Goalkeeper Assaf Qarny, defenders Saeed Al Mowalad and Mohammed Jahfali as well as midfielder Mohammed Al Kuwaykibi will not go to Russia.
Saudi Arabia have been warming up for Group A games against hosts Russia, Uruguay and Egypt in a Switzerland training camp. May victories over Greece and Algeria were followed by a 2-1 defeat against Italy on May 29. The 3-0 loss to Peru was, however, a disappointment.
"The important thing is the performance, regardless of the result, and how the team is developing," said Saudi midfielder Abdullah Al-Khaibari. "We are working towards giving a good performance against Germany."
Ahead of the tournament opener in Moscow on June 14, Saudi Arabia takes on the defending champions in Leverkusen on Friday in a final warm-up.
Saudi Arabia's World Cup squad:
Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al-Owais (Al Ahli), Yasser Al Mosailem (Al Ahli), Abdullah Al-Mayouf (Al Hilal)
Defenders: Mansoor Al-Harbi (Al Ahli), Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al Hilal) Mohammed Al-Breik (Al HIlal), Motaz Hawsawi (Al Ahli), Osama Hawsawi (Al Hilal)i, Omar Hawsawi (Al Nassr), Ali Al-Bulaihi (Al Hilal)
Midfielders: Abdullah Al-Khaibari (Al Shabab), Abdulmalek Al-Khaibri (Al Hilal), Abdullah Otayf (Al Hilal), Taiseer Al-Jassim (Al Ahli), Houssain Al-Mogahwi (Al Ahli), Salman Al-Faraj, Mohamed Kanno (both Al Hilal), Hattan Bahebri (Al Shabab), Salem Al-Dawsari (Al Hilal), Yahya Al-Shehri (Al Nassr, Spain)
Forwards: Fahad Al-Muwallad (Al Ittihad), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (Al Nassr), Muhannad Assiri (Al Ahli)
Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.