Sports

Bold choices: Mancini opts for youthful talents in Saudi national team overhaul

November 12, 2023
Italian coach Roberto Mancini has introduced a Saudi national team lineup that shies away from some experienced players, making way for a wave of young talent.
Italian coach Roberto Mancini has introduced a Saudi national team lineup that shies away from some experienced players, making way for a wave of young talent.

Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — In a surprising move, Italian coach Roberto Mancini has introduced a Saudi national team lineup that shies away from some experienced players, making way for a wave of young talent.

Notably, Talal Hajji's inclusion stands out, potentially making him the second youngest player in the history of the Saudi national team if he officially takes the field.

The Saudi national team, under the guidance of Mancini, is gearing up for its official journey as they host Pakistan in Al-Ahsa next Thursday.

This marks the second round of the joint Asian qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup and the 2027 Asian Cup.

The squad, revealed by Mancini on Friday, comprises 28 players, witnessing the return of Nawaf Al-Aqidi alongside Mohammed Al-Owais and Raghed Najjar.

Notably, young goalkeeper Hamed Yousef makes his second appearance after the recent camp in Portugal.

Mancini's latest squad features eight first-time inclusions, showcasing the coach's eagerness to explore emerging talent.

The list includes names like Waleed Al-Ahmad, Aon Al-Saluli, Moath Faqihi, Abbas Al-Hassan, Mohammed Marran, Abdullah Radif, Talal Hajji, and Fawaz Al-Yami.

Surprisingly, the squad omits Salman Al-Faraj, who has been nursing recent injuries despite returning to training.

The quintet of Sultan Al-Ghanam, Mohammed Kanno, Firas Al-Brikkan, Abdullah Al-Hamdan, and Fahad Al-Muwalad is also absent, a departure from their consistent presence in previous squads.

Mancini's bold move includes the presence of 12 players under the age of 24, setting the stage for a promising injection of youthful energy.

Talal Hajji, at 16, emerges as the youngest player, with Hamed Yousef and Abbas Al-Hassan following suit at 18 and 19, respectively.

Mancini faces the challenge of making a strong start, having lost three friendly matches and drawn one since taking charge.

The team's recent journey involved losses to Costa Rica and South Korea, followed by a draw against Nigeria and another loss to Mali in the Lagos, Portugal camp in October.

As Mancini races against time to solidify his squad, eyes are on the 2023 Asian Cup, where Saudi Arabia is placed in Group 6 alongside Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, and Oman.

The inclusion of young talents signals a strategic move to shape a competitive team for future endeavors.


November 12, 2023
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