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Sami's brace seals Saudi Arabia on 4th winning streak in World Cup qualifier Green Tops Group B
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 12 - 10 - 2021

JEDDAH — Sami Al-Najei's brace and Firas Al-Buraikan's 72ndminute goal sealed Saudi Arabia's fourth straight victory to emerge as topper of Group B of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier.
The Green Falcons, the hosts, inflicted a crushing defeat on China (3-2) in front of a boisterous home crowd of tens of thousands of cheering fans packed to the full capacity of the King Abdullah Sports City stadium here on Tuesday evening. Saudi Arabia scored its best ever winning streak in its qualifier history by winning all the four matches.
Sami Al-Najei, who plays in the midfield, scored two superb goals in the 15th and 38th minutes of the match while Firas Al-Buraikan scored the third goal, whereas China's goals were scored by Aloisio dos Santos Goncalves and Wu Xi in the 46th and 87th minutes respectively.
The first half saw the prominence of the Green Falcons with a number of attacks in the beginning and that culminated in scoring the first goal by Al-Najei through a powerful shot from outside the penalty area. The hosts continued their attack during which Saleh Al-Shehri missed a superb header.
The Chinese team responded quickly and striker Zhang Yuning missed a goal after receiving a pass from his colleague Zhang Linpeng that narrowly missed the post.
At the 38th minute, Al-Najei scored the second goal after turning a cross from Sultan Al-Ghanam to the goal post.
In the second half, the performance of the Chinese team improved, and substitute Aloisio scored their first goal after he shot a smart ball that landed in the net of goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais.
In the 69th minute, the Saudi head coach Herve Renard made his first change by replacing goalkeeper Al-Owais by Fawaz Al-Qarni.
In the 72nd minute, substitute Firas Al-Buraikan, scored the Falcons' third goal by taking advantage of a cross given by Muhammad Kanno.
The Chinese team intensified its attack in the last ten minutes and scored its second goal in the 87th minute through Wu Xi, who hit a powerful ball from outside the penalty area.
The Green Falcons, who continued their finest form, have won all four of their games in the latest round of the World Cup qualification matches. Having collected 12 points with tonight's stunning victory, Saudi Arabia stormed to the top position in Group B with scoring victories in all the four qualifying matches, beating Vietnam, Oman, Japan and China.
Australia, which shared equal points with Saudi Arabia until Tuesday, had a crushing defeat from Japan in another qualifier held at Saitama Stadium, Japan on Tuesday. The Socceroos' world-record streak of 11 consecutive World Cup Qualifying wins came crashing down in a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat to old foes Japan, extending a winless run against the hosts that stretches back to 2009.
Last Thursday's was Saudis' third consecutive win in the third round of Asian qualifying for the Qatar World Cup. A goal from substitute Firas Al Birakan in the 71st minute gave the hosts the victory at King Abdulla Sports City Stadium in Jeddah. After three games, Japan has six points behind Saudi Arabia (12 points) and Australia (nine points) in Group B. Australia next face Saudi Arabia on November 11, a match Football Australia hopes to play in Sydney. Oman and Vietnam are other teams in the group while Group A consists of South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
The third round has two groups of six teams with each squad facing the others in their group twice. The winners and runners-up in each group qualify for next year's tournament directly, and the two third-placed teams will play a home and away fourth-round for a place in the tournament. The Green Falcons, managed by the Frenchman Herve Renard, won 3-1 over Vietnam in Riyadh and 1-0 away to Oman in their earlier group games.
Saudi Arabia have so far won only seven of their 19 clashes with China, losing seven. The last meeting between the two sides came in January 2015 at the Asia Cup when the latter secured a 1-0 victory. At the pre-match press conference on Monday, China's national team head coach Li Tie spoke highly of the Saudi side.
"Saudi Arabia is a very strong team, and it's a good chance for us to prove ourselves. I hope my players can fight relentlessly on the pitch," Li said. "Saudi Arabia has great home advantage and support from fans, and it's completely different to play with or without fans. We have not played a game like that for a long time, I believe all the players will be very excited," Li noted. "I know the stadium quite well, it's beautiful and can hold tens of thousands of fans. The near-deafening cheers from the crowd is very impressive," Li added.
Speaking on the occasion, the Saudi team Head Coach Herve Renard, said his team will be concentrated on the important match. "We had good results in the first three matches, but every game is different. You never know what will happen in the football world, we have to show our determination on the pitch and manage the game well," he said while pinning hope on victory, "we are always motivated to win."

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