The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) has has released their squad list of 24 players for the 2017 Gulf Cup of Nations which take places in Kuwait later this month.
Saudi Arabia focus on youth
The emphasis is youth in the Saudi Arabia squad - the list includes just five players who made the last squad list, named by Edgardo Bauza before he was dismissed: left-back Abdulrahman Al-Obaid, midfielders Nouh Al-Mousa and Salman Al-Moasher along with forwards Mukhtar Fallatah and Hazaa Al-Hazza.
The squad has a combined total of 73 caps at full international level - 33 of them correspond to the appearances midfielder Ahmed Al-Fraidi has made for the national team. There are only two players over the age of 30, and just two members of the squad have scored at international level. As many as 14 players could be handed their international debuts at the Gulf Cup. "We are going to see a very different team in Kuwait", tweeted Head of General Sports Authority, Turki Al Al-Shaikh.
In a surprise decision, Croatian coach Krunoslav Jurčić has been chosen to guide the team at the tournament instead of Juan Antonio Pizzi who was recently named as Bauza's successor.
National team spokeman Mohamed Al-Shaikh explained that the SAFF by sending an relatively inexperienced squad to Kuwait did not mean that they are not taking the competition seriously. "We are not underestimating the tournament with this squad", he said. "It forms part of the strategy and policy arranged with [incoming coach] Pizzi".
Six young players, born in Saudi Arabia to foreign parents, have been included: Hammam Al-Ajaj, Ali Al-Nimr and Ali Yahya, whose families have Yemeni origins. Ahmed Ashraf, the son of Egyptian parents, has also been called.
However, Vitesse midfielder Mukhtar Ali and Virginia Cavaliers midfielder Faris Abdi have been excluded. The former Chelsea player, who is now based in Holland because the competition is taking place outside of FIFA's international calendar. Both players are expected to be back with the Saudi Arabia squad for next month's AFC Under-23 AFC Championship in China.