Saudi Arabia will be taking a squad full of promising, up-and-coming young players to this month's Gulf Cup of Nations. The list includes many young players who won't be with the team at next year's World Cup finals, but this tournament will serve all of them to show their worth and who knows, maybe one of two of them could impress enough to be included in the squad that travels to Russia in June.
Saudi Arabia's emerging young players
Some observers were surprised that Juan Antonio Pizzi won't be with the team at the Gulf Cup; Croatian coach Krunoslav Jurcic will be on the bench for the tournament while Pizzi will take the reins in the New Year.
Abdulrahman Al-Obaid is one of the players who is expected to make the list for next year's World Cup after receiving positive reviews in local media. The 24-year-old Al-Qadisiah left-back has been one of the revelations in the Saudi Professional League this year and has all of the credentials to be a first choice in Pizzi's team in Russia. This edition of the Gulf Cup will present a golden chance for the defender to prove himself and win over the coach.
Another name worth jotting down is Mohamed Kanno - an imposing midfielder with a subtle touch who gives the team quality going forward and who is an excellent passer of the ball - providing his team mates with precision short or long balls. The 23-year-old had a relatively discreet year at club level with new club Al-Hilal, after dazzling with his previous club Al-Ettifaq with whom he played a big part in helping the team gain promotion back to the top flight. He is a player who is well worth keeping an eye on.
In attack, Mukhtar Fallatah and Hazaa Al-Hazza will be hoping to produce performances that will guarantee their place at 2018 Russia. The latter was handed his international debut by Edgardo Bauza in the friendly against Jamaica in October and he has a good chance of being included in Pizzi's World Cup squad. A prolific goal scorer, Al-Hazza is another player worth keeping an eye on at the Gulf Cup.