The first matchday of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 brought happy news for all of the 29-man strong Roshn Saudi League contingent as Saudi Arabia, Australia, Iraq and Korea Republic all picked up maximum points from their opening matches.
Al Wehda forward Craig Goodwin played 72 minutes for the Socceroos in their 2-0 Group B victory over India, but it was a former RSL player in Martin Boyle, formerly of Al Faisaly, whose cross helped set-up the first goal of the tournament for Australia, scored by Jackson Irvine.
Al Shabab goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu performed admirably between the sticks as Korea Republic got their Group E campaign off to a winning start, defeating Bahrain 3-1. It was the veteran goalkeeper’s seventh match in the competition, having made one appearance for the Taegeuk Warriors in Australia 2015, then played every minute of their march to the quarter-finals in the UAE 2019.
Despite pre-tournament injury concerns, Abha defender Saad Natiq played all 90 minutes for Iraq as they brushed aside Indonesia 3-1 in Group D.
The best was saved until last as the final match of Matchday One saw a fully RSL based Saudi Arabia side come from behind to defeat Oman 2-1. The Green Falcon conceded early from the penalty spot, but a spirited performance saw them battle back as Al Nassr winger Abdulrahman Ghareeb came off the bench to bag the equaliser before Al Hilal centre-back Ali Al Bulayhi headed home the winner deep in added time.
Next up, Goodwin’s Australia face Syria on Thursday, Natiq’s Iraq take on record-champions Japan on Friday, while Kim’s Korea Republic play Jordan on Saturday and Saudi Arabia return to action on Sunday against Kyrgyz Republic.