In-form RSL players ready to fire Saudi Arabia's 2026 FIFA World Cup bid

The Saudi Arabia national team resume qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup on Thursday, with manager Roberto Mancini able to call upon a number of in-form Roshn Saudi League players for the double-header with AFC Asian Cup 2023 quarter-finalists Tajikistan.

The Green Falcons have enjoyed a perfect start to the second round having defeated Pakistan 4-0 at Al Fateh Club Stadium on November 16 before seeing off Jordan 2-0 five days later in Amman.

It means Saudi Arabia sit top of Group G, two points ahead of Tajikistan, who they host on Thursday at Al Nassr’s Al Awwal Park. The return fixture takes place in Dushanbe on Tuesday.

Fortunately for Mancini, his latest squad contains several standouts from RSL league leaders Al Hilal, including reigning AFC Asian Player of the Year Salem Al Dawsari, defenders Saud Abdulhamid and Ali Al Bulayhi, midfielders Mohammed Kanno and Abdulelah Al Malki and striker Saleh Al Shehri.

Al Dawsari has been one of the key contributors to Al Hilal’s record-breaking run of 17 consecutive RSL victories, with 11 goals and two assists this season. The capital club have also entered the history books with a world-record 28 successive wins.

Riyadh rivals, and closest RSL title challengers, Al Nassr are well represented also, with the likes of goalkeeper Raghed Al Najjar, defender Ali Lajami and midfielders Sami Al Naji, Ayman Yahya and Abdulrahman Ghareeb all available for the qualifiers. Almost an ever-present for Al Nassr this season, Ghareeb has one goal and five assists in 20 RSL appearances.

Meanwhile, Feras Al Buraikan will be keen on taking his RSL form into the national team, the Al Ahli striker having found the net 12 times and registered six assists already this campaign. As such, the former Al Fateh forward ranks as the highest-scoring Saudi player in the 2023-24 campaign.

Mancini will also be leaning on, among others, players from current RSL champions Al Ittihad, such as defenders Fawaz Al Saqour and Hassan Kadesh and midfielder Faisal Al Ghamdi. Al Shabab’s 21-year-old forward Abdullah Radif continues his journey towards becoming an established senior international, while Al Fateh’s Mukhtar Ali and Abbas Al Hassan return to the national team, and Al Taawoun are represented by defensive duo Waleed Al Ahmed and Awn Al Saluli.

The 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers serve as well as qualifiers for the AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027, the first time the continent’s premier competition will be staged in the Kingdom.