Volgograd: Salem Al Dawsari hailed his Saudi Arabia teammates after ensuring the Green Falcons left the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a victory under their belts when he scored the late winner in his nation’s 2-1 success over Egypt on Monday.
The win was the country’s first at the World Cup since their famous 1-0 victory over Belgium – courtesy of Saeed Al Owairan’s wonder goal – in Washington in 1994 and came courtesy of Al Dawsari’s 95th minute strike, when he fired low across Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El Hadary and into the far corner.
It was no more than the Saudis deserved after a campaign that started with a disappointing 5-0 loss to hosts Russia before a much more encouraging performance in a narrow 1-0 reversal against Uruguay.
That left Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side playing for pride in their final game in Group A and they can go home with their heads held high thanks to Al Dawsari’s late goal.
“Every one of our players today put on an impressive performance, even though a few of them were playing at the World Cup for the first time,” said the Al Hilal winger, who spent the last four months of last season with Spanish side Villarreal.
“We played with a lot of spirit and fight and I think we deserved to win because we were the better side.”
Liverpool striker Mo Salah gave Egypt the lead in the 22nd minute with a delightful finish as the North African side dictated the early exchanges, but Saudi Arabia pulled themselves back into the game.
Fahad Al Muwallad missed the opportunity to level the scores from the penalty spot when he saw his attempt saved by El Hadary but Salman Al Faraj did equalise with a spot-kick six minutes into first half added time, this time giving the veteran Egyptian keeper no chance.
That set the stage for Al Dawsari to strike and the Al Hilal man duly obliged, collecting the ball on the right side from Abdullah Otayf after the Egyptian defence failed to clear and his well struck right foot shot evaded El Hadary’s despairing dive
“Personally, I’m very proud that I managed to score today in the World Cup and that we were able to finish the tournament with a victory,” said Al Dawsari.
The win ensured Saudi Arabia took third place in Group A with three points from their three games, behind table-toppers Uruguay and second-placed Russia while Egypt were left rooted to the bottom.