Meet the Asia Cup 2022 Teams: Saudi Arabia
JAKARTA (Indonesia) - Saudi Arabia might not be the flashiest team that will be playing in the Asia Cup, but they cannot be underestimated.
There’s a reason why they are one of the most improved teams over the recent years and we’ll Asia Cup fans will get to see why in Jakarta.
Let’s take a quick moment to meet Saudi Arabia in this "Meet the Teams" series!
World Rank according to FIBA World Ranking Presented by Nike: 80
In terms of World Ranking, what Saudi Arabia have been able to do has been nothing short of impressive. Their current spot in the Ranking (80) is a 14-spot climb all the way up from 94 where they had started before the Asia Cup Qualifiers. That is one of the highest jumps among all teams playing in Asia Cup 2022.
In the Asia Ranking, they shot up from 19 at the start of the Qualifiers to 13, the highest climb in the Asia Ranking through the same period.
Asia Cup Debut: 1989
Saudi Arabia’s first appearance in the Asia Cup came in 1989 when the tournament was held in China, and they were immediately greeted by being grouped with China in the Preliminary Round.
And Saudi Arabia did quite well! They beat Thailand and Singapore by double-digit margins of victory to advance to the Quarter-Finals round.
From there, they went winless in a group with Korea, Chinese Taipei, and India before finally beating the Philippines in the battle for 7th place.
Asia Cup Appearances (including 2022): 9
Saudi Arabia have only played in 8 Asia Cups so far, with Asia Cup 2022 being their 9th appearance.
After making their debut in 1989, Saudi Arabia played in 5 more consecutive Asia Cups. Since 1999, however, Saudi Arabia have not had as big of a presence with only two appearances in 2005 and 2013.
Most Recent Appearance: 2013
The last Asia Cup appearance for Saudi Arabia was a while ago, nearly 10 years, where they finished at 13th in the final standings - their lowest finish in the competition.
However, it was an appearance that might make a difference in 2022 as several players that played in 2013 as youngsters are now the veteran core of the team that will go to Jakarta.
From the Almarwanis to Fahad Belal, Saudi Arabia will not be without experience going up against Asia’s best in the Asia Cup this year.
Best Position in Final Standings: Third place (1999)
In their earlier Asia Cup days, Saudi Arabia were among one of the best teams, always earning a single-digit finish in the Final Standings. They made it to the Quarter-Finals in all but one year.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia made it to the Semi-Finals twice in back-to-back Asia Cups, 1997 and 1999. Saudi Arabia were heartbroken inn 1997 as they were unable to finish on the podium, losing to China in the Third-place game, even though they were the host that year.
In 1999, they would finally pull through. After making it to the Semi-Finals again, Saudi Arabia were set to face Chinese Taipei in the Third-place game this time around.
They left no room for doubt, winning 93-67 to claim their first ever Asia Cup medal.
Notable Player(s): Marzouq Almuwallad
One of the players that played for Saudi Arabia in Asia Cup 2013 has gradually been making a return in the rotation during the Asia Cup 2022 and World Cup 2023 Qualifiers. That player is Marzouq Almuwallad.
Marzouq was one of the top performers for Saudi Arabia in 2013, averaging 10.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. His best game was against Thailand where he had a double-double of 20 points and 10 assists late in the competition.
How they got here:
Saudi Arabia had to take the long road to Asia Cup 2022, going through the GBA Pre-Qualifiers, Western Region Pre-Qualifiers, Asia Cup Qualifiers, and the Qualifying Tournament for Third-place teams of the Asia Cup Qualifiers.
Through that road, they’ve done exceptionally well. Though they were unable to earn an immediate spot in the Asia Cup Qualifiers as they were grouped together with Iran and Syria, Saudi Arabia took care of both Palestine and India in the Qualifying Tournament for Third-place teams and finally earned their spot of the 16 teams of the Asia Cup.
It was by far the longest road taken to the Asia Cup among all teams playing, but that just goes to show you how much they deserve to be in Jakarta for all they’ve battle through.
Current Outlook: Raring for a big comeback
As mentioned above, Saudi Arabia have been away from the Asia Cup for quite a while. So being able to make it back is a big time accomplishment. But now that they have a ticket to Jakarta, they will have their eyes on pushing any team they face to the limit.
Going up against Australia and Jordan, Saudi Arabia will most likely be underdogs, especially with Mohammed Alsuwailem expected to be out. Even against Indonesia, they might be at a disadvantage due to the energy of the home crowd.
But after seeing what Saudi Arabia are capable to do as a team, it would not seem wise to count them out until the final buzzer.