By Mohammed Gelil
Adding insult to injury, the Green Falcons lost badly in several friendly matches including a 5-0 defeat to Spain. In December, Saudi Arabia's Fifa ranking fell to a record-low 125th that reflected a terrible year for Saudi football.
The Kingdom was further disgraced in a 5-0 and 1-0 losses to Spain and Gabon, although some measure of pride was regained in a scoreless draw against Argentina. The Saudi senior team still ended the year at 126th in the FIFA global rankings following a first-round exit at the West Asian Football Federation championship.
Youth teams outperformed the senior team on the year, with the Under-18s winning the ninth Junior Gulf Cup and the Under-23s winning the Olympic Gulf Cup.
|DOMESTIC LEAGUES AND CUPS
At the continental level, three Saudi teams made it through to the quarter-finals. Al Ittihad's run ended there, while Al Hilal were defeated in the semi-finals and Al Ahli became the first Saudi side since 2009 to reach the final. They would not become the first Saudi club to capture the ACL since 2005, however, after falling 3-0 to Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea.
Two Saudi plays did have success abroad, with Saleh Al-Sheri and Abdullah Al-Hafith playing for Portugese sides SC Beira-Mar and Pacos de Ferreira respectively. Al-Sheri in particular has two goals in two appearances, including a second-minute strike against Vitoria Guimaraes in late November.
|PLAYER OF THE YEAR | Nasser Al Shamrani, Al Shabab and Saudi Arabian National Team
The club's most prominent member led from the front in helping his team to win the league title, and was reported by a Russian newspaper as having a transfer value of €2 million. At 29 years old Al Shamrani has never left the Saudi Pro League, but his continued fine performances for club and country could quite possibly change that.
|MOMENT OF THE YEAR | Nekonam's strike against South Korea saves Team Melli
First-half goals by Salem Al Dawsari and Nasser Al Shamrani gave the Saudis hope of joining the Socceroos in the fourth and final round as they went into the locker room at half time boasting a 2-1 lead. But an inspiring Australian comeback courtesy of Harry Kewell, Alex Brosque, and Brett Emerton dashed those dreams in a matter of four minutes.
The defensive lapse was devestating for Frank Rijkarrd's men, although the Dutchman continued to remain in charge.
|WISHES FOR SAUDI ARABIAN FOOTBALL IN 2013
Four Saudi sides will also again have a chance to contend the Asian Champions League, which kicks off play in February. All will be hoping to represent the country at the Fifa Club World Cup, which will take place in Morocco.
- Sports & Recreation
- Saudi Arabia
- Nasser Al Shamrani