6 princes see Saudis achieve a royal first WORLD CUP 1994

June 26, 1994|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The eyes of Saudi Arabia's royal family were on its national soccer team yesterday.

And their hands may be in their wallets today.

"They always watch, always in on every decision," said Saudi coach Jorge Solari. "This is not just coaching job, it is royal appointment."

Saudi Arabian King Fahd has poured a lot of money into the soccer team, trying to show the world his country has more resources than just oil, and yesterday the investment came up big, as Saudi Arabia defeated Morocco, 2-1, in a Group F World Cup match.

A Giants Stadium crowd of 72,404, including a total of six princes from the two countries, watched an exciting and fast-paced game between the two teams from desert nations. It was a game that wasn't expected to draw a lot of fans, but it turned out to be one of the best in the tournament.

Forward Sami al-Jaber scored on a penalty shot and midfielder Fuad Amin scored the game-winner on a 22-yard shot at the 45th minute, leading Saudi Arabia to victory in its second World Cup game ever.

Each Saudi player received $100,000 and a Mercedes after the team qualified for the World Cup, so who knows what they may get if they advance to the second round?

"The team is not interested in the financial aspects, at least not me," said Solari, an Argentine, who downplayed the money and emphasized pride. "The only prize is victory. We did not play for reward; we play for flag and country. People back home will be very happy."

So will King Fahd.

The Saudi Arabians have been waiting for this moment for quite a while. Since November, they have gone through four coaches, with Solari having lasted the longest, four months.

Most couldn't abide by the team's five rules.

* Rule No. 1: Obey King Fahd.

* Rule No. 2: Obey Prince Sulton Bin Fahd, the son of King Fahd, who is also vice president of the Saudi Arabian Soccer Federation.

* Rule No. 3: Obey Prince Bandar Bin Sulton, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, who is married to the king's daughter.

* Rule No. 4: Obey Highness Prince Khalid Bin Saud, who also is involved in the Saudi Arabian Soccer Federation.

* Rule No. 5: Obey rules 1 through 4.

Former Saudi coach Jose Candido, from Brazil, tried to go against the wishes of Prince Fahd last November, when Fahd ordered him to bench goalie Mohammed al-Deayea during a game.

Candido didn't. He was fired that night.

Mohamed al-Khrashi was the next coach. He disappeared one night, "by mutual agreement," without an explanation. Leo Beenhakker, an arrogant Dutchman, wanted the Saudi team to become more offensive-minded.

Prince Fahd disagreed. Bye-bye.

The royal family brought in the Solari family. Solari's younger brother, Eduardo, is the top assistant coach, and his son, Jorge Jr., is the goalkeepers coach.

"He has done a wonderful job preparing our team," said Prince Bin Sulton. "The mix of the Argentine coach and Saudi players has worked well. It shows how small our world has become."

It wasn't easy.

The game was important because the loser would be almost eliminated from advancing, while the winner would have a good chance of reaching the second round. It was also the first time in the history of the tournament that an African nation and a Middle East team had played each other.

Morocco came out the aggressor, and it stayed that way. But Morocco ran into a hot goalie in al-Deayea, who finished with 11 saves.

Al-Deayea's most incredible stops came during the 39th minute, when he dove twice in succession to knock down shots by forward Mohammed Chaouch.

"We lacked accuracy in our shots," said Moroccan coach Abdella Ajri. "Fuad Amin and Mohammed al-Deayea were the best players for Saudi Arabia."

Saudi Arabia was contented to counterattack with long passes. The Saudis were outshot, 29-10, and went 20 minutes without a shot in the second half.

But Saudi Arabia wasted few of its opportunities. Al-Jaber scored on a penalty shot into the left side of the net on the team's first shot of the game. The goal was set up when Morocco's Noureddine Naybet pulled al-Jaber down in the penalty area on a breakaway.

Morocco tied the game at 1-1 at the 27th minute on a three-yard goal from Chaouch. The play was set up by forward Ahmed Bahja, who kept the ball alive on the right sideline. Bahja beat defenders Awad al-Anazi and Ahmed Madani, and then sent a pass under al-Deayea's sliding leg to Chaouch.

Amin's game-winner came from 22 yards out, as Morocco goalie Kahlil Azmi started to his right, slipped, and could not come back to his left to stop the shot in time.

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