There is a new reality in Asia.
The Saudis are a good team. A really good team.
They are no longer just flat track bullies at home and cannon fodder away. They are a seriously good team everywhere and the Big Four of Asia (Japan, South Korea, Iran and Australia) must now be regarded as the Big Five.
We started really well. The first ten minutes we did everything but score and I thought that the cold and wet conditions were playing perfectly into our hands. But the Saudis held on and then came strongly into the game themselves.
They are all technically proficient and they understand their game plan perfectly. They held possession and moved in neat triangles down the field and caused us problems from time to time.
That said, we had plenty of our own chances and Jackson Irvine is probably having nightmares about the ball set up for him from Awer Mabil early in the second half. Nine times out of ten that goes in. So does the follow up shot from Mabil’s free kick but they also had some good chances hit too close to Maty Ryan.
In the end, we have to be happy with a draw because that could so easily have ended in disaster.
Looking at our own boys – Ryan did everything we could have asked.
Grant and Behich were adequate without causing the kind of problems wide that Arnie expects of his fullbacks. There might be a change or two there on Tuesday.
Sainsbury had an excellent match with some really important tackles and Souttar was having (I thought) his best game in the green and gold before his injury.
Jeggo had a blinder and so did Irvine in defence, but could have figured more going forward. He did miss the best chance of the game.
Hrustic was not quite as creative as usual but that has to go partly down to the Saudi defence. He did play some wonderful balls to create chances but not quite enough of them.
Boyle did well but could have trusted himself to go wide more often.
Mabil had some great touches but his control seriously let him down on several occasions. I guess it was a difficult pitch in that weather.
Leckie, for my money, was an odd selection for Arnie given his lack of recent game time. I can’t remember him making any kind of serious impact on the match. I did expect Duke to start and I think he should have. Him or MacLaren.
Nabbout looked dangerous when he came on and I expect him to see more minutes against China.
So we move on.
I reiterate my opening statement that we shouldn’t be too disappointed with this result. The Saudis are here for keeps and cannot, any longer, be just brushed aside. It looks like it will come down to a shootout between us and Japan so wins against all other teams are critical.
That starts with China and I expect Arnie to name a very attacking team on Tuesday. We’ve got to win and we’ve got to get our goal difference up as high as possible.
In all likelihood that’s going to be really important in a World Cup group likely to be decided on the very last day.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. His first sci-fi novel will be published by Hague Publishing in late 2021.