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Sunday, 22 July 2018

Saudi international Al Muwallad bides time on Spanish bench

Reuters , Thursday 12 Apr 2018
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From scoring the goal that secured Saudi Arabia's berth at the World Cup finals to warming the bench at Spain's Levante, Fahad Al Muwallad's career has hit the highs and lows in less than a year.

But with barely two months until his team face hosts Russia in the opening game of this year's World Cup, the man who sealed his country's passage to their first finals since 2006 can at least see some hope after a frustrating few months.

One of nine players from the Gulf state to have been sent out on loan from their Saudi clubs to La Liga sides, Al Muwallad is at the centre of an arrangement made with Spanish football authorities to raise the standard of the Saudi national side ahead of the finals in June.

"The Levante coach knows my capabilities and I'm putting all my efforts into training in order to gain his trust," Al Muwallad told local media in Saudi Arabia.

"I hope that the match against Las Palmas will be a good start for my career and the future will have more good news and I'll be able to make my debut."

So far the initiative has backfired with none of the players likely to be included in Juan Antonio Pizzi's Saudi Arabia squad featuring in competitive action to date.

Al Muwallad, though, came close on Sunday, selected among the substitutes for Levante's 2-1 win over Las Palmas that all-but sealed the Valencia-based club's status in Spain's top flight.

The 23-year-old has long been seen as one of the rising talents of Saudi football after breaking through for Al Ittihad in his home city of Jeddah.

Diminutive, quick and with a low centre of gravity, his pace and power cutting in from the right flank make him a threat to the best defences.

It was those attributes that saw him score the only goal of his country's crucial World Cup qualifying match against Japan in August.

The Saudis will kick off their campaign against Russia on June 14 before taking on Uruguay and Egypt as they attempt to advance to the knockout phase of the competition for only the second time in their history.

To have any hope of making that kind of impact, Saudi Arabia will need Al Muwallad and the other players currently in Spain to gain much needed game time soon.

"I've been here for two and a half months and learning the Spanish language has been very difficult," said Al Muwallad of the challenges he has faced.

"I try to connect with them using English and had I been here since the start of the season, things would have been different.

"Football is different in Spain and I have learnt a lot from the training style. Of course it is very hard not to play but I'm fighting to make my debut."

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