Vietnam's opponent Saudi Arabia brings World Cup player to Asian Games

By Hieu Luong   September 18, 2023 | 09:56 pm PT
Vietnam's opponent Saudi Arabia brings World Cup player to Asian Games
Haitham Asiri during a training session of Saudi Arabia. Photo by Saudi Arabia Football Federation
The Saudi Arabia U23 team brought 22-year-old winger forward Haitham Asiri, who competed for the national team in the 2022 World Cup, to Asian Games where they'll play Vietnam.

Asiri played the opening game of Saudi Arabia in the 2022 World Cup, where they beat Argentina 2-1. He is also the most valuable player on the team as football site Transfermarkt put his value at $520,000.

The 2001-born winger is playing for Saudi Arabian club Al Ahli but did not get enough game time due to the wave of football stars coming to the Saudi Pro League. Asiri has not played any league game this season as he could not compete with superstars like Riyad Mahrez, Roberto Firmnino and Allan Saint-Maximin.

Last year, Asiri was one of the key players that helped Saudi Arabia win the U23 Asian Cup. They met Vietnam in the quarterfinals and won 2-0. Six other players in that game were also called up for Asian Games this month.

All 22 Saudi Arabian players for Asian Games are from domestic clubs and they are also the team that made it past the 2024 U23 Asian Cup qualifiers. Although the Asian Games allow each team to use three players above 23 years old, Saudi Arabia did not need it. They consider this as a chance to gain more experience for the young players and aim for the U23 Asian Cup next year, in order to secure a ticket to the Olympic Paris.

Aside from Asiri, another notable name is striker Mohammed Maran, Cristiano Ronaldo's teammate in Al Nassr.

Vietnam will play Saudi Arabia on Sunday, after Mongolia on Tuesday and Iran on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia will start their Asian Games tournament against Iran on Wednesday.

The 19th Asian Games will take place in Hangzhou from September 23 to October 8. Vietnam are set to send 337 athletes to compete in 31 sports and targets two to five gold medals.

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