In the concluding match of Group F at the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™, Saudi Arabia and Thailand played to a 0-0 draw at Education City Stadium on Thursday.
With Oman securing a 1-1 draw against Kyrgyz Republic in the other Group F encounter, the Green Falcons secured the top spot in the group, while Thailand claimed the second position. Despite accumulating two points, Oman’s total was insufficient for them to progress as one of the best-ranked third-placed teams.
Coach Roberto Mancini implemented nine changes to the Saudi Arabia starting XI that secured a 2-0 victory over Kyrgyz Republic in the previous match, introducing goalkeeper Raghed Najjar for his debut.
Within the initial 10 minutes, Saudi Arabia had a prime opportunity to take the lead against Thailand as a VAR review confirmed a penalty after defender Suphan Thongsong fouled Abdulrahman Ghareeb inside the box. Despite the chance, young striker Abdullah Radif’s penalty attempt was thwarted by goalkeeper Saranon Anuin.
Shortly thereafter, Thailand believed they had scored when Teerasak Poeiphimai’s diving header found the net, but the forward was ruled offside. A similar situation occurred at the opposite end, with a Radif goal disallowed for offside just moments later.
Midway through the first half, Salem Al Dawsari tested Anuin with a long-range shot, but the Thai goalkeeper made a crucial save.
In the 35th minute, another goal was disallowed for offside, with Thailand’s Worachit Kanitsribampen being the offender this time, straying beyond the last defender.
In the second half, Saudi Arabia increased the pressure, with Abdulrahman Ghareeb notably lively on the pitch. Ghareeb made several incursions into the Thai penalty box and attempted long-range shots, only to be thwarted by Anuin.
Saudi Arabia vs Thailand: Mancini’s men avoid a tough draw
Thailand’s most significant opportunity in the second half came through Jaroensak Wonggorn, who cut inside from the right flank and attempted a curled shot from the edge of the area. However, his effort missed the Saudi goal.
Talal Haji of Saudi Arabia made history by entering the match as a second-half substitute at the age of 16 years and 131 days. He became the second youngest player to appear in the AFC Asian Cup after Syria’s Munaf Ramadan (16 years and 45 days) against Saudi Arabia in 1988.
Haji nearly marked his continental debut with a goal, connecting with Nasser Al Dawsari’s cross with a towering header from close range, but the Thai goalkeeper made a crucial save.
Despite several half-chances for both teams, neither side managed to break the deadlock. Thailand remained one of two teams not to concede a goal in the group stage, along with Qatar, while Saudi Arabia continued their record of never finishing a group stage with the full nine points in yet another tournament.