Ones to Watch: Salem Al Dawsari (Saudi Arabia)
After enduring a tough period since losing the 2007 AFC Asian Cup final to Iraq, Saudi Arabia qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and now go into the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 as among the favourites with Salem Al Dawsari one of their key players.
Despite the likes of Nawaf Al Abed and Yahya Al Shehri possessing unmatched raw talent in Saudi Arabian football, it is Al Dawsari who has excelled at both club and country level to become arguably the Green Falcons' most dangerous player.
Nationality: Saudi Arabia
Date of birth: 19/08/1991
Current club: Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia)
Previous clubs: Villareal (Spain, loan)
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After bursting onto the scene with Al Hilal in 2011, the Jeddah-born winger was first called up to the national team in the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers. Despite being on the end of a 4-2 loss against Australia, Al Dawsari scored on his international debut.
He would go on to become an important part of the national team. At the 2014 Gulf Cup of Nations, he scored the winner against the UAE to send Saudi Arabia into the final.
A torrid AFC Asian Cup campaign in 2015 followed suit, but as Saudi Arabia progressed to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Al Dawsari had grown to become their best player. His late winner earned Saudi Arabia their only points in Russia at the expense of Egypt.
Style of play
Although primarily used as a winger, Al Dawsari is a versatile player who is able to play anywhere from central midfield to up front. His speed and nimble feet allow him to be a great dribbler, while his off-the-ball movements see him constantly sneak into dangerous areas.
Al Dawsari shows the same level of tenacity when his side loses the ball, running at opponents to immediately win back possession and restart play from higher up the pitch.
What to look for
Al Dawsari has been largely used down the left by coach Juan Antonio Pizzi and he is expected to be involved in the bulk of the team's attacking action. A six-month loan spell in Spain helped the 27-year-old improve his physique and decision making, both will be crucial assets as Saudi Arabia hope to go far in neighbouring UAE where they had won their last title in 1996.
Where and when to watch him
Saudi Arabia vs DPR Korea
Venue: Rashid Stadium, Dubai
Kick-off: January 8, 20:00 UTC+4
Saudi Arabia vs Lebanon
Venue: Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai
Kick-off: January 12, 20:00 UTC+4
Saudi Arabia vs Qatar
Venue: Zayed Sport City Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Kick-off: January 17, 20:00 UTC+4
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