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Flashback: Saudi Arabia's historic triumph at the 1984 AFC Asian Cup 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Kuala Lumpur: Saudi Arabia are among Asia's top teams and recently booked their spot at a fifth FIFA World Cup.

Over the years, the Green Falcons have built themselves a reputation across the continent, earning respect for their footballing achievements.

All of those achievements are looked at with pride by Saudi fans but the 1984 AFC Asian Cup win remains special for all those who witnessed it.

On the 33rd anniversary of that triumph, looks back at how the Saudis won their first Asian title.


The coach

While the 1984 AFC Asian Cup in Singapore was the eighth edition of the quadrennial tournament, it marked Saudi Arabia's first appearance.

Saudi Arabia came into their debut tournament led by a coach who had only taken charge earlier that year.

Khalil Al Zayani had been overseeing his hometown club Al Ettifaq when he was called on to replace Mario Zagallo at the helm of the national team, following a disastrous start at the Gulf Cup.

Then aged only 37 years old, Al Zayani was considered as relatively young but his early performances as manager helped him earn the management's trust.

Not only did he resurrect the Saudi campaign at the Gulf Cup but Al Zayani also took the team to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Leading up to the Asian Cup in December, public confidence in Al Zayani's abilities was rising and it was based on good instincts - as he went on to show.


The campaign

Saudi Arabia's opening match of the tournament in Group A pitted them against two-time champions Korea Republic and the difficulty of the clash came to the fore when the Saudis went behind to a goal from Lee Tae-ho in the 51st minute.

It would take a last minute strike from the rising star Majed Abdullah for Saudi Arabia to salvage a point - their first ever point at an AFC Asian Cup.

The next match was historic as well and it gave the Green Falcons their first continental win, as Saleh Khalifa's second half goal powered them to a 1-0 victory over Syria.

Mohammed Abduljawad then gave the Saudis another point in their third game, after his equaliser cancelled out Ali Zaid's opener for Qatar.

This set the stage for the final group game against defending champions Kuwait, with top spot and regional bragging rights at stake.

In the end, a 19-year old Mohaisen Al Jamaan justified his inclusion in the team with an 88th minute winner that saw Al Zayani's men go through to the semi-finals as group winners.

The semi-final clash with Islamic Republic of Iran proved to be the Saudis’ biggest challenge yet. Iran were the most successful side in the history of the tournament with three titles.

With Team Melli leading 1-0 in the dying minutes of the match, courtesy Shahrokh Bayani’s goal, it seemed that they were set to reach another final.

However, fortune would favour the Saudis. Shahrokh’s brother Shahin Bayani inadvertently scored into his own net in the 88th minute, leading to a stalemate that ultimately had to be settled on penalties.

The legacy

Saudi Arabia went on to convert all their spot kicks while Mohammad Panjali missed his effort for Iran, meaning that the Saudis had completed an improbable turnaround.

Only one match remained now between them and glory. In the five games they had played so far, Saudi Arabia had never scored in the first half.

They struck off that record in the final against China when Shaye Al Nafisah scored in the tenth minute with a well-struck volley from the edge of the box, that took a bounce before going in.

With China looking to get back into the game in the second half, Majed Abdullah gave the decisive blow. The Al Nassr star went on a solo run past multiple defenders before finishing past the keeper and giving the Saudis a 2-0 lead that proved to be enough to win a historic first Asian Cup title.