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Brisbane: Saudi Arabia have been dealt a huge blow on the eve of their opening AFC Asian Cup Group C fixture against China, with star forward and captain Nassir Al Shamrani ruled out for the tournament.

The reigning AFC Player of the Year aggravated an as yet unspecified injury during a 2-0 friendly defeat to Korea Republic on January 4 and will be replaced by Al Nassr’s Ibrahim Ghaleb.

Only hours before Al Shamrani’s withdrawal, Saudi Arabia coach Cosmin Olaroiu was hopeful his star striker’s injury wouldn’t be too serious and that Al Shamrani would play a major part in the competition.

"He had some problems against Korea. It's something he had before. Our medical staff has tried to improve him but we will see. We still have time."

With or without Al Shamrani, however, midfielder Saud Kariri firmly believes his team will not embarrass themselves when they set foot on the pitch at Brisbane Stadium.

"Al Shamrani is a very good player, a very important player to any team," the Al Hilal man said. "But, if he plays or doesn't play, we have a good squad of 23 players and everybody is ready to give it his 100 percent."

Photo: AFP