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Four Tiny Tidbits On: Saudi Arabia

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The World Cup is ominously close! So that you aren't caught offside (they have that in soccer, right?), we're previewing all the participants, bringing you Four Things You Don't Know About Them. If you have a tidbit, send it along to Today: Saudi Arabia! And for World Cup previews that are even better than ours, check out That's On Point, who helped us with these as well.

1. Know Your Saudi Soccer Icons. Mohammed Al-Deayae has made the most caps in world football history (173). He'll also enter rarefied air with his fourth World Cup appearance this June. He appeared headed to backing up youngster Mabrouk Zaid, but the wily vet has wormed his way back into the starting lineup, even if moss is starting to form on his shinguards. Plus, let's face it, you have to give some love to a guy who plays goalie in sweatpants and a longsleeve shirt when his homeland is a desert.

2. They Will Not Super-Size It. To their credit, the Saudi's are probably the only team in Germany, aside from the hosts, with their entire squad playing domestically on the club level. Essentially the whole squad plays for Al-Ittihad or Al-Hilal. It's a safe bet, though, that none of the starting XI have tasted the culinary joys of a bacon cheeseburger.

3. When HBO Gets It Right. As snooty as Bryant Gumbel is, and as foppish as No. 1 soccer hater Frank Deford is (note the ludicrous caption to the photo linked, about U.S. soccer), HBO's Real Sports presented a very compelling segment recently detailing the exploitation of children as slave camel jockeys in Saudi Arabia.

4. Have Whistle, Will Travel. The players may be home grown, but not the coaches. The current Saudi Arabia coach is former Argentine international Gabriel Calderon, who replaced Dutchman Gerard van der Lem, following a poor showing by the Saudis in the Asian Cup. Calderon is the second Argentinean to lead Saudi Arabia into a FIFA World Cup finals. Jorge Solari coached the team at USA '94.

(Tomorrow: Switzerland)


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