The 2018 FIFA World Cup opens up June 14 and pits Saudi Arabia against Russia in the inaugural match.
Saudi Arabia’s left winger Yahya Al-Shehri, who wears number 8, will be one of big names in this World Cup for Saudi Arabia. He plays a vital role in the offense of Saudi Arabia and will certainly be one of the talked about names during this tournament.
Since Saudi Arabia plays Russia in their first match there will be a lot of eyes on this game in particular.
Here’s what you need to know about Yahya Al-Shehri.
1. Al-Shehri Signed The Largest Deal in The History of Saudi Football
Yahya Al-Shehri is a member of Al-Nassr FC, which is one of the more popular football clubs in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Shehri’s deal with the club is worth 48 million Saudi Riyal, which translates into about 12.8 million US dollars, making it the largest deal ever signed in the history of Saudi Football.
Despite the large deal, Al-Shehri’s still not the household name you’d expect him to be but he’ll certainly look to make an impact in this year’s World Cup.
His market value is rising even higher with his strong play going into the World Cup and if his performance continues he could be looking at an even higher payday.
2. Al-Shehri Was Loaned to CD Leganes
In an effort to build the Saudi Arabia football brand, Al-Shehri was loaned to Leganes earlier this year.
“Leganes Sports Club signed on Sunday afternoon the Saudi Arabian left-footed striker Yahya al-Shehri, who played 37 matches for the first national team with whom he qualified for the 2018 World Cup, on loan from Al-Nassr,” the club confirmed in a statement according to efe.com
The competition is tough with Leganes since they are in one of the top leagues in the world, La Liga. It also gave Al-Shehri some stiffer competition to properly prepare for Saudi Arabia’s appearance in the World Cup.
Al-Shehri has mentioned Lionel Messi is one of the many players he looks up to and this seems like a logical step towards possibly facing him in the future. He did share a cover with him for the Saudi Arabian version of FIFA 15.
3. Al-Shehri Wants to Bring Glory to Saudi Arabia Through The World Cup
While the goal of all of the teams in the World Cup is to bring glory to their countries, Al-Shehri wants to ramp it up a notch.
Saudi Arabia is a young and hungry team that plays aggressively which will hopefully open up several options for scoring.
“Our style of play means that we generate a lot of chances,” said Al-Shehri to FIFA.com. “I noticed there was a lot of space ahead for me to run into and shoot. The Iraqi defence had been pretty compact during the first half, and trying our luck from outside the box was a way to combat that.
Saudi Arabia has missed the last two World Cups so this is the first time in a while Saudi Arabia is back on the national stage. Al-Shehri, 27, was a big fan of the national team growing up but after not qualifying the past two times, the team was determined to make it back.
“When we were young, we were so happy each time our country qualified – it’s such an honour to hear the national anthem at the world’s greatest football tournament. It’s that kind of thing that encourages us to bring back those glory days,” Al-Shehri told FIFA.com.
4. Al-Shehri Is Just 5’4″, Making Him One of The Smallest Players Competing
Standing at just 5’4″, Al-Shehri is certainly one of the smaller players competing in the World Cup but that doesn’t make him any less dangerous.
The scrappy Saudi Arabian winger is quick, young and aggressive which allows him to dart across the field rather quickly. For many, this opening match against Russia will be the first time they’ve been exposed to this player.
Saudi Arabia plans to play a fast-tempo, which is possible since the team is young and energetic, which will have the possibility of tiring out Russia and spoiling the inaugural match for fans.
If Al-Shehri is able to keep up the form he has shown so far, Russia will have their hands full.
However, his small size can be used against him. Realsport101 wrote the following about his profile:
Living rigorously to type, Al-Shehri shares most of the traditional weaknesses for a player of his position. He is small and stocky, and, at 5 foot 4, few would claim he is a natural athlete. Given close attention by a robust defence, he can be bullied out of games.
5. Al-Shehri Has 7 International Goals
Although he’s only 27, Al-Shehri has seen his fair share of action with the Saudi Arabian national team.
Going into the World Cup, Al-Shehri has scored seven international goals, with his sights on adding to that total.
He scored five of those goals during the qualifying stage, even hitting a game-winner against Iraq in what would turn out to be the game’s only goal.
He will be one of the players Saudi Arabia leans on during this tournament so his teammates are definitely hoping for him to continue his hot streak going into the match against Russia.
Although Al-Shehri was loaned to the La Liga to prepare him to tougher competition, it actually ended up hurting him since he could make the match-day squad for Leganes, meaning he didn’t get the experience he might have wanted.
He did offer the following about potentially beating Russia in the opening match:
“We still have time to study Russia’s game. First of all, we must focus on our own game. I hope, we will be able to beat Russia. I think the game against Russia will be very difficult… Russia are a good team with great players. They are united and strong, especially in defense,” said Al-Shehri, according to fourfourtwo.com