Saudi Arabia captain Yasser Al-Qahtani is without doubt one of the biggest names in Asian football. The Al-Hilal striker has become an attacking mainstay for the national team and his most memorable moments have included scoring at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ and being named AFC Player of the Year in 2007.
The 26-year-old, known as 'The Sniper', spoke exclusively to FIFA.com as the Saudi team travelled to Pyongyang for their crucial 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa qualifier against Korea DPR.
FIFA.com: Yasser, with four points from the opening three games, Saudi Arabia are in fourth place in Group B. How do you rate your chances of qualifying for your fifth consecutive FIFA World Cup?
Yasser Al-Qahtani: I think we have a big chance. In Group B, Saudi Arabia and Korea Republic are the most experienced teams. We have good quality, and there's still a chance to qualify for FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Which are the biggest hurdles you have to overcome to finish in the top two and take of the group's two automatic qualifying spots?
The match against Korea DPR, that's the hardest one. This next game will be the most difficult for us.
Korea DPR always represent mysterious, though tough and resilient opponents. How confident are you of getting a good result?
As you say, Korea DPR are not an easy team at all. In this match, working hard should be key to winning. We have already done all our preparation. For us, this is the most important and difficult game. In Korea DPR, it is winter, so temperature can be below freezing, which makes our body feel harder. But we have to win this match.
You played a key role in qualifying for the last FIFA World Cup, where you finished top ahead of Korea Republic in your successful run-up to Germany 2006. Now you are team captain, does this change in role make any difference in your performance?
I'm so proud to be national team skipper. It is a very big honor for me. I can be a good footballer better than before.
After the Korea DPR game, you will have a crucial away game against Iran. Is the thought of this encounter against your old rivals daunting?
Iran are a big and strong team. But they are not as difficult Korea DPR in some ways, because we already know much about Iran's players and its quality of football. Also they know our way of playing, and I think we and Iran respect each other. The match against Iran will not be the most difficult game. We know Iran's tactics. They will play an open and attacking style and we also like to play this way.
During your emergence in the last qualifying campaign for Germany 2006, you were heralded as a true heir to the legendary Sami Al Jaber. Now with the striking legend retiring, you have proved to be the most inspirational figure of the team. Does this bring any further pressure to you?
For me it's a big responsibility as an heir to Sami Al Jaber. But now I'm ready to do everything to qualify for South Africa. That's what I can do for my team.
You achieved the ultimate individual accolade by earning the AFC Player of the Year in 2007. What is your personal goal for the coming year?
My next personal goal is to be named AFC Player of the Year in 2009!
And what is your goal with the national team?
Obviously, to qualify for 2010 World Cup. The most important thing is to qualify. Then bigger goals would come after that.
Coach Nasser Al Johar took over last year, returning to the national post for the fifth time. What do you think of him, and will his experience and knowledge about Asian football be enough to take you through?
He is one of the most experienced coaches in Asia, and his great experience and knowledge of football is a big boost for us.