With Korea Republic booking their place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ with two matches to spare, the competition in Group B has become a three-way battle, with Saudi Arabia competing against Korea DPR and Iran for the remaining second automatic qualifying berth.
The Sons of Deserts currently lie third in their pool, one point behind the second-placed Korea DPR but three clear of Iran. An away win against Korea Republic in the penultimate round on Wednesday will move them into the second place ahead of Korea DPR, whom they host in the closing game on 17 June.
It will be no easy task against the two teams from the Korean Peninsula, both of whom are in solid form, defeating the Saudis in their respective previous encounters. Despite this, coach Jose Peseiro remains confident that his side can progress to the world's premier football tournament once again.
"We will strive to gain the maximum points in the last two games to qualify," the 49-year-old Portuguese told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview before travelling to Seoul. "And we can still make it if we get four points."
Having guided Saudi Arabia to two sensational comeback victories against Iran and the United Arab Emirates in the last two qualifiers, results which reignited Saudi Arabia's diminishing hopes, Peseiro believes that the team will live up to expectations by booking their consecutive fifth appearance at the global showpiece.
"The nation's pedigree in Asian qualifying for the World Cup is distinctive: over the past decade and a half they have been a dominant force in the continental competition. Furthermore, they have the necessary talents to fulfill the task this time around," said Peseiro, previously known for assisting former Real Madrid boss Carlos Queiroz from 2003/04.
They have the necessary talents to fulfill the task this time around,
But the fact remains that the team are also one of Asia's most unpredictable sides, a point borne out in the opening stages of the qualifying final round, when Saudi Arabia notched up only four points in four games to see them on verge of elimination.
The disappointing results saw Peseiro brought in for Nasser Al Johar in February and the former Panathinaikos coach quickly proved his coaching ability by transforming the under-performing side into a winning team. Despite masterminding the team's rebuilding process, Peseiro downplays his role in the teams upturn in fortune.
"I only did the work any coaches should do and it was the team's good efforts that helped us," says Peseiro. "I always believe a team can only be strong when all are working for a common cause."
An impressive 4-1 away win against China in a friendly on 4 June came as a further morale-booster for Saudi Arabia ahead of their away game with Korea Republic, with ace striker Yasser Al Qahtani seemingly back to his form of old. The former AFC Player of the Year, who missed the last two matches, played a pivotal role in Saudi Arabia's qualification for the last FIFA World Cup at Germany 2006. "It is good that Qahtani was back and scored a goal and while I hope he can continue his scoring form, I especially wish the team can play well as a group," said Peseiro.
Young goalscoring prodigy Naif Hazazi is also set to play an important role in the upcoming matches and is in a rich vein of form in front of goal, and, having netted in the team's wins against Iran and UAE, was also on target in the friendly against China. "Before I sent Hazazi on, I urged him to come forward to attack because it was just a friendly and we needed to build confidence by scoring more goals. But we will have a different approach against Korea Republic as the top priority is to gain three points," concluded Peseiro.