Salman Almuwashar, Saudi Arabia's super sub

·         Almuwashar's goal against Thailand was his first for the Saudi national team

·         He was handed his full international debut by Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard

·         He began his pro career with Al-Hilal, but played just twice for the club

Saudi Arabia’s emphatic triumph over Thailand in their third round Group B qualifier for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ was another step in the right direction for the team.

On a night of many positives at Bangkok’s Rajamangala National Stadium, the highlight was the outstanding performance of winger Salman Almuwashar, who came off the subs’ bench with 20 minutes remaining yet still made a major contribution to the Green’s stirring victory.

In the 83rd minute, Almuwashar whipped in a cross that Thai defender Tanaboon Kesarat could only turn into his own net, giving the visitors a 2-0 lead. And after slotting in the third goal in added time from a ball laid on by Taisir Al-Jassim, the 28-year-old ran to the touchline, where he performed a Paul Pogba-style celebration before being engulfed by his team-mates.

Suffering from gastroenteritis just days before the match, the Al-Ahli player was not expected to feature against Thailand after sitting out the squad’s first training session in Bangkok. However, Almuwashar was able to partake in subsequent sessions, clearing him to come on as a second-half sub, having started seven previous Russia 2018 qualifiers.

Almuwashar shone in the Saudi championship last season, leading Al-Ahli to the third league title in their history and the first in over three decades. He was also the second-top scorer in the league, making a sizeable contribution to the Jeddah giants' triumphant campaign.

The player’s real journey began in 2005 after moving from his first club Heraa to Al-Hilal, where he represented the youth and U-23 teams. In 2010, he was loaned out to Al Qadisiyah , then moved to Al Wahda, where he played for two seasons, before ending up at Al-Ahli in 2014. Since then, he has won several titles, most notably last season’s league crown.

Almuwashar’s rise shows the perseverance of this Mecca-born player, who has high hopes of being in Russia next year for the game’s flagship event.

Almuwashar’s firsts

  • Almuwashar made his full international debut on 11 September 2012 as a substitute in a friendly against Gabon in France.

  • Almuwashar was the first player to score a hat-trick last season in the Saudi league – a feat he managed in his side’s 4-0 win over Al-Khaleej. The next to do it was Al-Hilal’s Nawwaf Al Abed, who also put three past the same opponent.