Saudi Arabia can secure qualification for the World Cup finals with victory over China on Thursday but coach Herve Renard says they will not be satisfied unless they finish the preliminaries top of the group.
Renard’s side lead Group B by a point from Japan, with Australia three points further back, and will confirm their participation in a second consecutive World Cup with a win over the already eliminated Chinese when they meet in Sharjah.
“The players have done an incredible job, and everything is now in our own hands,” the Frenchman said in an interview with the Asian Football Confederation.
“Yes, the most important thing is to get one of the two direct tickets to the World Cup, but I want us to finish first because we have been topping the group for a long time.”
The Saudis have dominated the group ahead of a slow-starting Japan and an Australian side who have faltered in recent rounds, drawing with China and Oman to drop to third in the standings.
Renard’s team have won six of their eight qualifiers, only drawing with Australia in Sydney and losing to Japan in Saitama at the start of February.
Saudi Arabia have appeared at the World Cup five times, their best performance coming on the debut in 1994 when they reached the last 16.
“In international football, things are always difficult but when you are representing your nation, there is no place for relaxing,” said Renard.
“We cannot take our foot off the gas at this important stage.
“We prepare for this game like we do for every game. I have full confidence in my players. I am sure the players will deliver and bring home the World Cup ticket.”