Now the outspoken sports minister is hoping his unfancied nation can cause another upset by beating host nation Russia in the opening game on Thursday.
Al-Sheikh interrupted Wednesday’s training session at the Luzhniki Stadium to give a pep talk to head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi and his players.
Saudi Arabia’s sports boss Turki al-Sheikh interrupted Wednesday’s training session
Outspoken sports minister delivered pep talk to head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi and his players
The game is seen a must-win both nations if they are to have any realistic chances of qualifying for the knockout stages.
Russia are ranked 70th in the world and Saudi Arabia just above them in 64th, with Uruguay and Egypt the other two teams in Group A.
The meeting between Saudi Arabia and Egypt will have added spice as Egyptians are livid at the country’s star TV host Amr Adib for transferring to a Saudi network.
Saudi Arabia take on host nation Russia in the opening game of the World Cup on Thursday
Al-Sheikh added fuel to the fire with a video clip of him boasting about hiring Adib for the Saudi MBC Network.
‘This is the most expensive broadcaster in the Middle East, an Arab Larry King,’ the minister jokes in the clip.
Adib will reportedly earn $3m a year plus another $500,000 for his share of advertising revenues.
Saudi Arabia held a training session at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Wednesday
WORLD CUP OPENING GAMES
1930 France 4-1 Mexico, USA 3-0 Belgium
1934 All eight first-round games kicked off at the same time
1938 Switzerland 1-1 Germany
1950 Brazil 4-0 Mexico
1954 Brazil 5-0 Mexico, Yugoslavia 1-0 France, Uruguay 2-0 Czechoslovakia, Austria 1-0 Scotland
1958 Eight first-round games kicked off at the same time
1962 Uruguay 2-1 Colombia, Chile 3-1 Switzerland, Brazil 2-0 Mexico , Argentina 1-0 Bulgaria
1966 England 0-0 Uruguay
1970 Mexico 0-0 Soviet Union
1974 Brazil 0-0 Yugoslavia
1978 West Germany 0-0 Poland
1982 Argentina 0-1 Belgium
1986 Italy 1-1 Bulgaria
1990 Argentina 0-1 Cameroon
1994 Germany 1-0 Bolivia
1998 Brazil 2-1 Scotland
2002 France 0-1 Senegal
2006 Germany 4-2 Costa Rica
2010 South Africa 1-1 Mexico
2014 Brazil 3-1 Croatia