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Saudis drop Al Montashari from squad

7 July 2007 18:54

JAKARTA (AFP) - Saudi Arabia have dropped 2005 Asian Player of the Year Hamad Al Montashari and three others from their squad for the Asian Cup finals, a team official said Saturday.

Along with defender Al Montashari, midfielder Mohammed Al Shalhoub, dubbed by fans "Baby Maradona," has been left out of their final squad after picking up an ankle injury in a warm-up match against North Korea this week.

Also dumped are striker Saleh Bashir, his side's top scorer in the qualifying campaign, and midfielder Saheb Al Abdulla.

"We just preferred other players who are better," said the official, without elaborating.

Al Montashari's omission is a big surprise with the 25-year-old, voted Arab Player of the Year in 2006, featuring in all Saudi Arabia's games at the last Asian Cup in 2004 and at the World Cup in Germany last year.

He recently led his club side Al Ittihad to the Saudi Premier League title.

Al Shalhoub's injury is a blow to Helio Dos Angos's team, having been a vital cog during the Gulf Cup in January.

The Saudis have a tough Asian Cup opener against South Korea here on Wednesday.

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