Saudi Arabia withdraw from 2018 World Cup qualifier

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DPR Korea v Saudi Arabia - 2015 Asian Cup

The Football Federation (SAFF) on Tuesday sent a letter to Fifa “in which it announced withdrawing from the match against scheduled for Thursday,” spokesman Adnan Al Moaibed said. He said the letter explains the SAFF’s decision is based on concerns over the security situation in the Palestinian Territories and the safety of the Saudi delegation.

The matter will now be passed on to Fifa’s disciplinary committee, who could issue a wide range of punishments but is most likely to result in awarding Palestine a 3-0 victory and a substantial fine for the Saudis, although there remains an outside chance that Fifa might disqualify Saudi Arabia altogether if they are not satisfied with the SAFF’s reasoning for not playing the match.

Saudi Arabia are currently top of Group A with a maximum 12 points from four games. Yesterday’s decision came after several months of uncertainty from the SAFF.

Saudi Arabia were initially scheduled to travel to Palestine in June, but they refused to travel to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, citing undefined “exceptional circumstances”.

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