Saudi Arabia captain and forward Nassir al-Shamrani has been ruled out of the Asian Cup with an abdominal injury.
The Asian Football Confederation said on its website Saturday that Al Shamrani, the AFC player of the year, aggravated the injury during a 2-0 friendly loss to South Korea on Jan. 4 and will be replaced in the squad by Ibrahim Ghaleb.
Saudi Arabia’s Asian Cup opener is against China at Brisbane on Saturday.
Al Hilal player Al Shamrani was banned for eight matches for spitting and head-butting Western Sydney defender Matthew Spiranovic during the Asian Champions League final in November won by the Wanderers.
Last week, footage surfaced of Al Shamrani pushing an abusive fan in the players’ tunnel before Saudi Arabia’s friendly against Bahrain in Geelong outside Melbourne. No action was taken against him by Asian Cup organizers or his team.
Before Al Shamrani’s withdrawal, Saudi Arabia coach Cosmin Olaroiu said he hoped his star striker’s injury wouldn’t be too serious.
“He had some problems against Korea,” Olaroiu said. “It’s something he had before.”
Saudi and Al Hilal midfielder Saud Kariri said his team should be able to overcome Al Shamrani’s loss.
“Al Shamrani is a very good player, a very important player to any team,” Kariri said. “But if he plays or doesn’t play, we have a good squad of 23 players and everybody is ready.”
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