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SAUDI KING VERY, VERY PLEASED WITH HIS TEAM

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The king is very pleased.

The king paid a lot of money for this, you know. He made a lot of grass grow in the desert for this. He built a big stadium in Riyadh for this. He gave his players a lot of money and a lot of Mercedes for this. He fired a lot of coaches for this. George Steinbrenner has nothing on the king when it comes to firing coaches.But now the king has his reward. Now he has seen his team advance to the second round of the World Cup. Now the king has seen his team beat more than just Morocco, which does not have a very good team and is a brother Arab country so he could not really enjoy it to the fullest. Now the king has seen his team beat Belgium, too.

And if Belgium, which had already advanced to the second round of the World Cup, did not start some of its best players Wednesday and did not appear completely motivated, that does not really matter.

What really matters is that Saudi Arabia, which is making its first World Cup appearance, won. What matters is that Saudi Arabia will advance to the second round of the World Cup. What matters is that the king is very, very pleased.

The king is so pleased that the prince, who is the king's son and loves soccer perhaps even more than the king does, did an unusual thing after Saudi Arabia beat Belgium 1-0 at RFK Stadium on Wednesday.

Prince Faisal came down to the locker room for a couple of minutes and gave the team his personal congratulations for doing a magnificent job. The prince told the players all of Saudi Arabia is proud of them. He wished them good luck in the second round.

The prince did not say what the players' reward would be. He did not say what a team that came into the World Cup as the longest of long shots should receive for winning two first-round games. The players reportedly got $100,000 and a Mercedes each just for getting into the World Cup, so what should these two victories be worth? Would oil wells be out of the question?

There is no overestimating just how excited the Saudis are to have earned this victory. They are excited to the point of getting carried away. Jorge Solari, who is Saudi Arabia's fourth coach since last November, was quoted by a translator who works for the team as saying he was dedicating the victory to the custodian of two holy mosques back in Saudi Arabia.

But that is the way things are with soccer in Saudi Arabia. Things are a little wild sometimes. The sport has been played there only since World War II and because the country was so isolated from the rest of the world it did not begin competing internationally until the 1970s.

But now the sky is the limit as far as soccer in Saudi Arabia is concerned. King Fahd put down expensive grass soccer fields in the middle of the stifling desert heat and built a gorgeous new stadium in Riyadh that resembles a desert tent.

And as the state of soccer in Saudi Arabia improved, the royal family began showing some of the same impatience you sometimes see among baseball and football owners. From the start of World Cup qualifying last November, the Saudis have fired three coaches, including one for refusing to bench goalie Mohammed al Deayea.

Mohammed al Deayea, it turns out, has been the star of the World Cup for the Saudis and you certainly won't hear the king complaining now. He made one brilliant save after another Wednesday just as he did last week against Morocco.

The game's only goal, which was scored in the first half by Saeed Owairan, came on a post pattern that was worthy of Jerry Rice. Owairan juked his way past one defender and turned another completely around in his dash to the net.

After the game, Solari dedicated the victory to the king for all the facilities and opportunities he had provided. No one challenged the accuracy of the translation of those words, which are certain to make the king even happier.