Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) (AFP) – Saudi Arabia were held to a 1-1 draw by China on Thursday as they celebrated reaching the World Cup finals for the sixth time.

Herve Renard’s side went into the Asian third round qualifying game in Sharjah knowing that their ticket was booked when Japan beat Australia 2-0 earlier in the day in Sydney.

After seeing his side dominate the game, Saleh al-Shehri, the first Saudi to score in a European league when playing for Beira-Mar in Portugal in 2012, headed in from a Salman al-Faraj corner in added time in the first half.

Saudi Arabia maintained control, but China’s Zhang Yuning got the ball in the net early in the second period only to be quickly ruled offside.

Zhu Chenjie, one of two Chinese players booked in the first half for heavy handed challenges, scored the equaliser from the penalty spot in the 82nd minute.

Saudi Arabia, who also reached the finals in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 and in Russia in 2018, failed to take back top spot in Group B from Japan but they have one more game next week against Australia.

The Saudis can expect plenty of support at the finals in neighbouring Qatar in November. Renard will be going to a second straight finals, having been in charge of Morocco in 2018.

China remain one place from bottom in the six nation table — three points ahead of Vietnam with one game to play next week against Oman.