11/30/2022
Argentina was shocked by Saudi Arabia and the tactical nous of their coach Herve Renard has a big part in it. Know all about the 54-year-old French coach who is making ripples in FIFA World Cup 2022.

It is coach Herve Renard. The 54-year-old Frenchman took over as Saudi Arabia coach in 2019 and his task was quite hard.

The Arabian Falcons had stumbled out of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia with an unflattering effort, and Renard had to take them to the main draw of the World Cup in 2022.

He did that first task quite admirably. But in the 2022 World Cup, Saudi Arabia were grouped with Argentina, Poland and Mexico. All the three teams boast of bigger footballing pedigree and an array of stars who play for some of the biggest clubs in the world.

To make it worse, their first match was against Argentina led by Lionel Messi. But against all odds, Saudi Arabia shellshocked the two-time champions despite conceding an early goal via a penalty.

A high defensive game with occasional, lighting counter attacks is the style of Renard. The Frenchman was never a big name in the club coaching circuit like Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp. Renard was even sacked by his home club Lille after just 13 matches.

But Renard had reaped high dividends with national teams and remains the only coach to win African Nations Cup with two different teams. Renard had guided Zambia to title in 2012, beating Ivory Coast in the final.

Three years later, it was role reversal for Renard as he coached Ivory Coast to the Africans title. At that point, Renard was the highest paid coach in African footballing circuit.

Renard took over as Morocco coach in 2016 and guided them to the main draw of the World Cup held in Russia in 2018. Morocco had held Spain to a 2-2 draw in their opening game but that result now looks so feeble in front of the Godzilla-sized miracle they conjured against Argentina in 2022 at Qatar.

But Renard was never in doubt over his team’s abilities. He was not really worried over the fact that Argentina was coming to the World Cup 2022 on the back of 36 straight unbeaten games, 25 wins and 11 draws, including a Copa America final victory over Brazil in 2019.

“We love it when they forget about us and consider us the smallest team. In the World Cup, there are surprises and that is the mentality we have,” he had said.

Surprise indeed his wards sprang in their opening match against Argentina in Group C.

The 54-year-old coach said his team is eager to start the tournament after fighting for the last two years to reach the main draw of the World Cup.

“We enjoyed a good preparation period and all the players benefited from it. We look forward to presenting an honourable performance for Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“We did not come to Doha to enjoy the city,” he had said. Now, no one will take his words as mere hyperbole.

As the match entered its added time, Renard finally flashed a smile replacing a dour face. He knew the result in all its certainty.

Perhaps, the Frenchman, the little known Superman of Saudi Arabia, might be sporting some more smiles in the tournament.