Make history or you will be forgotten, says Saudi coach

Published November 30th, 2022 - 01:39 GMT
Saudi Arabia's French coach Herve Renard attends a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha on November 29, 2022, on the eve of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football match between Saudi Arabia and Mexico. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)
Saudi Arabia's French coach Herve Renard attends a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Doha on November 29, 2022, on the eve of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football match between Saudi Arabia and Mexico. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Saudi Arabia’s players have the chance to write history if they qualify for the World Cup knockout stages, coach Herve Renard said yesterday.

Saudi Arabia need to beat Mexico in their last Group C match to guarantee reaching the last 16 for the second time regardless of the outcome of the Poland versus Argentina game.

Saudi Arabia are third in the group with three points, behind Argentina on goal difference, while Poland have four points and Mexico are bottom with one point.

“Saudi Arabia have a good generation, and the only time the national team qualified for the last 16 was in 1994, so if the players want the fans to remember them, they should write history or they will be forgotten within 30 years,” Renard told a news conference.

“All teams are strong, and we still have a chance in the third match. Mexico have a lot of experience in the World Cup and we have to fight to stay in the tournament.”

The French coach said captain Salman al-Faraj, Mohamed al-Burayk and Yasser al-Shahrani will miss the game with injuries while Abdulelah al-Malki is suspended.

“We will miss the efforts of four important players, but as I said before, I have a squad of 26 players, and we have to deal with the matter and fight to qualify tomorrow,” he said.

The 54-year-old indicated that it was the third most important match of his coaching career after winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Zambia and Ivory Coast.

“It is the third after the finals in 2012 and 2015, because the defeat in these matches leaves you with regrets and regrets damage your life, so we have to be positive and play with determination and spirit with the support of the fans, and the fight for qualification will be until the last minute. “So people with fragile hearts should be careful and not watch the match,” he added with a smile.

Renard said he was well acquainted with Mexico and their coach Tata Martino. “If you want me to tell you the starting lineup for Mexico, I can. Mexico have a strong team and a great coach because he previously trained Barcelona, ​​which is not easy,” he said.

“You have to give more than 100% and we only think about qualifying. Mexico played really well against Argentina and then (Lionel) Messi came and decided everything,” he added, referring to Mexico’s 2-0 defeat on Saturday.

“We will try to be strong on Mexico’s weaknesses and try to exploit them in order to win. We must not feel afraid and that every player should trust himself and his teammate that we can face any team.”

Frenchman Renard’s rousing half-time team talk in Saudi Arabia’s shock come-from-behind victory over Argentina has gone down in legend. A short clip of Renard firing up his World Cup minnows when trailing 1-0 at half-time to a Lionel Messi penalty — they bounced back to win 2-1 — proved a viral hit.

He admitted that his team talks don’t always have such a dramatic effect. “I accepted for the communications department to record one minute (at half-time) so this day I was lucky because it worked,” Renard said. “But I’m coaching for more than 20 years now and with a lot of humility I can tell you it was not working all the time, unfortunately!”

With Saudi Arabia on the brink of a historic qualification, Renard was asked if the Mexico clash was the biggest match of his life. But he insisted that winning two finals at the Africa Cup of Nations — with Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015 — remained more important. “Those  are meetings that you must not mess up, otherwise you will regret it your whole life. “Having regrets is the most harmful thing you can have in life, and you must always be positive.”


© Gulf Times Newspaper 2022

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