The appeal of sports is that occasionally things happen that are difficult to explain. Who would have thought that a heavyweight, playing in the opening match of the Qatar 2022 tournament, would lose to a team that had not won a World Cup match in 28 years? They were coming off a 36-match unbeaten streak. However, Saudi Arabia has received training from a coach with experience in team building.
In football, Herve Renard is not a well-known player. But he is a man who is adept at motivating underdog teams to achieve significant victories.
Two victories at the Africa Cup of Nations are on the 54-year-old Frenchman’s resume, the first of which is 2012 with underdog Zambia was especially noteworthy.
In addition to handing Argentina a humiliating loss on Tuesday, coach Renard’s brilliant tactical move also gave Saudi Arabia a chance to advance to the round of 16 for the first time since 1994.
The biggest shock of the competition thus far was when Renard discovered a system that could restrict Argentina in the midfield.
Despite Lionel Messi’s early penalty goal, Saudi Arabia never seemed comfortable in possession of the ball as they controlled the midfield, won 50-50 balls, and expertly set up the off-side trap.
After Messi’s goal, Argentina scored twice more, but none of them mattered because the Saudi defense effectively read the play and caught the South Americans off guard.
Although Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari will receive praise for their outstanding goals in the second half, it was their compactness on the field, particularly in the middle of the park, that stunned Argentina.