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Saudi Arabia’s coach not new to big stage excellence

Hervé Renard relishes being the underdog and is no stranger to pulling off huge upsets on the football field, writes thestar.com.

Hervé Renard relishes being the underdog and is no stranger to pulling off huge upsets on the football field, writes thestar.com.

Just hours before yesterday’s kickoff against Argentina at the World Cup tournament in Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s head coach, Renard, was talking about how he relishes being the underdog.

“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,” the 54-year-old French-born manager told Euro Foot.

By the time the final whistle was blown, his Green Falcons were the biggest spoilers so far on the world’s biggest stage.

Renard helped the Saudi Arabia national team put on a performance for the record books when it defeated a heavily favoured Argentina, shocking more than 88,000 football fans at Lusail Iconic Stadium and the millions watching across the globe.

The 2-1 defeat puts an end to Argentina’s 36-match unbeaten streak for their first game at the World Cup stage and marks the first time the South American country has lost a game in which international superstar, Lionel Messi, scores.

Renard, who took the helm of the Saudi’s side in 2019, is no stranger to pulling huge upsets.

He was the manager of the Zambia national team that won the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. Zambia was ranked 16th in Africa, and edged powerhouse Cote d’Ivoire, who were ranked No. 1.

Three years later, Renard was head coach of Cote d’Ivoire when they defeated four-time champions, Ghana, for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations trophy.

And when he took over the reins of Morocco’s national team, he ushered in a new era of football excellence that culminated in the North African country returning to the World Cup in 2018 for the first time in 20 years.

“Renard is international football heritage,” a Bleacher Report Football account tweeted after yesterday’s match.

“It’s time to familiarise yourself with the tactical genius that is coach Renard,” tweeted an ESPN FC account, in his reverence.