LUSEIL, Qatar. For a competition that usually wins the world heavyweight, the World Cup is still a place of upheaval. But even in a tournament that could hold one or two surprises, Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 victory over Argentina on Tuesday still managed to stun the planet.
The result at Lusail Stadium was so unexpected that there was an immediate debate about whether it is now the biggest World Cup disappointment of all time. Cameroon, which beat Argentina in 1990, or Senegal, which beat defending champions France in 2002, might eventually have something to say about this, but Hervé Renard’s team is now heavily involved in the conversation.
– FIFA World Cup 2022: schedule, themed content and more.
“We have entered the history of Saudi football and it will remain forever,” said Renard. “When you go to the World Cup, you need to believe in yourself. Anything can happen in football.”
Lionel Messi responded with shock – he said his Argentine team “died” after Tuesday’s results – and respect for the underdogs who beat one of the presumed favorites to win it all.
“We knew that Saudi Arabia is a team with good players who are good at dribbling and pushing the ball. [defensive] a lot of lines. We’ve been working on it, but in a bit of a rush. We must return to who we are. We have to think about what’s next.”
“I’m very happy with this result that we were able to achieve against this very legendary team,” said Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Alovais. “We have prepared. We were 100% ready and hopefully we will have better results in the future. I felt that we were especially good in the last minutes because we got three points.”
– World Cup Daily: USA tied
According to sources, Saudi Arabia attributes their success in part to their preparation after securing what they believe is the best training ground in Qatar at Sealine Beach. The site, about an hour south of Doha, was seized more than three years ago, long before the other contestants began their fight for hotels and fields. As the team was selected exclusively from their domestic league, they were also able to play four warm-up matches in the last month before kicking off their World Cup. By contrast, Argentina, which still had players competing in European domestic games on November 13, managed to play just one match against the UAE.
Saudi Arabia, ranked 51st in the world, still probably didn’t expect much from their first game against one of the pre-tournament favorites, but the stats show they had every reason to be eyeing a playoff spot before they arrived. to Qatar. .
It is not uncommon for teams to qualify for the Round of 16 after finishing third or fourth in their group. At the last World Cup in Russia, Denmark, Sweden and Japan made progress despite being seeded outside the top two, with five of the top eight seeds failing to win their groups.
With holders, things are even worse. There hasn’t been a World Cup since 1962, and in the last 14 tournaments, the defending champions have only reached the semi-finals of the next edition twice. France arrived in Qatar as holders knowing that four of the last five champions had been knocked out of the groups.
In 2010, New Zealand managed to pull off one of the greatest shocks in the World Cup by taking the last-placed Italian champions of their group to a 1-1 draw. As with Saudi Arabia, Ricky Herbert, who coached the kiwis for that tournament told Sportzshala the key to scoring against one of the heavyweights of world football is preparation.
“We looked at potential areas that we thought we could leverage and make the most of the strengths we could offer at night,” he says. “Confidence, faith, courage and discipline were some of the key elements. We wanted to start the game well and make it difficult for the Italian team to take any comfortable position. We didn’t want to give them the opportunity to start dictating the game hard.
“It was certainly an outstanding performance by the team throughout the entire 90 minutes and a result that made New Zealand a household name in the footballing world. Personally, I was very proud of this moment.
Aliou Cissé, who played for Senegal in their 2002 opener against France in South Korea and is now in charge of his country in Qatar, says part of the strategy should be to accept that you can’t go head-to-head with teams made up of some of the best players in the world.
“You have to defend well and handle the ball well when you get it,” he said ahead of his team’s loss to the Netherlands on Monday. “But you have to defend yourself when you need to defend yourself.”
– Biggest shocks at the World Cup: Saudi Arabia joins the list
Saudi Arabia certainly did so against Argentina, showing why they were able to keep six clean sheets during qualifying and top a group that included Japan and Australia despite only scoring 12 goals in 10 games. Renard said after defeating Argentina that he would give his players only “20 minutes” to celebrate, although some got a head start by playing music through portable speakers as they grinned through the mixed zone.
“A good celebration for 20 minutes is all,” said Renard. “We have two more games ahead of us or even more. We need to think about the future because we have two very difficult games. [against Poland and Mexico].”
Thousands of Saudi fans have crossed the border into Qatar hoping to see their team’s match, or better yet, their performance in 1994 when they reached the round of 16, and if they get there they will now imagine their chances against anyone . . King Salman even declared Wednesday a public holiday in Saudi Arabia, a royal decree recommended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, so that the country can celebrate.
In 2018, Russia knocked out Spain in the second round despite being 60 places lower in the world rankings. It’s still the biggest playoff disappointment since FIFA introduced a ranking system and a reminder that anything can happen in the World Cup. Just ask Argentina.