Saudi Arabia’s French coach Herve Renard warned his players not to celebrate for too long after their “totally crazy” 2-1 win against Argentina in their World Cup opener on Tuesday.
The Saudis bounced back from conceding an early Lionel Messi penalty to produce one of the great World Cup shocks thanks to a Saleh Al-Shehri equaliser and a sublime Salem Al-Dawsari winner at the Lusail Stadium.
“All the stars in the sky were aligned for us, but don’t forget Argentina are still a fantastic team,” said Renard.
“This is football, sometimes totally crazy things can happen,” added the French coach, who previously led Zambia and the Ivory Coast to Africa Cup of Nations glory.
As for enjoying the moment, Renard was eager to look ahead to the Saudis’ next Group C matches against Poland and Mexico.
“(We can) just have a good celebration during 20 minutes and that’s all, there are still two more games.
“When you come to the World Cup, you need to believe in yourself, anything can happen in football.”
However, Renard said he was not entirely happy with his team, despite the stunning upset.
“Tactically we were not good in the first half. Our block was compact but our pressure on the centre-backs and (defensive midfielder) Leandro Paredes was not enough,” said the 54-year-old.
“If we had conceded a second goal at that time, the game would have been finished.
“During half-time I wasn’t happy because the pressure wasn’t good enough, the determination wasn’t good enough and when you come to the World Cup, you need to give everything. We can’t play as we did in the first half.”
And Renard said it would have been no surprise if Argentina had taken his side lightly.
“Sometimes the opposition does not have the best motivation, it’s normal, it also happened to us when playing lower teams.”
He added: “Some people don’t understand but you can imagine that when you’re playing against Saudi Arabia, the motivation is not the same as playing against Brazil.”
Scaloni insists Argentina did not take Saudis lightly
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni insisted on Tuesday his team had not taken Saudi Arabia lightly ahead of their shocking 2-1 World Cup defeat in Qatar.
Argentina came into the tournament on a 36-match unbeaten run and were one of the favourites to win the entire tournament, let alone Tuesday’s Group C opener against the Asian minnows.
“We fully respect Saudi Arabia as we do with other teams, that’s not the reason for our defeat,” said Scaloni, whose team had not lost since July 2019.
“They are a good team with technical players, they are very well prepared physically.”
Despite suffering one of the big World Cup shocks, Scaloni said he was sure all was not lost with Group C matches against Mexico and Poland still to come.
In 1990, then-champions Argentina lost their opening World Cup match 1-0 against Cameroon — another of the tournament’s greatest shocks — before bouncing back to reach the final.
“What comes ahead is to rise up, to face Mexico. They will be tough, as everyone is at the World Cup. Now we need to win two games to move on.
“Of course, this is difficult but regardless of the result today we would anyway try to win all the games.”
Scaloni had no complaints about the three goals his side scored in the first half that were then disallowed for offside.
But he said those razor tight decisions were what cost his side the match.
“The reasons were millimetric. The offsides, they have a high defensive line, we knew that any goal situation would go for or against us,” said Scaloni.
“In this case, the semi-automatic offside technology took a goal away from us.
“That’s the way it is, we congratulate our rivals.”
Argentina struggled to create much after the break having dominated the first half, giving nothing away.
“It’s hard to take. We could have been 2-0 up, but in two sudden moments, the game changed.”
Saudi Arabia’s rapid-fire double after the break seemed to catch Argentina napping and for a handful of minutes, the South American champions were reeling.
“Four or five minutes (after the break) they scored two goals, their only two shots on target,” said Scaloni.
“Today is a sad day but as we always say, head up and carry on.”
He added: “We played well in the first half, but in two specific moments the game changed. We could have done better but we need to pick ourselves up.”
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez admitted the defeat and loss of Argentina’s long unbeaten run was tough to take, and said the team could no longer afford any slip-ups.
“We’re hurting, hurting a lot from our first defeat (in more than three years), and on top of that at the World Cup,” he said.
“Today we expected to play like it was a final, but we didn’t do that.
“After we scored the first goal we relaxed a bit… and we paid for that.”
He added: “Saturday (against Mexico) will be our first World Cup final.”