AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Sorry, mom.
Saudi Arabia coach Hervé Renard felt he disappointed his mother when Poland beat his team at the World Cup on Saturday.
The French coach said before the match that it was going to be very special for her because her parents were Polish, “but she will wear her Saudi national shirt. Don’t worry.”
It’s the first World Cup that Renard’s mother has attended and she was at Lusail Stadium to see one of the biggest upsets when his team defeated Argentina 2-1 in its opening match.
“I think every week she’s watching maybe two, three games,” Renard said. “She loves football, so of course, she was very happy.”
There was no repeat upset Saturday as Robert Lewandowski scored one goal and set up another in Poland’s 2-0 win.
“She won’t be happy with me this evening,” Renard said. “I’m sure she’s really sad. But I will tell her, you always repeat to me, 'Never give up. Always work hard and the chance will come back.’”
Qualifying for the second round is still possible for Saudi Arabia after its loss to Poland.
“Like I said before, we are still alive,” Renard said.
The 54-year-old Renard was already well liked for his success with the Saudi Arabia team since taking over in 2019 and his popularity has grown even more since the win over Argentina.
Renard was swarmed by admirers after press conference Friday when local journalists lined up to take selfies with him. The suave Frenchman patently smiled his broad smile, flashing immaculate teeth for the photos and he appeared in no hurry to leave.
Renard has had great success at the international level. He surprisingly guided Zambia to its first Africa Cup of Nations title in 2012, then repeated the feat with Ivory Coast three years later.
The former Lille and Sochaux coach helped Morocco qualify for the 2018 World Cup. It was the first time in 20 years Morocco had reached the tournament. His team only managed one point from three group stage games, however, losing 1-0 to both Iran and Portugal before drawing 2-2 with Spain.
This World Cup is already better.
Against Poland on Saturday, Saudi Arabia had twice as many shots at goal as Poland did. Poland was boosted by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who had a penalty save and several other vital blocks.
“We didn’t lose the game today because we are unlucky. We lost the game to them because we were not efficient,” said Renard, who praised Szczesny. “He did his job, a fantastic job. But nobody discovered him today, huh? He’s a great goalkeeper.”
Renard has pride in how his team has played in both of its World Cup games so far.
“I don’t think a lot of people (thought) Saudi Arabia was able to play this kind of football,” he said. “This is the reason why I’m proud of them.”
Renard referred to the vocal support the Green Falcons received at Education City Stadium, where the enthusiastic Saudi fans turned the game into a home one, and he hopes for more of the same for the final group game against Mexico on Nov. 30 back at Lusail – where his team beat Argentina.
“I hope they won’t give up,” Renard said of the fans. “Because when you are fans, you need to support your team when it’s a fantastic day, but you also need to support your team to make the history during the third game.”
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