LUSAIL, Qatar — For a contest that is often gained by a world heavyweight, the World Cup continues to be the place for shocks. However even in a event that may throw up one or two surprises, Saudi Arabia‘s 2-1 victory over Argentina on Tuesday nonetheless managed to stun the planet.
The outcome on the Lusail Stadium was so sudden that it instantly began the controversy about whether or not it’s now the World Cup’s largest upset of all time. Cameroon, who beat holders Argentina in 1990, or Senegal, who obtained the higher of reigning champions France in 2002, might need one thing to say about that over time, however Herve Renard’s facet at the moment are very a lot a part of the dialog.
“We made history for Saudi football; it will stay forever,” Renard stated. “When you are coming to the World Cup, you need to believe in yourself. Everything can happen in football.”
Lionel Messi‘s response was one in all shock — he stated his Argentina facet had been “dead” after Tuesday’s outcome — and respect for the underdogs who took down one of many presumed favourites to win all of it.
“We knew that Saudi Arabia is a team with good players, that they move the ball well and that they push the [defensive] line a lot. We worked on it, but we rushed a bit. We have to go back to the base of who we are. We have to think about what’s next.”
“I am very happy about this result that we have been able to obtain against this very storied team,” stated Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais. “We have prepared ourselves. We were 100% ready and hopefully we will have better results in the future. I felt we were especially good in the last minutes because we secured our three points.”
In response to sources, Saudi Arabia are placing a part of their success right down to their preparation after securing what they consider is one of the best coaching floor in Qatar at Sealine Seaside. The ability about an hour’s drive south from Doha was secured greater than three years in the past, lengthy earlier than the opposite qualifiers started their scramble for inns and pitches. As a squad picked completely from their home league, they had been additionally capable of play 4 warm-up video games over the previous month earlier than kicking off their World Cup. In distinction, Argentina, who nonetheless had gamers competing in home video games round Europe on Nov. 13, managed to slot in only one fixture towards the UAE.
Saudi Arabia, ranked 51st on the planet, nonetheless most likely did not count on a lot from their opening sport towards one of many pre-tournament favourites, however the statistics recommend that they had each purpose to eye a spot within the knockout rounds even earlier than arriving in Qatar.
It is common for groups to qualify for the last-16 after being seeded third or fourth of their teams. On the final World Cup in Russia, Denmark, Sweden and Japan all progressed regardless of being seeded exterior the highest two whereas 5 of the eight high seeds did not win their teams.
Holders fare even worse. The World Cup hasn’t been retained since 1962, and prior to now 14 tournaments, the reigning champions have solely reached the semifinals of the following version twice. France have arrived in Qatar as holders figuring out that 4 of the previous 5 previous champions have been knocked within the teams.
In 2010, New Zealand managed to drag off one of many best World Cup shocks by holding champions Italy, who completed backside of their group, to a 1-1 draw. Just like Saudi Arabia, Ricki Herbert, who coached the Kiwis in that event, advised ESPN that the important thing to getting a outcome towards one of many world soccer’s heavyweights is the preparation.
“We looked at the potential areas we believed we could exploit and maximise the strengths that we could offer on the night,” he says. “Confidence, belief, courage and discipline were some of the key elements. We wanted to start the game well and to ensure that we made it difficult for the Italy team to settle into any comfortable position. We didn’t want to give them the opportunity to start to strongly dictate the game.
“It was actually an excellent efficiency by the staff throughout the complete 90 minutes, and a outcome that made New Zealand a family title throughout the footballing world. Personally, it was an especially proud second.”
Aliou Cisse, who played for Senegal in their 2002 opener against France in South Korea and is now managing his country in Qatar, says part of the strategy has to be about accepting that you cannot go toe-to-toe with teams filled with some of the best players in the world.
“You must defend properly and be good with the ball whenever you get it,” he stated forward of his staff’s defeat to Netherlands on Monday. “However it’s important to defend when it’s important to defend.”
Saudi Arabia certainly did that against Argentina, showing just why they were able to keep six clean sheets during qualifying and topped a group that included Japan and Australia despite scoring just 12 goals in 10 games. Renard said after victory over Argentina that he would give his players just “20 minutes” to celebrate, although some got a head start by playing music through portable speakers as they came grinning through the mixed zone.
“An excellent celebration for 20 minutes and that is it,” said Renard. “There’s nonetheless two video games, or extra, for us. We want to consider wanting ahead as a result of we nonetheless have two very troublesome video games [against Poland and Mexico].”
Saudi fans have travelled across the border into Qatar in their thousands, hopeful of seeing their team match, or even better, their performance in 1994 when they reached the last-16 and, if they get there, they will now fancy their chances against anyone. King Salman even declared Wednesday a public holiday in Saudi Arabia, a royal order recommended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, so the country could celebrate.
In 2018, Russia knocked Spain out within the second spherical regardless of sitting 60 locations beneath them on the planet rankings. It is nonetheless the most important upset within the knockout rounds since FIFA applied a rating system and a reminder that, at a World Cup, something can occur. Simply ask Argentina.