Herve Renard promises Saudi Arabia will fight 'to the last seconds' for World Cup dream

Gulf side wasted a number of opportunities during defeat to Poland on Saturday

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Herve Renard praised his Saudi Arabia side despite their Fifa World Cup defeat to Poland on Saturday, and vowed his team would “play to the last seconds” to reach the knockout stage.

The Gulf side, who opened Group C earlier this week with a shock win against Argentina, were beaten 2-0 at Education City Stadium, courtesy of goals from Piotr Zielinski and Robert Lewandowski.

Salem Al Dawsari, scorer of the winner against the South American champions on Tuesday, missed a penalty at the end of the first-half with the score at 1-0.

Poland did strike the woodwork twice in the second half, although Saudi were largely the better side, spurning numerous opportunities to score. Meanwhile, Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was in inspired form.

Saudi, aiming to become only the second side from the kingdom to reach the World Cup knockouts, conclude the group against Mexico on Wednesday.

Speaking directly after the Poland defeat, Renard told reporters: “I’m proud of my players. We were supposed to manage this game in a better way, especially going back to the dressing room 1-1. It was a game-changer, so we weren’t efficient in all the game.

“This is the key of the game... we missed so many opportunities, but we are still alive. We will play to the last seconds of our World Cup next time; for another time we won’t give up.”

Hopes had been high that Saudi could secure a second successive victory that would have guaranteed they progressed from the group and thus emulated their celebrated 1994 team.

Tuesday's win against Argentina, the No 3-ranked side in the world – at No 51, Saudi are second-lowest in the Fifa standings contesting the tournament in Qatar – had raised expectations.

Renard denied his players had got too carried away with the opening result.

“The reaction was a very good reaction,” said the Frenchman, in charge since 2019. “I don’t think a lot of people were able to think Saudi Arabia were able to play this kind of football.

“This is the reason I’m proud of them. When you are a coach you are happy with your players when they are winning the first game, so you have to accept the mistake of losing the second game. But we are still alive.”

Saudi would be left to rue Al Dawsari’s penalty miss in first-half stoppage time – Szczesny made what turned out to be a fantastic double save - and Abdulellah Al Malki’s mistake that led directly to Poland’s second. Saudi squandered a succession of chances also.

“We didn’t lose because we were unlucky, we lost because we were not efficient,” said Renard, who led both Zambia and Ivory Coast to Africa Cup of Nations glory.

“Al Malki made a mistake for the second goal, but I have to support all the players. This is how I am managing all my teams. It’s too easy to find someone guilty because he made a mistake.

“I know for most of you the most important is the result, because this is football. But we are still alive. We will play the third game with the same energy.”

On the partisan support his team enjoyed at a packed Education City Stadium in Doha, Renard said: “What we need for the third game is the same fans, so I hope they won’t give up. When you’re a fan you need to support your team when it’s a fantastic day, but you have to support your team to make history in the third game.

“I would like to see one more time a green stadium. I want to see them support the players. They deserve it. We have to be proud of them.

“I know they are sad. Some of them are guilty, but football is team work. Since the last three years, we got a lot of success. Today we failed but we are failing together.

“The most important is we have one more game and I hope the second-last one and maybe more. So it’s important to stay concentrated, to think about November 30.”

Updated: November 26, 2022, 5:17 PM