Hervé Renard claimed the stars were aligned for Saudi Arabia and that Argentina underestimated his team after they produced one of the great World Cup shocks against the Copa América champions.
Lionel Messi gave Argentina an early lead with his seventh goal in 20 World Cup appearances only for their 36-game unbeaten run to be shattered by a team ranked 51st in the world. Saleh al-Shehri equalised early in the second half before Salem al-Dawsari scored a stunning winner five minutes later to spark delirious scenes among the Saudi supporters inside the Lusail Stadium.
Renard, Saudi Arabia’s French head coach, said: “When you are coming into a World Cup you need to believe in yourself. Everything can happen in football. Sometimes the opponent is not at their best motivation. This has happened to us when playing a lower-ranked team. This is what other people don’t understand.
“Imagine Lionel Messi is playing versus Saudi Arabia. He will say they have to start well and win but you know the motivation is not like it would be playing Brazil. This is normal. We have made history for Saudi football and it will stay for ever, that is most important, but we also need to look forward because we still have two very difficult games to play.”
Argentina had three goals disallowed for offside in the first half before Saudi Arabia staged their comeback, denying Lionel Scaloni’s side the opportunity to equal Italy’s record of 37 matches unbeaten.
Renard said: “Today all the stars in the sky were in a line for us but we can’t forget that Argentina are a fantastic team. They came here without losing in 36 games, they are South American champions and they have an amazing player, but this is football. Sometimes something completely crazy can happen.”
Several Saudi Arabia players burst into tears before the game as the scale of the occasion sank in. “A lot of Saudi fans came today and I told my players to also think about the 35 million Saudi people at home. They were all waiting for something new.”
Argentina’s head coach had no complaints over the VAR decisions and denied taking the threat of Saudi Arabia lightly. “It is difficult to digest,” said Scaloni. “Some of the decisions were down to a matter of inches but that’s technology for you. It could easily have been 2-0 but then the game turned on its head. These things can happen in a World Cup. We could have done better but now we have to bounce back.
“We fully respected Saudi Arabia, as we do all national teams. That wasn’t the reason for this defeat. They are a good team.”