Reason to ecstatically celebrate beating Lionel Messi’s mighty Argentina
* In 2007, the Frenchman moved to Zambia whom he led to the 2010 AFCON quarterfinal stage for first time in 14 years
* In 2014, he was appointed as Côte d’Ivoire coach whom he led to win the 2015 AFCON
* Becoming the first coach to win two Africa titles with different countries
* When I decided to coach this team three years ago I found all the support from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
* When we met with the Prince, he did not put any pressure on us, and this is wonderful. Being pressured does not work often
Analysis by Duncan Mlanjira
Frenchman Herve Renard, who led Zambia to their first-ever African Cup of Nations in 2012 before masterminding Côte d’Ivoire to their second AFCON title in 2015, has achieved yet another milestone of his coaching career by inspiring Saudi Arabia to achieve their greatest triumph ever — beating the great Argentina 2-1 on Tuesday in their Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup Group C opening match.
The 51-year-old became the first coach to win two Africa titles with different countries and he also guided Morocco to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and a disappointing round of 16 exit at the 2019 AFCON in Egypt losing to Benin on penalties.
In 2007, the Frenchman moved to Zambia from Ghana whom he led to the 2010 AFCON quarterfinal stage for first time in 14 years but he left his duties as the Chipolopolo boss in April 2010 with only two months remaining on his contract and two days later he agreed to coach Angola but resigned from his post in October 2010 after reaching an agreement with Algerian club, USM Alger whom he joined in 2011.
Then on October 22, 2011, Renard was unveiled for a second stint as Zambia coach on a one-year contract and successfully led them to their first-ever AFCON title for the finals jointly hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
The win was dedicated to the 18 players who perished in April 1993 after a plane carrying the squad crashed just miles from the site of the 2012 final in Gabon.
After Zambia failed to defend the title in 2013 where they were eliminated from the group stages, Renard blamed it on himself and and was released from his contract by the Football Association of Zambia in preparation for a role with French club FC Sochaux which was involved in a relegation fight but after being relegated, he left the club
In July 2014, he was appointed as Côte d’Ivoire coach whom he led to win the 2015 AFCON, becoming the first coach to win two Africa titles with different countries.
After a short stint with French club Lille in 2015, Renard was appointed as the new Morocco manager, whom he helped qualify the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, their first since 1998.
After Morocco were eliminated from the 2019 AFCON, Renard took responsibility for the shock exit and he resigned a few days later.
That same year, he became manager of Saudi Arabia, the first French to do so and his official match was a surprise 2–2 draw against Yemen on September 10, in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification.
Renowned for his penchant of wearing a crisp white shirt and black trousers on the touchline, what Renard achieved on Tuesday against the mighty Argentina, that had Lionel Messi on board, is very memorable and proves the Frenchman is tactically very superior.
Renowned media house, Reuters reports that thousands of Saudis crossed the border for the clash in the Lusail Stadium and after their team hit back from a Lionel Messi penalty to win with goals Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari in the space of five magical minutes after halftime, the country went into a delirium of joy.
He is quoted as saying: “We made history for Saudi football, it will stay forever — that is the most important thing. But we have to look forward — we have two difficult games for us ahead.”
With games to come against Poland and Mexico, Saudi Arabia now have a chance to reach the knockout phase of the tournament for only the second time in six attempts, having reached the Last 16 on their debut in 1994.
Reuters reports that while Saudi Arabia might be 51st in the FIFA rankings, the second-lowest of the 32 nations in Qatar, Renard said they should not be regarded as soccer lightweights — especially with the support of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is intent on making the country a sporting power.
“When I decided to coach this team three years ago, I found all the support,” Renard told Reuters after the match. “We have a great federation president and also the Ministry of Sports.
“When we met with the Prince (Mohammed bin Salman), he did not put any pressure on us, and this is wonderful. Being pressured does not work often.”
Once the dust settles, Renard said his team must quickly re-focus and make sure they capitalise on beating Argentina, saying: “You know the nature of the Saudi player, when will be flying, but we must keep our feet on the ground.”
From cleaner to World Cup coach
Meanwhile, EuroNews reports that Renard’s own personal trajectory has been far from linear, saying the Aix-les-Bains native started off as a defender in French football teams throughout the 1980s and 90s, until a knee injury in 1998 crushed his playing career.
Shortly after, aged 30, he became a coach for Draguignan SC, a small team in southern France. He also started working as a cleaner between training sessions and eventually founded his own cleaning company.
Back in his early coaching days, the World Cup was still a very distant prospect for the aspiring manager — “it was a childhood dream, that even seemed unimaginable,” he is quoted to have told AFP.
Come 2004, Renard faced further obstacles after his short stint at Cambridge United – a lower league English team – ended with the sack.
Born on September 30, 1968 in Aix-les-Bains, Renard played as a defender for French sides AS Cannes, Stade de Vallauros and SC Draguignan in a playing career which lasted from 1983 to 1998.
After retiring as a professional player he worked as a cleaner, working there in the morning and training with Draguignan in the evening, eventually starting his own cleaning company.
Renard began his coaching career with SC Draguignan in 1999, leaving in 2001 and was assistant to Claude Le Roy at Chinese side Shanghai Cosco from 2002 to 2003.
He later managed English side Cambridge United in 2004, having first joined the club with Le Roy to serve as a coach.
He became manager of Vietnamese club Song Da NAM Dinh in 2004, leaving them after several months to become AS Cherbourg manager in 2005.—Source: Reuters, EuroNews, Wikipedia