Meet Herve Renard: Saudi Arabia’s Coach That Tamed Messi And Argentina

Saudi Arabia secured a historic 2-1 victory over Argentina yesterday in their first group C match at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The victory was Saudi’s first-ever World Cup opening match win.

There are several talking points from the game, with the most notable being Saudi Arabia’s coach, Herve Renard — who has now won new admirers.

But he is no stranger to followers of African football though, as he is the first ever manager to win the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) with two different countries.

So who is Herve Renard?

In this article, FootballOrbit brings you what you need to know about the 54-year-old Frenchman.

Herve Jean-Marie Roger Renard was born on the 30th of September 1968 in Aix-les-Bains, France.

Playing career

He played as a defender for French clubs AS Cannes, Stade de Vallauris and SC Draguignan in a 15-year playing career that lasted from 1983 to 1998.

Coaching career

Herve Renard

After retiring as a professional player, Renard became the coach of Draguignan SC (a small team in southern France) in 1999.

While managing the side, he was also working as a cleaner between training sessions. He eventually started his own cleaning company.

Renard managed Draguignan till 2001 — helping the club gain 3 back-to-back promotions.

He served as assistant manager to Claude Le Roy at Chinese side, Shanghai Cosco, from 2002 to 2003.

He managed English side, Cambridge United, in 2004 — having initially joined the club as an assistant to Le Roy.

Furthermore, Renard became manager of Vietnamese club Song Da Nam Dinh in 2004 — leaving them after several months.

He returned to France to become the manager of 5th-division side AS Cherbourg from 2005 to 2007.

Thereafter, he became assistant manager to Claude Le Roy for the national team of Ghana.

In May 2008, Herve Renard was appointed as manager of Zambia. At the 2010 AFCON, he led the Chipolopolos to the quarterfinals of the tournament for the first time in 14 years.

He left Zambia in April 2010 to become the manager of Angola. But he resigned from his position as Angola manager after just 7 months in charge in October 2010.

He had a short stint with Algerian club USM Algiers before returning for a second spell as coach of Zambia.

Renard led Zambia to their first ever AFCON title in 2012 in what is one of the greatest football upsets of all-time.

Herve Renard as coach of Zambia

The team got knocked out in the group stage of the tournament a year later.

Zambia also won the 2013 COSAFA Cup during Renard’s tenure.

He left them in October 2013 to manage French club, FC Sochaux. But the club got relegated at the end of his first season in charge and he was dismissed.

Renard was appointed as manager of Ivory Coast in July 2014.

He led the Ivorians to win the 2015 AFCON — becoming the first ever coach to win the title with different countries.

Subsequently, he became manager of French Ligue 1 club Lille in May 2015 but got sacked in November after getting only 13 points in 13 league games.

In February 2016, Herve Renard was appointed as the new manager of Morocco.

In November 2017, he qualified Morocco to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. It was the country’s first World Cup appearance in 20 years (last qualified in 1998).

In July 2019, Morocco shockingly got eliminated in the round of 16 at the 2019 AFCON in Egypt. Renard took responsibility for the exit and resigned a few days later.

Later in July 2019, he became manager of Saudi Arabia — the first Frenchman to do so.

In March 2022, Renard led Saudi Arabia to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In the process, he became the foreign-born manager with the most wins (18) in the nation’s history.

On the 22nd of November 2022, Saudi Arabia stunned the world with a 2-1 win over favourites, Argentina, in a group match at the 2022 World Cup.

It was one of the greatest upsets in FIFA World Cup history.

Furthermore, it was Saudi Arabia’s first-ever opening game victory and only their 4th win in the tournament’s history.

Moreso, Argentina were on a 36-game unbeaten run!

Under Herve Renard; Saudi have played a total 32 matches, won 17, drew 10 and lost just 5.

Style of play

Herve Renard always instruct his teams to employ a high press to win the ball back when out of possession.

When executed perfectly, the method ensures that opposition attackers regularly get caught offside whenever they get the ball.

This was most evident in the match against Argentina where Saudi Arabia lined up in a 4-3-3 formation that allowed them to be more adventurous at trying to win the ball back, while maintaining discipline in defence.

It was a combative and passionate display from Renard’s side. Their tactics saw the Argentine attackers regularly get caught offside.

3 Argentine goals were correctly disallowed for offside in the first half alone!

Saudi Arabia's Herve Renard tactics that tamed Messi and Argentina
Saudi Arabia high-line defence and pressing vs Argentina

Furthermore, to sustain such intensity; Renard lays emphasis on improving players’ fitness and post-match recovery.

Wherever he went, there will be a change in the off-field culture. Especially diet, training and exercises.

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