Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard has suggested his side’s shock victory over Argentina this week could help the Middle Eastern nation’s bid to jointly host the 2030 World Cup.
Saudi Arabia will face Poland on Saturday, knowing another three points would put them into the last 16 of this edition against the odds after their stunning come-from-behind 2-1 win over Lionel Messi’s side on Tuesday.
With Saudi Arabia expected to bid for the 2030 World Cup in a joint effort alongside Egypt and Greece, Renard suggested the result showed the country’s growth as a sporting power.
“I think all the Saudi people were very proud of this victory,” he said. “They are hoping and expecting to host a lot of good tournaments, a lot of good sporting events. You have seen there is Formula One and boxing and I’m sure there will be more.
“It is important to add to this win. We need to improve to reduce the gap to the best European teams and ourselves, and also to the teams from South America. We need opportunities like this World Cup, it is very important to show our level.”
Frenchman Renard has Polish roots through his maternal grandparents but will put that to one side on Saturday as he seeks another upset.
“My grandparents were from Poland, but tomorrow I will be from Saudi Arabia,” he said. “At the moment we are concentrating with the same idea. Nothing has changed. We are still the lowest team in this group in terms of FIFA ranking and experience. Nothing has changed.”
Striker Saleh Alshehri dismissed reports the players had been gifted Rolls-Royce cars after their shock win, and said the support of fans at home was the only reward they needed.
And Renard was also keen to quash the idea of lavish presents for his players.
“We have a very serious association, we have a very serious ministry of sport,” he said. “It’s not the time to get something at this moment. We have only won one game. We have two very important games to play. We are hoping for more.”
However, they will need to achieve it without captain Salman Al-Faraj, injured in the first half on Tuesday.
Standing in their way will be a Poland side frustrated by their goalless draw with Mexico, in which captain Robert Lewandowski missed a penalty, leaving the usually prolific 34-year-old still without a World Cup goal to his name.
Coach Czeslaw Michniewicz said Lewandowski would remain first choice for spot-kicks, and Aston Villa defender Jan Bednarek gave the Barcelona striker his backing.
“Robert is our captain, our striker,” he said. “He wants to score for him but also the good of the team, that is most important. He wants us to win. I think he hides his pride in his pocket. I am convinced he places the team’s success at the top.”
With a match against Argentina to follow, Michniewicz recognises Saturday’s match is now of critical importance to their hopes of escaping Group C.
“Perhaps stage fight paralysed a few people (against Mexico),” he said. “But it will not be there anymore.”
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