Saudi Arabia scored a historic victory over Argentina at the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday, defeating the South American men’s soccer team — ranked third in the world according to FIFA — 2-1.
The key to their victory? French coach Hervé Renard, who became the manager of Saudi Arabia in 2019 and led the team to unprecedented success.
Renard’s personal trajectory was far from linear. The Aix-les-Bains native started out as a defender in French football teams during the 1980s and 90s, until a knee injury in 1998 ruined his playing career.
Soon after, at the age of 30, he became the coach of Draguignan SC, a small team in the south of France. He also started working as a cleaner between training sessions and eventually started his own cleaning company.
In his early coaching days, the World Cup was still a very distant prospect for the ambitious manager.
“It was a childhood dream, which even seemed unimaginable,” he told AFP.
In 2004, Renard faced further obstacles after his brief stint at Cambridge United – an English lower league team – ended in dismissal.
However, his luck would turn around by the 2010s. After years of working for various national teams and clubs across Africa and Asia, he led Zambia and Ivory Coast to victory at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012 and 2015 respectively – becoming the first coach to win the trophy twice with two different countries.
By July 2019, Renard had signed to become manager of Saudi Arabia, leading the Gulf Arab nation to an incredible victory against Argentina at the 2022 World Cup.
“All the stars in the sky were aligned for us,” the French coach told reporters after Tuesday’s win.