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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Nathan Ridley

Herve Renard makes Poland desire clear as Saudi Arabia boss eyes World Cup history

When the final whistle rang out around the flabbergasted Lusail Stadium on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia realised that their next game at the World Cup would be a chance to write history.

For manager Herve Renard, though, the match against Poland was always going to be personal.

The 54-year-old Frenchman, whose nomadic coaching career has seen him take charge of seven clubs and five countries, has emerged as the tournament's most-talked about manager. That's because Renard masterminded one of the World Cup's greatest ever shocks this week when his side - branded the competition's second-weakest by FIFA's world rankings - came from behind to beat South American champions and one of the tournament's fancied teams, Argentina, in an astonishing 2-1 triumph.

Saudi Arabia's historic win means that Saturday's clash with Poland in a now wide-open Group C is poised to be the next seminal day in the Gulf nation's sporting history.

The Green Falcons - who'll be backed by thousands of fervent fans from over the border - know that another three points against Czeslaw Michniewicz's Poland would secure them a place in the knockout rounds, having only ever managed to do so before during the 1994 World Cup in the United States of America.

But it's not just the prospect of reaching the last 16 that the wily Renard has in his sights, but a chance to audition for a role close to his heart. Although he was born in Aix-les-Bains, France, the two-time Africa Cup of Nations-winning boss has Polish roots thanks to his grandparents.

They fled the central Polish city of Lodz during the horrors of World War II in 1939 and within two years of their French asylum, Renard's mother was born. Then, the best part of a century later this past April, his Saudi Arabia were drawn to face Poland at the 2022 World Cup.

"I think my mother is very happy tonight. I dedicate this draw to her," he told TVP Sport following the draw. "It will be a special feeling to play against a country with which I have ties. Someday I'd like to be your coach. That would be something special."

Saudi Arabia pulled off one of the World Cup's greatest ever shocks by beating Argentina 2-1 (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Renard was subsequently asked whether he was indeed in contention to become Poland's 'selekcjoner' after the managerial vacancy opened up last Christmas, when Paulo Sousa unexpectedly quit after less than a year at the helm.

"No, no," he admitted. "I was not a candidate this time, but maybe one day I will have the pleasure of becoming the Polish coach."

With that mind, Sousa's eventual successor, Michniewicz, best have his wits about him when he and Renard locks horns at Al Rayyan's Education City Stadium on what's set to be a swelteringly hot Saturday.

Facing backlash for his "anti-football" tactics, which resulted in a dower 0-0 draw with Mexico in the White and Red's opening game, Michniewicz knows that getting one over on Renard would do him the world of good both in Qatar and beyond - but he won't compromise.

Have your say! Will Saudi Arabia beat Poland on Saturday? Let us know your score prediction in the comments section.

Czeslaw Michniewicz has been slammed for his conservative tactics by Polish fans and pundits (Maja Hitij - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

During a tense press conference on Thursday, the under-fire former Legia Warszawa gaffer - whose deal with the Polish FA is due to expire following the World Cup's conclusion - staunchly defended his conservative approach.

"We'll play similarly against the Saudis like we did with Mexico. I see little reason to change," Michniewicz affirmed to a room of skeptical journalists.

"We had some golden moments on Tuesday, especially in the first half. But we have areas to improve on."

Come Saturday's contest, though - which has already been dubbed the "mecz o wszystko" (match for everything) in Poland - most of the world's attention will be on Saudi Arabia. Renard and co are out to make history once more, with their fate well and truly in their own hands.

It's been 28 years since the Green Falcons last progressed past the group stage of a World Cup. But after stunning Argentina to end their 36-game unbeaten run, who'd bet against Renard's men to match the heroes of 1994?

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