Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit

Analysis Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit
Herve Renard has left his role as Saudi Arabia coach to take over the France Women's National Team .(Twitter: @Herve_Renard_HR)
Short Url
Updated 29 March 2023

Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit

Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit
  • Frenchman leaves to take over his country’s women’s national team ahead of this summer’s World Cup

Saudi Arabia’s fans, players and football officials are today coming to terms with the news that Herve Renard has left his position as head coach of the national team to take charge of the women’s team of France.

Rumors of his exit have been circulating for over a week, and following his last two international matches in charge of the Green Falcons, 2-1 friendly losses to Venezuela and, last night, Bolivia, they became a reality.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation confirmed Renard’s departure with a statement posted on its Twitter account.

“The Saudi Arabian Football Federation Board of Directors has agreed on the contract termination of the Head Coach of the Saudi National Team Mr. Herve Renard upon his request,” said the statement.

“A legal settlement has been (completed) to end the contract between the two parties. The President and the Board of Directors of SAFF wish Mr. Renard every success in his future career.”



Meanwhile, Renard released his own farewell message in a three-tweet thread following the loss to Bolivia.

“Having been the coach of (the) National team of Saudi Arabia is a great pride for me. Since August 2019, I had the chance to be an integral part of the life of this beautiful country. I have seen this team grow alongside me and achieve a fabulous World Cup,” he posted.



“This fantastic and unforgettable win against Argentina. Very proud to have been able to show to the world the progress and a good image of the Saudi football. It’s time for me to fly to another horizon but with this memories engraved in me,” he added.

He also thanked the minister of sport, the head of SAFF and everyone at the national team. “Special thanks to @AbdulazizTF @Yalmisehal @SaudiNT and to all the players, the staff, and all the fans for their incredible support,” the final tweet said.

The official account of the Saudi national team also followed up with a video message from Renard.



The Frenchman has presided over a period of success during his four years in Riyadh and while that has been welcomed in the Kingdom, it has also been noticed elsewhere, not least in his home nation.

His move to France will come as a blow to the Saudi Arabia Football Federation who looked like they had a respected coach who loved the job and was in it for the long haul. After taking over in 2019, he signed a contract extension in 2022 that would have taken him to 2027.

Renard has improved the team, established a style and, most importantly, delivered on the pitch.

All of Asia was impressed during qualification for the 2022 World Cup when the Green Falcons finished above Japan and Australia in a tough group. Placed in a difficult group in Qatar, Saudi Arabia more than held their own.

The world watched in awe as Renard’s men defeated eventual champions Argentina 2-1 in their opening group game. It was not only a come-from-behind victory, and not only achieved courtesy of fine goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari but, most importantly, it was deserved. Once they took the lead, Argentina quickly ran out of ideas in the face of determined and organized defending.

It was immediately hailed as one of the best results in the history of the World Cup and it certainly sparked the 2022 tournament into life. In the end, Saudi Arabia could not quite make the second round but returned home with heads held high and reputations enhanced.

Renard’s next task was to prepare for next January’s Asian Cup. It started with friendly games at the end of March against Venezuela and Bolivia but now it has ended, and somebody else will have to continue that journey.

It could be that Renard would not have left a job he seemed to enjoy for any other nation except his homeland. The 54-year-old takes over a troubled women’s team, however.

In early March, Corinne Diacre was sacked as head coach following a revolt from players. After six years in charge, a number of senior stars said that they would not play at this summer’s World Cup as they were dissatisfied with the standard of the coaching setup. The French Football Federation had little choice but to make the change, acknowledging that changes needed to be made. It was rumored that they wanted Thierry Henry but the former French international striker is said to be interested in the US women’s national team.

It is no surprise that the FFF have turned to Renard. He has shown that he can win tournaments, leading Ivory Coast and Zambia to the African Cup of Nations titles. He impressed at the 2018 World Cup with Morocco and did the same four years later with Saudi Arabia. With just four months before the World Cup starts in Australia and New Zealand, there is not much time but Renard has demonstrated in the past that he can turn teams around and achieve success.

The Frenchman is giving up plenty, however. Not just the chance to lead Saudi Arabia at the Asian Cup next January but there is the 2026 World Cup — and with the expanded tournament, it would be a surprise if the boys from Riyadh do not make it — as well as the 2027 Asian Cup that will be held in Saudi Arabia.

The Frenchman has swapped all that for the chance to take his home nation to a World Cup that will be held this summer and one that France, grouped with Brazil, Jamaica and Panama, have the potential to win.

While fans in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and elsewhere will perhaps have a passing interest in how France performs Down Under, now the focus is on finding the right person to lead Saudi Arabia forward.

After the World Cup and the improved reputation of football in the country, there should be plenty of interested parties.

Mauricio Pochettino handed task of rebuilding Chelsea

Chelsea have hired Mauricio Pochettino as manager on a two-year deal with the option of another year.
Chelsea have hired Mauricio Pochettino as manager on a two-year deal with the option of another year.
Updated 29 May 2023

Mauricio Pochettino handed task of rebuilding Chelsea

Chelsea have hired Mauricio Pochettino as manager on a two-year deal with the option of another year.
  • The Argentine will take charge of a club that finished 12th in the Premier League
  • Pochettino's man-management skills will face a severe examination at Stamford Bridge

LONDON: Mauricio Pochettino is back in the Premier League with the tough task of putting the pieces back together after Chelsea's disastrous first season under their new ownership.
The Argentine will take charge of a club that finished 12th in the Premier League despite an eye-watering outlay of more than £550 million ($678 million) on new players under Todd Boehly's consortium.
Pochettino made his name in management by making the most of meagre resources at Espanyol, Southampton and particularly during a five-year stint at Tottenham.
Eighteen months at Paris Saint-Germain delivered the first silverware of the 51-year-old's career -- the Ligue 1 title and French Cup -- but he never appeared comfortable managing the egos of a star-studded squad before leaving in July 2022.
Pochettino's man-management skills will face a severe examination at Stamford Bridge as he tries to succeed where three managers have already failed under the new regime.
Thomas Tuchel, who led Chelsea to Champions League glory in 2021, was unceremoniously sacked by co-owners Boehly and Behdad Eghbali, of private equity firm Clearlake Capital, just seven games into this season.
At the time Chelsea sat sixth in the Premier League and few could have forseen the calamity that would follow the German's departure.
Graham Potter lasted less than seven months at Stamford Bridge, even though Chelsea paid more than £20 million to snatch the Englishman from Brighton.
Even worse was to follow as club great Frank Lampard returned as interim boss only to oversee six successive defeats in his first six matches.
All three bosses have faced the challenge of hands-on owners and a bloated squad.
Experienced defender Thiago Silva confirmed last month that the club had to extend the dressing room to accommodate a group of more than 30 players.
A major clearout is needed at the end of the season to give Pochettino a more manageable squad to work with and instill a team spirit that has been sorely lacking.
Chelsea's huge spending over the past 12 months may mean he has limited room for manoeuvre in the transfer market.
The Argentine faced a similar challenge at Tottenham, when the club punched above its weight to finish in the top four of the Premier League four times under his leadership.
The Blues' spending is under scrutiny due to financial fair play controls but much of their outlay was with one eye on the future.
Wesley Fofana, Benoit Badiashile, Enzo Fernandez, Mykhailo Mudryk, Carney Chukwuemeka, Noni Madueke, David Datro Fofana, Malo Gusto and Andrey Santos are all 22 or younger.
Chelsea have been ridiculed for putting some of those players on eight-year contracts, but the club's ownership are betting on Pochettino's record with young talent to prove them right.
He produced impressive results at Tottenham, helping turn young home-grown talents such as Harry Kane and Dele Alli into household names on a budget.
"I can't speak highly enough of him. He's a fantastic manager, a fantastic man," said England captain Kane, during their time together at Spurs.
"You just want to perform for him, work hard for him, win for him. He's very passionate. You can tell sometimes he wants to be out there himself, putting in tackles, running about.
"You respond to that. On nights like that, big occasions, you just want to do him justice."
Before appointing Pochettino, Spurs had only finished in the top four of English top-flight twice in 24 years.
He also inspired a run to the club's first-ever Champions League final in 2019 and Tottenham's struggles since his departure have led to a clamour from fans for his return.
Pochettino's reputation appears to be untarnished by his indifferent spell at PSG, given the French giants' struggles on and off the field this season.
Should he turn Chelsea's motley crew back into Premier League contenders, his status as one of the world's leading managers will be restored.

Tunisia carry Arab hopes into knock-out stages of 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup

Tunisia carry Arab hopes into knock-out stages of 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup
Updated 29 May 2023

Tunisia carry Arab hopes into knock-out stages of 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup

Tunisia carry Arab hopes into knock-out stages of 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup
  • Despite a 1-0 loss to Uruguay, the North African team qualified to the Round of 16 of the competition taking place in Argentina

There will be an Arab team in the knockout stages of the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup, but Tunisia made it through by the narrowest of margins and will take on Brazil in the second round on Wednesday.

At the end of the group stage, the North Africans were the fourth of the four best third-placed teams to go through, edging out France courtesy of a slightly better goal difference after both finished on three points.

It shouldn’t have been so tense. Earlier on Sunday, Tunisia were heading for a 0-0 draw against Uruguay in Group E that would have been enough.

In the 92nd minute, however, captain Ghaith Ouahabi handled in the area and Franco Gonzalez scored the only goal of the game. While it was a deserved win for the South Americans, it was a bitter pill to swallow, not least for Ouahabi, who had been a standout in the backline. A late booking meant that the defender would miss the Brazil match, but he will be relieved that his team are not now on their way home from Argentina.

After full-time, the players had to wait for the result from Honduras and France. If Honduras won, it was all over for Tunisia, and the Central Americans took an early lead as the Europeans went down to 10 men. It looked ominous, but then France came roaring back to lead 3-1. The problem then was that if they scored one more, then they would be going through. It did not happen, but it made for a stressful few hours.

Earlier, both Uruguay and Tunisia knew that a draw would be enough for both, and the Arab team, who had sat back for the most part in the 3-0 win over Iraq three days previously before showing some clinical finishing, were always likely to employ similar methods against Uruguay. The South Americans made most of the running and had 12 attempts on goal by the half-hour, though that did not do enough to trouble the in-form Dries Arfaoui in goal.

At the break, the young Carthage Eagles were happy with the way it was going and were also starting to put the Uruguay backline under a little pressure, though Fabricio Diaz should have opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time, left unmarked at close range with just the goalkeeper to beat, but scuffed his shot. 

Uruguay’s dominance was not quite as pronounced after the break even if they did have much more of the possession and many more chances.  If there was a feeling ahead of the game that the two teams would be happy to play out a goalless draw, that was not the case as the game reached the latter stages.

Both were trying to get the goal that would give them second place and, in theory, an easier game in the next round. It almost came in the last minute of normal time as Alan Matturro headed against the bar. The offside flag had been raised but it was close.

And then Uruguay was awarded that late penalty as Ouahabi handled. After Gonzalez scored, there was just not enough time for Tunisia to come back. They just had to wait and hope that France and Honduras drew or the Europeans picked up a narrow win.

There was no such waiting for Iraq. The last time the Lions of Mesopotamia participated, they defeated England on their way to a fourth place, but this time the Arab team was as good as out at the earliest stage.

It started with a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Uruguay with the South Americans taking advantage of defensive mistakes to take control of the game. The performance against Tunisia was better, and Iraq had the better of the first half. Unfortunately, the team’s lack of cutting edge meant that chances were not taken. Tunisia gave a lesson in clinical finishing after the break and ran out 3-0 winners. That ended any realistic chances of getting out of the group.

On the face of it, a 0-0 draw with England is a decent result. The Three Lions had already secured their place in the second round but had four excellent chances before the break, including a penalty from Liam Delap that was brilliantly saved by Hussein Hassan.

This was a better performance from Iraq though and they asked questions, especially after the break, but once again the absence of a goal scorer proved costly. No goals in three games tells its own story. 

Tunisia still have another chance to write theirs.

No mega-spend this summer for Newcastle: Eddie Howe

No mega-spend this summer for Newcastle: Eddie Howe
Updated 29 May 2023

No mega-spend this summer for Newcastle: Eddie Howe

No mega-spend this summer for Newcastle: Eddie Howe
  • Magpies have secured Champions League qualification next season, but Financial Fair Play will be a factor in their transfer moves

LONDON: Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe has warned there will be no big transfer spend this summer, with Premier League Financial Fair Play, or FFP, rules biting hard.

While some quarters expect the Saudi-led Magpies to splurge — much like Chelsea and Manchester City — in the transfer market this summer, Howe admits Newcastle are working to much tighter guidelines than their top-end rivals.

And Howe has revealed that without Champions League football — Newcastle finished fourth to return to the competition for the first time in 20 years — the spend in the next window would have been even less.

“We had discussions last night — those discussions did take place,” said Howe in relation to a transfer summit with the club’s ownership group.

“I don’t think a budget is ever outlined because there’s always so many variables to it, but we certainly know where we stand.

“Is the budget big? Well, when you’re (sitting) in my shoes, it’s never as big as you want it to be. Financial Fair Play, as I always say, will impact what we do this summer. Certainly, without Champions League football, it would have been very difficult for us to have done much in the transfer market at all. The fact we have that has given us a bit of a lift.”

Howe knows he will have to strengthen if the Magpies are to fight on four fronts next season, evidenced in the club’s labored, end-of-season 1-1 draw with Chelsea.

Howe said: “It was a tough game, a really tough game.

“The conditions were difficult, it was very hot, I can vouch for that from the side of the pitch. I thought we did really well first half. We were a real transitional threat and should have been ahead at half-time. We missed some really good chances, and the second half was tough. Chelsea came into it and made some really good substitutions, with high-quality players coming onto the pitch. We’re probably pleased to get a draw in the end.”

Trading — selling players — and producing products from within the club’s own academy will help Newcastle along the way. In truth, they likely need to do more of that as things progress. One player who might end up saving the club a lot of money is 17-year-old Lewis Miley, who made his debut in West London. Miley hit the bar late on with a strike from the edge of the box.

“Lewie is a really exciting talent,” said Howe. “He should be pleased with how he did when he came on. It’s a tough environment to come into for your first Premier League game, but he could have nicked it. He’s a very good finisher, so it wouldn’t have surprised me to see that go on.”

Goalscorer Anthony Gordon is one who proved a pricey buy in the last window — and only on Sunday did he really show any justification for Howe’s $55-million winter outlay.

“I was really pleased for Anthony. I thought he played a different role due to the injuries we had in that area of the pitch. I’ve brought him on in that position a few times, in running, and I think he’s done okay there so I decided to trust him with that role from the start,” said Howe.

“He didn’t let me down — I thought he was really good and had some really good moments in that first half. He probably tired a little bit in the second, but I’m really pleased that he scored and hopefully that will give him a big lift going into next season.”

Giroud seals win at Juventus and Champions League spot for Milan

Giroud seals win at Juventus and Champions League spot for Milan
Updated 29 May 2023

Giroud seals win at Juventus and Champions League spot for Milan

Giroud seals win at Juventus and Champions League spot for Milan
  • Giroud guided home a brilliant header from Davide Calabria’s cross in the 40th minute to guarantee Milan at least fourth place
  • It was the one moment of quality in an otherwise drab match in Turin

ROME: Olivier Giroud secured Champions League qualification for AC Milan with the only goal in Sunday’s 1-0 win at troubled Juventus.

Giroud guided home a brilliant header from Davide Calabria’s cross in the 40th minute to guarantee Milan at least fourth place and complete Italy’s lineup in Europe’s top club competition next season.

It was the one moment of quality in an otherwise drab match in Turin in which little of consequence happened apart from Giroud’s 12th league goal of the season.

Stefano Pioli’s side, who were knocked out of this year’s Champions League in the semifinals by Inter Milan, join their local rivals, Lazio and champions Napoli on the continent’s big stage.

They are six points ahead of fifth-placed Atalanta with one match left in what has been a long season and one in which their title defense collapsed after the World Cup.

“This was the first time we truly tried to be competitive in two tournaments and we were lacking something,” said Pioli.

“We can enjoy the win and qualification, but it was a strange season for many reasons.”

Juve meanwhile stay seventh and in the Europa Conference League spot after being deducted 10 points for illicit transfer activity by the Italian Football Federation on Monday.

Massimiliano Allegri’s side can still reach the Europa League spots as they are one point behind Roma in sixth, although the spectre of more punishment for financial irregularities hangs over the Turin giants.

Lecce ensured Serie A survival after late penalty drama gave them a 1-0 win over Monza, while a crushing late draw with Empoli took Verona’s survival battle to the final day.

Lorenzo Colombo rammed home the spot-kick which maintained Lecce’s Serie A status in the 11th minute of stoppage time after Christian Gytkjaer was penalized for handball following a VAR check.

Former Denmark forward Gytkjaer had a penalty of his own saved by Wladimiro Falcone with six minutes of regular time remaining.

That allowed Colombo to fire Lecce five points clear of the drop zone and cause coach Marco Baroni to sink to his knees in joy and grief for his recently deceased father.

“I thought about my father because I lost him recently... I felt him by my side in that moment,” Baroni told DAZN.

Verona sit in the final relegation spot after a gut-wrenching Giangiacomo Magnani own goal in the sixth minute of injury time which snatched a 1-1 draw for safe Empoli.

They are level on 31 points with 17th-placed Spezia, whom they might have to face in a playoff devised this season to decide who ends up in 18th place between teams who finish on the same points.

Victor Osimhen’s brace wasn’t enough for Napoli as the newly-crowned Italian champions threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Bologna.

Nigeria forward Osimhen took his season’s tally to 30 in all competitions with finishes in the 14th and 54th minutes.

However Lewis Ferguson pulled one back in the 63rd minute and Lorenzo De Silvestri headed the hosts level in his final home match as a Bologna player.

Napoli won their first league title since 1990 this season but owner Aurelio De Laurentiis said that coach Luciano Spalletti will leave to take a year’s sabbatical.

“He’s a free man, he’s given us something and I thank him, it’s right that he does what he wants,” said De Laurentiis to state broadcaster Rai.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s 89th-minute winner in a 3-2 success over relegated Cremonese reclaimed second spot for Lazio.

Serbia midfielder Milinkovic-Savic had put Lazio two goals ahead at half-time but Pablo Galdames and a Manuel Lazzari own goal had the away side level within four second-half minutes just before the hour mark.

His late winner puts Lazio two points ahead of Inter with the two teams traveling to Empoli and Torino respectively on the final day.

Everton survive as Leicester and Leeds are relegated on dramatic final day

Everton survive as Leicester and Leeds are relegated on dramatic final day
Updated 29 May 2023

Everton survive as Leicester and Leeds are relegated on dramatic final day

Everton survive as Leicester and Leeds are relegated on dramatic final day
  • Abdoulaye Doucoure’s stunning 57th minute right-foot strike from outside the area earned Everton the victory they required
  • Leeds relegated after 4-1 loss to Spurs

LONDON: Everton emerged from a nerve-shredding afternoon with their Premier League status intact thanks to a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth at Goodison Park as Leicester City and Leeds United were relegated in a dramatic season finale on Sunday.

The Merseyside club’s 69-year stay in the top flight was in peril at halftime as they were drawing 0-0 and 2016 champions Leicester were ahead against West Ham United.

That combination of results meant Everton were in the relegation zone but Abdoulaye Doucoure’s stunning 57th minute right-foot strike from outside the area earned Everton the victory they required.

With Leicester winning 2-1 and that game over, Everton fans then had to bite their fingernails, pray, or just simply not watch the 10 minutes of stoppage time which included a superb save by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

The final whistle prompted a pitch invasion with smoke from blue flares drifting across the old stadium that will host top-flight football again after another Everton escape.

Leeds, the other club in the last-day relegation drama, went down with a whimper as they were hammered 4-1 at home by Tottenham Hotspur for whom Harry Kane scored twice.

Everton ended in 17th place on 36 points after 38 games, with Leicester in 18th on 34 and Leeds on 31.

Southampton, who were already relegated, finished bottom with 25 points although their farewell was a memorable one as they drew 4-4 at home to fifth-placed Liverpool.

Everton relief

The celebrations at Everton were more of relief than pride as the famous old club once again found itself battling not for silverware but to avoid relegation. Last year they escaped in the penultimate game but this time it went down to the wire.

“It’s a relief, this has been the hardest season of my career, so tough mentally,” defender Conor Coady said.

“We had it in our hands, but we can’t make this a common theme, we have to draw a line in the sand. This club has to improve because it’s a giant.”

Everton’s relief was in marked contrast to the mood at Leicester where not even a win over West Ham, courtesy of goals by Harvey Barnes and Wout Faes, could save the Foxes.

Leicester fans lived in hope with Everton being held, but in the end they returned to the second-tier, having been promoted in 2014 and winning the title in fairytale fashion in 2016.

Dean Smith, who arrived as interim coach after FA Cup-winning manager Brendan Rodgers was sacked in April, said he had fallen a bit short in trying to save the club.

“When I came here with eight games to go I thought we probably needed 11 points. We’ve fallen two short of that with nine,” he said. “I’m sure there will be a club review but it’s disappointing. It wasn’t to be.”

City lose

Champions Manchester City left the majority of their first-choice players on the bench and were beaten 1-0 at Brentford, who signed off a brilliant season by completing the double over Pep Guardiola’s side — Ethan Pinnock scoring a late winner.

It was City’s first defeat in 26 matches in all competitions but their eyes are fixed on next Saturday’s FA Cup final against Manchester United and then the Champions League final versus Inter Milan a week later in Istanbul.

“I said to the players after the game, today we finished the Premier League that you deservedly won, enjoy two days with your families, don’t see each other and on Wednesday we’ll prepare the first final,” Guardiola said.

Arsenal, whose title challenge collapsed under City’s relentless pursuit, at least ended on a high note as the runners-up crushed visiting Wolverhampton Wanderers 5-0 with Granit Xhaka scoring twice.

Manchester United ensured they finished third with a 2-1 home win over Fulham while fourth-placed Newcastle United rounded off an impressive season with a 1-1 draw at Chelsea.

Seventh-placed Aston Villa grabbed the last European spot with a 2-1 victory against sixth-placed Brighton & Hove Albion to book a place in the Europa Conference League, leaving eighth-placed Spurs without any European football next season.