Saudi Green Falcons: A Whirlwind of activity
The Saudi national team is a beehive that does not rest or sleep. It always strives to achieve the difficult and the impossible.
The Saudi national team defeated the Argentine national team at this year’s World Cup champion and scored two golden goals.
No one expected or believed the victories the Saudi national team achieved this year, which upset all the scales and gave hope to all fans of the Arab world.
Even the Saudi Sports officials, did not expect a victory or even a draw.
Saudi Crown Prince, HRH Mohammed bin Salman said during this meeting: “I know our group is difficult in the World Cup,”.
He added, “I want to say, be comfortable, and enjoy. Our group is difficult and includes the strongest teams in the world.”
He added, “No victory or draw is expected. We want you to play your comfortable game. I do not want anyone to be under psychological pressure, affecting your normal performance.”
Fans refer to the Saudi national team as the Falcons, Greens, or Green Falcons.
The Saudi national team is considered one of the most successful teams in Asia, as it has won the Asian Cup three times (1984, 1988, and 1996).
6 teams reached the Asian Cup final during this period. In addition, it has qualified for the World Cup on six occasions since its first appearance at the 1994 World Cup.
Saudi Arabia was the first Asian team to reach the final of a major international competition. It reached the final of the 1992 King Fahd Cup, which later became the Confederations Cup.
In the 1994 World Cup, led by Coach Jorge Solari, Saudi Arabia beat Belgium and Morocco in the group stage before losing to Sweden in the round of 16.
It is considered the second Arab team in history to reach the round of 16 in the World Cup, after Morocco in the 1986 World Cup. It is also one of the few Asian football teams to have done so far.
Green Falcons’ History
Saudi Arabia was one of the first Asian countries to play football, and its Sports Federation was one of the first to be established on the continent of Asia.
Saudi Arabia began to participate in international tournaments with the first event in 1957 at the Arab Games that were held in Lebanon.
The second participation of the Saudi national team in tournaments was in the Gulf Cup in 1970 against the Kuwait national team, and witnessed the scoring of the first Saudi goal in the Gulf Cup tournament by Muhammad Al-Abdali, on December 21, 1975
Saudi Arabia participated in the Palestine Cup (Arab Cup) that was held in Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia participated for the first time in this edition with Egypt and Yemen from the same group B.
The fourth participation of the Saudi national team in tournaments was in 1978 at the Asian Games in Bangkok.
Two years later, the Saudi national team participated in the Islamic Games tournament.
In 1984, it won its first championship in its history at the Asian Nations Cup, which was held in Singapore, where it defeated the Chinese national team, 2-0, in the final match.
The 1984 Summer Olympics was the first official appearance of Saudi Arabia at the Olympics.
This tournament is an addition to the victories of Saudi football.
The Saudis played in this tournament against Brazil, Morocco, and West Germany, and Majed Abdullah was able to score the first Saudi goal at the Olympics.
The Saudi national team then participated in another regional competition, the Afro-Asian Nations Cup in 1985.
The Saudi national team was crowned for the second time in a row at the 1988 Asian Nations Cup, which was held in Qatar.
Ten years later, Saudi Arabia qualified for the largest international sports forum in the world, which is the World Cup in 1994.
The Saudi national team succeeded, via its maiden participation, to reach the first round in a difficult group that included the Netherlands, Morocco, and Belgium. This allowed the Saudis to accomplish a historic feat in this competition.
The Saudi national team defeated both Morocco and Belgium to snag the second ticket and qualify with the Dutch team for the round of sixteen.
Saudi Arabia’s performance in that version made them the strongest team on the yellow continent at the time. Additionally, this made it the most prominent candidate to win the Asian Cup title in 1996 for the third time in its history.
In an aerial battle, the Saudi team beat the UAE team.
With this victory, the Saudi national team became the most crowned Asian team in the 4 editions it participated in.
The squad lost key players following the 2006 World Cup, including Sami Al-Jaber and Mohammed Al-Deayea, which caused it to lose two straight World Cups in 2010 and 2014 as a result.
The national team returned to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after defeating Japan in the World Cup qualifiers.
In the Asian Cup, the Saudi national team was able to return to the final round once in 2007 after missing the final round in the 2004 edition.
After the 2007 edition, the Saudi national team did not have a strong presence at the Asian Cup.
Saudi Arabia secured qualification for the 2018 World Cup, after an absence from the World Cup for 12 years, ahead of Australia.
The hosting country (Russia) beat Saudi Arabia in the opening match 5-0, making it the second most significant victory for a host nation at a World Cup.
Then Saudi Arabia lost 1-0 to Uruguay, led by Luis Suarez.
Despite defeats by Russia and Uruguay, Saudi Arabia managed to beat Egypt in their last group-stage match.
After the 2018 World Cup, Saudi Arabia participated in the 2019 Asian Cup, which was held in the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia finished second in the group stage after losing to Qatar, which led to them facing Japan in the round of 16.
Saudi Arabia dominated the entire match but eventually lost 1-0 due to poor finishing.
On October 15, 2019, Saudi Arabia played its first match with Palestine in the West Bank, and the match ended in a goalless draw.
Saudi Arabia qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the first tournament to be held in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia was in the third group, which included Argentina, Poland, and Mexico.
How did Saudi football produce a team that could conquer Argentina?
The Saudi national football team blew up a resounding surprise, Tuesday, November 22, by defeating the Argentine national team, the South American champion, and the 2022 World Cup champion in Qatar, by a score of 2-1.
The historic victory of the Green Falcons at the expense of soccer legend Lionel Messi and his companions put the Saudi team at the top of its group with three points.
The historic victory of the Saudi national team over Argentina, the 2022 World Cup champion, cannot be seen as a separate event from the context of the development of Saudi football.
The historic victory of the first Saudi national team over Argentina is a new episode in the series of successive successes of Saudi football in recent times.
At the beginning of the successes was the crowning of the Al-Hilal team as the AFC Champions League champion in 2021, and achieving fourth place in the Club World Cup in the Emirates last February.
On June 19, Saudi Arabia won the AFC U-23 Championship, after defeating Uzbekistan
With this victory, the green team achieved the first Asian title in its history at this age stage of the competition.
Since the green team entered the stadium with no pressure or expectations, the positive attitude that characterized the Saudi national team cannot be overlooked.
While the Argentine national team bore these pressures alone, given that it was considered one of the most prominent candidates to win the championship title this year,
It seems that the millions of his fans in Argentina, and the thousands of them who came to Doha to support the players, would not be satisfied with less than Messi carrying the historic cup.
The video of the interview, published by the Saudi Press Agency, showed Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s congratulations to the team on the occasion of qualifying for the World Cup, “which has become something necessary for us as Saudis and as a Saudi national team.”
Prince Mohammed bin Salman called on the players to enjoy these three matches and to play the group matches without psychological pressure that could affect their normal performance.
The World Cup group is difficult, and the team is not expected to achieve high results, but they have been invited, and everyone is following up.
What increases the difficulty and splendor of the Saudi victory over Argentina is that the green team is entering the World Cup in Qatar with a list of players. All of these athletes compete in the Saudi Professional League.
The Saudi and Qatar teams share only the fact that they participate in the tournament with a full list of internally professional players.
As for the Argentine national team, it had 96 percent of its strength from foreign professionals in the biggest leagues in the world.
French coach Hervé Renard chose 26 players to represent Saudi Arabia in the World Cup, all of whom play in Al-Hilal, Al-Ahly, Al-Nasr, Al-Shabab, Al-Ittihad, Abha, and Al-Fateh clubs.
This is what created a state of harmony and understanding among all because of their united experiences and constant contact with each other.
The Saudi Professional League is the highest-value Arab football league with a total value of 344 million euros, and it is the strongest and most competitive in recent years.
It can be seen as an example of the English Premier League but in the Middle East. This is especially after it has become an attraction for the most prominent stars of the game from all continents.
During the 2022-2023 season, the Saudi Professional League clubs included 137 foreign players out of 570 players who make up the full strength of the clubs.
The nationalities of the players coming to the Saudi League vary between South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
This diversity gives the competition a variety of playing schools and ideas and is in the interest of Saudi professional players internally.
The Saudi League is proud of the highest rates of regular public attendance among the Arab leagues, with a total of close to a million visitors to club stands during the last season 2021-2022.
This is what helped the Saudi national team players bear the pressure of playing in front of tens of thousands of fans. They came to support them or their Argentine rivals at Lusail Stadium.
All of the above leads us to the maestro of the historic victory over Argentina, who is French coach Harvey Renard (54 years old).
The Saudi Football Association decided to sign Renard in July 2019 as part of an ambitious project to rebuild the Falcons’ roster.
The French coach has proven his success with distinction in his mission to prepare the Falcons to qualify and compete in the 2022 World Cup.
Renard has a variety of experiences through his leadership of some African teams such as Zambia, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, the French clubs Sochaux and Lille, and Arab experience from training the Moroccan national team.
Renard had previously written his name among the world’s top game coaches when he led the Zambia national team to a surprise capture of the African Nations Championship title in 2012.
He also led the South African country to win the COSAFA Cup title, and in 2015 he led the Ivory Coast team to win the African Cup of Nations.
Renard knows very well how to benefit from the state of distancing himself from the pressures experienced by the Saudi national team.
He said in a press conference in the media center of the tournament, “It is appropriate for us to play in the clothes of the unqualified team because this relieves the pressure on our shoulders”.
Renard resorted to a crazy idea when facing Argentina. He chose to play with advanced defense and close the length and width of the lines between his players to smother the Tango team.
The suffocating tactic pursued by Renard led to tension between the Argentine players and their failure to create chances for the brilliant goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais.