- Saudi Arabian players celebrate the second goal (Reuters)
Soccer is a really difficult sport. No matter how good players you have, even if you are far superior in ability, you can’t always win. On the other hand, there is a goal that says, “It’s a lie,” and a big upset happens. Seeing Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 come-from-behind win over champions Argentina in Group C of the World Cup on the 22nd, I thought that way again.
Saudi Arabia, ranked 51st by FIFA, is a domestic group with all 26 members of the national team playing in their own league. On the other hand, Argentina, who are ranked 3rd and have FW Messi, who is called the best active player, are a star team with 36 undefeated international A matches. The ‘ability gap’ was clear, but the Saudi players continued to rush for the ball without fear or timidity.
It reminds me of the 1998 France tournament when Japan participated in the World Cup for the first time. Japan, who faced the domestic group of all J League players, lost narrowly 0-1 to Argentina in the first match. What was the main reason you missed Venus? “The opponents were all the stars I had seen on TV. Both the players and I had too much respect for each other, so we weren’t standing on the same starting line. Rather than the difference in power, that attitude was the problem.” The other day, I heard directly from Takeshi Okada, the director at the time.
On the other hand, upsets aren’t just about luck or chance. Saudi Arabia always kept their defensive line high and triggered an offside from the Argentine offensive line that jumped behind the defenders. 7 times in the first half alone. I think that the meticulousness of Coach Renard, who thoroughly analyzed and researched the opponent and prepared for all kinds of attack simulations, attracted luck.
Another episode about Mr. Okada. Ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where he led Japan for the second time, he was thinking about how to escape from the final stage of the 1-0 match against a strong opponent. When DF is put in, even his feelings are protected. He chases the ball up front and is best in front of goal with the ability to compete with his header. For that reason, FW Takaaki Yano was added as a member. Then, in the first match against Cameroon, that scene really came. Yano brilliantly cleared the FK twice and drew a valuable win to break through the first league.
Even so, as soon as the second half started, Argentina, which was reversed by Saudi Arabia, was clearly fluttering, and Messi’s presence faded. Didn’t he anticipate the development that followed? Was it because the opponents were all domestic groups and they were not able to collect information? Either way, he must have been impatient. You never know what’s going to happen, so preparation is key. It was a game that taught me such a lesson. I thought that it is not limited to soccer, but our daily life is the same.[Masanori Shuto](Nikkan Sports.com/Sports Column “Sports 100 Views”)
- Saudi Arabian players delighted with come-from-behind goal (Reuters)
- Argentinian players withdraw after losing the match and Saudi Arabian supporters celebrating their victory (Reuters)
- Argentina v Saudi Arabia: Argentina’s Messi covers his face with both hands (Reuters)