LUSAIL - Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard said goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Owais saved his team from a humiliating defeat by Mexico in their last game at the World Cup on Wednesday.
Mexico won 2-1 to finish third on goal difference behind Poland, who lost 2-0 to Group C winners Argentina.
After their stunning victory over twice world champions Argentina in the first match, Saudi Arabia's journey in the tournament ended with them bottom of the standings.
"The result does not reflect the reality of the match, as we deserved to lose by more goals had it not been for Al-Owais," Renard told a news conference.
"He saved us in the third minute and we couldn't handle Mexico's intensity and enthusiasm in the duels.
"We suffered physically, and we had to adapt to the injury of defender Ali Al-Bulaihi. Mexico were the better team, and we knew that they would play aggressively in order to score more goals to qualify for the next round."
The French coach refused to blame the fact his team were missing four players due to injury and suspension.
"The squad includes 26 players, and we have to deal with what we have. Yes, injuries affected us, but they are not an excuse. Against Poland, we were the better team, but we weren't efficient in the last third, but today we played poorly."
Renard said he congratulated the Saudi players for their performance in the tournament.
"We did our best and we will not forget the work we did together. I am proud to work with the team and the players, but we did not deserve to win today," he added.
Renard spoke about the difficulty of participating in the World Cup because of the strength of the teams.
"What happened to us was repeated with Qatar and Tunisia. It is difficult to reach the next round," he said. "Saudi succeeded in that once before, a long time ago in 1994. We dream of returning to the World Cup and qualifying for the next round."
Renard indicated that Saudi Arabia will start preparing for the Asian Cup, which will be hosted by Qatar either at the end of 2023 or in 2024.
"We have a long time to prepare for the Asian Cup, which may be held at the end of next year. Winning the title and succeedi(Rethe next World Cup qualifiers are among the goals of the Saudi team," he said.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)