The Kanno of the Kingdom / World Cup 2022 / Gr. C / Saudi Arabia-Mexico /

Against Mexico, Saudi Arabia has a good card to play to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup. To achieve this, she can notably rely on a slender midfielder who has been doing wonders since the start of the tournament: Mohamed Kanno.

on 11/30/2022 at 8:00 p.m.

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There are several ways to make a contribution when preparing to make history. Mohamed Kanno, he chose elegance. Facing Argentina at the Lusail Stadium, his great compasses – which would have immediately caught the eye of Christian Jeanpierre – exuded a rare elegance. That of a player who is in the right place, at the right time, and who only has to extend his limbs to intercept a pass or to stop a counter-attack. When you walk on water, nothing is impossible, and Kanno knows it better than anyone: that’s why even before going to the locker room and that Argentina leads 1-0, Kanno offers a small anthology bridge on Cristian Romero. The world should have known, at that precise moment, what was to come next.

Russia and the Al-Hilal gang

If Kanno and Saudi Arabia ended up bringing down Argentina, and they then scuttled themselves against Poland, there is one constant: in midfield, the Saudi number 23 bursts the screen. He is an essential pawn in the Saudi Arabia of Hervé Renard: it is he who dictates the tempo, balances his team and even, sometimes, brings danger. Against Poland, Kanno could even have afforded a lap in the skin of the scorer without a perfect release from Wojciech Szczęsny.

Few remember it, but in reality, Kanno had already shown his face to the world four years ago, in Russia. He had played a quarter of an hour against Uruguay (1-0 defeat) in relative anonymity, and had certainly not affected the course of the Falcons as he can do today. At club level, Kanno plays for Al-Hilal, the current biggest Saudi club, which is the number one provider of players for the national team. Facing theAlbiceleste, nine of the eleven starters – including Kanno – are currently playing for the club from Riyadh, eighteen times champion of Saudi Arabia and four times winner of the Asian Champions League. A place in the sun of Asian football that Kanno went to make himself.

“He had something more, but he didn’t have the high level codes. He was there, he was calm. I liked him a lot, he had a bit of an African mentality, he was very fond of afrobeats rhythms. » Papa Waigo N’Diaye, his teammate at Al-Ettifaq

The nonchalant of Khobar

The story of Mohamed Kanno begins long before the spotlight of the World Cup in Qatar. It was in Khobar, a city in the east of the Kingdom that looks into the eyes of Bahrain, that the octopus of the Falcons was born in 1994. Four years after his big brother, Abdullah, who is also a footballer and defender currently in Saudi Third Division in Al Safa. It was nineteen years later, in 2013, that Kanno tasted his first professional matches at Al-Ettifaq. Papa Waigo, Senegalese international striker who raged in Italy and England, remembers it very well. He was 29 years old when he saw the big legs of young Kanno land in his locker room. « He was a young man who had no experience and who discovered a bit of everythingrecalls Waigo. He had something more, but he didn’t have the high level codes. He was there, he was calm. I liked him a lot, he had a bit of an African mentality, he was very fond of afrobeats rhythms. » Ironically, it was against Al-Hilal that he scored his first professional goal in a 5-1 defeat, an Asian giant that he would not join until four years later after having seasoned himself in the second division. . Yes, because at the end of the 2013-2014 season, Al-Ettifaq was relegated and only came back in 2016 with Kanno transformed into a team manager.

In Al-Hilal, Kanno is obvious from his second season under the aegis of Jorge Jesus and all those who follow, like Leonardo Jardim. There, he rubs shoulders with players with a European reputation such as Bafétimbi Gomis or Sebastian Giovinco. He won the championship four times, the Asian Champions League twice and, above all, won and then became a part of the Greens since the arrival of Hervé Renard in 2019. Even if he was suspended for four months by the Federation Saudi Arabia at the start of the year for having signed a contract promise with Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal’s rival, while having in the process extended with his current team. An imbroglio which did not disgust the French-speaking staff of the selection, seduced by its hybrid profile which is between Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi, all things considered.

Good news: since the start of the competition, he even finally decided to put on screwed crampons to improve his balance and support. “He is good technically and in his vision of the game, but I still find him a little too nonchalant when his team loses the ball” , analyzes Papa Waigo who follows his matches in Senegal. Detrimental to see him rally the Old Continent after the competition? “It will depend on his ability to evolve in terms of his mentality. It takes time to adapt to Europe: there is the language, the cold, a lot of parameters that come into play and he is already 28 years old. , concludes his ex-teammate. Before that, above all, there is a last round against Mexico which could allow Saudi Arabia to match their best performance in the World Cup, obtained in 1994 in the United States during their first participation. That is concrete for Kanno.

By Andrea Chazy, in Doha
Statements by PW recorded by AC

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