Saudi Arabia shocked Argentina with two goals in the second half, beating one of the pre-tournament favorites in their first World Cup game. This was the first surprise of the 2022 edition, the biggest event in sport.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan for the Argentines on Tuesday after their captain and talisman Lionel Messi imposed a penalty 10 minutes after Saud Abdulhamid pulled Leandro Paredes down in the pits.
Argentina then attacked violently as Saudi Arabia fought to contain them. Messi had the ball in the net not long after his first one, only for the goal to be decided offside.
Another offside goal followed after Lautaro Martinez sunk the ball with a cool finish over Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais. He reached out to the Argentinean fans, who had a good voice, only for VAR to reject the goal due to a minor offside position.
In a thoroughly dominant first half, Argentina had almost two-thirds of the ball, but failed to capitalize and were offside a total of seven times.
A game with two halves
In the second half, a revived Saudi team conquered the field. Saleh Al-Shehri opened their goal in the 48th minute after clinging to a long ball before taking a shot into the back corner through Argentine goalkeeper Damián Martinez’s legs.
The Saudi fans were thrilled as they scored a goal, which seemed to contradict the game at the time. But there was more to come.
A few minutes later, winger Salem al-Dawsari cut in and a beauty rolled into the top corner of the goal. If the first half had belonged to Argentina, it was time for Saudi Arabia to shine in the second half as fans celebrated in excitement — and perhaps a bit of disbelief — at Lusail Stadium.
Argentina tried their best to get the draw, but a determined defense and a series of good saves in front of the Saudi goalkeeper prevented them from scoring.
Messi, who won all the other major trophies he fought for besides the World Cup, gave off an abandoned figure towards the end as he fought to get Argentina back in the game. Uncharacteristically, he led a header at close range into Al-Owais’ palms in the last few minutes, a miss that was in many ways a symbol of Argentina’s performance that day.
However, there was more drama left. Five minutes after the start of injury time, Al-Owais stormed out the goal and accidentally kissed al-Dawsari, who was treated for a long time for his knock before being pulled off.
Saudi Arabia had never defeated Argentina in the last four games. Their victory against the favorites ahead of the game set off a wild celebration in and around Doha. It was also the first win for a team from the Middle East at the World Cup that the region had never hosted before. Host Qatar lost to Ecuador on Sunday, and Iran was defeated by England on Monday.
Mexico and Poland, along with Argentina and Saudi Arabia, are the other teams in Group C. Argentina was the clear favorite to advance to the next round at the top of the group. Now they must fight for it — as Saudi Arabia basks in the glory of its biggest soccer win ever.