Saudi Arabia Shock Messi’s Argentina In Group C Opener
This was the first meeting between these two countries at a World Cup. They have played each other four times previously, the South American side winning twice, with the other two games ending in draws.
The 80,000 Lusail stadium, which will host the final, was lively throughout with Saudi and Argentina fans of similar numbers and noise.
Messi had a good chance inside the opening two minutes as it fell to him just inside the box, but Saudi keeper Al Owais got a strong hand to his side footed effort.
But Messi atoned for his early miss as he opened the scoring from the spot after just nine minutes, as he coolly passed the ball into the net. The penalty came after a VAR review, which showed a Saudi defender guilty of pushing and shoving inside the box. This was Lionel’s seventh goal in his 20th appearance in a World Cup, all of which have come in the group stage.
Argentina, and Messi, were denied a second midway through the first half as a long ball over Saudi Arabia’s high back line put Messi one on one. And he slotted it away, but the offside flag subsequently went up as he had made his run marginally too early.
They had another goal chalked off five minutes later as Martinez delightfully chipped over a helpless keeper after an inch-perfect through ball but again it was deemed offside. Astonishingly, Argentina had the ball in the back of the net again, but this time, it looked more clearly offside as Martinez rounded the keeper and finished into the net. The Middle Eastern team’s tactic to play a high line was paying off.
Saudi Arabia went into the break at just one down after their opponents’ first half dominance which they would have been content with. But Saudi’s top scorer in qualifying, Al Shehri, equalised just after half time after a clinical finish across the goal past Emiliano Martinez into the bottom corner.
Remarkably, Saudi Arabia went ahead in the 53rd minute following a superb finish from the left edge of the area into the top right corner from Al Dawsari. sending the fans into ecstasy.
Al Owais made a great save on the hour mark after a Martinez shot deflected off Tagliafico. Scaloni was forced into making attacking changes in order to try and get his side on level terms.
The Saudi defence remained resolute and spirited; received six yellows overall as they continued to keep the Argentinians out. Al Shahrani dealt a hefty blow to the head by his own keeper late on but seemed to be okay.
All in all, Argentina were poor throughout the second half and were unable to break down the country ranked 51stin the World. Al Owais made a great flying save in the dying seconds from an Alvarez header.
And the Saudis pulled off an astounding upset win to end Argentina’s 36 game unbeaten run which dated back to 2019. This result will surely be one of the biggest in Saudi football history in the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East.