The 2022 FIFA World Cup had its first major
shock as Saudi Arabia produced one of the biggest upsets in the history of the
tournament to beat Argentina at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar. Lionel Messi
opened the scoring for the Copa America champions from the penalty spot in the
first period, but goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari helped the
Asian side complete an extraordinary second-half turnaround against one of the
Argentina entered the tournament on the
back of an outlandish 36-game unbeaten run in all competitions, making this
result against the 51st-ranked nation in the FIFA standings one of the most
remarkable upsets at a World Cup.
There were no hints of a Saudi Arabia
victory in the opening stages as Argentina stole the early initiative. Lionel
Messi had an effort saved within the first two minutes before Argentina were
gifted a penalty in the tenth minute following a VAR review.
Messi coolly converted the spot kick
to score his 7th goal at the World Cup finals, wrong-footing the goalkeeper
with a simple finish. Argentina dominated the proceedings following their
opener but were continuously caught off-guard by the high line employed by the
Saudi Arabian defence.
The South American side had the ball in the
back of the net on three more occasions in the first period, only for each of
them to be ruled out for off-side. Messi was found guilty of wandering into an
off-side position on a counter, while Lautaro Martinez timed his run
incorrectly on two occasions.
These mistakes eventually came back to
haunt Argentina as Saudi Arabia found an equaliser just moments into the second
half. Saleh Al-Shehri capitalised on some hesitancy from centre-back Cristian Romero
and beat goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez with his strike into the bottom corner.
Al-Shehri’s goal swung the momentum in Saudi Arabia’s favour, and Salem
Al-Dawsari flipped the script five minutes later with another unstoppable
strike. The winger cut inside onto his right foot before rifling a curled
effort into the top corner to put the Saudis in front against all odds.
Lionel Scaloni threw on Julian Alvarez,
Marcos Acuna, Enzo Fernandez, and Lisandro Martinez in the search for an
equaliser, but Saudi Arabia defended valiantly in the final half-hour to snatch
the three points. Goalkeeper Al-Owais made a couple of incredible saves from
close range to deny Lisandro Martinez and Lionel Messi, while the defence threw
their bodies on the line to see out the game and complete their miracle win.
This defeat leaves Argentina in grave
danger of crashing out of the World Cup in the group stage, and the Copa
America winners will have to find a positive result against Mexico on Saturday
to stay alive in Group C.