In the first match of the 2022 World Cup, Saudi Arabia beat Argentina 2-1.
Saudi Arabia shocked Argentina with two second-half goals to win one of the favorites for the tournament during their opening World Cup match on Tuesday, the first surprise of the 2022 edition of the sport’s biggest event.
Things seemed to be going as planned for the Argentines after their captain and talisman Lionel Messi netted a penalty 10 minutes after Saud Abdulhamid knocked down Leandro Paredes in the penalty area.
Argentina then attacked with ferocity as Saudi Arabia struggled to contain their attacking talents. Messi had the ball in the back of the net not long after his first ball, but the goal was correctly ruled offside.
Another offside goal followed after Lautaro Martinez thought the ball coolly over Saudi keeper Mohammed al-Owais. He staggered towards the Argentinian fans, who were in good spirits, but VAR disallowed the goal for marginal offside.
In a thoroughly dominant play in the first half, Argentina had almost two-thirds of possession but failed to capitalize, being sidelined a total of seven times.
A game of two halves
In the second half, a revived Saudi team took the field. Saleh Al-Shehri opened the scoring in the 48th minute after latching onto a long ball before directing a shot through the legs of Argentina goalkeeper Damián Martinez into the far corner.
The Saudi fans were enthralled as they celebrated a goal that seemed to go against the grain at the time. But more was to come.
A few minutes later, winger Salem al-Dawsari cut in and curled a beauty into the top corner of the goal. If the first half had belonged to Argentina, now was Saudi Arabia’s moment to shine in the second, as their fans at Lusail Stadium celebrated enthusiastically – and possibly with some disbelief.
Argentina did their best to draw level, but determined defending and a series of fine saves from Saudi keeper Al-Owais prevented them from scoring.
Messi – who won any other major trophy what he has competed for apart from the World Cup made a losing figure towards the end as he struggled to get Argentina back into the game. Unusually, he headed a close range header into the keeper’s palms in the dying minutes, a miss that in many ways marked Argentina’s performance on the day.
However, there was more drama left. Five minutes into stoppage time, al-Owais charged out of goal and accidentally pinched al-Dawsari, who received lengthy treatment for his punch before being carried off.
Saudi Arabia had never beaten Argentina in their previous four encounters. Their victory over the pre-game favorites sparked wild celebrations in the stadium and all over Doha. It was also the first win for a Middle Eastern side at the World Cup, which the region has never hosted before. Host Qatar lost to Ecuador on Sunday and Iran was beaten by England on Monday.
Mexico and Poland are the other teams apart from Argentina and Saudi Arabia in Group C. Argentina was the promising favourites to move to the next stage at the top of the group. Now they will have to fight for it – as Saudi Arabia basks in the glory of their greatest ever football victory.