A Saudi Shock
By Usayd Tai
What was seen by neutrals as a comfortable opening game for Argentina, turned out to be one of the World Cup shocks of the last decade.
Argentina, who are seen as favourites to win this competition by many people, began their World Cup tournament on a thirty-six-game unbeaten streak in all competitions, against the 51st ranked team Saudi Arabia, in what also could possibly be Lionel Messi’s last World Cup.
After the first ten minutes, all seemed to be going to plan, as the Argentines won a penalty, which was placed home by none other than Lionel Messi. At this point we all thought business as usual for Argentina.
Messi was the put through on goal to clinch the second but was marginally offside and the goal was disallowed. Then followed Lautaro Martinez, who also scored a lovely chip over the Saudi keeper after a lovely through ball from Gomez, but again was disallowed for another offside, Martinez being the culprit.
If being disallowed twice was bad, how about a third time, with Martinez again being offside again after going round the keeper and slotting it home, but he was offside when the pass from Messi was made during the build-up. A frustrating half for the men in blue and white stripes.
The second half started with a blast and set the tone for the rest of the game, but it was something nobody expected. After being dominated for a whole half, Saudi Arabia found some space three minutes into the second half through Saleh Al Shehri, who managed to find the bottom corner of Emi Martinez’s net. Euphoria for Saudi Arabia, they were level.
And if you thought that was a shock, what followed was even bigger. Just five minutes later, a shot from Al Abid was blocked on the line and headed away by Otamendi for Argentina, whose header only found Salem Al Dawsari who produced a lovely bit of skill to control the ball, before shooting from the top of the eighteen-yard box, which found the top corner of the next. Stunning scenes as the crowd wearing green erupted in happiness. Saudi Arabia had lift off at the World Cup and were leading the favourites Argentina, early in the second half.
What followed for the next thirty-five minutes was a real dominant display from Argentina as they looked to avoid a huge shock, but Saudi were not giving up easy as they fought very hard to defend this crucial lead. The Argentinian resurgence continued throughout but they still could not find the back of the net. Messi could not get going in this half, and despite an Argentinian onslaught, the side looked poor in creating chances and finishing in front of goal. An unconvincing display which questioned a few of the public if they were favourites for the World Cup.
Thoughts are with Yasser Al Shahrani after he took a knee to the face from his own goalkeeper and stayed down holding his face for ten minutes, in what looked like a nasty injury.
But in the end, they were all heroes, as Saudi Arabia had beaten Argentina at a major international tournament after a wonderful display of defending, but it must be mentioned, despite a great first half display, Argentina had crumbled in the second half. They let their heads drop and could not get out at all. It makes their second group game against Mexico a must win game, otherwise they will be out of the 2022 World Cup after just two games.
Argentina – Martinez (GK), Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico, Di Maria, De Paul, Paredes, Gomez, Messi, Martinez
Saudi Arabia – Al Owasis, Tambakti, Al Shahrani, Al Bulayhi, Abdulhamid, Al Dawsari, Al Malki, Kanno, Al Faraj, Al Brikan, Al Shehri