THE biggest story so far in this Qatar World Cup is the loss of the number three ranked and tournament favorite Argentina against the top 50 Saudi Arabia. Argentina went into this game with a 36-game unbeaten run, a game shy of equaling Italy’s record from 2018 – 2021. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia managed only four wins out of their last 17 games heading into this.
What was expected to be a cakewalk for the Albicelestes turned into a nightmare start for their campaign. Argentina scored first, 10 minutes into the first half, with Lionel Messi converting a spot kick after an Argentine player was brought down in the box. But the well-drilled Green Falcons were able to weather the continuous onslaught by utilizing their offside traps perfectly, deeming what would have been three goals and the game over reversed. Apart from being relentless on defense, the Saudis weren’t mainly playing well in the first half, losing the ball quickly and having difficulty getting a toehold of proceedings.
It was a tale of two halves in the second. The Saudis drew the game on a Saleh Al Shehri strike five minutes into the second half to the elation of the green and white fans. Five minutes later, the drums of the Argentinian contingent were silenced with a Salem Al Dawsari wonder goal. It was a thing of beauty. Out of nowhere after wiggling out of 3 defenders in the box, he unleashes a golazo curler into the top corner as the Saudis erupt in jubilation.
Saudi Goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais was man of the match after single handedly keeping the South American powerhouse at bay, protecting their lead with save after save. Even the last ditch effort of Argentine striker Lautaro Martinez in the last minute of the game with a header from a long ball that looped meekly in his hands after a flying save. In the end, it was to become the biggest upset in the World Cup and perhaps the biggest in Saudi Arabia’s football history.
Lionel Messi urges his team to stay united and given that Spain lost a game in the group stages before going on to win the 2010 World Cup, there is hope yet for the Albicelestes to repeat the feat.
When Poland star player Robert Lewendowski missed a penalty against Mexico hours later that led to a draw, this might turn out to be a turning point for what could still be a fairy tale ending for Lionel Messi and Argentina.
Poland, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Argentina are in the same group for this stage of the World Cup. Only two teams with the most points total will move on to the last 16. Each win is three points, a draw is one point so after three games against each of the other teams in the group, the top two teams advance.
Saudi Arabia had one in 500 chances to win this game according to the bookmakers.
We are all on the edge of our seat in what so far has become a riveting World Cup in Qatar.
Photos courtesy fifa.com