The Green Falcons of Saudi Arabia achieved the unthinkable to defeat Lionel Messi and Argentina 2-1 in their World Cup 2022 Group C opener in Doha on Tuesday, pulling off one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. In the largest football tournament, Herve Renard’s team put on one of the greatest victories by an Asian nation by exerting every ounce of their energy in a spirited performance.
Thousands more Saudis crossed the border to cheer on their team, adding Argentina’s normally sizable and rowdy fan following, giving the game at the Lusail Stadium a fantastic atmosphere.
After the erratic Messi kicked off his fifth and final World Cup with a penalty in the 10th minute, Argentina was on track to match Italy’s record unbeaten streak of 37 games. After a video review revealed a foul, Messi converted the penalty against Saudi Arabia before Argentina had three goals disallowed. On a breakaway, Messi, 35, defeated Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais, but the goal and two others by Lautaro Martinez’s partner were disallowed due to offside.
But in the second half, Saudi Arabia scored twice in five minutes to grab a 2-1 lead in Qatar, shocking La Albiceleste. A few minutes after the break, Saleh Al-Shehri equalised for Herve Renard’s team with a low shot, and then Salem Al-Dawsari gave Saudi Arabia the lead with a beautiful curling shot from the edge of the box.
Al-Owais, who kept his composure, made some incredible stops to prevent Argentina from scoring a number of goals and aid Saudi Arabia in defeating La Albiceleste for the first time ever. Argentina, headed by Messi, was expected to win the World Cup in Qatar after winning the Copa America in 2021, thus this result comes as a shock. Our group fulfils our dreams! likewise, “Where is Messi? The green-clad Saudis in the Lusail Stadium cheered again, “We defeated him!,” standing up and loudly applauding each clearance from their defence.
Messi watched in bewilderment as crowds of Saudi Arabian fans, who are neighbours of Qatar, celebrated in the stands while dressed in green. Saudi Arabia’s stand-ins took control of the field.
After taking a 1-0 lead after just 10 minutes, Lionel Scaloni’s team appeared to be headed for an easy victory, but Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina with an incredible second half display. La Albiceleste’s next World Cup match is against Mexico on Saturday in Group C.
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