Skip to content
Argentina fall to Saudi Arabia, first big surprise of the tournament

Considered one of the favorites of the World Cup in Qatar, Argentina completely missed its entry into the competition by losing on Tuesday to Saudi Arabia (1-2). The Albiceleste thus put themselves in a delicate position by losing their first match against the team reputed to be the weakest in Group C. Lionel Messi’s teammates also see the end of a historic series of 36 matches without defeat.

It was considered the team in form of this World Cup. Undefeated for more than three years, victorious in the Copa America in 2021 and the Finalissima against Italy, Argentina nevertheless fell on Tuesday, November 22, against modest Saudi Arabia (1-2) for their first match in group C.

Before the meeting, all eyes were on the playmaker of the Argentines, Lionel Messi, who is playing his last World Cup at the age of 35. An uncertain time, the fivefold golden ball was finally part of the holders alongside the Parisian Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martínez, the striker of Inter Milan. And “the Pulga” did not take long to shine. From the first minute, Messi inherited a ball at the entrance to the area but his first intention attempt was repelled by the firm hand of the “Green Falcons” goalkeeper.

The Argentines keep up the pressure and push the Saudis to the fault. In the 7th minute, Paredes was the victim of a small clash from Abdulhamid in the area but sufficient according to the referee the Slovenian referee, Slavko Vincic, to designate the white point. Messi takes care of the penalty and opens his personal counter with a quiet counter-foot.

Hervé Renard’s men then tried to react by beefing up their game, regularly finding themselves at the limit of the fault. But far from being content to defend in their own half of the field, the block of the Green Falcons goes up to the front and ventures several times into the Argentine camp at the risk of being caught on the counter. In the 22nd minute, a well-served Messi in depth offers a face to face with Mohammed Al-Owais but his goal is invalidated for a microscopic offside.

The rest of the first half is also a story of goals disallowed: in the 27th, Lautaro Martinez stabs his ball over the goalkeeper after a sharp call in the back of the defense. But there again, the VAR comes to shower the joy of the Argentines who thought of making the break. A few minutes later, bis repeated with a new illicit position from Martinez on a late pass from Lionel Messi.

Saudi awakening

On resumption, the Saudis, led by only a small unit, can still hope to achieve a result against the ogre of Argentina. In the 48th minute, a thunderclap: striker Saleh Alshehri fixes and overflows a passive Argentine defense before landing a surgical cross shot into the side netting. First Saudi shot, first goal.

The equalizer awakens the Lusail stadium largely won over to the cause of the Falcons, who then see themselves growing wings. Less than five minutes after Saleh Alshehri’s goal, Aldawsari took advantage of a bad dismissal from the Argentine defense to chain a directed control and a curling shot into the opposite corner of Martinez.

Decidedly, nothing goes as planned for Leo Messi and his family who must now chase after the score. Stunned for long minutes, the Argentinians end up gradually picking up the thread of the match. On a cross from Otamendi, Tagliafico resumed with a volley from five meters but the Saudi goalkeeper lay down well to ward off the danger.

The Argentines push but again, Angel Di Maria’s attempt in the 71st is well captured by Mohammed Al-Owais. The minutes go by and Lionel Scaloni’s men still can’t do it. The Saudis, they defend like hungry and hold their achievement until the final whistle.

With this huge poor performance, Argentina starts its World Cup in the worst possible way by losing to the weakest team in Group C. The Albiceleste will have to do much better against the formidable Poland and Mexico to qualify for the round of 16 and continue to dream of a third star.

The World Cup in Qatar beyond football: