Argentina 1 – 2 Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabia produced one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history as Salem Al-Dawsari’s stunning solo effort secured a 2-1 victory over Argentina in Group C at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.

Time stood still as Al-Dawsari plucked the ball out from the sky and turned inside two Argentina defenders before curling his finish beyond the reach of Aston Villa defender Emiliano Martinez, producing one of the biggest moments of any World Cup finals.

Lionel Messi had given one of the pre-tournament favourites the lead from the penalty spot after a contentious VAR decision (10) but Saleh Al-Shehri levelled just three minutes into the second period to set up an almighty upset.

The result ended Argentina’s 36-game unbeaten run, stretching back to defeat against Brazil three years ago but this was the greatest day in Saudi Arabian football history.

La Albiceleste last lost their opening World Cup group game in 1990 – against Cameroon – but they went on to reach the final where they lost to Germany but that will be of little consolation to the South Americans right now following defeat to the nation ranked 51st in world football.

Saudi Arabia's Saleh Al-Shehri celebrates scoring their side's
Image:
Al-Shehri made it 1-1 at the Lusail Iconic Stadium

Player ratings

Argentina: Martinez (6), Tagliafico (5), Romero (4), Otamendi (5), Molina (5), Paredes (5), De Paul (6), Messi (6), Di Maria (5), Gomez (5), Lautaro Martinez (6).

Subs: Acuna (6), Alvarez (5), Lisandro Martinez (6), Fernandez (5).

Saudi Arabia: Al-Owais (8), Al-Bulayhi, Abdulhamid (7), Al-Shahrani (8), Tambakti (9), Al-Malki (8), Salem Al-Dawsari (9), Al-Shehri (8), Kanno (7), Al-Faraj (6), Al-Buraikan (7).

Subs: Al-Ghanam (6), Al-Amri (n/a), Asiri (n/a), Abdulrahim (6), Al-Burayk (n/a).

Player of the match: Hassan Al-Tambakti.

More to follow…

Big moments in the game…

  • 10 min: Saud Abdulhamid is penalised for pulling Leandro Paredes’ shirt inside the box. Lionel Messi dispatches his penalty.
  • 22 min: Messi has the ball in the net, but the offside flag goes up immediately to cut short Argentina celebrations.
  • 27 min: Martinez is slipped clean through on goal and his produces a lovely dink to score but the strike is disallowed by VAR for offside.
  • 35 min: Argentina and Martinez have the ball in the net again, but the flag once again goes up for offside against the Inter forward.
  • 48 min: Saleh Al-Shehri finds a yard of space on Cristian Romero to flash a low shot into the bottom corner.
  • 53 min: Salem Al-Dawsari scores a stunning solo goal to complete the comeback.

Should Argentina have been awarded a penalty?

Argentina looked to be in total control at half time
Image:
Argentina looked to be in total control at half time

Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness on ITV: “He doesn’t know where the ball is. He’s only interested in an Argentina player. He doesn’t know when it’s been kicked and I think that is a penalty for me.

“He’s not looking at the ball, the directive from the referees is that’s a penalty.”

Sky Sports’ Roy Keane on ITV: “No, no, no, all this will do is encourage diving. He (Otamendi) is dragging him (Abdulhamid) down.”

Souness: “Roy, you’re not listening. It’s a directive from the referees. This is not about opinions, this is about fact, the guy wasn’t looking at the ball.

Team news

  • Lionel Messi shrugged off some fatigue niggles to lead the line on Tuesday in the Group C opener against Saudi Arabia where he begins his last quest for an elusive World Cup trophy.
  • With Paulo Dybala still not recovered from injury, Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria were up front with Messi in a star-studded team who are one of the favourites to win in Qatar.
  • Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard kept captain and midfielder Salman Al-Faraj in the team despite a recent shoulder injury. He has been a cornerstone of Al Hilal’s dominance of Asian club football in recent years.

Keane: “I’m here to give my opinion: that’s not a penalty.”

Souness: “This is not about our opinions, this is about the laws of the game.”

Keane: “I’m here to give my opinion: that’s not a penalty.”

Souness: “I’ve heard you say it 10 times, let someone else speak. You’ll learn a lot more if you listen. He’s not looking at the ball, the directive from the referees is that’s a penalty. We have to accept it.”

What does the result mean?

Saleh Al-Shehri celebrates his equaliser
Image:
Saleh Al-Shehri celebrates his equaliser

Argentina came with the intention of winning this tournament and so beating Saudi Arabia always looked like a box that just needed to be ticked.

The two-time World Cup champions next face Mexico on Saturday, kick-off 7pm, where victory is vital if they are to have any chances now of progressing. Argentina need at least a point to avoid throwing their hopes of progression into serious jeopardy.

Saudi Arabia are back in action against Poland earlier that day, kick-off 10am, and a win would all-but seal their progression to the knock-out stages, and most likely as group winners.

The winners of Group C will face the runner-up from Group D, containing France, Denmark, Tunisia and Australia. The runner-up in Group D will face the winners of Group C.





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