Saudi Arabia shocked Argentina with two second-half goals to beat one of the pre-tournament favourites in their opening World Cup match on Tuesday, marking the first upset of the 2022 edition of the sport’s biggest event.
The 35-year-old Messi converted a penalty in the 10th minute of his sixth and last attempt to win the one major title that has eluded him during a dominant first half in which he and Lautaro Martinez also had three goals disallowed for offside.
However, at the start of the second half, Saudi Arabia, the tournament’s second-lowest-ranked squad after Ghana, threw caution to the wind and charged at Argentina’s defence in front of an enthused 88,012 spectators.
Salem Al-Dawsari curled in a scorching rocket from the edge of the penalty box in the 53rd minute, leaving Argentina and Messi in the Group C opener looking completely shell-shocked. Saleh Al-Shehri sneaked in a low attempt in the 48th minute.
After that, Saudi Arabia had lots of possession, but Argentina was unable to break them down. Saudi Arabia was playing in their sixth World Cup, but they had never won the opening match.
The Lusail Stadium hosted the game in a remarkable atmosphere, with thousands of Saudis crossing the border to support their team joining Argentina’s customarily large and boisterous fan base.
“Our team fulfils our dreams!” and “Where is Messi? We beat him!” the green-clad Saudis chanted over and over in the Lusail Stadium, on their feet and greeting every clearance from their defence with a deafening roar.
Both teams still have Mexico and Poland to play, but Argentina needs to act quickly if Messi hopes to match Diego Maradona’s immortality in his native country by winning the World Cup.
The outcome ended Argentina’s incredible 36-match winning streak and prevented them from breaking Italy’s previous mark of 37 games without a loss for an international team.