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Saudi Arabia Sets One of the Biggest Stunners in World Cup History

Nov 23, 2022

LUSAIL Stadium, Qatar – Just the 3rd day of games for the FIFA World Cup Qatar, and the records are breaking already. Tuesday’s victory over Argentina by Saudi Arabia was one of the biggest World Cup upsets ever after they came from behind. 

Lionel Messi’s first-half penalty gave Argentina, one of the favorites to win the competition, the lead. Argentina dominated the first half. However, a remarkable Saudi Arabian comeback saw Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari both score goals in the space of five minutes after the interval, ending Argentina’s incredible 36-match winning streak.

Even for Argentina, who often has a poor World Cup opening, this was a remarkable upset. In the opening minutes of the second half, Saudi Arabia, which is rated 51st in the world (between Qatar and Greece), scored twice to pull off one of the biggest upsets in competition history, comparable to Cameroon’s victory over Diego Maradona’s defending winners in 1990.

During the opening 45 minutes of the match, which were dominated by Argentina, Saudi Arabia hardly registered and left the field at halftime appearing to be hanging on for dear life. However, the astonishing reversal was crowned by goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari, the latter of which was a right-footed strike that sailed into the top corner and was an early contender for goal of the tournament. 

And when Argentina and captain Lionel Messi were under pressure to mount a comeback, they lacked poise and accuracy in front of goal.

Argentina will cherish the fact that, despite falling to Cameroon in their World Cup opener in 1990, they still advanced to the championship game. But this season was supposed to be different since the South American champions, who arrived in Qatar following a 36-match winning streak, had high expectations. It appears that they will once again make the group stage difficult, like they did at Russia 2018.

The team led by Lionel Scaloni ought to have been insurmountable at the break, but they nevertheless fell behind early in the second half. They just had themselves to blame, and with a little bit more caution, they might have gone into halftime with a 5-0 lead. 

After the penalty, three goals—two from Lautaro Martinez and one from Messi—were chalked out for offside. Messi had a wonderful chance that Mohammed Al-Owais stopped. 

Although Saudi Arabia didn’t take a single shot in the first half and had a reputation for having trouble scoring goals, they managed to beat Emi Martinez twice in the second half.

The fact that Argentina had more than 30 minutes after falling behind to force a draw or even win the game would worry Scaloni the most. However, Argentina swiftly turned to pounding crosses into the box, which the Saudi defense easily scooped up. Argentina will still think they can make the knockout stages with games against Poland and Mexico remaining, but it was not the start they were hoping for.

Thousands of Saudi Arabian fans have crossed the border into Qatar in the sincere hope that their team would play as well as they did in the round of 16 at the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

They may have been the only ones who thought it before the tournament began, but not any longer. Most of the fans who arrived at the Lusail Stadium early on Tuesday morning admitted they did not have high hopes for Argentina and that they would probably need to win against Poland and Mexico to advance from Group C, but instead they dealt a devastating blow to Asian football, especially after both Qatar and Iran began their respective tournaments with dismal showings against Ecuador and England.

In the first half, they appeared intimidated by Argentina, and it wasn’t until after the break that they started to play defense like a team that had six clean sheets in qualifying. Their last World Cup started with a 5-0 thrashing by the hosts Russia, but how times change in four years. A day that will be remembered for both the World Cup and Saudi Arabian football history.

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