Argentina’s World Cup Loss to Saudi Is an Upset for the Ages

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The Qatar 2022 World Cup simply witnessed its first stunning end result—and it was one for the ages.

Saudi Arabia, a neighbor to host nation Qatar, upset Argentina 2-1 within the opening match of Group C play on Tuesday afternoon in Lusail. The end result left Argentinian supporters shocked of their seats in Lusail Stadium, and set off a wild celebration amongst Saudis within the partisan crowd and on the close by Fan Fest. The nation’s revolutionary excessive 4-4-1-1 formation put fixed strain on the closely favored Argentinians, and key defensive performs late within the fixture saved the day for the Saudis.

One of the compelling World Cup storylines was the hunt of 35-year-old Argentine famous person Lionel Messi, the six-time FIFA World Participant of the Yr, to lastly win a World Cup title. Messi, who scored Argentina’s lone aim on a penalty within the 10th minute towards Saudi Arabia, reached the ultimate on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil; however Argentina misplaced to Germany. The World Cup is way from over for Messi and his mates: there’s nonetheless a path out of the Group stage and into the Spherical of 16. However issues are actually messy for Messi.

Learn Extra: How To Watch the 2022 World Cup

Messi bought his first shot on aim within the second minute on Tuesday. However keeper Mohammed Al-Owais made a slick one-handed diving save to maintain the match scoreless. After Messi’s penalty gave Argentina a 1-Zero lead, Argentina threatened to run away with the match: however a trio of offside calls negated a aim by Messi, and two by Lautaro Martinez.

Lucky to be down 1-Zero at half, Saudi Arabia pounced simply after the break. Within the 48th minute, Saleh Alshehri evened the match with a left-footed strike. Some 5 minutes later, Salem Aldawsari lasered a shot contained in the far publish. Argentina keeper Emiliano Martíinez might solely get a finger on it, and now Saudi Arabia owned an unbelievable 2-1 lead.

From there, Al-Owais shined. He dove to his proper to cease a point-blank shot close to the aim within the 83rd minute. About 10 minutes later, Al-Owais bought just a little assist: he got here off his line, and went down in a collision. However within the fray Abdulelah Al-Amri neatly slipped to the aim line, and stopped a possible game-tying shot along with his head. Moments later, within the waning seconds of stoppage time, #three had a transparent look with a header: however Al-Owais leapt, as excessive as he probably might, to cradle it. Saudi Arabia then waited for the whistle, which lastly referred to as the sport. The Saudis had completed the stunner.

What the outcomes imply for Saudi Arabia and Argentina

Saudi Arabia stands 51st within the FIFA World Rankings; Argentina is third. Mexico (#13) and Poland (#26), which options two-time defending FIFA Participant of the Yr Robert Lewandoswki, spherical out Group C. Coming into this recreation Argentina had the third-best likelihood at successful the World Cup title, behind solely Brazil and France, in line with analytics agency Sports activities Carry out. Whereas Argentina had a 10.5% likelihood to win the title, Saudi Arabia has a 0.06% likelihood. In different phrases, Argentina was 175 occasions extra prone to win the title than Saudi Arabia. Sports activities Carry out’s AI mannequin gave Argentina an 87% likelihood of advancing to the knockout stage; Saudi Arabia was the second-least probably group to advance of all of the 32 groups within the Group stage, at 19%, forward of solely Costa Rica.

Throw all of the numbers away now. After right this moment’s recreation, the massive query is whether or not this upset will probably be an aberration or show sufficient to shake the arrogance of Messi’s Argentina, which till right this moment had a 36-match successful streak that was closing in on the prior document of 37 set by Italy. Soccer is a nationwide obsession in Argentina, which has lengthy produced a few of the world’s greatest gamers, equivalent to Messi and the late Diego Maradona. Certainly, the final time Argentina received the World Cup was in 1986, in Maradona’s prime, a truth not misplaced on the 35-year-old soccer star.

Learn Extra: The World Cup Kicks Off with a Loss for Host Qatar

In a March 2019 interview with South Africa’s Radio 94.7., Messi cited Argentina’s loss to France within the Spherical of 16 within the 2018 World Cup in Russia as a profession low level, prompting his break from worldwide participation. “I considered locking myself up, working away with my household and forgetting all the pieces,” he stated. “I attempted to isolate myself from all the pieces for some time, together with the nationwide group.” He additionally expressed that it might have been “the most important failure within the historical past of the Argentina nationwide group” if they’d been knocked out a spherical earlier.

Messi isn’t alone in his pursuit for the “best of all time” standing. Portugal ahead Cristiano Ronaldo can also be on his fifth try to steer the nation to its first-ever World Cup victory. Each gamers have scored seven World Cup targets throughout their profession and they’re usually described as rivals.

The final word soccer prize, nevertheless, has escaped him. And due to Saudi Arabia’s historic effort, Messi’s World Cup title appears just a little additional away.

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Write to Sean Gregory at sean.gregory@time.com and Armani Syed at armani.syed@time.com.



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