Saudi Arabia recorded the first upset of the 2022 FIFA World Cup as they came from behind to defeat Argentina in their Group C opener at the Lusail Stadium. The Falcons delivered a top performance to defeat one of the tournament’s favourites.
The 2021 Copa America champions were one of the teams tipped to win the FIFA World Cup and they came into the game against Saudi Arabia on the back of an unbeaten run stretching back to 2019.
Argentina started the game in impressive fashion but were matched by the high energy of the Saudi Arabians, who showed good energy in the opening exchanges.
Argentina were gifted an opener inside ten minutes as Leandro Paredes was dragged down by a Saudi Arabia defender from a corner. The VAR awarded a penalty for La Albiceleste which was coolly converted by Lionel Messi in the tenth minute. The 35-year-old became the first Argentine player to score in four different World Cups.
La Albiceleste continued to dominate proceedings but were effectively stifled by Saudi Arabia and their high-line strategy. Messi and Lautaro Martinez found the back of the net thrice in ten minutes, but the assistant’s flag and VAR chalked off all three efforts.
The Falcons remained in the game and soldiered on until half-time only one goal behind against their illustrious opponents.
Saudi Arabia did not allow the Argentines any time to settle in the second half before breaching their backline with the first shot on target. Messi was dispossessed in midfield and the forward pass immediately set Saleh AlShehri free to drive an angled effort into the far post beyond the despairing dive of Emi Martinez in the 48th minute.
Saudi Arabia quickly took the lead five minutes later through a wonderful finish from captain Salem AlDawsari. The midfielder received the ball on the right of the box before curling a delightful effort past Martinez to put his side ahead.
The Falcons defended resolutely until the end of the match, denying Argentina any clear-cut openings as their FIFA World Cup campaign got off to a bumpy start in Lusail. Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina have now tasted defeat for the first time in 37 matches since 2019.