DOHA, Qatar – Lionel Messi and Argentina have been on the receiving finish of one of many greatest stunners in World Cup historical past Tuesday, as Saudi Arabia pulled off a monumental 2-1 upset at Lusail Stadium.
After placing his group into the lead with a first-half penalty in what was anticipated to be its best Group C conflict, Messi was powerless to stop a exceptional Saudi fightback that leaves Argentina in a precarious place after just one sport.
On 48 minutes, Saleh Al-Shehri produced a low effort to degree the rating in opposition to the run of play, earlier than Salem Al-Dawsari uncorked a spectacular right-foot strike from the sting of the penalty space that flew into the Argentina web.
From there, Argentina tried furiously to get again degree.
Defending a 36-game unbeaten streak that included victory within the 2021 version of the Copa America, Messi and firm launched wave after wave of assault, however to no avail.
Saudi goalkeeper Mohammad Al-Owais was masterful — typically regular, typically exhilarating — with acrobatic saves and sprints from his space to clear away hassle.
Deep into injury-time, the keeper was concerned in a scary second that momentarily silenced the gang. Al-Owais got here flying off his line to punch the ball the clear, and his knee collided with the chin of teammate Yasir Al-Shahrani with terrifying pressure, inflicting minutes of medical consideration and Al-Shahrani’s substitution.
Messi did all he may — nevertheless it was to not be his day, nevertheless a lot it has appeared prefer it early on. The little maestro slotted dwelling a Tenth-minute penalty as Argentina took full management within the preliminary levels. Earlier than the primary half was over, Argentina was one aim forward and had three extra dominated out for offside.
On the interval although, the whole lot modified — and with it the face of Group C.
Regardless of a profession by which he has been thought to be one of many two greatest gamers of his era alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi has by no means received the sport’s greatest worldwide prize along with his nation. At 35, this yr is perhaps his closing likelihood.
It’s not over. Argentina may have the chance to bounce again when it faces Mexico on the identical venue Saturday (2 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports App) earlier than difficult Poland in its closing group sport. However its margin for error is razor-thin now.
Maybe the Saudi efficiency was this World Cup’s first case of regional benefit, provided that the nation borders Qatar and an enormous contingent of Saudi followers have been in attendance. Perhaps it was proof the hole between soccer’s world elite and people attempting to raise themselves to that degree is narrowing.
Will it go down as the most important upset of all of them? Saudi Arabia is ranked solely 51st on the earth however was imperious through the Asian qualification rounds, topping its group regardless of being pooled with regional heavyweights Japan and Australia.
By no means thoughts. This was a shocker that can take fairly some beating and the story of whether or not Argentina and Messi can dig themselves out of this gap might be keenly adopted from this level ahead.