World Cup 2022: Saudi Arabia beat Argentina 2-1 in Group C opener

Saudi Arabia, ranked 51st in the world, pull off one of the World Cup’s biggest shocks as they beat two-time winners…


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A bold and brilliant Saudi Arabia pulled off one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history as they came from behind to stun two-time winners Argentina in a fantastic Group C opener in Lusail.

Ranked 51st in the world, Saudi Arabia could have been done and dusted in the first half as Lionel Messi opened the scoring from the penalty spot before Argentina had three goals ruled out for offside.

But the Green Falcons flipped the game on its head in a stunning 10-minute period after half-time, Saleh Al Shehri levelling with a low effort and Salem Al Dawsari firing them ahead to spark pandemonium in the stands.

Having shown their ruthlessness at one end, they demonstrated a ruggedness at the other, holding a stellar Argentina front line at bay to secure only their fourth World Cup win and throw the group wide open.

Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina came into the tournament among the favourites, on the back of a 36-game unbeaten run that included winning the 2021 Copa America.

They now have it all to do to keep alive their hopes of a first global triumph since 1986 and give Messi a fitting ending to what is very likely his World Cup swansong.

They face Mexico on Saturday, while Saudi Arabia take on Poland.

One of the World Cup’s biggest shocks

Well, who saw this coming?

Argentina were among the elite teams heading to Qatar – tipped by many to go all the way, with a star-studded squad as robust at the back as they are ruthless in attack.

In 2018 in Russia they were chaos personified, chopping managers before the event and starting XIs during it before going out in the last 16.

But under Scaloni they got their act together in a serious way. They do not concede many and score lots – in five games before the World Cup they kept five clean sheets and netted 16 times – and had not tasted defeat since losing to Brazil in the final of the 2019 Copa America.

That run is now over and in spectacular, humbling fashion.

In contrast to their opponents, few saw Saudi Arabia making a dent at this tournament. Only Ghana of the 32 nations in attendance rank lower. They had three victories before this, but none of them bigger.

At full-time, in wild scenes, their players dropped to the turf, prayed, hugged and screamed into the sky as the bench charged on to the pitch to join them, weaving their way past disconsolate Argentina players.

Luck was ridden, especially during a first half when the writing was on the wall early through Messi’s penalty – awarded after Leandro Paredes was wrestled to the turf. Had Messi or Lautaro Martinez timed their attacking runs better it could have been 4-0 at the break.

Having remained competitive, Saudi Arabia seized their moment in spectacular fashion.

Al-Shehri found the bottom corner of Emi Martinez’s net, Salem Al Dawsari found the top – both ruthless finishes, each a hammer blow to Argentina that left them floored.

They came at Saudi Arabia and threatened in increasingly desperate search of a way back in, but on every occasion a man in green stretched out a limb to tackle or threw a body in to block.

Keeper Mohammed Al Owais plucked balls out of the air and dropped on shots aimed his way. When he was absent, Abdulelah Al Amri was there to head a goalbound effort off the line.

Eight minutes were added at the end and nearly 14 were played, most of them in the Saudi Arabia half and accompanied by screams of excitement and anguish from the crowd.

The final whistle confirmed the unbelievable and sent Herve Renard’s side into delirium. They are the first non-European team to beat Argentina at the World Cup since Cameroon in 1990.

If Argentina need something to cling to, it is that they reached the final following that opening defeat 42 years ago. If you are going to lose group games, it is often better to do so first up, giving yourself the games to recover.

They are, though, now arguably the victims of the biggest shock in World Cup history, up there with England’s loss to the United States in 1950 and West Germany losing to Algeria in 1982.

Result Year Chance of victory for winning team
Saudi Arabia 2-1 Argentina 2022 8.7%
USA 1-0 England 1950 9.5%
Switzerland 1-0 Spain 2010 10.3%
Algeria 2-1 West Germany 1982 13.2%
Ghana 2-0 Czech Republic 2006 13.9%

As for Saudi Arabia, the last three teams to beat Argentina at the World Cup have gone on to win the competition (Germany in 2014, France in 2018) or reached the final (Croatia in 2018).

Few will be predicting that, but they now have a great chance to match their effort of 1994 by reaching the last 16.

Player of the match

Abdulelah Al AmriAbdulelah Al Amri

with an average of 8.91

Argentina

  1. Squad number10Player nameMessi
    Average rating

    5.29

  2. Squad number23Player nameMartínez
    Average rating

    4.70

  3. Squad number22Player nameMartínez
    Average rating

    4.45

  4. Squad number11Player nameDi María
    Average rating

    4.10

  5. Squad number13Player nameRomero
    Average rating

    4.04

  6. Squad number25Player nameMartínez
    Average rating

    4.01

  7. Squad number26Player nameMolina
    Average rating

    3.99

  8. Squad number17Player namePapu Gómez
    Average rating

    3.83

  9. Squad number7Player nameDe Paul
    Average rating

    3.79

  10. Squad number5Player nameParedes
    Average rating

    3.78

  11. Squad number19Player nameOtamendi
    Average rating

    3.71

  12. Squad number3Player nameTagliafico
    Average rating

    3.67

  13. Squad number9Player nameÁlvarez
    Average rating

    3.53

  14. Squad number24Player nameFernández
    Average rating

    3.25

  15. Squad number8Player nameAcuña
    Average rating

    3.23

Saudi Arabia

  1. Squad number4Player nameAbdulelah Al Amri
    Average rating

    8.91

  2. Squad number2Player nameSultan Al Ghannam
    Average rating

    8.89

  3. Squad number6Player nameMohammed Al Burayk
    Average rating

    8.88

  4. Squad number25Player nameHaitham Asiri
    Average rating

    8.86

  5. Squad number11Player nameSaleh Al Shehri
    Average rating

    8.85

  6. Squad number10Player nameSalem Al Dawsari
    Average rating

    8.80

  7. Squad number18Player nameNawaf Al Abid
    Average rating

    8.78

  8. Squad number21Player nameMohammed Al Owais
    Average rating

    8.73

  9. Squad number13Player nameYasir Al Shahrani
    Average rating

    8.66

  10. Squad number5Player nameAli Al Bulayhi
    Average rating

    8.62

  11. Squad number12Player nameSaud Abdulhamid
    Average rating

    8.61

  12. Squad number17Player nameHassan Tambakti
    Average rating

    8.60

  13. Squad number7Player nameSalman Al Faraj
    Average rating

    8.59

  14. Squad number9Player nameFeras Al Brikan
    Average rating

    8.59

  15. Squad number23Player nameMohammed Kanno
    Average rating

    8.58

  16. Squad number8Player nameAbdulelah Al Malki
    Average rating

    8.55

Line-ups

Argentina

Formation 4-4-2

  • 23Martínez
  • 26Molina
  • 13RomeroSubstituted forMartínezat 59′minutes
  • 19Otamendi
  • 3TagliaficoSubstituted forAcuñaat 71′minutes
  • 11Di María
  • 7De Paul
  • 5ParedesSubstituted forFernándezat 59′minutes
  • 17Gómez VillaverdeSubstituted forÁlvarezat 59′minutes
  • 10Messi
  • 22Martínez

Substitutes

  • 1Armani
  • 2Foyth
  • 4Montiel
  • 6Pezzella
  • 8Acuña
  • 9Álvarez
  • 12Rulli
  • 14Palacios
  • 15Correa
  • 16Almada
  • 18Rodríguez
  • 20Mac Allister
  • 21Dybala
  • 24Fernández
  • 25Martínez

Saudi Arabia

Formation 4-1-4-1

  • 21Al OwaisBooked at 90mins
  • 12AbdulhamidBooked at 82mins
  • 17Al Tambakti
  • 5Al BulayhiBooked at 75mins
  • 13Al Mohammadi Al ShahraniSubstituted forAl Buraykat 90+9′minutes
  • 8Al Wahbi Al MalkiBooked at 67mins
  • 9Al BrikanSubstituted forAsiriat 89′minutes
  • 7Al FarajSubstituted forAl Abidat 45+4′minutesBooked at 88minsSubstituted forAl Amriat 88′minutes
  • 23Kanno
  • 10Al DawsariBooked at 79mins
  • 11Al ShehriSubstituted forAl Ghannamat 78′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Al Rubaie Al Yami
  • 2Al Ghannam
  • 3Madu
  • 4Al Amri
  • 6Al Burayk
  • 14Otayf
  • 15Al Hassan
  • 16Al Naji
  • 18Al Abid
  • 19Bahbri
  • 20Al Obud
  • 22Al Suweiti Al Aqidi
  • 24Al Shardan Al Dawsari
  • 25Asiri

Referee:
Slavko Vincic

Attendance:
88,012

Match Stats

Live Text

  1. Match ends, Argentina 1, Saudi Arabia 2.

  2. Second Half ends, Argentina 1, Saudi Arabia 2.

  3. Attempt saved. Julián Álvarez (Argentina) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Ángel Di María with a cross.

  4. Corner, Argentina. Conceded by Salem Al Dawsari.

  5. Corner, Argentina. Conceded by Saud Abdulhamid.

  6. Substitution, Saudi Arabia. Mohammed Al Burayk replaces Yasir Al Shahrani because of an injury.

  7. Offside, Saudi Arabia. Salem Al Dawsari tries a through ball, but Mohammed Kanno is caught offside.

  8. Corner, Saudi Arabia. Conceded by Marcos Acuña.

  9. Mohammed Al Owais (Saudi Arabia) is shown the yellow card.

  10. Offside, Argentina. Rodrigo De Paul tries a through ball, but Nicolás Otamendi is caught offside.

  11. Attempt missed. Nicolás Otamendi (Argentina) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Marcos Acuña with a cross following a corner.

  12. Corner, Argentina. Conceded by Hassan Tambakti.

  13. Ángel Di María (Argentina) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  14. Foul by Haitham Asiri (Saudi Arabia).

  15. Ángel Di María (Argentina) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  16. Foul by Yasir Al Shahrani (Saudi Arabia).

  17. Substitution, Saudi Arabia. Haitham Asiri replaces Feras Al Brikan.

  18. Substitution, Saudi Arabia. Abdulelah Al Amri replaces Nawaf Al Abid.

  19. Nawaf Al Abid (Saudi Arabia) is shown the yellow card.

  20. Attempt saved. Lionel Messi (Argentina) header from the left side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ángel Di María with a cross.

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