European Headlines

Know what you don't know

2022 FIFA World Cup: Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia: 5 strikes and flops featuring Lionel Messi and Christian Romero

In a game of grit vs star quality, Saudi Arabia came out on top against Argentina to register one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s history on Tuesday (22 November).

The Falcons came back from a goal down to defeat Argentina 2-1 in their opening Group C encounter of the 2022 FIFA World Cup at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar.

Lionel Messi, playing in his fifth edition of the quadrennial event, opened the scoring from the penalty spot. Second-half goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari turned the match on its head and brought Argentina’s 36-match unbeaten run to an end.

The South Americans dominated the proceedings from kickoff, with Messi seeing his shot well-saved. The referee, with the help of VAR, then awarded the Albicelestes a penalty for Saud Abdulhamid’s rugby tackle on Leandro Paredes inside the box. Messi made no mistake from the spot, sending the keeper the wrong way to put his team in the lead.

With Saudi Arabia employing a high defensive line, Argentina looked to release runners behind their defensive line.

Almost on the half-hour mark, a straight pass from Rodrigo De Paul into the space behind the Saudi defence saw keeper Mohammed Khalil Al Owais come rushing out. Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez, however, was quick to get to the ball and dink the ball over Al Owais into an empty net — only to have the goal ruled out for offside.

Minutes later, Martinez found himself one-on-one with the keeper, rounded him and almost began celebrating once again before he saw the flag raised for offside once again.

The South Americans went into the break with their tails up and were expected to make good of their chances in the second half. Saudi Arabia, however, came back from the break a much more energized side and looked threatening on the few chances they got.

Four minutes into the second half, they leveled the proceedings, much to the delight of their traveling fans. Saleh Al-Shehri brought a long ball under control, brushed off Cristian Romero’s weak challenge and slotted the ball past Emiliano Martinez to bring the game to life.

Argentina barely recovered from that goal before they found themselves trailing in the contest. Captain Salem Al Dawsari cut into the box from the left flank and curled the ball into the top corner, with Emiliano Martinez barely grazing the ball as it flew past him.


View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Lionel Scaloni’s side did their best to get something out of the game. However, Saudi Arabia, buoyed by the turnaround, fought tooth and nail till the final whistle to register one of the most famous wins of the FIFA World Cup.

On that note, here are five hits and flops from the thrilling contest between Argentina and Saudi Arabia in Qatar:

#1. Flop – Cristian Romero | Argentina

There were questions about his fitness heading into the match and Cristian Romero did little to suggest that he was fully fit. He was not at his physical best, best seen by his failed, weak effort to stop Al-Shehri from scoring the equalizer. The Tottenham Hotspur player was understandably substituted just before the hour mark.

#2. Hit – Ali Al Bulayhi | Saudi Arabia

While Ali Al Bulayhi might not have had the legs to deal with the quick-footed Argentina players, he had the tactical experience to ensure it was kept to a minimum. The 33-year-old led the defence by example, especially after going 1-0 down. He kept a Messi-led Argentine attack at bay to ensure his team took maximum points from the contest.

#3. Hit – Julian Alvarez | Argentina

With several high-profile strikers failing to produce the goods when playing next to Messi for Argentina, Julian Alvarez gave Scaloni food for thought following his performance. He looked impressive coming off the bench and caused more worry for the Saudi defence than Lautaro Martinez did the entire match.

The Manchester City youngster saw a header cleared off the line and another saved by Al Owais at the death. On another day, he would have made headlines for helping Argentina snatch a draw, if not a win, from the jaws of death.

#4. Hit – Hassan Al Tambakti | Saudi Arabia

Like Al Bulayhi, Hassan Al Tambakti is not the best player to be used in a high defensive line. That he made it work was down to his communication with his defenders, who, as a unit, caught the Argentine attackers offside several times.

Al Tambakti was monumental in the air defensively, rising high time and again to repel every ball that flew into the Saudi box. The 23-year-old wore his heart on his sleeve and played a crucial role in Saudi Arabia’s fourth victory in the World Cup.

▪️ First coach to win two AFCON titles with two different teams
▪️ Took Morocco to first World Cup in 20 years in 2018
▪️ Beat 2022 World Cup favorites Argentina with Saudi Arabia

Hervé Renard is international football heritage 👏

View image on Twitter

#5. Flop – Lionel Messi | Argentina

Besides scoring the opening goal of the match, Messi was largely ineffective as the Saudi Arabian players kept a close eye on his movements. He missed a guilt-edged chance to put his side 2-0 up and later, uncharacteristically, misplaced several passes.

The Argentine will need to do better if he is to lead his nation into the knockout stages of the competition.

To read more news, click here.