Argentina vs Saudi Arabia 1-2: Second Half Comeback Stuns Scaloni

Just when we were starting to believe that the gap between the top football countries and the rest of the World Cup participants was extending, courtesy of England’s yesterday routing of Iran, along came one of the greatest upset in the history of the tournament.

Saudi Arabia came from behind at the Lusail Iconic stadium on Tuesday to stun tournament favorite Argentina 2-1. Saleh Al Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari’s goals in the second half cancelled Leo Messi’s spot kick that had put the Albiceleste ahead.

It was an incredible game for the Saudi, who found the back of the net from their only two shots on target and put together a flawless defensive performance while Argentina had three goals disallowed in the first half – one from Messi and two from Lautaro Martinez – on grounds of offside. 

And still, the match had started as expected, with Lionel Scaloni’s seleccion pushing from the get go and Messi calling the Saudi goalkeeper to action after just two minutes. Mohammed Al Owais held his own from La Pulce‘s early shot, offering the first sample of his goalkeeping skills that eventually proved vital to salvage the Saudi’s win.

Messi made no mistake from the spot on 11 minutes, however, when an Abdulhamid block on Leandro Parades in the box resulted in a penalty for the Albiceleste. Argentina built on their lead and collected chance after chance.

However, the South Americans lacked precision as their winning efforts were all disallowed on grounds of offside. At half time, the scorecard still read 1-0 despite the Albiceleste finding the back of the net four times. Saudi Arabia did not record a single shot on target and yet, there seemed to be some sort of hidden power lurking in Hervé Renard’s lineup…    

Indeed, three minutes after the restart, the score changed as Al Shehri received the ball from Feras Al Birakan and beat Emiliano Martinez with a clinical left foot conclusion. That was unexpected, but the Saudi received an immense boost of confidence as the crowd at the Lusail Iconic Stadium seemed to have picked a new favorite after the home side’s poor showing last Sunday

Galvanized by the fan support, Saudi Arabia hit again on 53 minutes with Al Dawsari, whose spectacular shot into the top corner of the net shattered Argentina’s illusions. Coach Scaloni scrambled to batten down the hatches and reshaped his side with a triple substitution, sending in Lisandro Martinez, Enzo Fernandez, and Julian Alvarez. 

But the Albiceleste now looked scared and confused. When they did manage to create some troubles to the Saudi defense, Al Owais went above and beyond with a phenomenal save from a Nicolas Tagliafico conclusion from point-blank range.    

Argentina’s assaults became less vigorous as the minutes went by and the shame of a shocking defeat took form. Messi disappeared from the game while the likes of Angel Di Maria and Papu Gomez never really got into it. Abdulelah Al Amri pushed back a Nicolás Otamendi shot on 91 minutes right on the goal line, then the green-dressed lineup held on until the 11 minutes of stoppage time run their course.

Saudi Arabia made history as they also collected two World Cup wins in a row for the first time as they had beaten Egypt four years ago before bowing out of the tournament in Russia. On a side note, we Italians must also thank them for breaking Argentina’s non-losing streak just when they were about to reach the Azzurri‘s all-time record at 37 unbeaten games… 



November 22, 2022 – FIFA World Cup Group C

SCORERS: 10′ Messi (A, pen.), 48′ Al Shehri (S), 53′ Al Dawsari (S)

ARGENTINA (4-3-3): E. Martinez; Molina, Otamendi, Romero (59′ Li. Martinez), Tagliafico (71′ Acuna); De Paul, Paredes (59′ Fernandez), Gomez (59′ Alvarez); Messi, Lautaro Martinez, Di Maria (Armani, Rulli, Almada, Alvarez, Correa, Dybala, Foyth, Mac Allister, Montiel, Palacios, Pezzella, Guido Rodriguez) Coach: Scaloni
SAUDI ARABIA (4-4-1-1): Al Owais; Abdulhamid, Tambakti, Al Boleahi, Al Sharani (99′ Al Breik); Al Shehri (78′ Al Ghannam), Kanno, Al Malki, Al Dawsari; Al Faraj (47′ Al Abed, 88′ Al Amri); Al Buraikan (88′ Asiri) (Al Rubaie, Al Aqidi, Al Abed, Al Amri, Al Dawsari, Al Hassan, Al Najei, Al Oboud, Madu, Otayf) Coach: Renard
REFEREE: Mr. Vincic (Slovenia)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Al Malki, Al Boleahi, Al Dawsari, Abdulhamid, Al Abed, Al Owais (S); Added Time: 1st Half 5′, 2nd Half 14′
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