Saudi Arabia stun Argentina 2-1, so where did it go wrong for Messi and Co?
Argentina are beaten by Saudi Arabia in the opening game of Group C, in the packaged Lusail Iconic Stadium.
The historic win for Saudi Arabia means they now move to the top of Group C for the time being. The defeat to Argentina has shocked the world and entered into the record books in what appears to be one of the FIFA World Cup’s history shockers.
Unbeaten since 2019, Argentina’s longest unbeaten streak of 36 games comes to an end against Saudi Arabia, as nobody saw this one coming.
Argentina took the lead in the 10th minute as they were awarded a penalty after the referee saw a foul on Paredes on the VAR monitor. Messi rolled the spot kick past goalkeeper Al Owais, who dived the wrong way. Lionel Scolani’s side did put the ball in the net a further three times in the half, twice by Martinez and once by Messi, but they were all disallowed for offside.
Saudi Arabia could not manage a shot in the first 45 minutes but they turned around the fixture to score with both of their shots on target in the second half. Al Shehri equalized in the 48th minute after scoring through a deflection from Argentina’s Romero before Al Dawsari scored a stunning curler to put Saudi Arabia in the lead. Saudi Arabia’s Al Owais was lighting form to make five saves in the game while substitute Al Amri cleared the ball off the line in the 92nd minute to secure a 2-1 win for his side, in an entertaining encounter.
Where did it go wrong for Argentina?
The reigning Copa America champions were left stunned on the pitch, as the men in green and white played with a system of high pressing against the star-studded Argentinian team. Saudi Arabia’s head coach Herve Renard was tactically spot on, as his philosophy of keeping a high line and pressing their opponent worked, which led to not allowing Argentina’s midfield to take control.
This brings us to the point the South American side were missing midfielder Giovani Lo Celso in the midfield who could have figured it out and broken the line today, but unfortunately, he has been ruled out of the tournament due to a hamstring injury.
Moreover, every time, the ball was in the midfield, the midfielders failed to produce especially Angel Di Maria’s crosses were not converted into goals, which brings us to the point, should Lionel Messi should have dropped deeper, and forward Julian Alvarez should have been on the pitch right from the get-go.
Meanwhile, for Herve’s side, full credit to them, who as a unit pressed with intensity, and the backline played a huge part in keeping Argentina quiet, despite maintaining nearly 70% possession Argentina were punished for failing to breach the Saudi defense. However, the midfield needs notable mention here for their work ethics, as the four behind the two forwards pressed very high as a unit.
Moreover, the defeat to Saudi Arabia has brought light to Scolani’s weaknesses as, if his side misses one or two pieces or not clicking there is not much that can offer from the bench. Argentina can still make it to the next round, however, teams can now count on pressing and keeping high line to create havoc against La Albiceleste's side.
Meanwhile, for Saudi Arabia, the worldie from Al-Shehri makes an early contention for the goal of the tournament as his goal in the 53rd minute in front of his home fans made the stadium erupt.
With Argentina’s defeat, Group C becomes trickier and opens up many possibilities, as Argentina has no easy road to making up for the loss.
Furthermore, the loss to Saudi Arabia is likely to bring back memories of the 1990 World Cup where defending champions Argentina were left shocked by Cameroon, with a 1-0 loss in the tournament opener.