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Argentina in Stunning Loss In World Cup Opener

Argentina 1 Saudi Arabia 2

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. Saudi Arabia are the first non-European team to beat Argentina at the World Cup since Cameroon in 1990.

Playing in his fifth and likely final World Cup, Messi knows immortality beckons, one last chance to add the missing piece to his overflowing trophy cabinet. It seemed to have started so well. His first touch might have been a goal, he should have beaten Mohammed Al-Owais with a rasping shot. It did not take long for his seventh World Cup goal to come however, Messi waiting for Al-Owais to dive and rolling the ball the other way from the penalty spot after Leandro Paredes had been dragged down by Saud Abdulhamid.

Argentina had the ball in the net three more times before the half but Messi and on two separate occasions Lautaro Martinez were denied by offside flags. The latter might have felt aggrieved by the fine margins that the semi-automated system was spotting but by the letter of the law his upper arm was offside.

But Saudi Arabia 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.

While much will be written about Argentina’s shortcomings today, do not take anything away from a fantastic Saudi performance. They did not sit deep and defend. Instead they pushed up high, imposing themselves on an Argentine midfield that was all too easily brushed off the ball.

The team in blue and white clearly had not seen this approach coming, no team has seen more of their passes intercepted so far this tournament than Argentina. Poland and Mexico doubtless will have plenty of notes, even if there is little time to adjust their plans. Saudi Arabia’s high line may be punctured by their upcoming opponents, but if it can catch Messi and company out it would be fair to assume it can do the same in the next two games.

Lionel Scaloni’s side 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.

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