One of the biggest World Cup surprises was Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 triumph over Lionel Messi’s Argentina on Tuesday.
It was reminiscent of Diego Maradona’s Argentina defeated by Cameroon 1-0 in the 1990 World Cup’s opening match. Messi’s quest for the one big championship that has confounded him got off to a dramatic start.
Saleh Alshehri and Salem Aldawsari’s quick-fire goals in the second half gave the Saudis the triumph. Argentina immediately seized the lead when Messi switched a penalty kick in the 10th minute.
The United States 1-0 triumph over England in 1950 and Senegal’s 1-0 victory over the defending champions, France, in the tournament’s opening game both rank among the most unexpected World Cup outcomes ever.
Argentina’s 36-game winning record at the Lusail Stadium was snapped during Messi’s fifth and perhaps final World Cup.
The Paris Saint-Germain star, who has yet to win soccer’s highest prize, exchanged greetings with a Saudi coaching staff member after the game and stood close to the center circle having his hands on his hips. This scene was too familiar for one of the best players in soccer history.
Aldawsari’s somersault in the 53rd minute saw him bring down a high ball inside the penalty area, turn one defender, and jink past another. He fired a powerful strike past goalkeeper Emi Martinez, who made contact with the ball but failed to prevent it from going into the net, securing the unexpected victory.
Messi was astonished as he observed crowds of Saudi Arabian supporters, Qatar’s neighbors, celebrating in the stands while wearing green attire. The substitutes for Saudi Arabia overran the field.
After the video assistant referee instructed the referee to check into a jersey grab by Saud Abdulhamid on Argentina player Leandro Paredes, Messi gave Argentina the lead from the penalty spot.
Saleh Alshehri’s angled finish through Cristian Romero’s legs on Saudi Arabia’s first chance at goal struck the bottom corner.