LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Lionel Messi stood together with his palms on his hips close to the middle circle, trying stone-faced as Saudi Arabia’s jubilant gamers ran in all instructions round him after scoring one of many greatest World Cup upsets ever in opposition to Argentina.
The South American champion and one of many event favorites slumped to a 2-1 loss in opposition to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, in a deflating begin to Messi’s quest to win the one main title that has eluded him.
Saudi Arabia’s comeback joins the checklist of different main World Cup upsets: Cameroon’s 1-0 win over an Argentina staff led by Diego Maradona within the opening recreation of the 1990 World Cup, Senegal’s 1-0 victory over titleholder France 1-0 within the 2002 event opener or the United States beating England by the identical rating in 1950.
“Prior to the match we were anointed as favorites,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni mentioned. “But this sort of stuff can happen in a World Cup.”
Messi gave Argentina the lead within the tenth minute with a coolly dispatched penalty and the match had the makings of a routine win for the defending Copa America champion, which have been on a 36-match unbeaten run.
Didn’t end up that method.
Goals by Saleh Alshehri and Salem Aldawsari in a five-minute span early within the second half gave the Saudis a landmark outcome within the first World Cup staged within the Middle East. The Saudis’ earlier greatest win was 1-0 over Belgium on the 1994 World Cup.
“All the stars aligned for us,” Saudi Arabia’s coach Herve Renard mentioned. “We made history for Saudi football.”
The 35-year-old Messi, taking part in in his fifth — and sure his closing — World Cup for Argentina, scratched the facet of his head and shook palms with a Saudi teaching employees member after the ultimate whistle.
He walked towards the tunnel with a gaggle of different Argentina gamers and appeared despondent, an all-too-familiar scene for the most effective gamers ever who’s but to win soccer’s final prize.
“We screwed it up in the second half,” Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez mentioned. “Small details make a difference. We have to fix them.”
The unlikely victory was sealed by a somersault by Aldawsari, who introduced down a excessive ball simply contained in the penalty space, spun Nahuel Molina with the assistance of a ricochet, jinked previous Leandro Paredes and drove a strong shot to the far nook within the 53rd.
A surprised Messi watched as green-clad followers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar’s neighbor, celebrated in disbelief within the stands. Saudi Arabia’s substitutes swarmed onto the sector.
Messi put Argentina forward from the penalty spot after the video assistant referee instructed the referee to check out a jersey seize by Saud Abdulhamid on Paredes.
Saudi Arabia didn’t have a shot on objective within the first half and appeared like conceding extra by taking part in with a excessive line that resulted in Argentina getting in behind within the Saudi protection with ease.
The Forty eighth-minute equalizer got here from Saudi Arabia’s first try on the right track, with Alshehri discovering the far nook with an angled end that went by the legs of defender Cristian Romero and past the dive of goalkeeper Emi Martinez.
Goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais made two key saves late within the recreation to protect the win.
Argentina performs Mexico in its second Group C match on Saturday.
AP World Cup protection: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80