In the first major upset of the FIFA World Cup 2022, Lionel Messi’s Argentina have been defeated by minnows Saudi Arabia 1-2 in the Group C opening encounter at the Lusail Stadium.
Argentina entered the competition on the back of a massive 36-game unbeaten run as Messi, playing in his last World Cup, set out to conquer the tournament.
And the game was off to a perfect start for La Albiceleste as they were up and running just ten minutes in, with the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner scoring from the penalty spot to put his team in front. In the process, the former Barcelona captain became the first Argentine footballer to score in four different World Cups.
Argentina controlled the game for the rest of the first half but could not increase their advantage, as they had as many as three goals chalked off for offside – two from Lautaro Martinez and one from Messi himself.
And after the half-time break, Saudi Arabia turned on the heat, drawing level through Saleh Alshehri just three minutes into the second period. Just five minutes later, the Asian nation took a shock lead through Salem Aldawsari’s screamer of a shot to stun their illustrious opponents.
From that point on, Saudi Arabia defended bravely with everything they had, withstanding pressure from the South American giants to hold out for a historic win.
Goalkeeper Mohammad Alowais made a fine save to deny Martinez while Messi had a straightforward headed effort stopped as well before Julian Alvarez saw an effort get cleared off the line.
Argentina kept coming in the final stages, with the referee awarding a generous 14 minutes of stoppage time due to injuries and pauses in the game. But there was no way back for the 2021 Copa America winners.
The result meant that Argentina lost their first game ever since 2019, beginning their World Cup campaign with a shock defeat. With tricky opponents like Mexico and Poland up next, Messi & co., who were tipped as the early favourites to go all the way, will have their task cut out in Group C.