Mighty Messi, Argentina open World Cup with beautiful loss, now face uphill climb

DOHA, Qatar — Lionel Messi and Argentina have been on the receiving finish of one of many largest stunners in World Cup historical past Tuesday, as Saudi Arabia pulled off a monumental 2-1 upset at Lusail Stadium.

After placing his workforce into the lead with a first-half penalty in what was anticipated to be its best Group C conflict, Messi was powerless to forestall a outstanding Saudi fightback that leaves Argentina in a precarious place after just one sport.

On 48 minutes, Saleh Al-Shehri produced a low effort to stage the rating towards the run of play, earlier than Salem Al-Dawsari uncorked a spectacular right-foot strike from the sting of the penalty space that flew into the Argentina internet.

From there, Argentina tried furiously to get again stage. 

Defending a 36-game unbeaten streak that included victory within the 2021 version of the Copa America, Messi and firm launched wave after wave of assault, however to no avail.

Saudi goalkeeper Mohammad Al-Owais was masterful — typically regular, typically exhilarating — with acrobatic saves and sprints from his space to clear away bother.

Deep into injury-time, the keeper was concerned in a scary second that momentarily silenced the gang. Al-Owais got here flying off his line to punch the ball the clear, and his knee collided with the chin of teammate Yasser Al-Shahrani with terrifying drive, inflicting minutes of medical consideration and Al-Shahrani’s substitution. 

Earlier than time was up, Abdulelah Al-Amri headed one off the road and Al-Owais leaped athletically to pluck a looping header from Julian Alvarez, to seal the win.

Messi did all he might — nevertheless it was to not be his day, nonetheless a lot it has appeared prefer it early on. The little maestro slotted house a Tenth-minute penalty as Argentina took full management within the preliminary levels. Earlier than the first-half was over they have been one purpose forward and had three extra dominated out for offside. On the interval although, all the things modified – and with it the face of Group C.

Regardless of a profession wherein he has been considered one of many two greatest gamers of his era alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi has by no means received the sport’s largest worldwide prize along with his nation. At 35, this 12 months is likely to be his last probability.

It isn’t over, Argentina may have the chance to bounce again when it faces Mexico on the identical venue Saturday earlier than difficult Poland in its last group sport. However its margin for error is razor-thin now.

Maybe the Saudi efficiency was this World Cup’s first case of regional benefit, provided that the nation borders Qatar and an enormous contingent of Saudi followers have been in attendance. Perhaps it was proof the hole between soccer’s world elite and people making an attempt to raise themselves to that stage is narrowing.

Will it go down as the largest upset of all of them? Saudi Arabia is ranked solely 51st on the planet however was imperious throughout the Asian qualification rounds, topping its group regardless of being pooled with regional heavyweights Japan and Australia.

Certain, it may very well be argued that Senegal’s conquer reigning champion France in 2002, or Cameroon’s blockbuster towards Diego Maradona’s Argentina in 1990 was much more stunning. Or not.

By no means thoughts. This was a shocker that may take fairly some beating and the story of whether or not Argentina and Messi can dig themselves out of this gap will probably be keenly adopted from this level ahead.

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