Saying that there are no favorites in football or that “matches have to be played” are usually some of the most recurring clichés in this sport, but there are times when there is no other way of understanding what happens on the pitch.
The favoritism of Argentina prior to its World Cup debut was immense and it was not something casual, Scaloni’s team was preceded by a tremendous streak of victories and with the history of being the last champion of America defeating Brazil in the very Maracana Stadium.
But none of that helped. At the decisive moment, in the scenario where it really mattered to put the background on the table, Argentina failed and now they will have to turn the page to face two rivals that a priori appear more complicated than the supposedly weak Saudi Arabia.
The game started in a logical way. After 10 minutes, Lionel Messi would have scored early via a penalty kick, which predicted a comfortable victory for the trans-Andean team, but from then on the Argentine team began to get tangled up, playing in a very hasty way and without being able to specify the multiple occasions that was created in the first part.
That waste was suffered in the second half where Saudi Arabia, with admirable forcefulness, took advantage of the few chances that were created in complicity with some mistakes in the trans-Andean defense that, especially in the second goal, was too weak.
At 48′ Al-Shehri and then at 53′ Al-Dawsari scored the Saudi goals that left the thousands of Argentines speechless who came to the Lusail Stadium to support Lionel Scaloni’s team.
From then on, Argentina went in search of an equalizer with more drive than ideas and thanks to a tremendous performance by the Saudi defense and, above all, by goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais, they managed to maintain the difference until the final whistle.
Now Argentina will have an uphill stage in Group C of the World Cup and will have to risk their lives in their next matches against Mexico and Poland to continue with the dream of lifting the World Cup for the third time.
Referee: Slavko Vinci (Slovenia).
ARGENTINA: Emiliano Martinez; Nahuel Molina, Cristian Romero (57′, Lisandro Martínez), Nicolás Otamendi, Nicolás Tagliafico (70′, Marcos Acuña); Rodrigo de Paul, Leandro Paredes (57′, Enzo Fernández), Ángel Di María, Alejandro Gómez (57′, Julián Álvarez); Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martinez. DT: Lionel Scaloni.
SAUDI ARABIA: Mohammed Al-Owais; Saud Abdulhamid, Hassan Al-Tambakti, Ali Al-Bulayhi, Yasser Al-Shahrani; Abdulelah Al-Malki, Feras Al-Buraikan, Mohammed Kanno, Salman Al-Faraj, Salem Al-Dawsari; Saleh Al-Shehri (78′, Sultan Al-Ghannam). DT: Harve Renard.
GOALS: 10′ Messi (ARG), 48′ Al-Shehri (KSA), 53′ Al-Dawsari (KSA).
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