Saudi Arabia produced one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history as Salem Al-Dawsari’s stunning solo effort secured a 2-1 victory over Argentina in Group C at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.
Time stood still as Al-Dawsari plucked the ball out from the sky and turned inside two Argentina defenders before curling his finish beyond the reach of Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, producing one of the biggest moments of any World Cup finals.
Lionel Messi had given one of the pre-tournament favorites the lead from the penalty spot after a contentious VAR decision (10) but Saleh Al-Shehri levelled just three minutes into the second period to set up an almighty upset.
Celebrations erupted throughout the Saudi capital Riyadh after the final whistle blew, with fans forming impromptu dance circles and waving the national flag from the windows of cars.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has even announced a public holiday on Wednesday in the wake of the win, according to media reports.
The result also ended Argentina’s 36-game unbeaten run, stretching back to defeat against Brazil three years ago but this was the greatest day in Saudi Arabian football history.
“It’s a situation that this group of players has never been through, it’s been a while since we suffered such a tough blow, we didn’t expect to start like this,” Messi told Argentinian media.
“In five minutes of mistakes that we made, we went 2-1 down and then it was really tough and we lost organisation and started punting the ball,” he said in comments broadcast by Todo Noticias.
“We knew they were a team who would play if we let them. They did not surprise us, we knew they could do that.”
“Obviously we have to win or win now. It’s up to us to fix what we did wrong and get back to the basics of who we are. We’re OK, obviously hurt by the result, very bitter. But people must trust that this team will not let them down and we are going to go for it in the next two games. We’ve played games of this nature before and we’re going to perform well.
“Now’s the time to be more united than ever, to show how truly strong we are.”
When Argentina last lost their opening World Cup group game in 1990 – against Cameroon – they went on to reach the final where they lost to Germany.
As for Saudi Arabia, the last three teams to beat Argentina at the World Cup have gone on to win the competition (Germany in 2014, France in 2018) or reached the final (Croatia in 2018).
Few will be predicting that, but they now have a great chance to match their effort of 1994 by reaching the last 16.
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