WORLD CUP 2022 – All the hype leading up to the game was about how this might be Lionel Messi‘s year and how Argentina may win the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and how Saudi Arabia would surely lose.
What a change a quarter of an hour can make
Shocking their own fans into near silence, Argentina’s bewildered players skulked out of the deafening Lusail Stadium as the courageous Saudi team celebrated their shocking 2-1 triumph.
At the break, there were no indications of this outcome. Messi put Argentina up from the spot, three other attempts were thrown out for offside, and Saudi Arabia seemed to be settling for damage limitation after Argentina’s goal.
In the second half, however, two goals from Saudi Arabia in the span of six crazy minutes changed the entire tone of the game, and despite Messi and company’s best efforts, the underdogs held on for a victory that will live long in the memory of the thousands of fans who were lucky enough to witness it in person.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has declared Wednesday to be a national holiday in honor of the victory.
Their celebrations extended into the streets of Lusail, but how earthshaking was the outcome and how much damage has it done to Messi’s last chance at World Cup glory?
It’s a tough loss, but we have to keep believing in ourselves, Messi added. “No one in our gang is going to give up easily. When we play Mexico, we intend to win.
“Now is the moment for us to pull together, put the past in the past, and move forward. Our goal has always been and will always be to win every game we play.”
“The pinnacle of our footballing achievement”
Saudi Arabia, now ranked 51st in the world, has never advanced beyond the group stage in a World Cup until winning three games in 1994.
On the other side, Argentina is favored to win the event since they are rated third in the world, have never been defeated in 36 consecutive matches, and are currently on a 36-match undefeated streak.
Many fans remember the 1982 1-0 victory of Northern Ireland over Spain, England’s defeat to the USA in 1950, South Korea’s victory over Italy in 2002, and Argentina’s first game loss to Cameroon in 1990.
A stifled Saudi supporter on his way out proclaimed the victory “our country’s finest ever footballing moment by such a long margin,” and the outcome will be remembered in the same breath forever. Mark Chapman, host of BBC Radio 5 Live, called it a “seismic” event.
Messi the Biography author and Spanish football expert Guillem Balague recently told BBC Sport: “This World Cup is in the middle of the season, so all of the teams are either at their peak performance level or at least more physically prepared for the competition than they would be in the summer.
“Defending a position is more simpler than attacking one, especially because everyone has the ability to run for hours. Offensive collective methods, the most difficult thing in football, have not been found, but enough time has been spent on organization to build a solid defensive unit.
“For the reasons I’ve outlined above, I don’t think this is the last time the World Cup will have a major shock. This fact adds to the awe and significance of England’s effort and outcome.”
Nedum Onouha, a former defender for Manchester City, has said: “It was clear that Argentina was trying to force the issue, but Saudi Arabia’s defense was holding firm.
“Sometimes we feel like football is too predictable, but then something like this occurs and we remember why we love the sport so much.
If you put up the effort and make the most of the chances presented to you, the sky is the limit.
Joe Cole, a former English midfielder, made the following statement on ITV: “A generation will be motivated by that game-winning goal. The World Cup has officially begun. Wow, that’s an incredible finding.”
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After the final whistle, Riyadh, the Saudi capital, exploded in celebration, with supporters dancing in the streets and waving Saudi flags from vehicle windows.
The General Entertainment Authority of Saudi Arabia, led by advisor to the Royal Court Turki al-Sheikh, tweeted on Monday that all of the country’s main theme parks and entertainment centers will be free to access on Tuesday.
Tariq Panja, a reporter for The New York Times, predicted the outcome and how it will be remembered in Saudi Arabia.
On BBC Radio 5 Live, he said: “The other day I asked one what this outcome would imply for these guys. “They are going to grab everything,” he predicted. When talking about Saudi Arabia, it signifies a lot.
“Since they are geographically closest, many Saudis just travel over to the tournament. One fan clocked in at 3 hours, while another clocked in at only 90.
“We in Europe may be surprised to learn how important football is to their culture. There is undeniably a fanatical following, and it was on full display today. They made it impossible for the Argentina supporters to be heard.”
Say it with me: “Argentina is not out of this just yet.”
Large numbers of Argentine supporters have traveled to Qatar, with blue and white jerseys with the slogan “Messi 10” visible in every corner of Doha.
The South Americans were singing loudly and confidently before the match in Lusail, as they had been all year long.
To recover from such a massive shock, they will have to win their remaining group stage games against Mexico and Poland.
A quote from Balague reads as follows: “Self-starting squads like Argentina’s need members to come up with their own ways to win. Plus, they couldn’t locate them.
“Not enough of the ball was given to their midfield in the spaces between the lines, when it might have been passed on to Messi. Even when players like Angel di Maria and Julian Alvarez attempted to beat their defenders with dribbles, the replacement defenders were constantly on the lookout and reacted quickly and efficiently to recover the ball.
“Not enough activity, not enough empty places, surrounded Leo. He always faced competition. Argentina found that progress was simply too gradual and predictable, making any meaningful change impossible.”
Argentine defender turned BBC commentator Pablo Zabaleta said: “There were high hopes for Argentina to win the World Cup due to the team’s impressive 36-game undefeated streak.
“Because this is the World Cup, the biggest tournament in football, you really can’t afford to underestimate any team.
“Do we still have a chance? And of course. A long way remains since we lost the opening game against Cameroon in 1990 and then advanced to the final.”
Tim Vickery, an expert on South America, is not ready to write out Argentina just yet because of their poor performance in the group round. The last time Argentina didn’t advance to the second round of the World Cup was in 2002.
On BBC Radio 5 Live, he said: “I wouldn’t write out Argentina just yet; they’re using today to reorganize.
“In what direction will they go from here? This will need some serious digging on their part.”
In terms of World Cup surprises, how does this one stack up?
Gracenote, an analytics service owned by Nielsen, found that Saudi Arabia’s victory against Argentina was the biggest World Cup upset ever.
Gracenote’s Football Rankings predict which teams are most likely to win or tie a game based on how well they are rated.
In this way, the greatest upsets are determined to be matches won in regulation time by the underdog with the lowest estimated probability of victory.
Nielsen Gracenote’s analysis of the biggest surprises at the World Cup
|Result||Year||Chance of victory for winning team|
|Saudi Arabia 2-1 Argentina||2022||8.7%|
|USA 1-0 England||1950||9.5%|
|Switzerland 1-0 Spain||2010||10.3%|
|Algeria 2-1 West Germany||1982||13.2%|
|Ghana 2-0 Czech Republic||2006||13.9%|