Messi opened the scoring in the 10th minute on a controversial video replay that awarded Argentina a penalty kick. Saleh Al-Shehri equalized in the 49th minute before Salem Al-Dawsari put the Saudis ahead with a beautiful goal that sent the Saudi fans at Lusail Stadium into a frenzy.
In the 101st minute, Argentina nearly had an equalizer until Mohammed Al-Owais soared to save the header from Julián Álvarez
Argentina and Saudi Arabia were positioned third and 51st respectively in the FIFA World Rankings.
Take a bow, Al-Dawsari. TAKE A BOW pic.twitter.com/f8ltZgOeje
— Luis Miguel Echegaray (@lmechegaray) November 22, 2022
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia fans went nuts after Salem Al-Dawsari scored the second pic.twitter.com/6ucUnpNLaa
— Sam Cunningham (@samcunningham) November 22, 2022
Another MASSIVE save by MOHAMMED ALOWAIS 🔥 pic.twitter.com/KfeHccbBHS
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 22, 2022
Saudi Arabia deployed a high defensive line that Argentina ultimately couldn’t solve. In the first half alone, Argentina scored three goals that were disallowed after the player was ruled offside.
Entering Tuesday, Argentina had only lost twice in 46 World Cup matches (39-5-2) when scoring first. Argentina hadn’t lost in 36 straight matches before falling to the Saudis.
At 35, this is almost certainly Messi’s final World Cup. This was also thought to be the best roster Argentina has had in Messi’s five trips to the tournament.
What made the loss somewhat ironic is Messi has been a promoter of tourism in Saudi Arabia, which is reportedly bidding against Argentina for the 2030 World Cup.
In a group with a depleted Mexico team, a Poland squad ranked 26th in the world, and the Saudis, Argentina was expected to cruise to the round of 16. Now they’ll have to sweat it out in what will feel like must-win games against Mexico and Poland just to advance.
The shocking opening-game loss reverberated around the soccer world like a tsunami. Considering Saudi Arabia was obliterated by Russia in the 2018 World Cup opening match, this result couldn’t have been more surprising.
Consolation for Messi, a great day for his second job as Saudi tourism ambassador
— Barney Ronay (@barneyronay) November 22, 2022
— Jason Davis (@davisjsn) November 22, 2022
SUPERLATIVE PERFORMANCE FROM SAUDI ARABIA !!!!!!!!!!!! EXTRAORDINARY SCENES!!
— Nico Cantor (@Nicocantor1) November 22, 2022
I THINK We’re WINING THE WORLD CUPPPP 🏆
— مساعد الدوسري (@Msdossary7) November 22, 2022
Argentina are amazing! They just need to work on their short & long passing, shooting, movement off the ball, positioning, crossing, set pieces, man-marking, dribbling, fitness, ball control, tackling, counter-attacking, overlapping, running, blocking & scoring goals
— ⋆𝗡𝗲𝘆𝗺𝗼𝗹𝗲𝗾𝘂𝗲 🇧🇷 (@Neymoleque) November 22, 2022