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Talking points and reaction from Saudi Arabia's stunning win over Argentina
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Matthew Hill
Saudi Arabia stunned the world with their 2-1 victory over Argentina
Saudi Arabia stunned the world with their 2-1 victory over Argentina

Two superb second-half strikes secured Saudi Arabia one of the World Cup's all-time biggest shocks as they stunned Argentina 2-1.

We assess the key talking points from a pulsating contest that spawned a familiar opening goalscorer, an outrageous number of offsides and buckets of drama.

Messi makes his mark

It took just 10 minutes for the great Lionel Messi to open his account in what looks almost certain to be his World Cup swansong.

Coolly slotting a VAR-awarded penalty past Mohammed Al-Owais, the 35-year-old celebrated vociferously in front of a jubilant cluster of Albiceleste fans behind the goal.

With that strike, Messi becomes only the fifth player to score at four separate World Cups alongside Pele, Uwe Seeler, Miroslav Klose and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Offside central

Aside from Messi’s goal, the first half of this contest made history for the sheer number of offsides given.

Saudi Arabia’s high line was something Argentina constantly looked to exploit, but without much luck — Messi and Lautaro Martinez both having goals chalked off for straying too early.

By half-time, there had been seven offsides. That was the highest tally in a World Cup first half since Spain vs Republic of Ireland in 2002 and more than were given during any single contest in the 2018 tournament.

In total, Argentina fell foul of the linesman's flag 10 times in the contest.

Stunning Saudi turnaround

After being utterly dominated in the opening period, even the most optimistic Saudi Arabian supporters could not have forecasted what was to come after the break.

Al-Hilal striker Saleh Al-Shehri expertly steered his side’s first shot beyond Emi Martinez to level the contest on 48 minutes, stunning Argentina’s supporters into silence.

Then, in the 2022 tournament’s first truly iconic moment, Salem Al-Dawsari curled a glorious curling effort into the far top corner six minutes later — a strike that sent shockwaves around the footballing world.

Carnival atmosphere

The tournament’s opening games have been largely played in front of flat stadiums, with empty seats catching the eye in the Netherlands’ 2-0 defeat of Senegal.

However, that was far from the case at the Lusail Stadium today as seas of blue and green shirts roared on the two teams in spine-tingling fashion.

It was an atmosphere befitting of a memorable contest and hopefully be a sign of what is to come in the days and weeks ahead. 

No holds barred

While their winning strike was sublime, Saudi Arabia also had to carry out the less glamorous side of the game to secure victory.

Herve Renard's men completed a whopping 95 defensive actions and committed 21 fouls, holding firm even as Argentina threw on impressive attacking reinforcements en masse.

Even with the help of a now customary large slice of additional time, Messi and Co were unable to break down the stubborn underdogs.


Saudi ArabiaArgentinaWorld Cup
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