In what could be the biggest shock of the entire tournament, Saudi Arabia defeated tournament favorites Argentina 2-1 in their opening encounter. Gaols from Saleh Al-Sheriri and Salem Al-Dawsari were enough to complete a stunning second half comeback after Lionel Messi opened the scoring early on.
It only took two minutes for Argentina to mount their first incursion into the Saudi Arabia defence as Messi’s snapshot from 12 yards out was denied by Saudi goalkeeper, Mohammed Al Owais.
Argentina continued to pole on the heavy pressure early on in the match and were rewarded with a great opportunity to go in front. Al Bulayahi had committed a foul on Leonardo Paredes in the box. The penalty was given after a VAR check and Lionel Messi was on hand to open the scoring with a well placed spot kick.
It looked like Argentina will be able to exploit the very high defensive line that Saudi Arabia deployed as they were spaces in behind but the defensive tactic held firm. In the 22nd minute, Messi thought he had doubled the scoring with a cool finish past the keeper I a one on one situation but the flag was raised as he was caught offside.
Four minutes later, Lautaro Martinez thought he had scored has well with a superb chipped finish after he was played through on goal but his run was timed poorly and he was ruled out for offside.
Argentina saw another goal of theirs get ruled out for offside. This time the two culprits from before combined as Messi played Lautaro Martinez through on goal to score only for his celebrations to be cut short once again. Saudi Arabia’s high line remained strong.
Saudi Arabia did not get chances I the first half but the Middle Eastern nation came to life in the second period.
Just three minutes after the restart, Saudi Arabia got their equalizer. After winning the ball in midfield, they ball was moved forward to the feet of Firas Al-Buraikan who played a through ball to Saleh Al-Sheriri to slot home across Emiliano Martinez with a left footed shot into the goal. Christian Romero tried his best to get to the ball before the short was taken but he was unsuccessful.
Five minutes later, Saudi Arabia got a second goal in brilliant fashion. After a blocked shot was sent high into the ais, Salem Al-Dawsari was the first onto it.
He showed supreme composure to get away from four Argentine defenders around him before cutting to his right foot and released a powerful shot which flew into the top corner of the goal. Emiliano Martinez got fingertips on the ball but it was not enough to deny Saudi Arabia a fantastic comeback goal.
They forced a brilliant save by Mohammed Al Owais to deny Martinez’s deflected shot in the 63rd minute. The South American nation piled on the pressure and tried their hardest to get an equalizer from then on but they could not create their best chance until late in the match.
Two minutes into stoppage time, Mohhamed Al Owais almost undid his good work by spilling the ball but Al Amri cleared Julian Alvarez’s shot off the line.
Argentina suffered a shock loss against a side that is the least favorite to advance from their group and now have a mountain to climb. Saudi Arabia on the other hand will now be seen as dark horses in the competition as they have the driver’s seat in their group.