Saudi Arabia Shocks Argentina In World Cup OpenerNovember 22, 2022
Argentina’s opener at the 2022 World Cup was viewed as a formality, as one of the favorites to win the entire tournament had lowly Saudi Arabia on the schedule. After 90 minutes (and then a whole lot more for stoppage time), a hectic game led to an all-time upset, as Lionel Messi and co. found themselves at the bottom of Group C with a shocking 2-1 loss.
Early on, it looked like the Argentinians — which entered the game on a 36-match unbeaten run — would coast to a win. In the 10th minute of action, Lionel Messi stepped up to take a penalty kick and cooly beat Saudi Arabian GK Mohammed Alowais.
Argentina would continue to score goals, but they ran into one big issue: VAR. On three separate occasions in the first half, the Argentinians scored, only for it to be wiped out by replay review.
Any soccer fan can think of a game where a team had a goals overturned by VAR, and for one reason or another, that puts the wind into the sails of the other side. And in the 48th minute, Saudi Arabia was able to break through. The ball was lumped forward and fell to Saleh Alshehri, who took a touch, got himself an angle to put a shot on frame, and slotted it past Emiliano Martínez.
Five minutes later, Saudi Arabia put themselves ahead. Salem Aldawsari was calm and composed on the ball to evade several Argentinians, giving himself a chance to get a shot off despite being at the very top of the box. Martínez had no chance against the effort, and the hand that he got to the ball was for naught.
Argentina, try as they might, could not break down a Saudi Arabia side that was hell-bent on pulling off an upset. Whether it was Alowais or someone else denying them, the No. 3 team in the world just was not able to find the goal that would let them salvage a point.
The expected goals on the day painted a picture decidedly different from the final scoreline: Argentina had 2.27 xG to 0.14 for Saudi Arabia. But ultimately, the +2200 underdogs held on to put themselves, shockingly, at the top of their group.