A few months ago, the Saudis named Argentinian Lionel Messi their country’s tourism ambassador. It is however a pure local product, Salem Al-Dawsari, who offered the kingdom the most beautiful sports exhibition in its history. In a packed stadium in Lusail – the largest in Qatar with 80,000 seats – spectators witnessed the first bang of the World Cup on Tuesday, November 22.
The 31-year-old midfielder allowed the Green Falcons to start the competition with a prestigious victory against Argentina: 1-2. The first meeting of Group C was above all a reminder of how football is a sport that defies the laws of reason. The Gulf Monarchy, 51e nation in the FIFA rankings, which had so far won only three games in five appearances, felled one of the favorites at the coronation. The Albiceleste starts the competition with zero points, unheard of since the 1990 edition.
Three goals disallowed in the first half
The South Americans had however started the meeting foot to the floor. Lionel Messi thought he had done the hardest part by opening the score from the penalty spot in the 10the minute. The 35-year-old striker, who confirmed that he was playing his last World Cup in the emirate, then even entered the very closed circle of scorers in four different editions (2006, 2014, 2018 and 2022).
But three goals disallowed for offside in the first half kept the Saudis in the game. And everything changed when we returned from the locker room. The selection coached by Frenchman Hervé Renard was able to demonstrate efficiency with only three shots and two shots on target. Enough to drown the Argentinians on two battering strokes in five minutes. Saleh Al-Shehri (48e) then Salem Al-Dawsari (53e) on a personal feat allowed Saudi Arabia to write the most beautiful page in its history in a World Cup.
The Albiceleste players, who have remained undefeated after their last 36 games for more than three years (only one length from the world record set by Italy), probably did not expect to fall from the start , and left the field paralyzed, after almost a quarter of an hour of added time.
“The stars have aligned”
” It’s hard to swallow. In five minutes, they gave us two goals, their only two shots on target. Now we just have to get up, win the next two games. Today is a sad day, but as we always say, we lift our heads and carry on,” reacted the coach of Argentina, Lionel Scaloni, in a press conference.
At the end of the match, Hervé Renard still seemed a little surprised by the performance of his men: “They went looking for something that sometimes makes the difference. »
“Today, to sum up, the stars aligned for us (…). It’s a memorable victory, it will go down in history, continued the coach of Saudi Arabia at a press conference. But we have to look to the future, because we have two very difficult games left. » On Saturday November 26, his team will face Poland, then Mexico on November 30.
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