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2022 World Cup Group C: Saudi Arabia shock Argentina 2-1 in one of greatest upsets ever

Saudi Arabia Argentina World Cup
Saudi Arabia’s Salem Al-Dawsari, right, celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the World Cup group C soccer match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

There are World Cup upsets and there is what Saudi Arabia just did to Argentina.

In one of the great shocks seen in the tournament’s near-century existence, the Middle Eastern country neighboring the hosts Qatar ranked 51st in the world, took down Lionel Messi and No. 3 La Albiceleste  2-1 on Tuesday in Group C action at the 2022 World Cup.

Saleh Alshehri and Salem Aldawsari scored within five minutes of each other at the start of the second half to cancel out Messi’s early penalty — frustrating the South American giants with perfectly-executed offside traps that saw three goals canceled out in the first half that could have made this game a laugher.

That was the expected script after all.

Lionel Messi Argentina Saudi Arabia World Cup
Argentina’s Lionel Messi reacts disappointed during the World Cup group C soccer match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

The menacing Messi had an immediate chance just a minute and a half into the game after Angel Di Maria was dispossessed on the turn in the Saudi box. It fell right to No. 10, who tried to curl a low shot into the bottom-left corner of the goal, but it was pushed aside by the diving keeper, Mohammed Alowais.

Eight minutes later, at 5:10 a.m. ET, he was on the board at the World Cup after VAR awarded Argentina a penalty when Leandro Paredes was hauled down in the Saudi box during a corner kick. At the spot, Messi had no problems nonchalantly rolling his attempt into that bottom-left corner of the goal after sending Alowais the wrong way to put Argentina ahead just 10 minutes in.

Messi’s seventh World Cup goal — all in the group stage — made him just the fifth player all-time to score in four different World Cups. 

Saudi Arabia attempted to stabilize by instituting a high line as an offside trap — and it got Argentina a few times. Messi’s second goal of the day was wiped away after he began his run a fraction early in the 22nd minute. Lautaro Martinez had his cheeky chip goal canceled out after VAR deemed he was offside, too, just five minutes later.

In the 34th minute, Martinez had another goal wiped away on the break as he couldn’t hold his run long enough before Messi sent him through on goal.

Argentina was caught offside seven times in total during the first half alone.

And then came the Saudi’s stunning counterpunch.

Out of the locker rooms for the second half, the underdogs went on the attack — the surprise of the entire soccer world, let alone Argentina. 

Alshehri was played toward the left side of the box where he held off Cristian Romero and snuck a shot under his lunging legs and across keeper Emiliano Martinez into the bottom-right corner of the goal three minutes into the half.

Just five minutes later, Aldawsari put Saudi Arabia ahead when he cut into the left side of the Argentinian box and curled a shot, again, into the right side of the goal, glancing the fingertips of Martinez on the way home.

Facing the reality of one of its most embarrassing results ever, Argentina pressed for an equalizer but the Saudi Arabian defense held firm to limit the high-danger chances that came Alowais’ way.

When they did, though, the Saudi keeper was up to the challenge. He made an impressive save on a redirected attempt by Martinez in the 63rd minute. In the 87th a Messi header at the left post came straight into his hands.

Twice in stoppage time, Alowais was caught off his line after connecting on clearing punches — the first resulted in a shot that was cleared off the line following a foul by Abdulelah Ali Awadh Al Amri. The second saw Alowais’ knee collide with Yasser Alshahrani, who looked as though he was unconscious as play continued around him.

While Alowais pleaded for play to be stopped while scrambling toward his goal, the ball came to Messi. However, desperate Saudi defending ensured he would not even get a shot off.

In the 100th minute, the keeper leaped as high as he could to catch a Julian Alvarez header with both hands before crashing to the pitch — the final heroic act to preserve Saudi Arabia’s most famous victory ever. 

For more on Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Lionel Messi, and the World Cup, visit AMNY.com

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