Saudi Arabia
See Scores

Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia score: World Cup stunner as Lionel Messi and team go down in massive Group C upset

Getty Images

Saudi Arabia earned themselves a place in World Cup history with one of the great shock wins in the tournament's 92 year history, overturning an early deficit to stun Argentina and win 2-1 at the Lusail Stadium.

No team had beaten Lionel Scaloni's side since Brazil more than three years ago but this stunning triumph was no less than the Saudis deserved for an energetic, front-footed performance that saw their high press utterly rock one of the pre-tournament favorites before a rock solid defense of Mohamed Al-Owais and the imperious Hassan Tambakti guided their side to three points.

Playing in his fifth and likely final World Cup, Messi knows immortality beckons, one last chance to add the missing piece to his overflowing trophy cabinet. It seemed to have started so well. His first touch might have been a goal, he should have beaten Mohammed Al-Owais with a rasping shot. It did not take long for his seventh World Cup goal to come however, Messi waiting for Al-Owais to dive and rolling the ball the other way from the penalty spot after Leandro Paredes had been dragged down by Saud Abdulhamid.

Argentina had the ball in the net three more times before the half but Messi and on two separate occasions Lautaro Martinez were denied by offside flags. The latter might have felt aggrieved by the fine margins that the semi-automated system was spotting but by the letter of the law his upper arm was offside. Saudi Arabia's high line might have been letting the Argentine strike force momentarily celebrate but it also meant that at the other end Cristian Romero and company were rattled, forced into a few clunky touches and loose passes.

That would pay dividends in the second half. Saudi Arabia won the ball just inside the Argentina half, a first time ball through the heart of the defense unleashing Saleh Al-Shehri to roll in the equaliser. Herve Renard's side would not slow in intensity and that high line that might have cost them also enabled them to commit more players to the penalty area so that when Nawaf Al-Abed's shot was blocked it fell to Salem Al-Dawsari.

The No.10 still had an awful lot to do but he did it with style, squeezing away from three defenders before letting fly with a shot that Emiliano Martinez could only tip into the top corner. To their credit the Green Shirts refused to call time on their energetic approach when they entered the lead, it took a little while longer for their impressive energy reserves to fully deplete. In truth Argentina did not have too many great opportunities as they chased parity, though Al-Owais saved quite wonderfully when Lisandro Martinez's close range effort deflected off Nicolas Tagliafico.

The Saudi jubilation was quelled somewhat in the closing minutes when Yasser Al-Shahrani was hit by Al-Owais' knee, the No.13 stretchered off but seemingly ok as his side held on into the 104th minute for a remarkable victory.

Saudi gameplan excels

The natural inclination after one of the biggest upsets in tournament history is to focus on the big team who blew it. If the team ranked third in the world loses to one ranked 51st that must be on them, right? Not entirely. Certainly Argentina could have been significantly better but this was a game that Saudi Arabia took from them, starting with that contentious high line. On another day, they might have lost the game but for some overhanging t-shirts and stray knees, but it was the blueprint for beating Argentina. Given the alternative was death by a 1,000 Messi passes, one might even contend that this was the perfect approach for winning this game, particularly as it looked so carefully crafted.

This is a team that has been afforded time together on the training field that would make even club managers envious, playing eight friendlies over a two month pre-tournament camp. You could tell. By pushing up high, Renard's men could really engage in a physical battle, imposing themselves on an Argentine midfield that was all too easily brushed off the ball. On the rare occasions Saudi Arabia got the ball up to the attacking penalty area they were able to keep the pressure up; when Al-Abed's shot was blocked he and four of his team mates were on hand for the loose ball. Al-Dawsari was the man to exploit it.

The team in blue and white clearly had not seen this approach coming, no team has seen more of their passes intercepted so far this tournament than Argentina. Poland and Mexico doubtless will have plenty of notes, even if there is little time to adjust their plans. Saudi Arabia's high line may be punctured by their upcoming opponents, but if it can catch Messi and company out it would be fair to assume it can do the same in the next two games.

Too much Messi reliance for Argentina?

Scaloni's tenure seemed to change the story around Argentina. His time has seen the team transform and they are no longer a brittle side who needed to outscore you heavily to win, but a resolute XI built on clean sheets with forwards who work well with the best player in the world. To an extent you could argue that that did not change too much today, Saudi Arabia had only three shots and Messi had moments of brilliance as well as delivering in the clutch with a penalty. It is just that today two unlikely shots from the opposition flew in.

The issue is rather what came after those goals. Messi seemed stunned into a comatose state and it seemed to leak into those around him. He did not grab the game by the scruff of the neck, but nor did Angel Di Maria, Martinez or De Paul. They all have the quality to do so but this game saw precious little of it. Messi and a strong defense could carry Argentina deep into this tournament anyway, regardless of today's result. Top spot in the group is still within reach unless Saudi Arabia keep up this form. But there can be more to this attack than reliance on their star player.

An upset for the ages

In the heat of the moment it is invariably too soon to slot this game into a specific slot in the rankings of the World Cup's biggest shocks but the immediate sense is it belongs in the pantheon alongside the USA's win over England in 1950, North Korea beating Italy 16 years later and the shock wins for Cameroon and Senegal against Argentina and France respectively. The remaining group games might tell us exactly where it should go, offering a clear indication as to how good this iteration of the Albiceleste are and indeed whether this is the start of a Cinderella story for the southern neighbors of hosts Qatar.

See New Posts
Link copied

A really worrying injury

Yasser Al-Shahrani and Al-Owais look to clear a high ball into their box, both doing whatever they can to keep the Saudis in the lead. However the goalkeeper goes clattering into Al-Shahrani, who is down on the floor in really worrying fashion for some time before this game is stopped. It looks like the Saudi defender is back on his feet but Al-Owais looks crestfallen and extremely concerned.

November 22, 2022, 12:01 PM
Nov. 22, 2022, 7:01 am EST
Link copied

Off the line but is there a penalty?

Al-Owais comes to punch the ball to safety when De Paul crosses in, his clearance only coming to Alvarez, who hooks a shot at the goalline that Alamri spectacularly clears. Al-Owais then books the Saudi goalkeeper, perhaps for a heavy challenge or maybe for his protests, but the whistle had already gone for an offside.

November 22, 2022, 11:56 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 6:56 am EST
Link copied

A second yellow for time wasting

The added time we are about to see folks! 

November 22, 2022, 11:52 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 6:52 am EST
Link copied

A free kick 28 yards out

This is prime Messi territory after the great man goes down under a heavy challenge. He stands over the ball as Saudi Arabia do everything they can to delay the whole process. Messi strikes it, hard and very, very high.

November 22, 2022, 11:44 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 6:44 am EST
Link copied

That remarkable second Saudi goal

Here's a moment that Al-Dawsari (and much of the Saudi population) will never forget! 

November 22, 2022, 11:34 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 6:34 am EST
Link copied

What a save!

Argentina get a corner that pinballs around the box, Otamendi hooking it into an area where Alvarez can volley the ball towards Martinez. It then clips Tagliafico but after all that Al Owais manages to get a glove on it and keep Saudi Arabia in the lead.

November 22, 2022, 11:27 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 6:27 am EST
Link copied

Scaloni makes a triple change

You can hardly blame him, something needs to shake Argentina out of their torpor. Off come a limping Romero, Gomez and Paredes. In their place come Lisandro Martinez, Julian Alvarez and Enzo Fernandez.

November 22, 2022, 11:25 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 6:25 am EST
Link copied

That tackle is almost as good as a goal

Argentina click for the first time in the second half, Martinez flicking the ball on to Messi, who advances into the penalty area. You can sense the goal coming but Al Tambakti isn't willing to go by the script. He dives in to whip the ball off the feet of the best player in the world. When he's back on his feet he celebrates it like a goal at the other end. You couldn't blame him for a moment.

November 22, 2022, 11:21 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 6:21 am EST
Link copied

GOAL! - This is incredible

The sheer pressure and energy of Saudi Arabia pays off. They have five players in and around the box as one of them takes a shot so that when it's deflected it eventually comes to Al Dawsari. He checks onto his right foot and lets fly, Martinez can only get a fingertip to it. We might be witnessing World Cup history here!

November 22, 2022, 11:19 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 6:19 am EST
Link copied

GOAL! - Saudi Arabia square it up

It's good ball pressure in midfield from Saudi Arabia and they're able to slip the ball through the middle to the onrushing Saleh Al-Shehri. He hardly hits hit that sweetly from a tight angle but it rolls through the defender's legs and beyond Martinez.

November 22, 2022, 11:13 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 6:13 am EST
Link copied

Away we go again

And it doesn't take long for this contest to burst into life!

November 22, 2022, 11:11 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 6:11 am EST
Link copied

Half time

A curious half of football that, one where Argentina celebrated four goals but only one of them counted. Saudi Arabia are playing on a high wire but their pressure at the other end might just force a mistake. If it does, you never know...

November 22, 2022, 10:55 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 5:55 am EST
Link copied

Into five minutes of added time

No wonder after all those disallowed goals! Salman Al Faraj, one of the best players in a Saudi shirt, has really been struggling in the last few minutes and he won't be able to continue. In his place comes Nawaf Alabid.

November 22, 2022, 10:50 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 5:50 am EST
Link copied

The finest of margins


Here's the margin by which Martinez was offside, his t-shirt coming to the aid of Saudi Arabia. It may feel harsh on Argentina but if he had scored with his upper arm it would have counted.

November 22, 2022, 10:46 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 5:46 am EST
Link copied

A curious game

This match seems to have two distinct modes. For a time Argentina struggle under the force of the Saudi press, giving away clumsy passes in their own third. But then if they can get the ball into midfield it's a five alarm fire for the men in green, who are relying on the aid of the semi-automated VAR. It's happened again, Martinez going just too soon and denied a composed finish by the offside flag.

November 22, 2022, 10:36 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 5:36 am EST
Link copied

Lautaro Martinez is off the mark... or is he?

The high line is punctured again, a gorgeous through ball unleashing the Inter Milan striker, who is composure personified as he flicks the ball over Al Owais and into the net. We'll have a brief VAR check for the offside... and it is off! Even the FIFA graphics were saying goal for a moment there.

November 22, 2022, 10:30 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 5:30 am EST
Link copied

Messi has it in the net

There's that ball over the top, this time from Gomez. Messi races away in behind an ultra high Saudi backline and calmly rolls the ball into the far corner but the assistant referee has the flag up for offside. The semi-automated system backs up the on field judgement.

November 22, 2022, 10:24 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 5:24 am EST
Link copied

A little better from the Saudis

Herve Renard's side are not afraid to commit to the press on the Argentine defense and it's offering a few challenges for the leaders, who are struggling a bit to get into their passing game. They have a pretty dangerous array of balls over the top though and Lautaro Martinez is unlucky to get caught offside when he blazes over from a narrow angle.

November 22, 2022, 10:21 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 5:21 am EST
Link copied

Seventh heaven

Here's the moment Messi rolled in his seventh goal across four World Cups. 

November 22, 2022, 10:16 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 5:16 am EST
Link copied

GOAL! - Messi is up and running at the World Cup

Calm as you like, he waits for the goalkeeper to dive to his left and rolls the ball into the other side. His 92nd for Argentina, his seventh at World Cups (a mark that draws him level with Cristiano Ronaldo).

November 22, 2022, 10:12 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 5:12 am EST
Link copied

VAR check... and it's a penalty

All the pressure is in the Saudi Arabia box. It might just have told as the referee goes over to the monitor to check, Abdulhamid seemingly grappling with Paredes. He doesn't take long to conclude that it's a penalty.

November 22, 2022, 10:09 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 5:09 am EST
Link copied

Kick off

Away we go in the Lusail Iconic Stadium, two passionate and sizeable travelling fanbases greeting their sides with a wave of noise. Whatever the game is like on the pitch, this might be one where we get that World Cup color off it.

Actually maybe this'll be pretty decent on it too, within 90 seconds Messi goes close to making it 1-0 with a fizzing snap shot that is well saved by Al Owais.

November 22, 2022, 10:03 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 5:03 am EST
Link copied

For the fifth and final time...

It's Lionel Messi at a World Cup. One of the greatest to ever play the game is chasing the one major prize that has so far eluded him and, having quelled those fears of an injury, is coming into the tournament off the back of some outstanding form for Paris Saint-Germain.

"This is a special moment, surely my last World Cup, my last chance to get what we want so much," Messi said at his press conference yesterday. "I don't know if this is the happiest moment but I do feel very good, and more mature. I try to live everything to the maximum, to live this with intensity and above all to enjoy every moment.

"Today I think I enjoy it all much more than before; before, I didn't think about it, I just played. Every three days there are games and I didn't have time to enjoy, just to think about the next match, to prepare, keep winning. Sometimes a lot of the important things go unnoticed; now I am more conscious of that. Age makes you see things differently, to give greater importance to those small details, things I maybe didn't realise before. I focus more on that now."

November 22, 2022, 9:53 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 4:53 am EST
Link copied

Argentina's unbeaten run

We have to go all the way back to the semi final of the Copa America -- not the most recent one either -- on July 2, 2019 for the last time Argentina lost a game, 2-0 to Brazil. 

November 22, 2022, 9:44 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 4:44 am EST
Link copied

Saudi Arabia watch

A team with only one World Cup win since 1994 is not going to be anyone's idea of tournament favorites but this does at lest appear to be a side who can make things difficult for their opposition, hard to break down even if they are not the most free-scoring. Their results since the turn of the year are as follows: 1-0, 0-2, 1-1, 1-0, 0-1, 0-1, 0-0, 0-0, 1-0, 1-1, 0-0, 1-0, 1-1, 0-1. Admittedly most of those games have come against mid-ranking nations in Asia and the Americas but it suggests you shouldn't expect lots of goals from this team. Maybe they can keep it tight at the other end though.

November 22, 2022, 9:39 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 4:39 am EST
Link copied

How to watch and odds

  • Date: Tuesday, Nov. 22 | Time: 5 a.m. ET
  • Location: Lusail Iconic Stadium -- Lusail, Qatar
  • TV: FS1 and Telemundo | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
  • Odds: Argentina -675; Draw +600; Saudi Arabia +2000 (via Caesars Sportsbook) 
November 22, 2022, 9:15 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 4:15 am EST
Link copied

The teams are in

Argentina XI: Martinez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico; De Paul, Paredes, Gomez; Messi, Martinez, Di Maria

Saudi Arabia XI: Alowais; Abdulhamid, Altambakti, Albulayhi, Alsharani; Kanno, Aimalki, Alfaraj; Albrikan, Alshehri, Aldawsari

November 22, 2022, 9:09 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 4:09 am EST
Link copied

Day three is upon us

Good morning and welcome to the start of the madness! For the first time at this tournament we have four games in one day, an 11 hour feast of football that begins with Argentina, one of the pre-tournament favorites, facing off against Saudi Arabia. We'll have the teams for you in just a moment.

November 22, 2022, 9:03 AM
Nov. 22, 2022, 4:03 am EST