Saudi Arabia have pulled off one of the greatest moments in its nations footballing history, defeating Argentina 2-1 after a string of disallowed goals in the opening half kept the game alive.
One of the best games of the World Cup so far was packed full of drama and controversy from the very beginning all the way through to the final whistle, as the Asian nation stunned the Argentines.
The first technological intervention came less then 10 minutes into the match. Following an Argentina free-kick attempt, referee Slavko Vincic was alerted by VAR of an incident inside the box.
The incident referred to the play prior to the free-kick that had just taken place, as Leandro Paredes was brought down in the box by a Saudi Arabian defender with their back turned and appealed for a penalty.
After checking the vision himself, Vincic awarded a penalty to Argentina, with none other than Lionel Messi to take the spot kick.
Messi made no mistake from the spot, making this the fourth different World Cup he has scored in. He became the first Argentine to reach this feat, something that even Diego Maradona failed to achieve.
Argentina’s number 10 thought he had his second just after 20 minutes, breaching Saudi Arabia’s high defensive line. He slid the ball past Mohammed Alowais, but the linesman’s flag was raised for offside and the goal was disallowed.
Lautaro Martinez then had a chance to redeem Messi’s opportunity but, like the former’s disallowed goal six minutes earlier, his was overturned.
Argentina then had the ball in the back of the net for a fourth time, but once again Martinez was rejected. This time the linesman flagged for offside, without need for VAR.
In a half that could have seen Argentina up 4-0, Saudi Arabia did considerably well as it only trailed by a goal.
Saudi Arabia had few moments in the first half on the attack but looked dangerous when they ran forward and targeted the Argentinian defenders with pace on the ball.
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A Saudi Arabian counter-attack kicked off the second half in unexpected fashion. Saleh Alshehri twisted and turned to complete an assured finish, restoring parity and shocking the Argentines.
Argentina’s supporters felt particularly displeased with the equaliser after they had so many chances ruled out in the opening half and the majority of the attack, with the Saudi Arabia goal seemingly out of nowhere.
Back on level terms, the Saudi Arabian however fans were as loud as ever, as a result against Argentina was well on the cards.
Full of confidence, anything Saudi Arabia touched turned to gold. Minutes after its equaliser, Salem Aldawsari unbelievably gave Saudi Arabia the lead after 53 minutes.
Aldawsari dribbled around multiple Argentine defenders before settling to shoot. His powerful finesse shot was too much for Emiliano Martinez to handle. Martinez managed to get a hand on the ball, but nothing else as it was sent into the top corner, sending the Saudi Arabian fans into raptures.
With just under half an hour of regular time remaining, Alowais pulled off a stunning, close range stop, preserving Saudi Arabia’s lead. His reaction was quick enough to stop the deflection off Nicolas Tagliafico.
In the third of eight additional minutes, Saudi Arabia had victory in sight. But the match ended the way it started – in controversy.
Alowais jumped to catch an incoming ball, but caught teammate Yassar Alshahrani in his crosshairs. It appeared as if Alowais had knocked Alshahrani out, following the heavy contact.
After a stretcher was required to remove Alshahrani from the pitch, the referee added almost six more minutes onto the already specified added time.
A tense period ensued, as Argentina were desperate for any attacking chance. But nothing went its way, as Saudi Arabia persevered into the 104th minute of the match.
Saudi Arabia were elated after the final whistle, in one of the biggest World Cup shock victories in recent memory while ending Argentina’s 36-game unbeaten run, a record that lasted since 2019.
The stunning win sees Saudi Arabia sit clear at the top of Group C and have rapidly improved their chances of progressing through to the knockout stages.
Argentina were viewed as one of the favourites of the tournament prior to this game and now sit at the bottom of the group after they were unable to replicate the attacking prowess of their first half performance.
The sheer number of disallowed goals will sting the Argentinian attackers, in particular Lautaro Martinez, who had both of his goals wiped away.
They will have to regroup and face Mexico in their next game, while Saudi Arabia will look to ride the confidence of their victory over Argentina into their game against Poland.
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