New Delhi: Lionel Messi’s Argentina stumbled to a shock 1-2 defeat against Saudi Arabia and hence their tournament started on the worst note possible. Just minutes into the second half, Saudi Arabia scored a stunning equaliser through Saleh Al Shehri and then Salem Al Dawsari doubled the lead for his side, courtesy of a brilliant solo goal.
Earlier in the first half, Lionel Messi opened the scoring from the spot after VAR intervention saw Argentina earn a penalty against Saudi Arabia. Both Messi and Lautaro Martinez have seen multiple goals being denied by offside flags. Credit to Saudi Arabia for not letting the game go out of their hands at half-time, with Argentina only being 1-0 up at the break.
The Lusail Stadium hosted the game in a remarkable atmosphere, with thousands of Saudis crossing the border to support their team, joining Argentina’s customarily large and boisterous fan base.
Argentina were on course to equal Italy’s record unbeaten run of 37 games after the mercurial Messi opened his fifth and final World Cup with a 10th-minute penalty. But La Albiceleste were stunned in the second half when Saudi Arabia scored two goals in five minutes to take a 2-1 lead in Qatar.
Messi scored the penalty against Saudi Arabia after a video review spotted a foul before Argentina had three goals disallowed. Messi, 35, beat Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais on a breakaway, but that goal, as well as two others by his teammate Lautaro Martinez, were ruled offside.
Messi was in disbelief as he watched throngs of Saudi Arabian supporters, who are Qatar’s neighbours, celebrate in the stands while wearing green attire. The substitutes for Saudi Arabia overran the field.
(With Inputs from ANI)