Saudi Arabia creates sensation by overthrowing Argentina

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Saudi Arabia creates sensation by overthrowing Argentina

It was crazy, improbable, and the 2022 World Cup is, without a doubt, one of the greatest feats of the event. Who could have predicted such a scenario at half-time between Messi’s Argentina, with a series of 36 matches without defeat, and Saudi Arabia, 51st nation in the world? At that time, the Albiceleste were leading 1-0, a South American display had been avoided by VAR, but immediately afterwards the feeling was gigantic.

Driven by its certainties, Argentina had started its match perfectly, certainly well helped by a generous penalty. On a free kick, Paredes was hooked in the area, the midfielder added and the referee, called by the VAR, designated the penalty spot. Messi transformed the offering with a perfect counter-foot (10th) and a walk seemed to be announced twelve minutes later when the PSG striker, launched by Papu Gomez, deceived Al-Owais again (22nd).

But that was the beginning of the story. The goal was disallowed for a minor offside, Lautaro Martinez was then denied two other goals for the same reason after intervention by VAR (27th, 35th), one of which was also very limited. And that’s how the score at the break, instead of being 4-0, was only 1-0. A reversal of the situation was however difficult to imagine as the Saudis, naive behind, strolling on the ground, were dominated. And as their captain Al-Fraj, hit in the knee, had to come out on injury (45th + 4) …

The disappointment of Lionel Messi. (N. Luttiau/The Team)

But everything changed in the space of five minutes, after returning from the locker room. Transfigured, the players of Hervé Renard equalized on a perfect cross shot from their striker Al-Shehri (48th). In the aftermath, Salem Al-Dawsari made the crowds rise with a marvel of curling strike from the right that Martinez could only graze (53rd). The following ? Argentina pushed, Al-Owais shone in goal and Saudi Arabia held their miracle after an end to the game marked by the stretcher exit of Al-Sharani (90th + 9).

Thirty-two years later and the earthquake experienced in Italy during the opening match against Cameroon (0-1), Argentina experienced a new terrible slap for their entry into the competition. At the time, that did not prevent him from reaching the final (0-1 against Germany). The most superstitious of Argentine supporters will cling to this precedent. The others will, inevitably, be plagued by worry.

The player: Al-Owais, the Saudi bulwark

He is not known in France, his wikipedia file only has one line on his club career. But Mohammed Al-Owais is 31 years old, he has just been crowned champion of Saudi Arabia with Al-Hilal, he has 43 selections and he spread this meeting of his class. Precious in the air, author of several decisive saves, like in front of Messi (2nd) and Tagliafico (63rd), or outings full of authority in a suffocating end of the match, the goalkeeper will only finally give in on a penalty. Since this Tuesday, it’s sure: Al-Owais, an essential element in this gigantic feat, has made an international reputation.


undefeated for 36 games, Argentina was only one game away from equaling the unbeaten record held by Italy (2018-2021). With this defeat, the Albiceleste therefore misses the opportunity to join the Nazionale in history.


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