Soccer is a wild sport, isn’t it?
Coming into the 2022 World Cup, Argentina was thought-about one of the big favorites to win the tournament, and positively the odds-on favourite not simply to win Group C, however sweep it. Alternatively, Saudi Arabia seemed to be the worst team in the tournament, and something however zero factors and nil targets scored can be thought-about a light shock.
Nicely, a lot for that!
Within the first true shock of this World Cup, Saudi Arabia not solely beat Argentina 2–1, however completely dominated the South People tactically, pitching as near an ideal recreation as an underdog can below these situations. This wasn’t a fluke victory, however reasonably a Saudi crew that understood the project and compelled Argentina to play the precise recreation that may facilitate a outcome like this.
It begins with Hervé Renard. The Saudi Arabian supervisor is not any stranger to worldwide event success, having received the Africa Cup of Nations with each Zambia and the Ivory Coast. The Frenchman set Saudi Arabia up in what seemed to be a maniacal method, however ended up being the important thing to the match. The Inexperienced Falcons got here out with an especially excessive line of defense, enjoying its middle backs fairly near the midfield, whereas the remainder of the crew squeezed Argentina each time they acquired too near breaking the road.
This can be a dangerous technique, and Argentina got here near punishing that danger a number of occasions. By way of ball after by ball, the Albiceleste repeatedly acquired behind the Saudi defenders for simple probabilities towards goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais. Within the first half, Argentina put the ball at the back of the online 4 occasions. The one drawback is that the Saudi line was so disciplined and executed its offside traps so nicely that three of these Argentine targets had been dominated out.
The one objective within the first half got here from a smooth penalty name towards Saudi Arabia and a cool and calm Lionel Messi penalty.
Even main 1–0 at halftime, although, Argentina was flummoxed on methods to enhance its lead, with a watch in direction of any potential objective distinction shenanigans within the group. That might transform placing the cart earlier than the horse, although.
Because the second half kicked on, Saudi Arabia regarded like absolute world-beaters. The press saved going at a fervent tempo, however the crew additionally backed off the excessive line simply sufficient to make it possible for it may keep within the recreation lengthy sufficient for one of many many bounces that may resolve worldwide soccer matches. Certain sufficient, Saudi Arabia acquired two.
The primary got here within the forty eighth minute, with Argentina out of types from the continued depth of its opponents. Abdulelah Almalki hit a lovely lengthy cross that passed over all the Argentina protection, discovering Saleh Alshehri, who hit a wobbly however completely aimed shot into the nook to tie the sport.
Simply 5 minutes later, this match noticed the perfect objective of the World Cup to this point. Winger Salem Aldawsari acquired the ball simply contained in the field on the left aspect, turned and, as his momentum carried him away from the objective, ripped a stunning strike that Argentine goalie Emi Martínez may solely get a hand on earlier than it crashed into the again of the online.
After that, Saudi Arabia by no means actually threatened once more, which was by design. Holding a lead towards such a large favourite, Renard had his crew proceed to press however dropped the line of defense even additional, in order that it regarded like a standard excessive line reasonably than the skyscraper tightrope it had deployed within the first half. This, mixed with Argentina supervisor Lionel Scaloni’s substitutions, gave the run of the sport to Argentina as soon as extra. Saudi Arabia then defended like absolute madmen for a really very long time, with Alowais stepping as much as make a handful of the perfect saves this World Cup has seen.
After a protracted stoppage time that pushed the ultimate minutes tally to 104, Saudi Arabia completed off this huge second in its soccer historical past, and Argentina is left to choose up the items and quick; any faltering from right here on out may and possibly will imply the tip of its event.
There’s no sugarcoating this: Saudi Arabia was the higher crew on Tuesday. It may need relinquished the vast majority of possession and probabilities to its opponents, however Renard’s gameplan allowed his crew to have numbers again always. Argentina’s greatest and infrequently solely choice was to filter the ball out large to Ángel Di María on the proper, just for the Juventus winger to drift crosses right into a mass of inexperienced shirts. Certain, Alowais needed to come up large to safe the three factors for the Saudis, however he wasn’t typically overlooked to rot by his protection. As an alternative, the entire crew moved as one and blocked off each harmful Argentina assault down the center, snug in its rigidity.
That is what’s nice in regards to the World Cup, for everybody besides Argentina followers. A crew as outmatched, talent-wise, as Saudi Arabia can nonetheless execute a plan to perfection and get two unbelievable finishes to beat the third-ranked crew on the planet. It’s nonetheless early sufficient that this might simply be a blip for Argentina, however make no mistake: the South People are actually scrambling not as a result of they blew it, however as a result of they ran right into a crew that knew precisely methods to smash their day. That is Saudi Arabia’s victory rather more than it’s Argentina’s loss, and that makes all of it the higher for them going ahead. Is Saudi Arabia going to be petrified of Mexico, or of Poland, after beating Argentina? Virtually actually not, and that makes this opening shocker one thing to construct on reasonably than only one wonderful afternoon in Lusail.