The World’s 53rd-ranked side Saudi Arabia produced an astonishing second-half comeback to stun pre-tournament favourites Argentina 2-1 in Group E as a goal from Al Dawsari handed them a shock 2-1 win in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
The result, which ended Argentina’s impressive 36 game unbeaten streak in the process, sends shockwaves through the tournament, and is the first major upset of the 2022 edition. It leaves the Albiceleste without a point, and now needing results against both Mexico and Poland to make it out of the group stages,
How it happened
The South Americans dominated the ball in the early part of the game, with Lionel Messi seeing a snapshot well saved before VAR awarded the Albiceleste a penalty just seven minutes in for a shirt pull from a corner. Argentina’s no.10 duly converted, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way from 12 yards, and setting his side on his way.
He had the ball in the net a second time midway through the second half, only for it to be ruled out for offside, with the Saudi Arabia high defensive line working to good effect.
Lautaro Martinez twice also thought that he had grabbed the second goal for his side with two sumptuous finishes, but on both occasions he too was flagged offside as Saudi Arabia’s high line clung on to half-time.
Then, moments into the second half, they were suddenly level. A long ball from back to front was knocked down to Saleh Al-Shehri, who held off Cristian Romero to slot through his legs and past Emiliano Martinez.
Then, in shocking fashion, Saudi Arabia completed the incredible turnaround four minutes later, with captain Salem Al Dawsari slamming the ball into the top corner from 14 yards out with a stunning strike, and handing the underdogs something to cling onto.
Argentina continued to attempt to find a breakthrough, but headers from Julian Alvarez and Lionel Messi were straight at the goalkeeper, and the Saudi Arabia side clung onto for an additional 14 minutes of added time to ensure a historic victory for the underdogs, and one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history.
GK: Emiliano Martinez - 5
Got a hand on Al Dawsari’s strike but not enough to keep it out
RB: Nahuel Molina - 5
Solid but couldn’t really effect the game and didn’t get close enough to Al Dawsari for the second goal.
CB: Cristian Romero - 4
Never looked comfortable and may still be nursing the injury that he had ahead of the tournament. Running through treacle for the Saudi Arabia equaliser.
CB: Nicolas Otamendi - 5
The better of the two but not by much. Leaves nerves jangling everytime he is in the vicinity.
LB: Nicolas Tagliafico - 5
Offered very little in either box and was taken off after 70 minutes.
CDM: Rodrigo de Paul - 6
Got on the ball a lot but was unable to find the runners in behind the Saudi defence anywhere near often enough.
CDM: Leandro Paredes - 5
One of his side’s better players in the first half, he was all at sea at the beginning of the second and was taken off before the hour.
RM: Papu Gomez - 4
Largely ineffective and was taken off after falling 2-1 behind.
CAM: Lionel Messi - 4
Looked oddly off the pace, misplacing several of his passes in the first half. Fired over from a promising free kick, and will almost certainly have better outings this tournament.
LM: Angel di Maria - 7
Looked bright and was the main threat for the Albiceleste, but his cut-backs were well marshalled by the Saudi backline.
ST: Lautaro Martinez - 5
Produced two fine finishes but was offside for both in the first 45 minutes. Offered very little in the second half.
Julian Alvarez - 6
Saw an effort cleared off the line and a header straight at the goalkeeper, but was largely starved of service.
Lisandro Martinez - 5
Unlucky not to start, and was tidy but could only watch on as his forwards failed.
Enzo Fernandez - 5
Tidy on the ball and fired in one dangerous fizzing cross, but was unable to turn the tide.
Marcos Acuna - 4
Did nothing when coming on.
GK: Mohammed Al Owais - 8
Made several very important saves to keep his side in the game and cling on to a historic victory.
RB: Saud Abdulhamid - 8
Excellent defensively and worked well as part of Saudi Arabia’s high defensive line.
CB: Ali Al Bulayhi - 8
The 33 year old used all of his experience to good effect, turning in a great performance in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s backline, though he will be thankful that Argentina were far from their attacking best.
CB: Hassan Tambakti - 9
Always looked susceptible to forwards running in behind but worked the offside trap to perfection (just) throughout the game and was colossal when it came to stopping the Argentine crosses into the box.
LB: Yasir Al Shahrani - 6
The defender had a tough time against Angel di Maria, who regularly got the better of him, but stuck to his task well. Took a horrid knee to the head in the dying seconds.
RM: Saleh Al-Shehri - 7
Stayed calm to produce a fine finish for the equaliser under pressure from Romero. Worked hard in the press too.
CM: Abdulelah Al Malki - 7
Dilligent and tracked the Argentinian attackers very well.
CM: Mohammed Kanno - 8
Worked incredibly hard to deny Argentina time and space in midfield, playing his part in a memorable win.
LM: Salem Al-Dawsari - 8
His side’s talisman, and scored a memorable goal to hand his side a 2-1
CAM: Salman Al Faraj - 6
Didn’t really do anything wrong but the Saudi skipper was forced off in first-half stoppage time with injury, curtailing his tournament.
ST: Feras Al Brikan - 6
Played his part well and led the Saudi Arabia press to good effect. Never really got a chance to find the back of the net.
Nawaf Al Abid - 7
Played his part in a very solid Saudi Arabia mid-block in the second half before being taken off for a defender in the dying moments.
Sultan Al Ghannam - 6
Added extra legs as his side looked to hold on.
Haitham Asiri - 6
Came on and did his job to perfection.
Abdulelah Al Amri - 7
The defender came on to help ensure the result, and added to the defensive efforts of his side.
Mohamed AlBurayk- N/A
Came on in the final of eight added minutes.