Saudi Arabia Beats Argentina and Lionel Messi in Their First FIFA World Cup Match of 2022
By: Mariam Alyakoob / Arab America Contributing Writer
Lionel Messi is considered one of the best soccer players of all time, and the team he plays for, Argentina, is currently ranked third in the world. Despite being expected to dominate the 2022 FIFA World Cup, or at least during their opening game, they unexpectedly lost 2-1 to a surprising contender, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s win against Argentina on the third day of the World Cup has made many Arab fans proud.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup Tournament
The 2022 FIFA World Cup Tournament has seen many firsts. This year’s FIFA is the first one held in an Arab and Muslim majority country. It is also the first World Cup that has faced this much criticism. Many criticize the decision for FIFA officials to award Qatar the position as host country of this year’s FIFA World Cup. Many theorize that Qatar won through bribery. Qatar was also criticized for their lack of LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights and their mistreatment of migrant workers.
On the other hand, many consider the West’s criticism of Qatar as a double standard, stating that there was a lack of condemnation of other countries who had hosted the World Cup tournament and Olympics in the past, despite the countries having violated human rights themselves.
Asides from politics, in terms of soccer, this World Cup has seen some firsts as well. The starting match on the first day of the tournament, November 20th, saw Qatar being the first host country to lose their opening match in World Cup history. Qatar lost by two points to Ecuador, scoring zero goals. Although the news of Qatar’s loss upset the Arab world, pride for competing Arab countries and teams was brought back by Saudi Arabia’s win against Argentina.
Argentina is considered to have one of the best teams in the world. They are ranked second in South America, and third overall in the world. They are not new to competing in the FIFA World Cup Tournament, having competed in the World Cup over fifteen times, and winning twice, once in 1978 and another in 1986.
Argentina also has some of the best soccer players in the world. Two Argentinian players are ranked in NBC Sports best soccer players of all time. The first is Diego Maradona, who helped the Argentinian team win the 1986 World Cup. The second is Lionel Messi, a more recent player. Messi has played as a forward for Paris Saint-Germain F.C.and is on Argentina’s National Football Team. Unlike Maradona, Messi has yet to win a World Cup Tournament, and has stated that the 2022 will be his last time competing.
Unlike Argentina, Saudi Arabia is a little further down on the list being ranked 51st in FIFA world rankings. Saudi Arabia has also qualified for world cups prior to 2022, qualifying in six tournaments held in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2018, but has yet to win the prestigious tournament.
Saudi Arabia vs. Argentina
Saudi Arabia’s opening game was against Argentina on November 22nd. Many doubted the ability of the Saudi National Team in competing against the Argentinian team. According to data company Gracenote, they predicted that Saudi Arabia only had a 8.7% chance of beating Argentina, given that the Argentinian team had been undefeated in the past 36 matches they had competed in. The Argentinians expected an easy win, but the Saudi Arabian team was a much greater defender than the Argentinians expected.
During the first half of the Group C opener in Qatar’s Lusail Stadium, Argentina seemed to take the lead. Within the first 10 minutes, Argentinian captain and fan favorite, Lionel Messi scored a penalty goal awarded by the VAR. The only official point they received as three of their scores were counted as offside goals that were disallowed.
During the second half of the match, Saudi Arabia surprised the world by taking the lead. In the 48th minute, Saudi player Saleh Al-Sehri, managed to score a goal into the corner of the net. At this point, the Saudi Arabian crowd, waving their flags in the stands, were cheering and celebrating their team’s first goal. And only within a few minutes later, Saudi Arabia scores again, this time with player Salem Al-Dawsari scoring the tie breaking goal.
The Argentinian team tried their best to score again but were unable to surpass Saudi defenders, and score against goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais. Saudi Arabia had won their opening match against one of the world’s best teams 2- 1, shocking the world. Many stated that this win was one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, but for many Saudi Arabian and Arab fans, it was a moment to celebrate because an Arab team had won a groundbreaking match.
The win received overwhelming support from Arab fans across the world, even those not from Saudi Arabia. The Qatari Emir even wore a Saudi Arabian flag during the game. And you may notice many social media posts commemorating the win by Arab fans worldwide. The win was such a commemorative moment that Saudi King Salman declared the following day, November 23rd, a public holiday. It felt like a very prideful win for the entire Arab community.
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