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FIFA World Cup 2022 Recap: Saudi Arabia 2, Argentina 1

Lusail, Qatar; Argentina forward Lionel Messi (10) reacts during a group stage match against Saudi Arabia during the 2022 World Cup at Lusail Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Saudi Arabia pulled off an all-time World Cup upset Tuesday, stunning traditional footballing superpower Argentina with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory.

After a Lionel Messi penalty opened the scoring, Argentina could have been out of sight at halftime if not for the three goals ruled out by offside as Saudi Arabia played a risky high line. 

Argentina paid for their wasted opportunities, as two fantastic strikes in quick succession from Saleh Al Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari gave Saudi Arabia a lead they bravely held on to for 50 minutes, sealing what will go down as one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history. 

This almost unfathomable loss for one of the pre-tournament favorites in Argentina brought their 36-match unbeaten run to an end and raises serious concerns about their credentials going forward in the tournament.

Expected Goals (xG): Argentina 2.34, Saudi Arabia 0.17 

Argentina’s number is buoyed by the penalty but would have been much higher if not for a few mistimed runs in the first half. Saudi Arabia scoring two goals from three shots shows how much had to go their way to reach an unlikely victory.

Man of the Match: Salem Al Dawsari, Saudi Arabia

It was very much a team effort for Saudi Arabia. Still, Salem Al Dawsari outshone Lionel Messi with a special strike that will go down in history, even if a stronger hand from keeper Emiliano Martínez may have produced a save. 

Alongside scoring the winning goal, Al Dawsari received four line-breaking passes, providing an outlet and giving his team a break from the Argentinian onslaught. He also led the press from the front, with 47 successful pressures, the second-most on the team behind Saleh Al-Shehri (63), as Argentina struggled to break Saudi Arabia down. 

Best Passer: Nahuel Molina, Argentina

The Argentinian right-back completed 85.5% of his 69 pass attempts. His 13 attempted line-breaking passes and nine line-breaking pass completions were both high marks in the game.

Molina was one of the few Argentinian players who tried to penetrate the staunch Saudi Arabian defense: His one defensive-line-breaking pass was a joint high among his teammates, perhaps highlighting his team's broader struggles in this match.

Best Challenger: Hassan Tambakti, Saudi Arabia

If you thought Tambakti seemed impenetrable against Argentina, you would be correct. He won 85.7% of the seven challenges he was involved in, two-thirds of his aerial duels and all of his 50-50s. His last-ditch tackle on Messi was one of the highlights of the match, denying a clear chance that seemed inevitable for Messi in that position.

Goalkeepers

Mohammed Al-Owais was another key fixture of the Saudi Arabian effort. He saved five of the six Argentinian shots on target, only conceding to the penalty.

Emiliano Martínez was the bigger name but underwhelmed in comparison to his counterpart. There wasn't much he could have done about the first goal, but he should have done better with the second and ended the day having conceded both shots on target.

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