First upset in the 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup. Saudi Arabia surprised the football world by beating Argentina by 2-1 goal. No one thought this would happen. But that's what happened.
Argentina started the match with an unbeaten 36 games streak. The last time they lost a match was against Brazil in the 2019 Copa America semifinals. After that, they won 25 games and drew 11 games in the last 2 years. According to history, only Italy has a record of 37 unbeaten matches.
Argentina could have touched Italy's record if they won or even drawn against Saudi Arabia. But Argentina's unbeaten streak has been finished finally. So, what gives 51-ranked Saudi Arabia so much energy to beat ranked 3rd Argentina? Let's see the mystery!
Mystery Behind the Most Sensational Upset Caused by Saudi Arabia
Well, Argentina is one of the strongest teams and contenders for the title in this World Cup. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is a weak team compared to Argentina, but they surprised the world eventually. How did they do it?
Super Active Coach
When it comes to international football, Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard is a kind of legend with 23 years of coaching career experience. Over the years, he worked with 13 teams and won two major trophies, which include two Africa Cup of Nations with two different teams, Zambia and Ivory Coast.
Renard's strategy worked in the match when Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari scored goals in a five-minute attacking storm at the beginning of the second half.
Read More: Are Argentina still genuine contenders?
Goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais
Apart from two goals by Saleh and Salem, one more person is credited with winning the match. He is Mohammed Al-Owais. You can consider him as "The Great Wall of China" of the Saudi Arabian goalpost. He had the biggest contribution to this victory of Saudi.
He stood under the goalpost like a mountain and stopped all attacks. Messi could not defeat him except for one penalty and three offsides in the whole game. Argentina's seven attacks were blocked one by one. Leonel Messi didn't have a chance to score the second goal over Al-Owais, who stood 6 feet 2 inches.
Argentina's five goal attempts failed one by one because of this "Superman." Saudi Arabia beat Argentina for the first time, thanks to his remarkable saves. Due to his outstanding performance, he received the man of the match award.
Al-Owais played for the first time in the 2018 World Cup. But he played in one match against Uruguay. The Saudi goalkeeper proved his skill in the first match of this year's World Cup.
At the start of the game, Al-Owais showed that his team could rely on him when he blocked Messi's left-foot shot from inside the box by jumping to the right. Otherwise, Argentina would have gotten the lead at the beginning of the game.
At the end of the match, Argentina became desperate to repay the goal. However, Al-Owasis stopped one attack after another and stopped two certain goals in stoppage time. Among them, Julián Álvarez got the best chance of the match in 101 minutes. But Al-Owasis took control of the ball with a high jump.
According to coach Herve Renard's strategy, Saudi Arabia kept their offside trap active for 90 minutes. Saudi Arabia showed a surprise by using the offside trap brilliantly. Messi-Martinez has repeatedly stepped into this trap. Due to this, Argentina could not increase the gap even after scoring two more goals in the first half.
After Messi, Lautaro Martinez's double goal was disallowed. Argentina had to remain upset in the second half due to the regret of 3 goals that were canceled for offside in the first half. Despite scoring 4 goals in the whole match, Argentina did not win against Saudi Arabia.
Messi scored a goal in the 22nd minute. But the linesman had already raised the flag and said it was offside. Lautaro Martinez scored in the 28th minute. But this time, also due to VAR, it was shown that he was offside.
So, the goal was canceled. In the 34th minute, Argentina got the ball into the Saudi net once again. But before that, the side referee informed - it was offside. And these offsides were Saudi Arabia's strategy behind the historic win. With this trap, they did not have to guard the star players.
Throughout the game, Argentina has been caught for seven offsides, which is more than any team at the 2018 World Cup or this World Cup so far.
A Solid Game Plan
Renard's team tore up the strategy script. All the Saudi players were direct, pressed high, and physical and eventually got into Argentina's faces. Although Saudis' defensive shape may look a bit erratic, it helps them to get the ball back. This tactic helped them win the ball higher up the pitch, which allowed them to create opportunity and space. This also unsettles the Argentine midfield.
Ultimately, the Saudis showed bravery by coming in an unbelievably high line against an attacking trio of Messi, Di Maria, and Martinez. This bravery was responsible for winning the ball in the middle of the field, which eventually led to the forward push in Argentina's defense.
With this win against Argentina, Saudi Arabia surely get a boost in their confidence. They will play their next match against Poland on November 26. Now, it is time to see if Argentina can come back strong. This defeat will surely be written in Argentina's history of the World Cup.