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‘It’s a hard blow’: Argentina in anguish after Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 World Cup victory

Saudi Arabia pulled a landmark World Cup upset on Tuesday by winning 2-1 against Argentina.

It left Lionel Messi standing with his hands on his hips near the centre circle as Saudi Arabia’s jubilant players ran in all directions around him.

While Argentina ranks as FIFA’s third best team in 2022, Saudi Arabia are 51st.

In response to his team’s defeat, Messi said: “The truth? Dead. It’s a very hard blow because we did not expect to start in this way.”

The 35-year-old football veteran, playing in his fifth — and likely his final — World Cup for Argentina, scratched the side of his head and shook hands with a Saudi coaching staff member after the final whistle.

Messi had started by giving Argentina the lead, converting a penalty in the 10th minute for his 92nd international goal.

But goals by Saleh Alshehri and Salem Aldawsari in a five-minute span in the second half gave the Saudis an unprecedented victory.

Saudi Arabia’s comeback — their previous biggest win was against Belgium in 1994 — is one among other major World Cup upsets: Cameroon’s 1-0 defeat of a Diego Maradona-led Argentina in the 1990 World Cup; Senegal’s 1-0 victory over defending champion France 1-0 in the 2002 opener; or the United States beating England by the same score in 1950.

“All the stars aligned for us,” Saudi Arabia manager Hervé Renard declared. “We made history for Saudi football.”

“Today is a sad day but as we always say, head up and carry on,” said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni. “[Saudi Arabia] are a good team with technical players, they are very well prepared physically.”

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