Argentina’s 36-game unbeaten streak came to an amazing end on Tuesday with a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in the 2022 World Cup.
The Saudis scored twice in the space of six minutes to kick off the second half and take the lead after a first-half goal from Lionel Messi. Argentina increased the pressure in the second half but were unable to score the equaliser.
Saudi Arabia was +1800 to win the Group C opener right before the match at BetMGM, which means a $10 bet was worth $180. Meanwhile, an Argentina bet of $10 to win would have netted you $1.54 had she won. Simply put, the game is one of the biggest upsets in recent World Cup history.
Saleh Al-Shehri scored the first goal for Saudi Arabia in the 48th minute. After his goal, he felt that Argentina would simply respond with another, and everyone would return to normal.
Instead, Salem Al-Dosari entered with a great goal to give Saudi Arabia the lead. Saudi Arabia had three shots in the entire match. The only two that were on goal were the two hits that went in.
Argentina’s best chance to equalise might have come in the 101st minute but Julian Alvarez’s header was saved by Mohammed Al Owais.
Argentina has not lost since 2019
Argentina entered the tournament as the No. 2 favorite behind Brazil and in the middle of a 36-match unbeaten streak dating back to 2019. That streak included winning the 2021 Copa América against Brazil to give Lionel Messi his first major international. booty.
While this Argentine team did not have the star power of previous Argentina teams, it was easy to see how they could win the tournament given their level. Messi is still one of the best players in the world up front and the midfield and defense were solid.
Argentina had 3 goals disallowed
Argentina scored the back net four times in the first half but three of those goals were called up for offside offences.
Saudi Arabia entered the match with a clear game plan – they wanted to play high defensively and try to catch Argentina offside. It could be a risky strategy – Lautaro Martinez’s disallowed goal came after he was barely offside.
But the strategy also worked in the end. Argentina were offside seven times in the first half and then three more times in the second half. The Argentines had almost 70% of the ball and took nine corner kicks. But not being able to finish in front of goal – when the team was in place – was costly.
Argentina needs two wins
Argentina has not lost all hope. Beating Mexico and Poland are still favorites and Messi’s dream of lifting the World Cup is not dead. But victories in the last two group stage matches are far from guaranteed after what happened on Tuesday.
If Argentina beat Mexico and Poland, they will likely qualify safely into the knockout stage with six points. But a win and a draw in those two matches may not be enough depending on what happens later on Tuesday when Mexico and Poland play. If there is a winner in that match, Argentina will certainly need to outsmart the victor in order to have a chance of not crashing out in the group stage.