Argentina 1 Saudi Arabia 2: Lionel Messi flops in huge World Cup shock as favourites suffer first loss in THREE years

A STUNNING GAME of two halves in a vast stadium where nobody can buy a pint.

Even the strictly sober Saudis must have fancied a Bud to toast the most remarkable result in their football history and one which is sending shockwaves through the World Cup.

Lionel Messi and Argentina were stunned by Saudi Arabia

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Lionel Messi and Argentina were stunned by Saudi ArabiaCredit: Getty
Saleh Al-Shehri and Firas Al-Buraikan celebrated as they threatened the major shock

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Saleh Al-Shehri and Firas Al-Buraikan celebrated as they threatened the major shockCredit: Getty

From a goal down after ten minutes and three hair’s-breadth offside decisions going in their favour in the first half, the Arab minnows came storming back to beat one of the tournament favourites.

And Argentina’s bewildered skipper Lionel Messi would have been proud to score both the high-quality goals which condemned the two-times world champions to an almighty giant killing.

He had stabbed his team ahead in the tenth minute by stroking home a penalty following a foul on Juve’s Leandro Paredes.

It marked the veteran’s 92nd goal in 162 games for his country and it looked like this Group C opener would become another routine rollover.

But when Messi and strike partner Lautaro Martinez had a hat-trick of narrow offsides go against them in the first half this game began turning on its head.

The introduction of ultra-sensitive new technology caught them out time and time again but yet there was still a feeling that vastly experienced Messi would lead his in-form team-mates to eventual victory.

Argentina were unbeaten in 36 games going into a game they were expected to stroll. And maybe that was their biggest mistake. 

Saudi’s French coach Herve Renard insists his country is not here just for a ‘jolly’ but try wiping the smiles off their faces now.

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In just five minutes they upended the entire 2022 World Cup with football’s equivalent of an Arab Spring.

Just three minutes into the second half Saudi forward Saleh Al Shehri picked up a threaded through ball on a run towards the Argentina box but the danger looked well covered.

Only Tottenham’s normally formidable centre-half Cristian Romero uncharacteristically went all Spursy and shied away from making a tackle.

Instead, he allowed his opponent to outpace him over five yards then plant a laser-like shot across the face of goal into the opposite corner of the net.

We can only suspect Argentina were in shock because shortly afterwards the entire defence crumbled.

Saudi’s star man Salem Al Dawsari picked up the ball on the right hand edge of the box.

A 180-degree turn later he glided past three defenders before striking a rising shot which Aston Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez could only paw into the back of his net.

Saudi Arabia are 51st in the world, have never been beyond the last 16 at a World Cup and have won only one game at a finals since 1994.

That shows what this result means to them.

Seeing the Argentina team on the deck at the final whistle shows what this humiliation means to them.

Saudi’s heroic rearguard action was topped by a headed clearance off the line by Abdulelah Al Amri in injury time but gallant defender Yasser Al Shahrani was KO’d by a knee to the head from his own keeper.

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Salem Al-Dawsari struck a super hit into the top corner

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Salem Al-Dawsari struck a super hit into the top cornerCredit: Getty
Lionel Messi had put Argentina in front with a tenth-minute penalty

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Lionel Messi had put Argentina in front with a tenth-minute penaltyCredit: Getty
There were three tight offsides in the first half

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There were three tight offsides in the first halfCredit: ITV
Saudi defended resolutely as they clung on to their lead

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Saudi defended resolutely as they clung on to their leadCredit: AFP

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