Lionel Messi opened the scoring against Saudi Arabia in the tenth minute of the match, but then it was an Argentinian offside goal before Saudi Arabia struck. And struck. And then the Argentine flop was a fact.
“Argentina is massive advance favorite against one of the tournament’s weakest opponents”. It was hardly just Yle Sporten’s commentators who would have been ready to bet one or two hacks on Argentina not only defeating but even crushing Saudi Arabia.
After all, world number three Argentina had 36 victories in a row, while Saudi Arabia with Fifa ranking 51 scored zero or one goal in the last ten matches.
But how did it actually go?
Three goals disallowed for offside in 25 minutes in the first half for the Argentine national team. Some kind of WC record?
And when it doesn’t taste – or succeed – for the Argentinians, what do the Saudis do if not score? Saleh Al-Shehri scores 1-1. And just minutes later it’s a goal again. Saudi Arabian goal, that is.
Salem Al-Dawsari improbably makes it 2-1 after fending off some blue-and-whites and suddenly Argentina are rocking – despite almost 75% possession.
How did this happen?
Before and during the World Cup match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia, it is of course Lionel Messi who has the most strong lights aimed at him. If you are the best (or one of the very best) of all time, you are.
The match was not even two minutes old when Messi had a first venomous shot at the Saudi Arabian goal. Mohammed Al-Owai still made a strong save and the score remained 0-0 for a few more minutes. But in the tenth minute of the match, it rattled behind Al-Owai.
In all fairness – Argentina looked to be toying with their opponents in green.
Offside on offside on offside
Once again, it was the video referee system VAR that had a finger, or a camera, in the picture. Argentina had a corner which Saudi Arabia cleared and play was allowed to continue for quite some time until the referee was apparently ordered to control a sequence associated with the corner.
The result was a penalty, a penalty awarded long after Leandro Paredes was convicted.
Messi managed his chance and his seventh goal in the context of the World Cup was a fact. A dozen minutes later, the 35-year-old talisman rolled the ball into the goal for the second time, but now the goal was ruled out for offside. An offside by maybe a hair or two.
About as few hairs were on the wrong side as well five minutes later when spearhead Lautaro Martinez ran through and lifted the ball into the back of the net. Sad, probably thought about 45.4 million Argentines. Same show again a few minutes later: nice play by La Albiceleste, Lautaro through, the ball in the goal and so, offside.
1-0 at the break was, looking at the picture of the match, perhaps not completely correct (if it is ever really wrong), but Saudi Arabia was not completely awkward. We last saw that at the beginning of the second half. The rest is a piece of football history.