Argentina vs Saudi Arabia: Talking Points as Lionel Messi and co crumble in group opener

The opening match in Group C of the 2022 FIFA World Cup saw one of the biggest shocks of the tournament as Argentina lost 2-1 against Saudi Arabia. The South American giants took the lead in the 10th minute of the match thanks to a Lionel Messi penalty, after which many believed they would go on and record a big win. However, their hopes soon turned to disappointment as two flamboyant second-half goals from Saleh Alshehri and Salem Aldawsari saw the men in green roaring back. Argentina tried their level best to reverse the situation but Saudi Arabia’s defense stood like a wall in front of all their efforts. It was a historic result as it was Argentina’s first defeat against an Asian nation in World Cup history. Here are some highlights of the match.

Questions on Argentina’s defensive selection

Despite being one of the strongest sides on paper in the competition, Argentina’s defensive line looked quite shoddy on the day as they conceded two quick goals just after the start of the second half. Questions were raised over Lionel Scaloni’s choice on the bench for Lisandro Martinez, who is having a tremendous season at Manchester United. Martínez’s introduction into the match in place of Cristian Romero stabilized the backline as the men in blue and white again did not concede defeat.

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It didn’t end there for Scaloni’s men.

One would think that having the likes of Lionel Messi and Lautaro Martinez in front would mean a formidable attacking lineup but that was not the case against Saudi Arabia. While ample chances were created, no one really made it count. Another problem for the South Americans was their offensive position. The team had 10 offside calls against them, more than their number in the entirety of the 2018 World Cup. This will certainly be a matter of concern for Scaloni as his team will be severely tested in the form of Poland and Mexico later in the group.

saudi arabia defense rock solid

Although Argentina’s finishing was not good, credit must be given where it is due. The Saudi Arabian defenders and goalkeeper made life miserable for those in La Albiceleste’s attacking department. Goalkeeper Mohammad Alowais pulled off a superb point-blank range save in the second half to keep his team in the lead at one point. A few minutes later Abdullah Ali Awad Al Amri executed a brilliantly headed goal line clearance. If they can maintain this form for the rest of the group matches, the men will have a chance of making it to the last 16.

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