Saudi Arabia beat Argentina 2-1 on Tuesday, in the biggest surprise in the history of the World Cup. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Saudi Arabia annoys Argentina
Saudi Arabia defeated Argentina 2-1 in the opening match of the two teams in the group stage on Tuesday, in the biggest surprise in the history of the World Cup.
+1800 to win outright and then dropped to +5000 in the first half
It only took three days of matches to change World Cup traditions forever. At first the Saudis were staggering +1800 to win outright and then dropped to +5000 in the first half.
The Argentines trailed only Brazil in the odds-makers’ rankings ahead of the tournament and have now slipped to one of the tournament’s biggest long shots. They are still favorites to win Group C, but they are much closer to the group, while Saudi Arabia closed the distance significantly.
Chaos in the World Cup
To say that popular support was on Argentina’s side would be an understatement. The favorites have yet to lose a World Cup game, having led at half-time in 92 years, and their 35-year-old captain Lionel Messi has a transfer value more than twice that of the entire Saudi Arabia squad, per Transfermarkt.
Match statistics and the final result paint two different pictures. Argentina outscored their opponent 69%-31% and scored 15 shots on goal (six on goal) to only three (two on goal).
Messi opened the scoring by converting a penalty kick in the 10th minute to put his team up 1-0. Then, shortly into the second half, a defensive attack from Argentina sealed Saudi Arabia’s first goal, and winger Salem Al Dosari conjured up the eventual winner in the 53rd minute with a moment of individual brilliance.
The Saudis were forced to hold out an attacking attack for more than 40 minutes after scoring their second goal, but they held on and eventually cruised out of the iconic Lusail Stadium with three points.
The odds-makers remain the least likely to qualify from Group C, as Mexico and Poland prepare to take to the field for the first time on Tuesday afternoon, but they have already accumulated the second-most group stage points in their country’s history and the most since 1992.
window of opportunity
Tuesday’s loss was Argentina’s first since 2019 and in 36 games. Not only has the power dynamic in Group C changed drastically, the country’s long-term future in the competition looks much bleaker than it did 24 hours ago.
The second seed is likely to face France in the first knockout round
If any of the other teams can capitalize on the missing points, they could force Argentina to qualify as second seeds in Group C, if that is possible. The second seed is likely to face France in the first knockout round, which would be a serious problem for any country.
Messi has previously said that his toughest opponents in the tournament will be England, Brazil and France. He clearly did not take Saudi Arabia into account when compiling his list.
The shocking result not only has serious implications for the group standings, but is another victory for Saudi Arabia in its quest to increase its influence in football. Nine of the 11 Saudi junior players play for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal Club, the best perennial team in Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Professional League, which may draw more eyes to the league, but then, in part, confirms the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund’s controversial takeover of the league. Premier English. Newcastle United Club.
The takeover was seen as “inorganic” and contrary to the nature of the sport, but if Saudi Arabia can show a renewed commitment to developing a more competitive and whole football culture, many of these claims will fall on deaf ears.
As it stands, the odds of winning Group C are as follows, according to FanDuel:
- Argentina: +175
- Mexico: +280
- Poland: +280
- Saudi Arabia: +350