LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Cheers followed the final whistle. Disbelief quickly set in.
Saudi Arabia, a team that has won just three World Cup matches in their history, just pulled off what might be the biggest upset in the tournament’s history.
They beat Argentina 2-1.
“One for the books,” said Saudi Arabia coach Hervé Renard. “This is football. Sometimes things are completely crazy.”
Goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais, who made two key saves on Tuesday at the Lusail Stadium north of Doha to salvage Tuesday’s victory, was almost subdued at the end and perhaps did not understand the extent of the surprise.
“I’m very happy about this result, which we were able to achieve against this very traditional team,” said Alowais solemnly. “We have prepared. We were 100% ready and we hope to get better results in the future. I thought we were particularly good in the last few minutes because we got our three points.”
Not just in the last few minutes. Despite trailing 1-0 at half-time after a 10th-minute goal from Lionel Messi, perhaps the greatest footballer of all time, Saleh Alshehri and Salem Aldawsari both managed to score early in the second half.
It then took more than 50 minutes, including overtime at the end of the game at the referee’s discretion, to keep one of the tournament favorites at bay.
“All the stars were on us,” said Renard, who won the Africa Cup of Nations with Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015.
Renard has also coached Angola and Morocco, whom he led to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. In 2019 he took over Saudi Arabia.
“We made history for Saudi football,” said Renard. “It will stay like this forever. That’s the most important. But we also have to think about looking ahead because we still have two games that are very, very difficult for us.”
Next, Saudi Arabia meet Poland on Saturday and Mexico next Tuesday in Group C.
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