This famous song “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” became something of an anthem when it was performed by Madonna in the 1996 musical film Evita. Now 26 years later, it sounds so shockingly appropriate.
Whatever adjectives you use, you’d be absolutely lost for screaming words as underdogs Saudi Arabia scored one of the biggest World Cup upsets ever by beating Lionel Messi’s Argentina 2-1. Simply unbelievable!
Poor Messi. His quest to win the one major title to elude him got off to a shocking start and brought back memories of Cameroon’s 1-0 win over an Argentina team, led by Diego Maradona, in the opening game of the 1990 World Cup.
When Argentina scored with a 10th-minute Messi penalty, it simply looked like a foregone conclusion… a possible rout in store, like Iran getting shell-shocked 6-2 by England. But the big-hearted Saudis fought back and goals by Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari in a five-minute span in the second half gave this unimaginable win.
Believe me, this Argentina loss rivals other World Cup upsets like Senegal’s 1-0 win over titleholder France in the 2002 tournament opener and the United States’ beating England by the same score in 1950. It’s hard to ever think that Argentina’s 36-match unbeaten run ended at the Lusail Stadium in Messi’s fifth — and likely last— World Cup.
But Messi, the Paris Saint-Germain star striker, was sporting at the final whistle. He shook hands with a Saudi coaching staff member and stood with his hands on his hips near the centre circle, an all-too-familiar scene for one of the best players ever, who is yet to win the biggest prize in soccer.
For the record, Argentina‘s results at the FIFA World Cup rank as one of the most successful national football teams in the world, having won two World Cups in 1978 and 1986. Argentina has been runners-up three times: in 1930, 1990 and 2014.
In 19 World Cup tournaments, Argentina had 47 victories in 82 matches. The team was present in all but four of the World Cups, being behind only Brazil and Germany in a number of appearances (with the 2022 edition included, to be played).
Now sorry tears may well in your eyes for Messi and Argentina. You ask: How will they now pull back and make it out of this group?
Suresh Nair is an award-winning sports journalist who is also a qualified international coach and international referee instructor
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