Qataris join in celebrating Messi conquest

Lionel Messi

Argentina's forward #10 Lionel Messi reacts at the end of their Qatar 2022 World Cup Group C match against Saudi Arabia at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, north of Doha on November 22, 2022.
 

Photo credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires, gasps gave way to stony expressions of disbelief, and then tears, as Argentina fans gathered watched the humiliation of their football team unfold in Qatar. 
  • “It was a walloping, a bucket of ice-cold water,” Carlos Cuera, 26, said of the 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia. 

In Doha

This was a result of seismic proportions.

For the neutrals, it reinforced the beauty of football where the underdogs have a realistic chance of upsetting the giants of the game, no matter the circumstances.

And for the Arab world, what a way to announce that yes!, yes!, indeed football’s greatest showpiece, the Fifa World Cup, was being held in their territory for the very first time in history, and they were going to party with the rest of the world, irrespective, and in even, because of our human diversity.

For the record, Saudi Arabia pulled off one of the biggest upsets in football history by beating two-time champions Argentina 2-1 in their Group “C” match at the magnificent Lusail Stadium.

Multiple Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi - who else - opened the scoring for Argentina in the 10th minute via a penalty.

La Albiceleste, considered amongst the favourites to win this edition of the tournament, would have been four goals up by half time but had three efforts go into the net ruled out for offside.

Thank you very much, Saleh Al-Shehri must have said as he equalised for the battling Saudis three minutes after the restart before Salem Al-Dawsari put them in the lead on 53 minutes to leave Messi and the star-studded Argentine side stunned.

Saudi Arabia, ranked 51st in the world by global football governing body, Fifa, then held on to inflict the first defeat on the fancied South Americans in 37 matches.  

Thousands of travelling Saudi fans dressed in the green colour of their national flag almost brought down the venue that will also host the final match as they celebrated an unlikely win.

Saudi Arabia may have had political differences with Qatar that led to a blockade of the tiny Gulf nation, but those differences were patched up and from the mood in the streets of Doha, Qataris did not mind that win one bit. They may have lost in their opening match on Sunday but at least a “brother” had restored pride to the region.

Qatar leader’s congratulations

Qatari leader, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, even congratulated Saudi Arabia for their win.

Argentina, ranked third in the world, have won all four previous matches against Asian opponents at the World Cup.

The South Americans made 14 attempts on goal against Saudi Arabia’s three.
Saudi Arabia coach Frenchman Herve Renard, a two-time Africa Cup of Nations winner, said this was a “crazy” result but they would keep their feet on the ground at think of the two remaining matches.

His counterpart Lionel Scolani said: “We are supposedly the favourites but the World Cup is this way.

In the second half we did not play well but we had our chances. We have two games in hand and we have to play them well.”

Africa’s representatives Morocco, who face 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia Wednesday from 1pm in a Group “F” match at Al Bayt Stadium, will be inspired by Tuesday’s results.

Croatia have won their previous two World Cup matches against African nations, thumping Cameroon 4-0 in 2014 and Nigeria 2-0 in 2018. 

They will be led by the evergreen Luka Modric. But they better be wary of Morocco.

The Atlas Lions’ two wins in the World Cup have both come against European opposition – 3-1 against Portugal in 1986 and 3-0 versus Scotland in 1998.
Don’t cry for me Argentina!

Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires, gasps gave way to stony expressions of disbelief, and then tears, as Argentina fans gathered watched the humiliation of their football team unfold in Qatar. 

“It was a walloping, a bucket of ice-cold water,” Carlos Cuera, 26, said of the 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia. 

He was still seated in front of a cafe television where fans decked out in their team’s white and blue colors gathered from before 7:00am for the breakfast match in the Argentine capital.

“Nobody expected this. We thought the first three matches would be an easy victory, and now it has become more complicated,” he said, adding the loss had ramped up pressure ahead of Saturday’s duel with Mexico.

Lionel Messi’s Argentina side suffered one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history, ending a winning streak that included the Copa America championship.

The proud, football-crazed nation entered the World Cup among the favorites, eight years after they last won the tournament.

Buenos Aires quickly resumed its normal hustle and bustle, as desolate fans headed into the office.

In central Corrientes street, not far from the city’s towering Obelisk, one cafe had set up a screen on the sidewalk, prompting delivery men, taxis, and even bus drivers to slow as they passed -- hoping for another goal.

The day started better than it ended. Fans leaped from their chairs, screaming with joy, when Messi scored a goal off a penalty 10 minutes into the game.

“I feel very sad, really. The game started so euphoric with so much desire to win, and suddenly the game turned around,” said Pilates instructor Lena Widgren, 50, who said she didn’t know much about football, but it was about “the emotion of being Argentine, of going out to celebrate.”

Then fans joined in a cascade of insults when three goals were canceled for being offside -- two by VAR, or video assistant referee.

Fan Norberto Protzmann told AFP he sat in “terror” during the second half.

“We underestimated them a little too much and they dominated us in the second half.

Additional reporting by AFP

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