One of many greatest upsets in World Cup historical past.
Toss apart the comparatively meaningless FIFA World Rankings and Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 win over Argentina nonetheless makes little sense. Even the statistics on the day would point out Argentina would probably win. However soccer, as they are saying, is performed on the pitch. Regardless of all the pieces seemingly in opposition to them, the Saudi group opened their event with a win over one of many favorites to win the event.
Right here’s the way it occurred.
Saudi Arabia scored two targets from simply three pictures and 0.14 xG. That’s foolish. Translated: Based mostly on the standard of these pictures, the stats stated they need to not have scored in any respect.
It’s not that the standard of their pictures have been terrible, however primarily based on the place they got here from you merely don’t anticipate them to show into targets fairly often. The execution was merely excellent in troublesome goalscoring circumstances. The eventual winner by Salem Aldawsari was notably spectacular, and a testomony to the standard of his strike. He was being closed down by a defender as he turned to reset himself and obtained the shot off simply in time. Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez obtained a hand to the shot as effectively, however the ball was struck with such energy and accuracy that nothing in the best way stopped it.
Fairly merely, each Saudi Arabia targets have been simply effectively taken in a interval the place they’d taken initiative however had under no circumstances taken management. They made their restricted time with the ball rely, and caught Argentina off guard popping out of the break with how enterprising their play was.
A traditional, organized defensive mannequin that labored completely for Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
Possession and xG aren’t all the pieces in terms of the outcome, however they do assist inform the story of the match. Argentina, particularly within the first half, appeared set to dominate. The penalty purpose appeared as if it might simply be the opening of the floodgates, and they’d go on to have three targets dominated out for offside within the first half.
Right here’s two excerpts from a Twitter thread by JJ Bull of Tifo Soccer, who highlights effectively the method by Argentina in each halves.
First half Argentina have been in a position to do that. Excessive line a very worthwhile gamble. They have been defending about 5-10 metres from the midway line for lots of it. However as a result of there wasn’t sufficient strain on the deeper gamers, Arg may go via and over pic.twitter.com/NMwOvhZpTh
— JJ Bull (@jj_bull) November 22, 2022
2nd half was extra like this. Increased first line of press with masses extra assist. Solely actual possibility was vast. As quickly because the ball went vast they have been remoted however then the fullback jumped, pressured play backwards. Midfielders all hidden by press and going lacking themselves pic.twitter.com/wasDxYFpFU
— JJ Bull (@jj_bull) November 22, 2022
Argentina attacked very instantly within the first half, sending balls excessive for his or her forwards to run onto. For the primary half at the very least it saved them on the entrance foot, and almost obtained them one other purpose, too. The offside lure remained organized, however even then the margin that dominated out Lautauro Martinez’s purpose was very slim. Lionel Messi had an in depth offside name as effectively, considering he had doubled his tally and the lead.
Failing to capitalize on the first-half possibilities had an impact on Argentina, who made few significant changes over the course of the second half to treatment a abruptly dire scenario.
Saudi Arabia alternatively got here out of the break with intention, and so they tailored effectively to each make Argentina uncomfortable and create possibilities for themselves. They principally sat deep and defended as soon as they’d the lead, however they nonetheless pressured Argentina to resort to lengthy balls and crosses. They took away the center of the pitch, the place Argentina’s most harmful runs got here within the first half, and because of this the hole between the forwards and the areas of possession grew. They merely had no reply to retake management of the midfield within the second half, even with their opponents largely taking part in with out possession.
Argentina have been nonetheless offered alternatives to equalize, notably headed makes an attempt by each Messi and Julian Alvarez, however Saudi keeper Mohammed Alowais got here up with some enormous saves. His proactive goalkeeping to problem crosses and set up management within the space was an enormous enhance for his or her defensive efforts as effectively. Whereas Argentina’s creativity was poor, and so they appeared out of concepts even earlier than desperation time within the ultimate 20 minutes, the Saudis deserve a whole lot of credit score for his or her halftime changes. They took their possibilities, and noticed out the win by irritating a really gifted Argentina aspect.
Going ahead it will likely be attention-grabbing to see how each groups deal with their respective exams in opposition to Poland and Mexico, who performed to a 0-0 draw of their opening match. Definitely, on paper each might be a harder take a look at for Argentina, however as everybody was reminded event soccer has no ensures. Saudi Arabia sit atop the group for now, and their subsequent opponents will assume twice earlier than assuming three factors in opposition to them.