Sadly for Argentina followers, it wasn’t only a unhealthy dream. Their crew actually did lose 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in one of many largest shocks within the World Cup’s 92-year historical past.
Now the strain is on Lionel Messi and Argentina, who can’t afford to lose their subsequent match in opposition to Mexico on Saturday in the event that they need to maintain their World Cup hopes alive. “It’s time to be united, flip the web page and not take into consideration what occurred,” Messi stated after the humiliating defeat in opposition to Saudi Arabia, the second-lowest-ranked crew within the event.
“Take reflections, take the positives to enhance what we did incorrect, and take into consideration Mexico. We all the time stated we have been going to look to win each recreation and now greater than ever.” A lot for Argentina arriving in Qatar in perfect form to win a 3rd World Cup, having received the Copa America final 12 months and been on a 36-game unbeaten run.
Now there are doubts bobbing up in all places. Are key gamers match sufficient? Does Lionel Scaloni — Argentina’s unintentional coach — have the expertise to deal with the strain of a World Cup? And may Messi, now 35, nonetheless carry Argentina to the one prize in soccer nonetheless to elude him? Worryingly, Messi spoke of “anxiousness” that crept into his crew.
“The objective so early (within the second half) damage us, it made us confused,” Messi stated. “We knew it might occur within the first recreation, if we didn’t play in one of the simplest ways we have been doing, and I feel that occurred to us. We didn’t discover the efficiency or the sport that we’ve been demonstrating for a very long time.” In some methods, the loss to the Saudis was a freak consequence. They scored with two of their three pictures on objective, all of which got here within the second half.
Argentina might simply have been two or three objectives forward by halftime if it wasn’t for a few marginal offside calls solely found by video evaluate. And Argentina created sufficient possibilities late within the recreation to take not less than a draw. But, there have been sufficient issues to make even essentially the most optimistic Argentina fan involved.
Some gamers clearly weren’t at peak health. Cristian Romero, the middle again rounded too simply by Saleh Alshehri for the primary objective, hasn’t performed for the final month at English membership Tottenham due to a muscle damage and didn’t look prepared. Equally, Leandro Paredes and striker Angel Di Maria have performed restricted minutes since October after accidents.
That Romero and Paredes have been substituted quickly after Saudi Arabia’s second objective within the 53rd was a sign one thing was not proper. Middle midfielder Rodrigo De Paul and proper again Nahuel Molina will not be regulars for Atletico Madrid and lacked sharpness. De Paul, specifically, ended up combating the Saudis’ sudden depth and physicality.
Giovani Lo Celso, a favourite of Scaloni however out of the World Cup due to damage, was missed in midfield. Middle again Nicolas Otamendi began in opposition to Saudi Arabia, however Scaloni could go for Lisandro Martínez in opposition to Mexico, given his bettering kind for Manchester United this season.
There was already a fragile look to Argentina’s protection within the first half, beneath restricted strain from the Saudis. That was uncovered all through the second half, forcing Messi to drop deeper in quest of the ball. Messi insisted the day earlier than the sport that he was in good condition, regardless of coaching individually two days final week and being pictured with padding round his proper ankle.
He was nonetheless a pleasure to observe in Tuesday’s recreation with the ball at his ft and when given house however he discovered himself crowded out within the second half. At 35, he might discover it troublesome to play intense matches each 4 days on the World Cup.
Argentina has three days to kind issues out earlier than they return to Lusail stadium, the place the Saudis induced one of many World Cup’s largest upsets, to play Mexico. The 89,000-seat stadium may even stage the World Cup last on Dec.
18, Goalkeeper Emi Martinez stated that Argentina will go into the Mexico recreation as in the event that they have been enjoying for the title.
“Saturday is our first World Cup last,” he stated, including the early defeat could assist provoke the crew. “If we need to be world champions, it’s good to have a stumble,” he stated. “A stumble will not be a fall.”