Unfortunately for Argentina followers, it wasn’t only a dangerous dream. Their workforce actually did lose 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in one of many greatest shocks within the World Cup’s 92-year historical past.
Now the strain is on Lionel Messi and Argentina, who can not afford to lose their subsequent match in opposition to Mexico on Saturday in the event that they need to hold their World Cup hopes alive. “It’s time to be united, turn the page and no longer think about what happened,” Messi mentioned after the humiliating defeat in opposition to Saudi Arabia, the second-lowest-ranked workforce within the match.
“Take reflections, take the positives to improve what we did wrong, and think about Mexico. We always said we were going to look to win every game and now more than ever.” So a lot for Argentina arriving in Qatar in preferrred form to win a 3rd World Cup, having received the Copa America final yr and been on a 36-game unbeaten run.
Now there are doubts arising in every single place. Are key gamers match sufficient? Does Lionel Scaloni — Argentina’s unintended coach — have the expertise to deal with the strain of a World Cup? And can Messi, now 35, nonetheless carry Argentina to the one prize in soccer nonetheless to elude him? Worryingly, Messi spoke of “anxiety” that crept into his workforce.
“The goal so early (in the second half) hurt us, it made us confused,” Messi mentioned. “We knew it could happen in the first game, if we didn’t play in the best way we were doing, and I think that happened to us. We didn’t find the performance or the game that we’ve been demonstrating for a long time.” In some methods, the loss to the Saudis was a freak outcome. They scored with two of their three pictures on purpose, all of which got here within the second half.
Argentina may simply have been two or three objectives forward by halftime if it wasn’t for a few marginal offside calls solely found by video assessment. And Argentina created sufficient possibilities late within the recreation to take not less than a draw. Yet, there have been sufficient issues to make even probably 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 purpose, hasn’t performed for the final month at English membership Tottenham due to a muscle harm and didn’t look prepared. Similarly, 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 purpose within the 53rd was a sign one thing was not proper. Center midfielder Rodrigo De Paul and proper again Nahuel Molina usually are not 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 harm, was missed in midfield. Center again Nicolas Otamendi began in opposition to Saudi Arabia, however Scaloni could go for Lisandro Martínez in opposition to Mexico, given his enhancing type for Manchester United this season.
There was already a fragile look to Argentina’s protection within the first half, underneath restricted strain from the Saudis. That was uncovered all through the second half, forcing Messi to drop deeper looking for 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 may discover it tough 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 triggered one of many World Cup’s greatest upsets, to play Mexico. The 89,000-seat stadium can even stage the World Cup last on Dec.
18, Goalkeeper Emi Martinez mentioned 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 final,” he mentioned, including the early defeat could assist provoke the workforce. “If we want to be world champions, it’s good to have a stumble,” he mentioned. “A stumble is not a fall.”