Ghosts everywhere. In the stands, where the spectre of Diego Maradona was waving his fists, wondering how Argentina could put in such a vapid performance.

On the pitch, where the shadows of Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain were sprinting through the middle, looking for a pass or clearing a path for Lionel Messi.

The ghosts of Argentina's past haunted them for large parts of Saturday's game against Mexico, as the present almost became a living nightmare.

Lionel Scaloni's team were in dire danger of heading out of this World Cup after two games, the champions of South America last year vulnerable to a humbling on the global stage, until a flash of Messi magic changed everything.

A swish of that left boot from 25 yards, and the ball zipped into the bottom-right corner. It had to be him.

On the night Messi matched Maradona's Argentina record of 21 World Cup appearances, he also moved level with El Diego on eight goals in his career at the finals, two behind national team record holder Gabriel Batistuta. For Messi, those World Cup goals have all come in the group stage, something he came to Qatar to change and still might.

Losing to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday was bad enough for Argentina, but at least there would be a reaction against the Mexicans. Perhaps it might be the spur they needed, and perhaps it could still be Messi's World Cup.

Those were theories that were widely voiced, yet for an hour they looked to be utter bunkum.

Even at 90 minutes, with a 2-0 scoreline barely reflecting the flow of the game, you were left fearing Argentina might find a way to trip up against Poland next time out. If they finish second in this group, it will almost certainly be France waiting for them in the second round, and on the evidence so far, Argentina would be mauled by Les Bleus.

Messi and Co arrived at this tournament on a 36-game unbeaten run, but such has been their languid start you would have been forgiven for guessing they played all 36 of those games in the last month.

Here they were off the pace from the start, lacking any obvious strategy, down on energy, praying for Messi to conjure something. It had an air of Barcelona in the final days of Ronald Koeman's reign about it.

Scaloni has backed Lautaro Martinez to be his lone striker, and there might have to be a rethink on that score. Martinez has a shot conversion rate of 12.9 per cent this season for Inter, which is not ideal for a striker, and has been finding the net at club level every 206.25 minutes.

He has Edin Dzeko up alongside him for the Nerazzurri, who has been more clinical with his chances, but with Argentina it is Martinez who leads the line ostensibly alone.

This team used to have an embarrassment of attacking riches, and they desperately miss prime era Higuain and Aguero.

Martinez has a strong scoring record for his country, but he was ineffective here, his second game at his first World Cup.

When a clear chance came his way in the 40th minute, after a fine cross from the right by Di Maria, he planted a header way off target. It was his one goal attempt. Argentina only had five shots all night, which was still one more than Mexico. Their combined total of shots is the fewest ever recorded in a World Cup, based on studies of matches going back as far as 1966.

There was a moment late in the first half that looked to be typifying Argentina's night: Mexico's Alexis Vega had a free-kick well saved by Emiliano Martinez shortly before half-time and Argentina went on the break, with Messi looking to dance down the right and make something happen.

Except, those feet don't dance as quickly as they once did, and the ball was soon swept into touch. At Paris Saint-Germain, with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for company, the gradual decline of Messi is not quite so obvious. He can be a joy to behold in that company still, but when all the attention of defenders is on him, as it inevitably was this time, he was being too easily crowded out and barged off the ball.

In the second half, Erick Gutierrez hacked down Messi when he got close to the edge of the box and began to sprint, and Argentina had the chance they wanted. Messi punted it over the crossbar, and you just sensed it would not be his night.

And then Messi decided that, actually, yes it would be.

At the age of 35, he cannot win a World Cup by himself, but he can still come up with magical moments, and it was a goal for the career showreels, a stroke of familiar genius at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, which will stage this tournament's final.

For the second time in his career, Messi has scored in six consecutive international games for his country. He remains a joy of a player, and his country's biggest hope.

Substitute Enzo Fernandez added a late second goal that flattered Argentina, and it made the Benfica player, at 21 years and 313 days, the youngest Argentina scorer at a World Cup since the 18-year-old Messi announced himself at the 2006 finals. The past might still be a haunting influence, but here was a glimpse into the future.

A smiling Messi celebrated with relieved supporters at the end. For just a fleeting moment in this game, he had been afforded a yard of space and made it count.

Friday marked two years since the death of Maradona. He is Argentina's past, yet you still almost expect television cameras to pan to him in the stands.

Messi has spent his life trying to live up to the legend of Maradona, and that shared super-natural brilliance has just about kept Argentina's hopes alive in Qatar.

Lionel Messi was once again Argentina's saviour with the breakthrough goal in a 2-0 win over Mexico at Lusail Stadium to ignite his side's World Cup campaign.

Poland's 2-0 victory over Saudi Arabia earlier on Saturday left Argentina needing to avoid defeat against Mexico if they were not to exit the competition after just two games.

Argentina put their shock 2-1 loss against Saudi Arabia behind them thanks to Messi's long-range opener after 64 minutes and Enzo Fernandez's equally-as-impressive late strike.

Lionel Scaloni's men join Saudi Arabia on three points and are one point behind Group C leaders Poland, who they face in their final match, while Mexico are bottom on one point.

Argentina made five changes on the back of their opening loss, three of those in defence, and they failed to register a meaningful attempt in the first half.

Mexico went closest to opening the scoring before the interval through an Alexis Vega free-kick that called Emiliano Martinez into action.

The quality only marginally improved in the second half, but out of nowhere Messi controlled Angel Di Maria's pass and fired a low shot past Guillermo Ochoa from 25 yards.

That strike took Messi level with fellow great Diego Maradona on eight World Cup goals for Argentina, who added a second through substitute Fernandez.

With three minutes left, the Benfica midfielder received a pass from Messi following a short corner, worked his way into the box and then curled away from Ochoa into the top corner.

Argentina can recover from their woeful World Cup start and reach the knockout rounds, says Barcelona boss Xavi.

Lionel Scaloni's side were handed a shock defeat in Group C by Saudi Arabia in their opener, with Lionel Messi's first-half penalty cancelled out by goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari.

With Mexico and Poland drawing their first match elsewhere, it has handed La Albiceleste an arduous, though not improbable, pathway beyond the opening stages of Qatar 2022.

But speaking for Adidas in Qatar, Xavi, who was a member of the Spain squad that lost their opener at South Africa 2010 before rallying to win the tournament, believes they have what it takes to turn matters around.

"I know [how it feels], because it happened to us in 2010 in South Africa," he stated, in reference to his own defeat a dozen years ago to Switzerland. "It is a very difficult moment.

"[There is] more tension, more pressure, but I think they have everything. They have the capacity to come back, to win against Mexico and beat Poland.

"I believe a lot in Leo, in the Argentina squad, in Scaloni. They have the capacity to get six points and qualify for the next round, sure."

Argentina will be bidding to avoid a first group stage exit since Korea/Japan 2002, the only time they have failed to reach the knockout rounds in the expanded 32-team format era.

They face Mexico on Saturday in Lusail, before wrapping up their Group C campaign against Poland in Doha on November 30.

Jorge Burruchaga believes "you can feel" the absence of former team-mate Diego Maradona at the first World Cup since the ex-Argentina captain's death in 2020.

Maradona, who skippered La Albiceleste to glory in 1986, was remembered at an event to mark the second anniversary of his passing from a cardiac arrest at the age of 60.

Burruchaga – also part of that victorious side in Mexico 36 years ago – paid tribute to "a unique legend," whose presence he claims can be felt among his former team-mates.

"The last time we spoke was a couple of months before his passing," the former attacking midfielder told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"We reunited when I returned to Argentina to coach Gimnasia La Plata. I can't say we were close friends, perhaps we had a closer bond on the pitch than off it, but we respected each other after a long path together.

"This is the first World Cup without him, and you can feel it. He is a unique legend, football lost its most valuable treasure. But I can feel his presence here among us, and I am not being rhetorical."

Burruchaga and Maradona combined for the winning goal in the 1986 final victory over West Germany, who recovered from 2-0 down to level at 2-2 with six minutes remaining at the Azteca Stadium.

The mercurial Maradona's perfectly weighted first-time throughball released Burruchaga, who raced away from the defence before scoring to seal their nation's second World Cup triumph.

"Diego was angry after Germany’s equaliser and told us a few things," the 60-year-old remembers. "We were up by two goals, I am not saying it was an easy match, but we had it in hand.

"Diego saw an upset Jorge Valdano [after Germany’s equaliser], but told him: 'No worries, we are going to win this.' And he made us win. After my goal, he celebrated and looked to the sky. I was so proud to see him happy thanks to my strike."

Argentina's latest quest for a third title – and what could be Lionel Messi's final shot at glory – began with a shock 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia in Group C, from which they will seek a response against Mexico on Saturday.

The ultimate prize in football is the only one missing from Messi's well-stocked cabinet, but Burruchaga hopes that will be rectified this year.

He added: "Over the last 40 years, the God of football has been Argentinean, and Messi would deserve the World Cup to crown an extraordinary career."

Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez has described the Group C clash against Mexico as his nation's "first World Cup final" as they look to bounce back from a shock opening defeat to Saudi Arabia.

The setback at Lusail Stadium was Argentina's fourth in their last six World Cup matches (W1, D1), as many as they had in their previous 25 in the competition, with the loss bringing an end to a long unbeaten streak that sat at 36 matches.

Widely tipped among the favourites to go all the way in Qatar, Argentina now find themselves at risk of a premature exit and need a response, with Aston Villa keeper Martinez rallying the troops before Saturday's clash at the same venue.

"We're hurting a lot from our first defeat [in more than three years] and on top of that at the World Cup," he said.

"We expected to play like it was a final, but we didn't do that. After we scored the first goal we relaxed a bit and we paid for that. Saturday will be our first World Cup final."

History is on Argentina's side against Mexico, with the South American's undefeated in their last 10 meetings, stretching back to the 2004 Copa America, while they have won all three previous World Cup meetings – in 1930, 2006 and 2010.

 

Scoring goals has been a problem at the World Cup for Mexico, who have failed to net in their last three matches – including a goalless draw against Poland in the opening game, where Guillermo Ochoa saved a Robert Lewandowski penalty.

The 37-year-old Ochoa, involved in his fifth World Cup, has never made it past the round-of-16 stage, with Mexico falling at that hurdle in the past seven tournaments – last reaching the quarter-finals in 1986, their home tournament.

Ochoa has enjoyed plenty of international joy with Mexico, earning 132 caps, but would trade it all to secure a quarter-final spot and equal his nation's best-ever result at the World Cup.

"Everything, I would trade everything to get to the quinto partido (fifth game)," he said following the draw against Poland.

Victory for Mexico would hand them a big boost in the bid to reach the knockout stages and could end Argentina's tournament, which would secure revenge for Mexico from the two sides' last meeting at the World Cup in 2010.

That came in the round of 16 where Argentina won 3-1 thanks to a Carlos Tevez brace, the first of which was offside and shown on the big screens inside the stadium, understandably leading to fury for the Mexicans.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina – Lautaro Martinez

Inter forward Martinez was twice denied a maiden World Cup goal in the defeat to Saudi Arabia by the offside flag, having been unable to break through the opposition's high line. No Argentina player was flagged offside more than Martinez in that match (three, also Angel di Maria).

Martinez will need to be more involved in play, having touched the ball just 25 times in that defeat, lower than any of his team-mates apart from Julian Alvarez (12), who was introduced after 58 minutes.

Mexico – Alexis Vega

No player had more shots in Mexico's goalless draw against Poland than Vega (five), four of which came within the opposition box. However, he failed to hit the target with any of his attempts on goal.

With six touches in the opposing box in that match, Vega showed he will get into dangerous positions and provide an attacking threat for Mexico, though he will need to be more decisive in the final third.

PREDICTION

Argentina's loss to Saudi Arabia ended a run of 13 straight victories against non-European sides, stretching back to 1990, and the South American's have never lost consecutive World Cup matches to teams not from Europe.

Stats Perform's supercomputer expects that run to continue, with Argentina given a 60.7 per cent likelihood of a win, compared to a 17.4 per cent chance of Mexico securing what would be a memorable win.

A draw may not be enough for either side in the hunt to advance to the knockout stages but is seen as 21.9 per cent likely.

The FIFA World Cup Golden Ball award should be renamed in Diego Maradona's honour, according to ex-Argentina team-mate Nery Pumpido.

The former Argentina captain, who won the award after leading his country to World Cup glory in 1986, was remembered at an event to mark the second anniversary of his death.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Maradona should be remembered at each subsequent tournament with a day of celebration for his significant impact on football.

Pumpido - goalkeeper of the victorious side in Mexico 36 years ago - believes his former team-mate could be honoured with a subsequent renaming of the Golden Ball, awarded to the best player at every World Cup Finals.

"It would be great if the award for the best player of the World Cup was renamed Diego Armando Maradona," he said. "It's a good idea."

Pumpido was one of many former Argentina players in attendance. Among them were 1978 World Cup-winning goalkeeper Ubaldo Fillol, who felt "a tremendous source of pride" at honouring Maradona.

Meanwhile Jorge Valdano - the scorer of La Albiceleste's second goal in their 1986 final win over West Germany - fondly remembers his former captain's impact on the tournament in Mexico.

That included his inspirational display against England in the quarter-finals - the infamous 'Hand of God' goal accompanied by one of the greatest individual efforts in history.

"Like the great maestros of painting, he made sketches during the [1986] World Cup," Valdano said. "I remember the game against Uruguay in the round of 16, where Diego was unstoppable,

"I thought that it was impossible to play better than what Diego played that day, but no, that was just a sketch for his definitive work and like all maestros, he chose the right day, the right opponent, the right place for his work - against England.

"[Against England] he completed his most wonderful work that took him to another place. From that day, he became a hero, he became a legend, he became a symbol and that is why we are here.

"He did nothing more than elevate the Argentine national team and also world football. I propose that, despite the fact that the remembrance is necessarily sad, to remember him with joy. 

"If Diego has left us something, it is a debt of happiness and gratitude. I am very happy that he is still so present in all of us as this extraordinary call shows."

Argentina's latest quest for a third World Cup title - and what could be Lionel Messi's final shot at glory - began with a shock 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia in Group C, from which they will seek a response against Mexico on Saturday.

The ultimate prize in football is the only one missing from Messi's well-stocked cabinet after an astonishing career, but former midfielder Daniel Bertoni, who lifted the trophy in 1978, insists the Paris Saint-Germain forward needs help in his mission.

"Messi's legacy? He has to be a champion," he said. "It's not an obligation, the World Cup is not won by one player alone.

"Messi is the ace of spades, you have to put the other cards around him, I think he has to be accompanied by the team."

Lionel Scaloni will not alter his principles, insisting that is "non-negotiable", as he tries to plot a route past Mexico and keep Argentina's World Cup hopes alive.

The South American champions were stunned 2-1 by Saudi Arabia in their opening game, plunging their qualification for the knockout phase from Group C into unexpected doubt.

Another defeat at the hands of Mexico, coached by Argentinian Tata Martino, could prove fatal but Scaloni dismissed any notion of a change in playing style from his team.

He said: "We watched the game back [against Saudi Arabia] but now we are thinking about Mexico which will be entirely different.

"But the way we will play will be similar, we won't change our style due to what happened on Tuesday, that's clear. Mexico are an excellent team, an offensive team with a great coach. But we have a style that is non-negotiable.

"We might have taken a blow in the opening match but we need to stick to our guns and approach it in the same way.

"When you have a blow you have to bounce back and the squad is ready to do that. We know there is a full country behind us and the fans can take confidence that the team will break their backs until the very last seconds they are on the pitch so we can reverse this difficult situation."

Scaloni confirmed captain Lionel Messi has no issues ahead of the encounter at Lusail Stadium.

"He trained well and he's feeling well," he added. "More than ever we need everyone, and I am sure everything will play out. We have no issues with his physical level."

Inter striker Lautaro Martinez acknowledged Saturday's game is "like a final", but is confident the team can cope with the levels of expectation.

He said: "Tomorrow is a big match for us. It's like a final because we need to win. It will be a very important match for our future but we've proved that we have the players and the quality and for a game like this that will be key.

"There is no pressure because we rely on our work. We are confident, have trust in our technical staff and every player. We are keeping calm and confident and will do everything for our fans."

Martino, who also coached Argentina from August 2014 to July 2016, was asked how he feels about potentially robbing Messi of a final chance to win the World Cup, replying: "What would you do if you were in my place? I hope Mexico win, there's no other answer. I will do my utmost for a Mexico win."

Mexico played out a drab goalless draw with Poland in their opener and Martino was eager to stress there was plenty at stake for his team too.

"I don't think the needs [for the teams] are that different," he added. "The game is key for us as well, we only have one point. We will try to play with our own ideas but we are playing a powerful team. When we saw Argentina in our group, we did not see a situation like we have.

"After Argentina's defeat, this has become a key match, especially as we also didn't have a positive result. If we get a positive result here, we might be in a position to qualify for the next round."

Diego Maradona should have a day of celebration dedicated to him at every World Cup, according to FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

The legendary Argentine died at the age of 60 in November 2020 after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Paying tribute during the Qatar World Cup at an event to mark the second anniversary of Maradona's death, Infantino said the mercurial figure should be remembered at each subsequent tournament for his significant impact on football.

"Diego is immortal, he is with us," Infantino said. "We not only need to pay tribute but to celebrate also Diego. I would like that from now on, at every World Cup we would take one day to celebrate Diego Armando Maradona, because he made so many people fall in love with our sport, football.

"I am Italian and an Inter supporter. I am not Argentinian nor a Napoli supporter, and of course Diego made Inter and Italy cry many times, but we love him.

"I am proud because after our arrival to football, mine and Alejandro [Dominguez, CONMEBOL president], Diego came back to be with us at the World Cup in Russia, and personally I had the chance to speak to him many times and start a friendship, and it was then when I realised his depth.

"Diego was a great leader in Argentina, South America and in all the world. We need to keep celebrating him. I feel great emotion, we would have liked him to be here at this World Cup, but he is in all our hearts."

At Argentina's press conference ahead of their crucial Group C encounter with Mexico, head coach Lionel Scaloni also acknowledged the anniversary of Maradona's death, saying: "It's a very sad day for everyone, tomorrow we will hope to bring some joy for Diego if he is looking down on us.

"Every time we see an image of him, it's unbelievable that he's not here with us. Tomorrow hopefully will be a happy day for all of us."

The Albiceleste were surprisingly beaten 2-1 in their opening World Cup clash against Saudi Arabia, and striker Lautaro Martinez reiterated Scaloni's comment that he and his team-mates will look to honour Maradona by securing a better result against Mexico.

"This is a very special day" the Inter forward said. "We have him in our minds as Argentinians but he was a very important player for everyone in global football, not just us.

"We hope tomorrow we can bring some joy."

Saudi Arabia's government has declared the country will celebrate Tuesday's stunning World Cup win over Argentina with a public holiday.

Argentina, touted as pre-tournament favourites by many, looked likely to extend their 36-game unbeaten run when Lionel Messi's penalty handed them an early lead at the Lusail Stadium.

However, second-half goals from Saleh Al Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari completed a remarkable turnaround for Saudi Arabia, who became the first non-European team to beat Argentina at the World Cup since Cameroon in 1990.

The result, instantly hailed as the best in Saudi Arabia's history, has provoked the country's ruler King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to designate Wednesday November 23 as a national holiday.

A tweet from the Saudi Press Agency said the day would be "a holiday for all employees in all government sectors and private sector, and students in all educational stages."

Saudi Arabia have not progressed beyond the World Cup's group stage since doing so on their tournament debut in the United States in 1994, but Herve Renard's men could now take a huge step towards replicating that feat when they face Poland on Saturday.

Lionel Messi says Argentina have "no excuses" after they fell to a hugely disappointing 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in their World Cup opener at Lusail Stadium on Tuesday.

Argentina headed into the tournament as one of the favourites to win their third title, and a Messi penalty put La Albiceleste a goal to the good at half-time as they appeared to be cruising to a first victory in Group C.

However, two goals in the space of five minutes from Saleh Al Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari completely flipped the script, and Messi's side were condemned to one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history.

Messi acknowledged he and his team-mates must not seek to justify the stunning loss, though he hoped it would end up bringing the group closer together.

"There are no excuses," Messi told reporters in a post-match news conference.

"It's a very hard blow for everyone, we didn't expect to start like this.

"We are going to be more united than ever. This group is strong and they have shown it.

"This is a situation that we did not have to go through in a long time. Now we have to show that this is a real group.

"Things happen for a reason. We have to prepare for what's coming, we have to win and it depends on us."

After Messi converted from the spot to put Argentina 1-0 up after just 10 minutes, Lionel Scaloni's men remarkably saw three goals chalked off for offside before half-time as Saudi Arabia employed a bravely high line.

The Paris Saint-Germain star complimented Herve Renard's side for their defending, but conceded Argentina could have done more to break through.

Messi said: "We knew that [Saudi] Arabia is a team with good players, that moves the ball well and that advances the [defensive] line a lot.

"We had worked on it, but that's why we had many goals ruled out. Perhaps we did not find the right moment to avoid falling into the trap."

The defeat ended a run of 36 matches unbeaten, and Messi feels La Albiceleste need to get the fundamentals right to bounce back and salvage their World Cup campaign.

"It's the first game," Messi added. "It's up to us to correct what we did wrong, [and] try to get back to the base of who we are."

Argentina now face Mexico in a crucial clash on Saturday, before their group stage ends against Poland on November 30.

Argentina's World Cup hopes took a shuddering blow in their Qatar 2022 opener as they were sensationally beaten 2-1 by Saudi Arabia.

Having won the Copa America last year and embarked on a 36-match unbeaten run, La Albiceleste arrived in Qatar as one of the favourites to be crowned world champions.

Lionel Messi's penalty gave them an early lead in their first Group C match at Lusail Stadium, but second-half goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari ensured Saudi Arabia pulled off a huge upset.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at five of the other monumental World Cup shocks over the years.

Senegal 1-0 France (Korea/Japan 2002)

Perhaps the all-time upset in World Cup history, France headed to the 2002 edition four years on from a triumph on home soil with a squad brimming with talent and set on defending their crown.

Yet in the opening match, Les Bleus - without talisman Zinedine Zidane - were stunned by Senegal, the competition's lowest-ranked side, thanks to Papa Bouba Diop's first-half finish in Seoul.

France went on to finish bottom of Group A with just a draw against Uruguay to their name, and failing to score a single goal.

North Korea 1-0 Italy (England 1966)

Arriving in Europe for their first appearance at the World Cup, North Korea were widely expected to make an early exit after a defeat to the Soviet Union and a draw with Chile.

But Pak Doo-ik made history when his lone goal saw them shock two-time winners Italy at Ayresome Park in Middlesbrough.

North Korea have only been back to the World Cup once, at South Africa 2010, where they scored once and conceded a dozen, finishing bottom of Group G.

Cameroon 1-0 Argentina (Italy 1990)

This is not the first time La Albiceleste have been involved in one of the most unexpected results at a World Cup, having been stunned in the first match of their title defence over three decades ago.

Argentina arrived at Italia 90 looking to defend the crown Diego Maradona guided them to four years prior, but Francois Omam-Biyik's 67th-minute goal at San Siro left them shell-shocked.

USA 1-0 England (Brazil 1950)

Heading into their tournament debut in South America, England were fancied to make a big impact, particularly when they came up against a United States team dominated by part-timers.

But a goal for Joe Gaetjens made history for the USA, bringing England back down to earth after they started with a 2-0 win over Chile.

Walter Winterbottom's men were then on their way home after slumping to a 1-0 loss at the hands of Spain.

Northern Ireland 1-0 Spain (Spain 1982)

Fondly remembered four decades down the line, Northern Ireland's win against tournament hosts Spain ranks among the greatest in their history, as they defied the odds in Valencia.

Gerry Armstrong's goal early in the second half put then in front and although Mal Donaghy was shown a red card, Billy Bingham's team hung on to deliver an almighty upset.

Lionel Scaloni quickly turned his focus towards Argentina's next game against Mexico as he struggled to come to terms with their sensational defeat to Saudi Arabia.

Argentina are the reigning South American champions and were on a 36-match unbeaten run – one short of Italy's record – going into their World Cup opener.

But a series of disallowed goals meant they could not build on Lionel Messi's early penalty, and Saudi Arabia netted twice in quick succession after half-time to claim a famous 2-1 win.

The Albiceleste have no room for error now, facing Mexico on Saturday and then Poland next Wednesday – their final two Group C opponents set to begin their campaigns against one another later on Tuesday.

"It's difficult to digest," Scaloni said. "In four, five minutes, they scored two goals, two out of two shots on goal.

"But we will have to bounce back from this defeat and prepare the next two matches. We do not have to analyse more than that.

"It's a sad day, but as we always say: head held high. We have to bounce back."

He added: "There is nothing we can do. If we had won, we would also be waking up tomorrow thinking about the game tomorrow against Mexico and thinking about different aspects we can improve. This doesn't change our analysis."

The Argentina players, like Scaloni, were still in shock, as the coach said: "I've not spoken to them yet, because they are in pain, to be honest.

"They are thinking about how we can turn things around. It's all about winning the next games, and that's what we are trying to do."

Scaloni praised Saudi Arabia's offside trap, a tactic he insisted Argentina were prepared for.

Indeed, the Albiceleste coach was adamant their opponents had not been underestimated.

"No, we fully respect Saudi Arabia. That wasn't the reason behind this defeat," Scaloni said. "Quite on the contrary, they are a good team, they have technical players, they are very well prepared physically."

Herve Renard acknowledged Saudi Arabia benefited from an 'off day' for Argentina in their "crazy" World Cup win.

Saudi Arabia came from behind to sensationally shock the South American champions 2-1 in their Group C opener at Lusail Stadium on Tuesday.

Argentina led through Lionel Messi's 10th minute penalty and had a further three goals disallowed in the first half.

"If we conceded a second goal, I think this game is finished," said Saudi Arabia coach Renard, adding he was "not happy" with the first-half display from his team.

"The determination was not good," he said. "At a World Cup, you have to give everything, because we cannot play how we played in the first half."

After the break, however, Saudi Arabia caught the Albiceleste out twice in quick succession, scoring through Saleh Al Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari to turn the match on its head and secure a lead they defended bravely until the final whistle.

Renard thanked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for not "putting too much pressure" on his side, explaining that helped Saudi Arabia to prepare "very well".

"And today," he added. "All the stars in the sky were in the same line for us.

"But don't forget Argentina is still a fantastic team. They came here without losing in 36 games.

"They are South American champions, they have amazing players, but this is football, sometimes it can happen – things that are crazy."

Renard could understand why Argentina underperformed in a game in which they were huge favourites.

"Can you imagine Lionel Messi playing against Saudi Arabia? He will say they have to start well, but the motivation is not like when he plays Brazil," Renard said. "This is football.

"We made history for Saudi Arabia. This will stay forever. This is important.

"But we need to think about moving forward. We still have two games that are very difficult for us."

Renard added: "Anything can happen. You can win the first game and not qualify. You can lose the first game and be world champion for Argentina. It's possible.

"Let's enjoy this competition and be ready for the second game."

Lautaro Martinez put Argentina's stunning 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia in their World Cup Group C opener on Tuesday down to their own "mistakes".

Lionel Messi put La Albiceleste ahead early on from the penalty spot at Lusail Stadium, but two goals in the space of five second-half minutes from Saleh Al Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari completed one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history.

Martinez, who had two efforts ruled out for offside with the score at 1-0, lamented his side's sloppiness and says their focus needs to turn immediately to their two remaining Group C games against Mexico and Poland.

"We lost the game due to our mistakes more than anything in the second half," he said. "In the first half we had to score more than one goal, but this is the World Cup.

"Now to rest and think about what is coming. It's two big games now. Mexico and Poland are going to make difficult rivals, as it was today too. 

"In the second half we made mistakes; we have to correct that for what is to come.

"The defeat hurts a lot. We wanted to start by winning, but it's over. We need to think about the games that are coming."

The defeat was Argentina's first since July 2019, when they lost 2-0 to Brazil, ending a run of 36 matches unbeaten.

The result saw Lionel Scaloni's men lose a World Cup match after scoring the first goal for the first time since 1958 against Germany, while it was the first time they lost after leading at half-time since the 1930 final against Uruguay.

Saudi Arabia produced one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history as they came from behind to beat Argentina 2-1 in their Group C opener on Tuesday.

La Albiceleste, who are one of the favourites to triumph at Qatar 2022, started well at Lusail Stadium and went ahead after 10 minutes courtesy of Lionel Messi's penalty.

Lionel Scaloni's men saw three efforts ruled out for offside before half-time – a reprieve that Saudi Arabia took full advantage of in the space of five minutes early in the second half.

Saleh Al Shehri pulled Herve Renard's side level, before Salem Al Dawsari sealed a famous win soon after with a sumptuous strike from the edge of the penalty area.

Mohammed Al Owais denied Messi inside the opening two minutes but he was powerless to stop the superstar's cool penalty after 10 minutes, the spot-kick given after Saud Abdulhamid had hauled down Leandro Paredes.

La Albiceleste twice thought they had extended their advantage before the half-hour mark, yet strikes from Messi and Lautaro Martinez were ruled out for offside.

Remarkably, Martinez had another effort chalked off for offside 10 minutes before the interval as Scaloni's side looked to take full advantage of Saudi Arabia's high defensive line.

Saudi Arabia pulled level with their first shot three minutes into the second half, Al Shehri powering past Cristian Romero and flashing a low shot into Emiliano Martinez's far corner. 

They completed an extraordinary turnaround just five minutes later when Al Dawsari cut inside from the left and whipped in a superb strike from 18 yards. 

Messi had an effort cleared off the line in the closing stages as Saudi Arabia held on for a famous win against a side 48 places above them in the world rankings, despite a lengthy stoppage after Mohammed Al Burayk had taken a knee to the face from his own goalkeeper.


What does it mean? Saudis snap Argentina's lengthy unbeaten run

Argentina looked like they would cruise to victory when Messi slotted home from 12 yards early on, yet their 36-game unbeaten run came to a crashing halt after a wild start to the second half.

Those quick-fire strikes from Al Shehri and Al Dawsari secured just a fourth World Cup win for Saudi Arabia and ensured Argentina will need to do it the hard way if they are to progress to the knockout stages.

Magical Messi

It will be scant consolation for Messi, but the 35-year-old's goal saw him become the fifth player to score at four different World Cup tournaments (2006, 2014, 2018, 2022) after Pele, Uwe Seeler, Miroslav Klose and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Old boys off the pace

Argentina became the first team in World Cup history to have four players aged 34+ in their starting XI (Messi, Nicolas Otamendi, Angel Di Maria and Papu Gomez). That scarcely looked an issue during the first half, but Argentina sorely lacked energy and vigour as they chased a leveller after Saudi Arabia had taken the lead.  

What's next?

Both sides are in action again on Saturday, with Argentina taking on Mexico and Saudi Arabia facing Poland.

 

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