By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer, Lusail
Salem Al Dawsari’s stunner sealed an extraordinary Saudi Arabia comeback win against Lionel Messi’s Argentina in a breathless clash that ranks among the greatest upsets in World Cup history.
La Albiceleste kicked off their quest for glory in Qatar at the Lusail Stadium, where many had predicted their star skipper could be lifting the trophy aloft on December 18.
But Messi and Co got their World Cup off to a nightmare start as Saudi Arabia recorded the greatest win in their history as Saleh Al Shehri and Al Dawsari’s brilliant quickfire double secured a remarkable 2-1 triumph.
The Gulf state had won only three of their previous 16 matches on the world stage and looked set for another defeat when Messi scored a 10th minute penalty.
The 35-year-old became only the fifth player to score at a four World Cups, but this was not his or Argentina’s day as their 36-match unbeaten run came to a crashing end.
Lionel Scaloni’s men saw three first-half goals ruled out for offside and a pair of Saudi screamers turned the game on its head within eight minutes of the second half getting under way.
Al Shehri scored a fine low strike with the first shot of the game by Herve Renard’s side, who went ahead when Al Dawsari produced the kind of goal Messi would be proud of.
Saudi Arabia – cheered by their raucous support – dug deep from that point, throwing themselves in front of everything and goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais proved an inspired last line as they saw out an unforgettable victory.