Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi

Messi says mistakes in five second half mins cost Argentina the match

“It is a situation that this group of players has never been through. It has been a while since we suffered such a tough blow. We did not expect to start like this,” Messi told Argentinian media after the 1-2 defeat in Group C at the Lusail Stadium here.

LUSAIL: Lionel Messi lamented Argentina’s shock second half capitulation against Saudi Arabia in the World Cup match on Tuesday, but said that he was not surprised by the threat from an opponent ranked 48 places lower.

“It is a situation that this group of players has never been through. It has been a while since we suffered such a tough blow. We did not expect to start like this,” Messi told Argentinian media after the 1-2 defeat in Group C at the Lusail Stadium here.

Playing in his fifth World Cup, Messi had opened the scoring with a 10th minute penalty while Argentina had three goals disallowed for offside in a free-flowing first half. But in the second half, “in five minutes of mistakes that we made, we went 1-2 down and then it was really tough. We lost organisation and started punting the ball.”

Messi said that his team knew Saudi Arabia, despite being the second-lowest ranked side in the tournament, could hurt it. “We knew it was a team which would play if we let it... It did not surprise us, we knew it could do that (post an upset win).”

Argentina now has to focus on defeating Mexico and Poland in its upcoming group matches while searching for the only major title that has eluded Messi in his otherwise glittering career. “Obviously, we have to win or win now. It is up to us to fix what we did wrong and get back to the basics of who we are,” said Messi, whose team had been on a 36-match unbeaten run prior to the shock result.

“We are OK, obviously hurt by the result, very bitter. But, people must trust that this team will not let them down and we are going to go for it in the next two games. We have played games of this nature before and we are going to perform well. Now is the time to be more united than ever, to show how truly strong we are.”

UPSETS FROM THE PAST

Argentina’s 1-2 defeat to Saudi Arabia is right up there with the biggest upsets in World Cup history. Saudi Arabia had won only three matches previously at the World Cup, and only one game in the last 28 years before Tuesday’s stunning victory over two-time champion Argentina. Here is a look at some of the other major World Cup surprises through the years.

Cameroon 1 – Argentina 0 (1990)

Diego Maradona led his country to the 1990 World Cup in Italy as the defending champion. Maradona was established as the best player in the world and Argentina was favoured to retain the title. But, a little-known Cameroon team, which was playing at only its second World Cup, had other ideas in the tournament’s opening match against Argentina. Francois Omam-Biyik scored with a second-half header for the African team, which was down to 10 men at the time after a red card. Cameroon eventually finished the game with nine men after another sending off, but kept Argentina and Maradona out.

Senegal 1 – France 0 (2002)

France was the World Cup champion when it came up against an African underdog at the start of the 2002 tournament in South Korea and Japan. France’s team was packed with some of the best players in the world and no one thought that it could lose the Senegal match. But, Papa Bouba Diop bundled in a goal in the 30th minute and Senegal kept its nerve for a famous win on its World Cup debut.

South Korea 2 –Italy 1 (2002)

The 2002 World Cup threw up another eye-opener when co-host South Korea made a run to the semi-finals. South Korea had beaten Portugal in the group stage and bettered that upset with a 2-1 win in extra time over Italy in the last-16. Italy was a three-time champion at the time while South Korea had never won a World Cup match before the tournament. Ahn Jung-hwan, who was playing his club football in Italy at the time, headed in a golden goal three minutes from the end of extra time to send the Italians home.

United States of America 1 – England 0 (1950)

Haitian-born Joe Gaetjens was the unlikely hero for the United States of America in the 1-0 upset over England at 1950 World Cup in Brazil. The American team was basically made up of part-timers and the result reverberated across the game as one of the first big upsets.

North Korea 1 – Italy 0 (1966)

Italy was on the wrong end of another upset in 1966 in England, when North Korea beat the Azzurri 1-0 in the first World Cup it ever played in. The result eliminated the Italians and sent the North Koreans into the quarter-finals. North Korea was not even expected to qualify for the tournament and did not play at another World Cup until 2010.

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