VOA Special English
Saudi Arabia Surprises Argentina at the World Cup


    Saudi Arabia defeated Argentina, two to one at the World Cup soccer competition on Tuesday. The victory against one of the world's best teams is one of the biggest surprises in the history of the event.

    Argentina played well in the first half, and the team's star, Lionel Messi, scored a goal. But early in the second half, Saudi Arabia scored twice, and Argentina was not able to recover.

    Soccer experts say Messi may be the best soccer player ever, but he has never won the World Cup. This year's tournament in Qatar is thought to be his last chance.

    Argentina's Lionel Messi reacts after Saudi Arabia's Saleh Al-Shehri scores their first goal. (REUTERS/Marko Djurica)
    Argentina's Lionel Messi reacts after Saudi Arabia's Saleh Al-Shehri scores their first goal. (REUTERS/Marko Djurica)

    When asked about how he felt about the result, Messi said: "The truth? Dead. It's a very hard blow because we did not expect to start in this way."

    Argentina had not lost in 36 games before falling to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, known as the Green Falcons, won its opening game of the World Cup for the first time in six tries. Saudi Arabia is ranked 31st of the 32 teams in this year's World Cup.

    Reporters covering the game said the atmosphere was "extraordinary," meaning very unusual. Argentina had a large group of fans in the sports center and an equally large number of supporters came from nearby Saudi Arabia.

    Argentina had many scoring opportunities in the first half, but aside from Messi's goal, three others were called back because players were ruled offsides. Saudi Arabia did not have a shot on goal in the first half.

    Lionel Scaloni is Argentina's coach. He said that is sometimes how the World Cup goes.

    "Sometimes you can steamroll opponents and, in a couple of plays, you are losing," Scaloni said.

    When the game ended, the Saudi Arabia players yelled, "Where is Messi? We beat him!"

    The last big win by Saudi Arabia came against Belgium in 1994.

    Lautaro Martinez, a member of the Argentinian team, said "this hurts a lot, we were dreaming of starting the World Cup with a win." He said Argentina lost because of "our own mistakes, most of all in the second half."

    Speaking of his team's two remaining games against Mexico and Poland, he said, "We are facing two finals now."

    Argentina will likely have to win its next two games to be able to continue in the competition.

    During the game, Messi became the first Argentinian to score in four World Cup tournaments. But his goal was not celebrated too much because of the loss.

    The win by Saudi Arabia is seen as one of the most surprising in World Cup history. Before Tuesday, soccer experts said the biggest upsets, or surprise wins, in tournament history came when the U.S. defeated England in 1950 and when Cameroon defeated Argentina in 1990.

    Saudi Arabia's Abdulelah Al-Malki said his team was inspired by their French coach, Herve Renard.

    "Renard made us cry with the motivation before the match and stoked us up during halftime," he said.

    "All the stars aligned for us," Renard said. "It's one for the history books," he added.

    The last time Argentina lost was in the semi-finals of the Copa America tournament in July 2019. They play Mexico on Saturday and Poland on November 30.

    I'm Dan Friedell.

    Dan Friedell adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reports by Reuters and the Associated Press.


    Words in This Story

    blow –n. a sudden event that causes disappointment or sadness

    offside –adj. (sports) when a player is in a place on the field where they are not permitted to be and any gain is disqualified

    steamroll –v. to completely defeat someone or something

    inspire –v. to cause people to want to do something or to reach a goal

    motivation –n. a reason to work hard

    stoke –v. to increase the strength of something or add fuel to a fire

    align –v. to have conditions come together that permit something rare to happen