Day three of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will go down in football history for Saudi Arabia’s – a team that football pundits predicted would not go far – over Argentina, one of the favorites to win the tournament.
Spectacular action from the Saudi players on the field and their many thousands of ecstatic green-clad “Green Falcons” fans in the stands of the Lusail Iconic Stadium ensured that the third day of the World Cup competition will go down in history as a giant of the day. the football world was overthrown.
Elsewhere, Denmark drew nil with Tunisia, the same for Mexico vs Poland, while France achieved a predicted result by beating Australia solidly.
Here’s a quick guide summarizing everything you need to know about Tuesday and that unforgettable match.
Argentina vs Saudi Arabia
The game between Argentina and Saudi Arabia started at 13:00 local time (10:00 GMT) at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.
The Argentines applied pressure immediately and play appeared to be going their way as renowned team captain Lionel Messi netted a penalty after Saud Abdulhamid knocked down Leandro Paredes in the penalty area.
But a string of good saves from Saudi Arabia’s goalkeeper Mohammed al-Owais kept Argentina’s goals at bay and saved the lifeline for the team that finished 51st in the FIFA standings, compared to an enviable third place from Argentina.
In the first half, Argentina attacked ferociously and Saudi Arabia struggled to maintain control as the Argentines had almost two-thirds of the ball. But, as Al Jazeera’s Nils Adler pointed out, the Argentines were unable to capitalize on their attack, even scoring seven times offside despite their early dominance.
Then came the second half and a changed Saudi side emerged from the dressing room as they threw it all for victory. And their determination and skill paid off.
Saudi Arabia’s Saleh al-Shehri scored first in the 48th minute after intercepting a long ball, which he skillfully shot through the legs of Argentina goalkeeper Damián Martinez into the corner.
In what appeared moments later, Saudi winger Salem al-Dawsari came into Argentina’s defense and curled the ball beautifully into the top corner of the net.
The Saudi fans erupted with elation and probably a little joyful surprise.
The astonishing game, which took about 15 nerve-wracking minutes of added stoppage time, ended with the Saudi players on the field, the victors and their Green Falcons fans jumping into the stands of the stadium.
“We have supported our team better than the other side, and we have been rewarded,” said Shaqri, who had traveled from the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran for the match.
When Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic blew the final whistle, the FIFA Fan Festival grounds in central Doha erupted into celebration as the shock of such a historic victory began to sink in locally and globally.
In Qatar’s capital, Doha, drivers honked their cars and formed impromptu festive cortèges.
It was a game of firsts: the first time Saudi Arabia had beaten Argentina. It was also the first victory for a football team from the Middle East at this World Cup, which is also being held in the Middle East region for the first time.
Messi, who was playing in his fifth World Cup, later described his team’s loss as a “very heavy blow”.
Argentina had maintained a 36 match unbeaten streak until their defeat to Saudi Arabia.
“We didn’t expect to start like this,” said Messi.
“We must prepare for what is to come. We must win or win, and it depends on us. We must return to the basics of who we are,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s coach, Frenchman Herve Renard, said after the game that the team should not celebrate too much over what he described as a “totally insane” victory.
“All the stars in the sky were aligned for us,” said Renard after the game. “This is football, sometimes totally crazy things can happen,” he said.
“We had to get this result, it will be one for the [history] books, but as a coach I always ask more of my players, so let’s be humble.”
Denmark vs Tunisia
Denmark and Tunisia were next up, starting at 4pm local time (1pm GMT) at the Education City Stadium in what was to be an energetic but non-scoring game between the Danes and the Tunisians.
There was an exciting atmosphere in the stadium, where it was difficult to spot a Danish fan in the sea of red and white dressed Tunisians.
The Tunisians – known to their fans as the Eagles of Carthage – controlled the early stages of the game, but the Danes eventually established themselves in the game and in turn began to dominate possession.
Bringing energy from the very first touch, Tunisia missed some near-certain shots in both the first and second half, while the best chance of a goal in the entire match seemed to come from Denmark’s Andreas Cornelius, who surprised everyone with a header hitting the goalpost, although he had launched his shot from near-pointless range.
A draw was perhaps the fairest outcome, but both teams will have to think for a while why their energy and many shots on target were not converted into points scored.
But Tunisian fans were happy that their side had earned a hard-fought draw against the Danes, especially after Saudi’s earlier win over Argentina on what was a cheering day for Arab fans and teams at the World Cup.
Mexico against Poland
In the cooler evening air of Qatar, it was Mexico against Poland starting at 7pm local time (4pm GMT) at Stadium 974.
Ranked 13th in the FIFA rankings, no one would underestimate the Mexicans with their trio of forwards: Raul Jimenez, Edson Alvarez and Hirving Lozano.
The Poles, although placed 26th in the FIFA rankings and making only their ninth appearance at the World Cup since their debut in 1938, took on star striker Robert Lewandowski – who won the Gerd Müller trophy for best striker of the year in October won – and so had good reason to go into the game with confidence.
But Poland struggled to cope with Mexico’s intensity in the opening 35 minutes, with the North Americans dominating possession and keeping star striker Lewandowski away from his eye on goal.
Although Mexico dominated the first half, one commentator described a mediocre performance even as Mexico had possession about 63 percent of the time.
At the start of the second half, there was hope that the teams would adopt a more free-flowing style of play, but it was not to be.
Shortly after the second half, Poland were awarded a penalty, which their striker Lewandowski failed to get past Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa – a miss that prompted Mexican fans in Stadium 974 to raise the proverbial roof with chants of joy.
The game between Mexico and Poland ended with a 0-0 stalemate in their opening Group C match.
Australia against France
The final match of day three saw the kick-off between France and Australia at 22:00 local time (19:00 GMT) at Al Janoub Stadium.
Despite the French team’s many injuries, the defending World Cup champions were the favorites against Australia.
However, the number of injuries was a concern: Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema was forced to withdraw from the team after tearing a muscle in training over the weekend; Christopher Nkunku stumbled out of practice on Tuesday after being tackled by his own teammate; and neither Paul Pogba nor N’Golo Kante could travel to Qatar for the tournament.
The Australian ‘Socceroes’, making their fifth consecutive World Cup appearance, were young and hungry, ready to challenge France. They had a lot to prove on Tuesday as they had yet to get out of their group stages since they first reached the World Cup tournament in 2006.
And the game started with an Australian surprise as they shocked the French side by scoring a goal in the ninth minute, with Craig Goodwin firing the ball sideways into the top corner.
French full-back Lucas Hernandez was limping off the field after being injured trying to block the cross to the Australian goal. Hernandez’s brother Theo then took his place in the French defense and less than 20 minutes later was instrumental in Adrien Rabiot’s first goal for Les Bleus.
Just minutes later, and with just over half an hour on the game clock, French striker Olivier Giroud, 36, scored the first of what would be two goals in the match.
France took the lead and never really looked back as they dominated the second half.
Kylian Mbappe headed in France’s third goal in the 67th minute, and minutes later broke up the left side of the field, sending a cross over which was also headed home by Giroud for France’s second and fourth goals of the night.
“We were shocked for a moment, but then reacted quickly. Even if we could have scored more goals, we found each other, we were efficient,” Giroud said after the game.
“It is very good for our confidence that we turned things around. However, we will have to learn from these small mistakes.”
Australian coach Graham Arnold praised the French after the match.
“Look, at the end of the day, they’re a quality side. They are world champions for a reason,” he added.
“I thought we did well in the first half. We ran out of legs a bit in the second half, but that’s the kind of level those players play at.”
Off the field:
Jubilant Saudi football fans celebrated late into the night, knowing they could sleep in peacefully on Wednesday, after Saudi King Salman announced a short holiday for public and private sector workers, as well as students, in honor of the victory over Argentina.
Tunisia’s draw with Denmark was also celebrated on Tuesday as a double for Arab fans and teams.
“We, the Arabs, were expected to lose both games. No one believed we could get these results. But look, who’s celebrating? The Arabs,” Ayoub Gherbi, an Algerian who came to Education City Stadium to support Tunisia, told Al Jazeera.
“We can go far. How far? I say the sky is the limit. We [Arabs] are playing at home. Every Arab team will have strong support. This will give a huge boost to any Arab team,” Moez Babboucha, a Tunisian, told Al Jazeera.
Check out the full 2022 World Cup schedule here and be sure to visit Al Jazeera’s AI Match Predictor to see how your team is expected to perform in Qatar.
The main events after the 2022 World Cup: Historic Saudi victory on day 3 in Qatar first appeared on Al Jazeera.