PLAYER RATINGS | Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia – Intense Saudi display and precise finishing sees of complacent Messi and Co.

A game of two halves. Argentina might have had the game won by halftime with Lionel Messi’s passing and Lautaro Martínez’s movement too much for a static Saudi Arabia defence, Messi’s early penalty gave them the lead. However, Hervé Renard’s side shocked Argentina, and the world, with two superb finishes and a wave of pressing, aggression and intensity after the break before then producing some brilliant last-ditch defending to hold on to their lead as Messi and Co. badly struggled for ideas. The greatest day in Saudi Arabia’s World Cup history by some margin.

Key Performers
Lionel Messi, 6 – Played in second gear but spent the first half effortlessly drifting around midfield to drop his should and pick passes, especially for Martínez who was able to waltz between the Saudi centre-backs at times. The second half, however, saw him crowded out and isolated by an aggressive Saudi side, while a complacent Argentina offered little service and support.

Hassan Altambakti, 8 – Fortunate not to be party to a first-half mauling after three Argentina goals were ruled out for offside, two of which were marginal decisions. Both he and his centre-back partner, Ali Albulayhi, couldn’t handle Martínez’s movement and were often statuesque. However, he was outstanding after the break with some brilliant last-ditch defending, especially from crosses, and was helped by more protection from midfield.

Cristian Romero, 3 – Withdrawn before the hour having looked slow and unfit throughout the game to that point. His painfully slow reaction to a simple straight ball was partly to blame for the equaliser while he was party to some lazy defending across the Argentina backline for both goals.

Salem Aldawsari, 7 – A stunning finish from Al-Dawsari won the game, shimmying away from three Argentina defenders in the corner for the box before bending a whipped effort into the top corner, an example of fleeting Saudi first-half intensity being amped up after the break as Argentina’s defence reacted painfully slowly to the surprise onslaught.

Full Ratings:

ARGENTINA – 1 (Messi, 10)
Emiliano Martínez, 5
Nahuel Molina, 4
Cristian Romero, 3
Nicolás Otamendi, 4
Nicolás Tagliafico, 4
Rodrigo De Paul, 4
Leandro Paredes, 5
Ángel Di María, 4
Papu Gómez, 3
Lionel Messi, 6
Lautaro Martínez, 5
Others: Álvarez 4, Enzo Fernández 4, Acuña 5, Lisandro Martínez 5.

SAUDI ARABIA – 2 (Saleh Alshehri 47, Salem Aldawsari53)
Mohammed Alowais, 6
Saud Abdulhamid, 6
Hassan Altambakti, 8
Ali Albulayhi, 7
Yasser Alshahrani, 6
Saleh Alshehri, 6
Mohamed Kanno, 6
Abdulelah Almalki, 6
Salem Aldawsari, 7
Salman Al-Faraj, 5
Feras Albrikan, 4
Others: Nawaf Alabid 6, Sultan Al-Ghannam 5, Abdulelah Ali Awadh Al Amri 5.

2022 World Cup, Group C – 22/11/22


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