“Wow. I have all the feelings right now,” a Saudi fan named Saad told Reuters. “We beat Argentina, one of the great teams! Our guys played so well — everything went right inside the stadium today. It was amazing.”
Entering play at the World Cup in Qatar on a 36-match unbeaten streak, Argentina pulled ahead 10 minutes into the game on a penalty kick by captain Lionel Messi. That lead didn’t hold as Argentina, which hadn’t lost a World Cup game when leading since 1958 and hadn’t dropped a World Cup opener since a 1-0 defeat to Cameroon in 1990, fell to the Saudis. The victory helped improve Saudi Arabia’s all-time record to 4-11-2 (W-L-D) at the World Cup. Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari had the goals for the winners.
The loss will make it difficult for Argentina to advance out of Group C unless they can score a victory over Mexico on Saturday, the same day that Saudi Arabia will face Poland. Based on this result, it seems unlikely that 35-year-old Messi will be leaving Qatar with his first World Cup in what is his fifth kick at the championship can.
“It is a very hard blow for everyone. We did not expect to start this way. Things happen for a reason,” Messi said after the match. “We have to prepare for what is coming, we have to win and it depends on us. There are no excuses. We are going to be more united than ever. This group is strong and we have shown it. It is a situation that we haven’t gone through in a long time. Now we have to show that this is a real group. My message to the supporters is to have faith. We won’t leave them stranded.”
Whichever country does depart from the desert with the title of the world’s best soccer team will also be leaving with $42 million in prize money, $4 million more than France pocketed when they won the World Cup in 2018. Out of the $440 million in total prize money that will be given out, the tourney runner-up is set to receive $30 million with the teams in third and fourth place securing $27 million and $25 million, respectively. The $440 million is nearly 15 times more than the total prize money doled out at the latest Women’s World Cup in 2019 ($30 million). The winning women’s team, the U.S., was awarded only $4 million, per Fortune.