LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Jubilation followed the final whistle. Disbelief quickly set in.
Saudi Arabia, a team that had only ever won three World Cup matches in its history, just pulled off possibly the biggest upset in the tournament’s history.
They beat Argentina, 2-1.
“One for the books,” Saudi Arabia coach Hervé Renard said. “This is football. Sometimes things are completely crazy.”
Goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais, who made two key saves late in the game to preserve the win on Tuesday at Lusail Stadium north of Doha, was almost subdued at the end, perhaps not grasping the magnitude of the upset.
“I am very happy about this result that we have been able to obtain against this very storied team,” Alowais said solemnly. “We have prepared ourselves. We were 100% ready and hopefully we will have better results in the future. I felt we were especially good in the last minutes because we secured our three points.”
Not just in the last minutes. Despite trailing 1-0 at halftime after a 10th-minute goal from Lionel Messi, perhaps the greatest soccer player of all time, Saleh Alshehri and Salem Aldawsari managed to score a goal each early in the second half.
Then came more than 50 minutes, including added time at the end of the match at the referee’s discretion, of holding one of the tournament favorites at bay.
“All the stars aligned for us,” said Renard, who won the African Cup of Nations as coach of Zambia in 2012 and then again with Ivory Coast in 2015.
Renard has has also coached Angola and Morocco, which he guided to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He took over Saudi Arabia in 2019.
“We made history for Saudi football,” Renard said. “It will stay forever. This is the most important. But we also need to think about looking forward because we still have two games that are very very difficult for us.”
Saudi Arabia will next face Poland on Saturday and then take on Mexico next Tuesday in Group C.