Messi after Saudi Arabia defeat: We didn’t expect to start like this

Starting his fifth World Cup, Messi had opened the scoring with a 10th-minute penalty and Argentina had three goals disallowed for offside in a free-flowing first half.

Messi said his team knew Saudi Arabia, despite being the second-lowest ranked team in the tournament, could hurt them.

Messi said his team knew Saudi Arabia, despite being the second-lowest ranked team in the tournament, could hurt them. | Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Starting his fifth World Cup, Messi had opened the scoring with a 10th-minute penalty and Argentina had three goals disallowed for offside in a free-flowing first half.

After being rudely jolted from his ‘happy’ dreams of enjoying the World Cup, a ghostly Lionel Messi, with life sucked out of him after 55-minutes of second-half nightmare, had very little energy to answer the probing questions of the world press.   

“There are no excuses. We must be more united than ever. This group is strong, but it’s a situation we haven’t gone through in a long time. Now, we have to show that this is a real group,” said the Argentine captain, who was at the receiving end of one of the greatest World Cup upsets. “It’s a very hard blow for everyone, we didn’t expect to start like this. Things happen for a reason. We should prepare for what’s coming; we have to win, and it depends on us.”  

An equally dejected Lionel Scaloni, the Argentine manager, found it difficult to comprehend the whirlwind five second-half minutes that altered the course of the game. “It’s hard to understand because in five minutes they scored the two goals, the only shots on target. We don’t have any other choice but to get up and continue, we have to win the two remaining games. It’s a sad day but we must keep our head up and keep going,” the other Lionel said.   

After a near-perfect display in the first half – except its forwards’ tendencies of making their runs a little early before the final ball that resulted in three goals disallowed for offside – Argentina was hit by a Saudi storm right after the break.    

“The first half was all ours. If any of the offsides had been a goal... a goal can change things. Saudi Arabia’s line is advanced and some offsides were millimetres but that’s what technology is for. They gave us one and then took the rest away,” a philosophical Scaloni said.   

Argentina, which claimed to have arrived at this tournament surrounded by ‘tranquilito’, now, suddenly must weather a storm. “They are hurt and thinking about the result and (how) to turn the situation around. We were doing well. We couldn’t have come better. But these tournaments don’t give you time to be wrong,” said Scaloni, whose team’s 36-match undefeated run also came to an end with the loss. “If we had won, we would also think about Mexico. The result doesn’t change the analysis.”   

For Saudi Arabia’s coach Herve Renard, the celebration would be short despite the unbelievable result. “Have a good celebration for 20 minutes and that’s it,” he said. “We made history for Saudi football. It will stay forever. This is the most important thing, but we also need to think about looking forward because we still have very difficult two games.” 

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