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WATCH: How Argentina fell to a shock World Cup defeat to Saudi Arabia

WATCH: How Argentina fell to a shock World Cup defeat to Saudi Arabia

Johannesburg – Tournament favourites Argentina suffered a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in their first game of the 2022 Fifa World Cup, ending their 36-game unbeaten streak in the process.

IOL Sports' Smiso Msomi provides a detailed breakdown of Argentina's shock defeat to Saudi Arabia.

Herve Renard rises to the big occasion

Not many would have predicted that lowly Saudi Arabia would be brave enough to go toe-to-toe with the World Cup pedigree of Argentina.

However, Herve Renard, the coach of the Green Falcons and a former Africa Cup of Nations winning coach, set his side up with unprecedented high intensity, aggression, and an incredibly risky high-line, looking to win the ball as high up the pitch as possible

His game plan seemed naive at first until a blur of second-half intensity saw them reap the rewards with two well-taken goals.

Argentina unusually leaky

Argentina headed into their encounter with Saudi Arabia having conceded in just two of their last 15 games, a key foundation to their 36-game unbeaten streak.

However, the centre-back pairing of Nicholas Otamendi and Christian Romero did not look convincing whenever challenged by the spirited offence of Saudi Arabia.

It was with good reason that Manchester United's Lisandro Martinez was immediately substituted into the match right after the second goal was conceded.

Argentina attack not clicking

The current holders of the Copa America title were expected to blow away their opposition in this encounter with their star-studded forward line featuring Lionel Messi.

Inter Milan's Lautaro Martinez and Juventus' Angel Di Maria simply could not combine with their captain, and were caught offside a staggering nine times in this contest.

Perhaps a certain degree of credit should be afforded to Saudi Arabia's timing in defence, but a very low imaginative showing on the part of the favourites is to be noted.

ALSO READ: LIVE BLOG: Fifa World Cup, Day 3 – Lionel Messi’s Argentina shocked by Saudi Arabia

Saleh Al Shehri, the glue that ties The Green Falcons together

Al Hilal Saudi's striker Al Shehri proved to be the most pivotal component of coach Herve's master plan as he led the defensive efforts from the front.

His ability to hold up play and relieve pressure also saw him cause trouble for the Argentina defence as they struggled to cope with his strength and hard-running style.

Group C, there for the taking

Saudi Arabia's shock victory over the favourites to top Group C means the position of group winners has suddenly opened up for either Mexico or Poland.

Argentina will have the daunting task of winning their last two matches against two stronger teams and will have to pray for favours if they are to attain the advantage of finishing as group winners.

@ScribeSmiso

IOL Sport

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