Doha (Qatar): The 2022 FIFA World Cup is billed as Lionel Messi’s last one and arguably his best shot to win the one trophy missing from his collection. But his ambition to lay hands on the glittering trophy suffered a huge blow as the South American giants crashed to a shocking 2-1 loss at the hand of minnows Saudi Arabia in the Group C opener.
None of the 88,012 spectators at the Losail stadium, the arena which will host the final on December 18, had the faintest of thoughts of the Asian minnows upstaging their famous rivals when the match kicked off. But in the end, an upset result did happen, with Saudi Arabia walking away with full points thanks to goals from Saleh Al and Salem Al Dawsari.
A lot happened in the first half of the opening match of Group C between reigning Copa America champions and the Asian giants.
Argentina struck a gameplan of putting up loads of men upfront, well-spaced, with one on each touchline.
A second-minute move stitched together by Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez gave an insight into things to follow. With six players upfront, Di Maria, using the width on the right, crossed it to Martinez, only for the ball to run loose — and onto the left leg of the onrushing Messi.
The mercurial 35-year-old made the connection but could not bend inside the far corner, but found Mohammed Alowais in the way, who dived to deflect the ball away from the goal.
Argentina’s attacking play yielded results. Messi, who was entrusted with a free-kick on the left flank, set up Rodrigo De Paul on the edge, who shot into a defender. The referee went to consult VAR and Saud Abdulhamid was adjudged as having brought down Leandro Paredes, resulting in a penalty for Argentina.
Messi stepped in to take the kick from the penalty spot, pigeon steps then hop and with the keeper committing early went down the right, rolled left sending the keeper the wrong way giving Argentina the start they wanted.
Although Saudi Arabia conceded an early goal they were not overawed by the situation they continued to play the offside trap to superb effect. But at times they left a lot of space behind leaving them suspect to balls over the top.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United decide to part ways
Manchester: Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United have decided to end their acrimonious relationship that saw the Portuguese star make disparaging remarks against the club in an explosive TV interview just before he left to represent Portugal in the World Cup in Qatar.
With Ronaldo preparing for Portugal’s opening match on Thursday, Manchester United on Tuesday announced their split with a terse statement on its various social media channels.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is to leave Manchester United by mutual agreement, with immediate effect,” the club said in its statement on Tuesday.
“The club thanks him for his immense contribution across two spells at Old Trafford, scoring 145 goals in 346 appearances, and wishes him and his family well for the future,” it added in the statement.
Ronaldo had launched an explosive attack on Manchester United and coach Erik ten Hag in an interview with Piers Morgan for the treatment meted out to him since he returned at the start of this season.