AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi
Lionel Messi is looking to move on after Argentina suffered a shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday at the 2022 World Cup.
“There are no excuses,” Messi told reporters after the match. “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.”
Argentina entered the day as one of the tournament’s top contenders after going unbeaten in 36 straight matches. The squad is No. 3 in FIFA’s world rankings, while Saudi Arabia is the World Cup’s second-lowest-ranked team at No. 53.
It set up one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history.
Messi opened the scoring on a penalty in the 10th minute, but Argentina struggled to take advantage of opportunities for the remainder of the match. Saudi Arabia took just three shots, two on net, but made them count with a pair of goals in the second half.
“It’s a very hard blow because we did not expect to start in this way,” Messi said.
La Albiceleste still can overcome the opening loss with upcoming matches against Mexico and Poland, but it will be an uphill battle to advance out of the group stage. Another loss would almost certainly eliminate the team, while a draw could be dangerous depending on what happens in the other group matches.
The last time Argentina failed to reach the knockout stage of a World Cup was 2002, before Messi was on the roster.
Messi has led the team to a World Cup final and Copa America title, so this loss marks a low point in the career of one of the greatest players of all time.