Argentina did not expect this. Listed among the favorites of the 2022 World Cup, the Albiceleste selection landed in Qatar with a series of 36 matches without defeat (three years of unbeaten) and the sweet dream of seeing Lionel Messi, the idol of an entire people, finally lift the Grail, for his last World Cup. The reigning South American champions, however, knew that the path would be strewn with pitfalls, but they surely had not planned to fall against Saudi Arabia by Hervé Renard (1-2). This monumental misstep therefore logically shook up a team that already saw itself winning Group C.
A standing knockout group
This morning, the Argentine media tell the backstage of this historic defeat. Clarin reveals that the locker room remained silent, sounded. The defeat was still too fresh to put words on this incredible fiasco. Breaking a series of 36 matches without defeat with a setback against a modest team from Saudi Arabia, there is enough to be knocked out. Later, only Lionel Messi, Alejandro Gómez, Emiliano Martínez and Angel Di María deigned to stop in front of the media to come back to this XXL failure. Lionel Scaloni’s players then took to the road to find their base camp.
Lionel Messi then spoke in front of the Albiceleste group on the way back to the hotel. Facing his teammates, La Pulga made a mobilizing speech. In essence, Number 10 asked his partners to remember what this group is made of and that more than ever, it was necessary to move forward. Lionel Scaloni also spoke to his players, also with the desire to remobilize his troops, especially the less experienced elements. After a hard-to-digest dinner, the team began to think about the future. No question of considering the worst-case scenario. Poland and Mexico are considered beatable teams if the Albiceleste finds the recipe that allowed them to chain these famous 36 matches without defeat.
3 culprits pointed out, but not only
A trend confirmed by Diario Ole which evokes a team affected, but which is already showing positive signs. But it is well known, in this kind of situation, the press needs culprits. Unsurprisingly, Cristian Romero, Rodrigo De Paul and Leandro Paredes were the most singled out players. The Tottenham defender is criticized for his slowness, especially on the Saudi equalizer. Too fair physically, he appeared too heavy on the ground. As for the midfielders of Atlético and Juventus, their inability to create play was fatal to a team perfectly contained by compact and galloping Saudis. Finding culprits is good, but the explanations are not only individual.
“The reasons are collective and individual. No player stood out to save the team. Argentina never felt comfortable, even in the first half when they were leading. She had great difficulty getting out of the Saudi pressure. And the two goals conceded in five minutes, it looked like goals from Mbappé or Haaland. In addition to not knowing how to develop their game, Argentina then lost their nerves. She found herself in an unprecedented, unthinkable situation. She had gotten used to winning and controlling the game. There, she had to face two situations that she had not known for a very long time: being behind in the score and being unable to produce her game. Finally, the other important aspect was the physical one. Saudi Arabia was better in sprints, races, duels. It looked like an amazing team of athletes”explains Claudio Mauri, journalist at The Nation. Faults were quickly identified. It remains to be seen whether Argentina will be able to correct them in time to avoid a premature return home.