Pre-tournament favourites Argentina endured the worst possible start to their World Cup campaign as their 36-game unbeaten run came to an end with a deserved 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia.
Lionel Messi’s penalty inside the first ten minutes looked to have sent Argentina on their way, particularly when they then had three goals ruled out for offside before half-time.
But Argentina were stunned after the interval as Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari bagged two quickfire goals for Saudi Arabia after the break, and it was a lead they would not relinquish.
How did Argentina slip to defeat?
Argentina were cruising at half-time and could conceivably have been 4-0 ahead had Messi and Lautaro Martinez not wandered into offside positions before scoring their goals.
They were the dominant force on the ball, had all the territory and Saudi Arabia were playing a dangerously high defensive line that was asking for trouble.
But whatever Herve Renard said to his Saudi Arabia players at the break completely changed the dynamic of the game, and they looked like a completely different side. In contrast, Argentina showed some of their old defensive fragility and the problems that have dogged them at this famous old tournament in years gone by reared their ugly heads once more.
Saleh Al-Shehri’s equaliser was smartly taken, firing past Emi Martinez from an angle, but it was a real moment of class from Salem Al-Dawsari that handed Saudi Arabia the lead. He plucked the ball out of the sky, spun away from two Argentina defenders, jinked past another and then unleashed an unstoppable curling effort into the top corner.
Argentina pressured thereafter but they didn’t ever create anything really clear cut – Messi dropping deeper and deeper as the game wore on in a desperate attempt to break Saudi Arabia down. He couldn’t and neither could his teammates, causing one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history.
Dark horses Denmark were frustrated in their opening World Cup encounter, drawing 0-0 with Tunisia in the second game of the day.
Both sides went agonisingly close; Issam Jebali’s close-range dink superbly tipped wide by the sprawling Kasper Schmeichel, while Andreas Cornelius hit the post from two yards out.
The Danes were denied a stoppage-time penalty despite a VAR check and will have to settle for a point.
How did Tunisia hold Denmark?
Though there weren’t any goals, this was an encounter full of full-blooded defending and hard running.
Tunisia had the better of the chances in the first half, but tired in the second and were nearly caught out by Kasper Hjulmand’s side on a number of occasions.
Nevertheless, the north African side were good value for their point.
Mexico and Poland’s bids to take advantage of Argentina’s slip-up against Saudi Arabia were dented by a 0-0 draw at Stadium 974.
There was a tremendous atmosphere throughout the game as the Mexican fans lit up the 40,000 capacity stadium made up of recycled shipping containers – but Hirving Lozano and co couldn’t reward their adoring following with three Group C points despite dominating for large parts.
Poland had the best chance of the game but Robert Lewandowski, without a World Cup goal during his illustrious career, blew his opportunity from the penalty spot; Guillermo Ochoa making a fine save down low to his left.
How does Ochoa keep doing it?
That’s the question many will ask about Mexico’s hero of the hour, Guillermo Ochoa.
37 years young he may be but Ochoa stepped up to the plate when his country needed him the most, following a rather dodgy penalty award. Not only did he save a penalty on the biggest stage in world football, he kept at bay one of the world’s great strikers, Robert Lewandowski.
For Lewandowski, the wait goes on a first World Cup goal, and Poland will need to do far more from open play if he’s to break that duck between now and the end of the group stages. On paper they have a very handy side, but must step things up if they’re to have a chance of making the knockout stages for the first time since 1986.
Indeed, failure to win here was the eighth time in nine World Cup outings that Poland have failed to win their first game.
France face Australia on Tuesday evening in a rematch of their opening group stage game at the 2018 World Cup.
The first-ever use of VAR at a World Cup awarded France a penalty which Antoine Griezmann converted en route to a 2-1 victory for the eventual champions. Australia couldn’t muster a single win in Russia and haven’t claimed a World Cup scalp since 2010.
Prediction: France 2-1 Australia