What a challenge from Al Tambakti when Messi looked ready to pull the trigger in the box. The Saudi defender jumps to his defeat and celebrates the sliding tackle like a goal, high-fiving his team-mates.
Julian Alvarez is about to come on for Argentina.
GOOOOAAALLL! Saudi Arabia lead Argentina!
Are we about to witness one of the great World Cup shocks?
That was a brilliant piece of individual skill from Al Dawsari, plucking the ball out of the sky near the left corner of the box, twisting and turning, before bending a shot into the far top corner. Martinez got a hand to it, but there was simply too much power.
The celebrations were frenzied, and now Argentina are in a deep, deep hole.
The Saudi fans in the stadium are absolutely raucous, and Argentina are looking shaky at the back. They had only conceded three goals in their previous 15 before this meeting. They need to increase the level of quality urgently.
GOOOOAAALL! Saudi Arabia are level
Well, well, that’s a turn up for the books. Paredes poked the ball forward in midfield, and Messi turned the wrong way and was dispossessed.
It was a long punt forward to Al Shehri, who was just too quick for Romero and his shot across goal crept under the defender’s attempt at a block and right into the far corner.
Martinez with no chance. Argentina should have dealt with the first ball forward.
Who did you rate in that first half?
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We’re back under way
Argentina kick off. Lee Dixon says Roy Keane and Graeme Souness are still going at it on the ITV platform about the penalty.
The players are back out
No changes from Argentina, but they will want to turn the screw after a somewhat laboured first half.
The automated offside call that led to Messi’s goal being chalked off
Keane and Souness arguing about the Argentina penalty
Keane believes the directive to punish shirt-pulling in the box will encourage diving, Souness tells him his opinion his opinion is irrelevant when it comes to the laws of the game.
“Just listen and you might learn something.”
HT: Argentina 1 Saudi Arabia 0
Scaloni’s team will be satisfied with their lead, and they had the ball in the net a further three times only to be denied by some close offside calls.
In truth, that’s a slightly flattering summation of their 45 minutes’ work. I expected De Paul and Paredes to take more of a grip of the game in midfield, and their threat has been sporadic.
Some of that is down to Saudi Arabia’s bold approach, trying to close Argentina down high and running the risk of squeezing their defence up the pitch. Will that structure fall apart as legs tire?
Saudi Arabia’s captain Al Faraj has been forced off with that knock. Al Abid comes on to replace him just before half time. He must have been in some pain to come off so soon before the break.
De Paul with a smart off the ball run in behind the Saudi defence, but there was no target in the six-yard box for him. He looked for the pull back to Messi who had checked his run but it was cut out.
Romero did well not to stick a leg out in the penalty area with Al Dawsari looking momentarily dangerous.
There will be FIVE minutes of stoppage time. The theme of the tournament continues.
That was one of Argentina’s best attacks of the game. Lovely reverse through ball from the left foot of Di Maria, and Cristian Romero had bombed forward to be an extra man in the penalty spot. He failed to find a blue and white shirt with his pull back. Argentina win a corner, and then a free-kick after Gomez is clipped.
The delivery popped out to the edge of the box but De Paul approached the strike with no conviction, and was always leaning back.
Worrying moments for Saudi Arabia with Al Faraj down receiving some treatment. Looks a problem with his shin, so possibly just an impact injury. After some magic spray, he is back on his feet. Argentina left-back Tagliafico caught him. Martinez works back into midfield a wins a free-kick.
Martinez in behind the Saudi defence, and produced a delicious dummy to go around Al Owais and score but for the third time in this half an offside flag denies Argentina. Are Saudi Arabia using the technology to clever effect or simply getting away with it?
Saudi Arabia first to another loose ball in midfield, better opposition may have punished Argentina’s sloppiness in this first 45 minutes. The disease appears to have spread to Messi, who clumps a pass out of play when trying to spread it left to Gomez.
Saudi Arabia have a corner, to the delight of their fans in the stadium. Taken short, and the delivery is hacked away from Otamendi. A really clumsy tackle from De Paul concedes a free-kick to the left of the penalty area, which is another chance for the underdogs to whip a ball into the box. Emi Martinez claims.
NO GOAL! The technology calls that offside
The still image suggested Lauturo Martinez was onside, but evidently not. Argentina have had the ball in the net three times, but just have the one goal.
GOOOOAAAL! Martinez makes it two
Argentina have not been especially fluent, but they are so dangerous when do get into the final third.
That Saudi high line undone again. Messi was offside, but Martinez was running from deep and well onside, and he dinked the ball over the goalkeeper.
De Paul robbed of possession in his own half, but Otamendi pounces on the loose ball and wins a foul.
Messi drops deep into midfield to get some touches of the ball. Saudi Arabia’s pressing is doing a good job of stopping Argentina from playing through the middle of the pitch. They have been far more positive than Iran yesterday.
The offside flag spares Saudi Arabia after Messi has the ball in the net! The semi-automated offside system confirms the decision quickly. There was acres of space behind the high line for Messi to break into, but he went too soon. Shame, as it was a typically stylish finish.
Paredes spreads play out to Gomez on the left, but his attempt to chop inside and curl towards the top corner was always rising. Another offside flag thwarts an Argentina attack.
Taking a soft lead has not done Argentina any favours, really. They are struggling for rhythm and have not been able to sustain attacks and pressure.
Messi scoops a pass over the top of the Saudi defence but Martinez was well offside. In the minutes prior to that, Saudi Arabia pinched the ball off Argentina in midfield a couple of times, but failed to carve out a clear cut chance. There has been a pleasing intensity to the underdogs so far, they just need to cool down when win the ball back.
The latest from Tom Morgan at the Lusail Stadium
Proper ear-peircing atmposphere here post kick off at the vast Lusail Stadium. And despite Messimania, the biggest roar is coming from the Saudis. It’s 95 per cent full and vast majority in either sky blue or green. What an atmosphere. Messi’s name got read out earlier and some boos for him from opposition. They obviously haven’t heard: he’s their national tourism ambassador.
Argentina are building play with a flat back four, stretched across the pitch. Paredes is isolated in the centre circle, playing as a lone midfielder almost, with De Paul pushed very high alongside the attackers. Pretty much a 4-1-5 shape when they have the ball. Roars from the Saudi fans as they whip a free kick into the box but Argentina clear.
That should settle any opening game nerves for Argentina. It was quite difficult to spot the precise infringement on the replays, but officials have been told to clamp down on pushing and shoving at set-pieces. That and adding on the right amount of stoppage time appear to be the two main tournament directives.
He sits the goalkeeper down on his backside and rolls the ball into the empty side of the goal. Good news for anyone invested in Messi winning the golden boot. You fancy he has the chance to add another goal or two in this game.
The referee points to the spot. It makes the decision not to award Harry Maguire and England a penalty yesterday all the stranger. Messi to step up and take it.
Argentina with another set-piece opportunity, this time Messi is over the free-kick to the left of the penalty area.
But hold on…the referee is running across to the touchline to check the Var monitor. This could be a penalty, Abdulhamid with a handful of Otamendi’s shirt. We know what happens when they go over to the screen…
Saudi are trying to be competitive in midfield. There is a livelier atmosphere in the stadium than some of the matches at this World Cup so far, with a strong contingent of Argentinian fans.
Scaloni’s team are attacking with a line of five stretched right across the pitch. Al Owais does well to punch an Argentine corner clear.
Goalkeeper Al Owais makes his first save of the game to deny Messi! The ball broke loose in the box after Di Maria carried the ball down the right flank, and the far corner looked open for Messi to stroke the ball into with his left instep. He did not set it out far enough though, and the goalkeeper made a decent stop.
That just might earn Al Owais some credit on our live player ratings. You can give all 22 players a mark out of 10 below:
Saudi Arabia get us started. How long will they manage to hold out for?
Here’s one man who is doing the quadruple today
The national anthems in progress…
Right in the middle of the Saudi anthem, ITV’s live feed cut out and went to a test screen. Looks to all be in order now.
Saudi fans in attendance
Supporters and dignitaries from the Kingdom are in Qatar, thanks to a dispute over television piracy being settled between the two states. Saudi broadcasters were showing Premier League matches directly from Qatar’s beIN Sports.
This is the first of four games today
Denmark vs Tunisia, Mexico vs Poland and France vs Australia to follow. Make sure you get your diary sorted by consulting our full fixture schedule here:
ITV with a piece on sportswashing
Roy Keane has had his say: “The World Cup shouldn’t be here. It shouldn’t be here. The corruption of the initial bid with Fifa, they way they treat migrant workers and gay people. We all love football but we can’t ignore human rights. It shouldn’t be here.”
Graeme Souness is more equivocal, he says the Saudi ownership should be “nowhere near Newcastle” but says we do not live in a perfect world and that money from Gulf states has “infiltrated” every level of society. He says activists will not let these issues drop long after the tournament has finished. He finishes by saying “the British have not been perfect in many parts of the world, including in Roy’s country.”
Thom Gibbs’ kit rankings
Argentina’s blue and white stripes are one of those most recognisable jerseys at any World Cup, a true classic you do not mess around with. Where does this year’s strip rank in Thom’s exhaustive kit rankings? Find out here.
Argentina’s two idols
Some argue Messi could surpass Diego Maradona as history’s greatest player should he deliver Argentina a World Cup of his own. This is his last chance.
The big difference between 2022 and 1986 of course, is that Messi is on the wrong side of his peak years whereas Maradona was in his prime and shaped the entire tournament. For all Messi’s abundant gifts, I’m not sure Argentina can rely on him to be a driving force in the same way. It needs to be a collective effort.
Argentina’s team analysed
They typically set up with a 4-3-3 and it looks like more of the same for Scaloni. Otamendi is preferred to Lisandro Martinez at the centre-half, which might surprise some Premier League fans, but national teams have their own hierarchies.
Argentina will be without Giovani Lo Celso for this tournament through injury, with Alejandro Gomez starting in midfield ahead of Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister.
The front three of Messi, Martinez and Di Maria picks itself.
The two teams
Argentina: Emeliano Martinez, Nahuel Molina, Cristian Romero, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico, Alejandro Gomez, Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, Lionel Messi (c), Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria
Saudi Arabia: Mohamed Al-Owais, Ali Al-Bulaihi, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohamed Kanno, Saud Abdulhamid, Abdulelah Al-Malki, Saleh Al-Shehri, Hassan Al-Tambakti, Salman Al-Faraj (c), Salem Al-Dawsari, Firas Al-Buraikan.
Predict the score
Argentina have not been crowned world champions since 1986, but expectations are sky high for Qatar after winning the Copa America last year. Lionel Scaloni’s team are 36 games unbeaten and after a relatively indifferent campaign last season, Lionel Messi has been in magical form for PSG.
At previous tournaments, Argentina have struggled to balance their team around Messi, with star poachers such as Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain perhaps not his ideal foil. In Lautaro Martinez, they possess a selfless forward who will do Messi’s running and also the ever dependable Angel di Maria supplying the bullets. Messi was pictured in training with what appeared a swollen ankle but was later revealed to be protective strapping.
Argentina kick off against Saudi Arabia, surely one of the weakest teams in the competition. With Mexico and Poland making up the group, Scaloni’s team will be heavy favourites to reach the knockouts stages as group winners. Saudi Arabia have only made it out of the group once in five appearances at the World Cup, but did win a game in Russia against Egypt. Since 2002, Saudi Arabia have been beaten 8-0 by Germany, 4-0 by Ukraine and 5-0 by Russia at World Cups so they will fear another beating.
Defender Cristian Romero and forwards Nicolas Gonzalez, Alejandro Gomez and Paulo Dybala were left out for Argentina’s last warm-up match in Abu Dhabi, a 5-0 thrashing of UAE, with all four recovering after feeling “some discomfort” according to Scaloni. Argentina will hope Romero can recover because centre-back is a potential weak spot, although Nicolas Otamendi is still going strong at international level. Should Argentina win their group, the odds would suggest a meeting with Denmark in the next round unless the Danes spring a surprise and beat France to top spot in their group.
Full team news on the way shortly.