The Green Falcons defeated the Blue and Whites 2-1 in their opening match in Lusail
The Green Falcons were 750/1 outsiders to win the tournament from the outset, with their opponents, Argentina, strong favourites to win football’s most prestigious trophy among bookmakers and pundits alike.
A successful penalty by captain Lionel Messi seemed set to dictate the proceedings early on, but a tenacious fightback by the Saudis saw them first level with a goal from Saleh al-Shehri, and then lead with a spectacular strike by Salem al-Dawsari.
The winning goal sent fans inside and outside the stadium wild with joy, and the result is already being framed as one of the greatest in the Saudi national team’s history.
“The mood changed when [the] Saudis scored their first goal,” one fan at the stadium told Middle East Eye. The results were “unexpected” said another.
News of the victory is sure to be received rapturously within the kingdom and will recall memories of the 1994 USA World Cup when the Falcons reached the last 16 of the tournament; the only time they had made it out of the group stage.
‘It’s coming to Mecca’
The win has inspired a wave of celebrations online, with thousands of people taking to social media to express their jubilation.
Many Saudi fans said that the win had united Arabs and created solidarity between fans.
Some Twitter users also said the winning goal gave them “goosebumps” while in Saudi Arabia the hashtag “what a goal” began trending.
“One of the greatest upsets of World Cup history,” wrote one fan, adding: “Saudi Arabia have just beaten a World Cup favourite Argentina 2:1. Stunning victory for them.”
“OK, the World Cup is alive now,” wrote another, describing the win as “monumental”.
Other users invoked the famous English chant “it’s coming home” with a slight tweak to “it’s coming to Mecca”.
Officials in Saudi Arabia have declared a public holiday to celebrate the historic win.
Raining on Messi’s parade
Tuesday’s victory marked the side’s first World Cup win in nearly 30 years since their 1994 performance.
The years in between have at times been torrid for the Falcons, with a low point during the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, where they were beaten 8-0 by a German side that eventually reached the final.
As a result of that record, few imagined them putting up much of a fight in Qatar, let alone against Lionel Messi’s Argentina.
Nicknamed “goat”, an acronym for “greatest of all time” by legions of the Paris Saint-Germain player’s adoring fans, the competition in Qatar is likely to be Messi’s final major international tournament.
Lifting the World Cup trophy would be the crowning achievement of a career that has seen him win just about every other major honour.
While winning the tournament remains a possibility, that task has just been made harder by the Saudi side who now look like a good bet to make it through the group stage.
Amid the torrent of memes flooding social media, there were several praising the Saudis for raining on Messi’s parade, including one comparing him to a cat.
The Saudi team still face formidable opponents, namely Poland and Mexico, but securing a win against Argentina will give the side plenty to be optimistic about.
Source: Middle East Eye