KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/ AFP
Saudi Arabia registered a shock 2-1 win over Lionel Messi’s Argentina in their FIFA World Cup Group C encounter on Tuesday.
Messi converted a penalty in the 10th minute to give his side an early lead but Saleh Al-Shehri (48′) and Salem Al-Dawsari (53′) scored two brilliant individual goals to leave Argentina, one of the tournament favourites, shell-shocked.
The result broke Argentina’s 36-match undefeated run and stopped them from matching the previous international record of 37 games unbeaten held by Italy.
On his fifth and final quest for the only major trophy to elude him, the 35-year-old Messi scored a 10th minute penalty in a dominant first half display where he and Lautaro Martinez also had three goals disallowed for offside.
But Saudi Arabia, the second-lowest ranked team in the tournament after Ghana, threw caution to the wind at the start of the second half, charging at Argentina’s defence in front of a frenzied 88,012 crowd at the Lusail Stadium.
Al-Shehri squeezed in an angled shot in the 48th minute after punishing poor Argentine defending.
Saudi Arabia’s fans were then sent into delirium five minutes later as Al-Dawsari curled a stunning shot into the top corner from the edge of the area.
Despite plenty of possession after that, Argentina were unable to penetrate Saudi Arabia, who were competing in their sixth World Cup but had never previously won an opening game.
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Olivier Giroud netted a record goal to send defending champions France into the World Cup quarter-finals with a 3-1 victory over Poland.
Les Bleus, who now face England for a spot in the last four, scored on the stroke of halftime as Giroud became their all-time record scorer with 52 goals before Mbappe’s late screamers sealed Poland’s fate and put the 23-year-old alone at the top of the scoring chart with five goals and two assists.
Poland, in the knockout stage for the first time since 1986 and looking for a first quarter-final appearance since 1982, had a huge chance in the first half but the France midfield did a great job of cutting the feeding line to Robert Lewandowski, who reduced the arrears with a twice-taken, last-second penalty.
Keeper Hugo Lloris made his 142nd appearance and is now tied with Lilian Thuram as France’s most-capped player, and his experience mattered when he made a superb quick save to deny Piotr Zielinski.
Coach Didier Deschamps had warned that there was more to Poland than Lewandowski and he was proved right at the Al Thumama stadium as the French were at times shaky at the back.
“It’s not been easy because they’re a well-organised team and we had to make some positional changes at halftime,” said Deschamps.
“We’re a united squad and tonight the players’ impeccable behaviour has been rewarded. Now we’re going to spend a little bit of time with our families.”
France got off to a dominant start before abandoning possession, looking to create space in the back of the Polish defence after Mbappe’s first forays failed to lead to clear chances.
Poland’s poise came close to being rewarded in the 38th minute when the onrushing Zielinski’s shot was parried by Lloris. It came back into the midfielder’s path but his second attempt was deflected by Theo Hernandez.
Jakub Kaminski followed, only for his shot to be saved close to the goal-line by Raphael Varane.
“We fought, we created a couple of chances, some really clear ones, especially in the first half; it’s a pity nothing went in,” said Lewandowski.
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Sterling will head back to Britain today to be with family, after local media reported a break-in at his home
Coach Gareth Southgate commented, “I’ve spent some time with him today. He’s going to fly home. And obviously, family at these moments is the most important thing,” Southgate added, when asked about Chelsea forward Sterling amid the reports of a home intrusion.
Asked about the incident later, Southgate said he would not discuss the details because it was a private matter.
“Obviously it’s not ideal for the group preparing for a game, but the individual is more important than the group in those moments,” he told reporters.
England captain Harry Kane, who scored the second goal of the game, said the team wished Sterling their best and hoped to see him again “as soon as possible”.
“So we want to give him that space. And we’ll see over the next few days how that all develops.”
Southgate did not provide details of the incident or say if Sterling planned to return to the squad in Qatar.
The 27-year-old, who has 81 caps, was left out of the squad for the match that saw England book a place in the World Cup quarter-finals against holders France next weekend.
England’s Football Association said Sterling was not available for “personal reasons”.
“It’s never easy to see one of your team mates and friends have to deal with something like that,” he added.
“So we’ll have to take it day-by-day, I’m sure Raheem will talk to the manager and take the best decision for him and his family, that’s the most important thing.”
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FRANCK FIFE/ AFP
Argentina will meet the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup.
Lionel Messi scored the first goal to lead Argentina to a 2-1 victory over Australia in their last-16 clash on Saturday, while the Netherlands defeated the United States 3-1 earlier in the day.
Messi tallied in the 35th minute and Julian Alvarez scored in the 57th to give Argentina a 2-0 lead but Australia finally got on the board in the 77th minute, thanks to an Enzo Fernandez own goal.
It was Messi’s first goal in a World Cup knockout round in his 1,000th match to beat Diego Maradona’s tournament tally.
Elsewhere, Netherlands defender Denzel Dumfries set up their first two goals and netted a decisive third to ensure a 3-1 victory over the United States.
Dumfries ended any hopes the Americans had of staging a rescue act after they had gone 2-0 down at halftime, tucking away a third goal for the Dutch that made sure of their victory and put the seal on an influential personal performance.
The United States had cut the deficit through Haji Wright in the 76th minute, but their hopes lasted just five minutes before Louis van Gaal’s team wrapped up the win.
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