Tuesday, November 29, 2022

World Cup: Poland draw Mexico; Saudi Arabia stun Messi-led Argentina

Poland skipper Robert Lewandowski failed to break his World Cup duck when he saw a second-half penalty saved in a goalless but entertaining draw with Mexico in their opening Group C game at Stadium 974 on Tuesday.
Lewandowski earned the penalty after a VAR check 11 minutes into the second half when Hector Moreno tugged at his shirt in the box. But the Polish striker, who has never scored at the World Cup, saw his shot saved by goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
A flowing game of few fouls but fewer chances came to life around the half-hour mark when Alexis Vega saw his header fly wide before Jesus Gallardo was denied with a last-man tackle when he had an open goal at his mercy two minutes later.
Mexico had the bulk of the possession but without Raul Jimenez spearheading the attack, Henry Martin struggled to get on the end of chances in the box. At the other end, Poland failed to get Lewandowski involved as the Barcelona striker – who has scored 18 goals for the Spanish club this season – received little service as both keepers finished the first half without having to make a save. The tactical change seemed to work initially as Poland began creating chances and eventually won the penalty which Lewandowski shot low but Ochoa guessed correctly and dived to his left to deny the skipper.
Not to be outdone by Ochoa’s brilliance in goal, Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny also underlined his credentials moments later when he reacted quickly to change direction and deny Martin’s glancing header that was on target.

Saudi Arabia 2-1 Argentina

Lionel Messi stood with his hands on his hips near the center circle, looking stone-faced as Saudi Arabia’s jubilant players ran in all directions around him after scoring one of the biggest World Cup upsets ever against Argentina.
The South American champion and one of the tournament favorites slumped to a 2-1 loss against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, in a deflating start to Messi’s quest to win the one major title that has eluded him.
Saudi Arabia’s comeback joins the list of other major World Cup upsets: Cameroon’s 1-0 win over an Argentina team led by Diego Maradona in the opening game of the 1990 World Cup, Senegal’s 1-0 victory over titleholder France 1-0 in the 2002 tournament opener or the United States beating England by the same score in 1950. “Prior to the match we were anointed as favorites,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said. “But this sort of stuff can happen in a World Cup.”
Messi gave Argentina the lead in the 10th minute with a coolly dispatched penalty and the match had the makings of a routine win for the defending Copa America champion, which were on a 36-match unbeaten run.
Goals by Saleh Alshehri and Salem Aldawsari in a five-minute span early in the second half gave the Saudis a landmark result in the first World Cup staged in the Middle East. The Saudis’ previous biggest win was 1-0 over Belgium at the 1994 World Cup.
“All the stars aligned for us,” Saudi Arabia’s coach Herve Renard said. “We made history for Saudi football.” The 35-year-old Messi, playing in his fifth — and likely his final — World Cup for Argentina, scratched the side of his head and shook hands with a Saudi coaching staff member after the final whistle. He walked toward the tunnel with a group of other Argentina players and looked despondent, an all-too-familiar scene for one of the best players ever who is yet to win soccer’s ultimate prize.
A stunned Messi watched as green-clad fans from Saudi Arabia, Qatar’s neighbor, celebrated in disbelief in the stands. Saudi Arabia’s substitutes swarmed onto the field.
Argentina plays Mexico in its second Group C match on Saturday.

Denmark held by Tunisia in opener

Substitute Andreas Cornelius hit the post and Denmark had a late penalty appeal turned down, while Tunisia wasted two clear chances in a 0-0 draw in their World Cup Group D opener at Education City Stadium on Tuesday.
Tunisia were roared on by their sizeable following in the 42,925 crowd, whose deafening whistles and roars gave energy to their side and helped secure what had seemed an unlikely point before kickoff, despite the fact they are unbeaten in nine of their last 10 internationals.
Denmark thought they should have had a penalty in stoppage time for handball that was checked at the VAR screen by referee Cesar Arturo Ramos, but he instead gave a free kick to Tunisia.
Tunisia played with a tempo they will find hard to maintain through the group stages, but were good value for their point and showed a resilience that was pleasing for coach Jalel Kadri. Denmark would have hoped to create more chances, but their best came late in the second half when Cornelius only had to nod the ball over the line at the back post, but instead flicked it onto the woodwork. Tunisia, who this week had spoken of their pride at qualifying in an Arab country, were fired up from the first whistle, celebrating each tackle like a goal, and had two excellent chances to open the scoring.

Wales draw with US after 64-year World Cup hiatus

An eventful second day of the World Cup in Qatar wrapped up with the match between US and Wales ending in a 1-1 draw at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, some 20 km from Doha.
While the Americans piled up pressure on the Welsh through the match giving scant ball possession as Timothy Weah scored in the 36th minute, Wales tried to make a comeback into the game in the second half. Six yellow cards were shown by match referee Abdulrahman Al-Jassim in a match that saw several fouls and exchanges among players.
The star player of Wales, Gareth Bale, struck with a penalty in the 82nd minute to score the equaliser.
Wales have made it to the World Cup after a gap of 64 years. And it showed in the eyes of Welsh fans in the stands after Bale’s successful shot.

Wednesday’s matches
Morocco Vs Croatia – 3:30 pm
Germany Vs Japan – 6:30 pm
Spain Vs Costa Rica – 9:30 pm
Belgium Vs Canada – 12:30 am (Thursday)

Lionel Messi standing beside Saudi Arabia’s players celebrating after winning against Argentina. (AP/PTI)
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