FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group C - Argentina v Saudi Arabia


  • Saudi Arabia shocked the World Cup stage when they came back to defeat Argentina
  • Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard opted to play a 4-4-2 midblock with a high frontline
  • The tactic gave Saudi Arabia its first win in the World Cup since 1994

Saudi Arabia pulled off an improbable victory against Lionel Messi and Argentina in the opening match of Group C as they stunned the world with a 2-1 comeback at the 2022 World Cup.

Messi drew first blood in the matchup eight minutes into it with a penalty strike that he slotted perfectly into the lower left corner after the video assistant referee (VAR) ruled Saud Abdulhamid's physical play with Leandro Paredes was worthy of a penalty.

Argentina had two opportunities to increase their lead to 3-0, but both goals at the 28th and 35th minutes were ruled offside.

Things changed in favor of the Saudis right after the halftime break as Saleh Al-Shehri produced the leveling goal at the 49th minute.

Then the breakthrough happened for Saudi Arabia just about four minutes later as a mad scramble for the ball inside Argentina's box ended up in possession of Salem Al-Dawsari who rifled home the game-winner from just inside and into the top far corner to complete the stunner.

With many seemingly confused as to how Argentina dropped their opener against a team that most saw as an easy victory, Saudi Arabia national team manager Herve Renard pulled a rabbit out of his hat with a unique twist in their formation.

It is worth noting that international soccer teams play completely different compared to regular clubs in that they have special tactics reserved for international play and both Argentina and Saudi Arabia had their own approaches.

Both nations used a lineup called the 4-4-2 midblock.

The formation is about as traditional as it gets in terms of player positioning with both forwards just about at the centerline and those behind them clogging up the middle, with the defense forcing them to try and break through it by swinging the ball around their own defensive line–essentially forming a horseshoe-like shape.

But in Saudi Arabia's opening matchup against Argentina, they opted to add some more offensive pressure to the formation by having their own line be right up in the grill of Argentina, with forwards Al Shehri and Salman Al-Faraj positioning themselves in between Argentina's forwards and midfielders.

Fans deeply invested in the sport would note that Saudi Arabia's tactic was too risky since it would allow guys like Messi, Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez to launch a counter-attack with a ton of space between their opponent's backline and goalkeeper.

To better the pressure, they also opted to match player for player in the wide areas – Al-Dawsari with Argentina's Nahuel Molina and Firas Al-Buraikan with Nicolas Tagliafico.

This move practically coaxed Argentina into a trap that allowed Saudi Arabia to find their goal-scoring opportunities.

According to the game stats, Argentina had possession of the ball 69% of the time and had 15 shots with six of them on target.

Common knowledge would dictate it being a win in their favor compared to Saudi Arabia's three shots, two on target, but fortune was on the side of the Saudi Arabians this time around.

It was a tactics masterclass of epic proportions in soccer as Renard's bold move put Saudi Arabi atop Group C with three points after Poland and Mexico settled for a 0-0 draw for one point apiece.

Renard's postgame comments could not have better explained the situation they found themselves in.

"Today all the stars in the sky were in a line for us but we can't forget that Argentina are a fantastic team. They came here without losing in 36 games, they are South American champions and they have an amazing player, but this is football. Sometimes, something completely crazy can happen," he mentioned.

The stars did align for Saudi Arabia thanks to a bold tactical move leading the way.

In doing so, have forced the world to pay attention to them with the biggest headline in the World Cup thus far and their first win in the competition since 1994.

Stunned Argentina fans watch their team's shock loss to Saudia Arabia during the World Cup in Qatar