Argentina captain Lionel Messi has reflected on his country’s shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in their opening match of the 2022 World Cup.
The South Americans, who are one of the favourites to win this year’s tournament in Qatar, were beaten 2-1 by their Middle Eastern opponents in one of the biggest surprises in the history of the competition.
Messi’s penalty gave Argentina the lead after just ten minutes at the Lusail Stadium, but his effort from the spot wasn’t enough to secure the crucial three points in Group C.
The Paris Saint-Germain star expressed his disappointment at the defeat after the match, but issued a rallying cry to their fans as they look to bounce back from such a poor start to proceedings in the World Cup.
Speaking via Argentina’s official Twitter account, Messi said: “We knew that Arabia is a team with good players, that moves the ball well and that advances the line a lot. We work on it, but we speed up a bit.
“There are no excuses. We are going to be more united than ever. This group is strong and they have shown it. It is a situation that we did not have to go through in a long time.
“Now we have to show that this is a real group. It’s a very hard blow for everyone, we didn’t expect to start like this.
“Things happen for a reason. We have to prepare for what’s coming, we have to win or win and it depends on us”.
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Despite taking an early lead, Argentina just simply couldn’t take their chances as they searched for a second.
Lautaro Martinez thought he had scored with a clever chip over the goalkeeper, but his goal was ruled out for a tight offside call in the build-up, before another two of their efforts were chalked off.
Unfortunately for Messi and co, Saudi Arabia were flying from the start of the second half and netted two goals in five minutes.
Saleh Al-Shehri levelled the score with a neat finish into the bottom right corner before Salem Aldawsari fired them ahead with a curling effort that was too strong for goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to keep out.
Argentina now sit bottom of their group and face a tough climb back to the top of the standings with games against Mexico and Poland next in the group stage.