Saudi Arabia captain Salem Al Dawsari superb fierce curling effort in the 53rd minute completed a stunning comeback victory over favourites Argentina in this opening Group C encounter at the #Qatar2022 #FIFAWorldCup. It is one of the biggest upsets in the Tournament’s history.
There have been a few other good and great upsets that have happened in my lifetime.
Tunisia Vs Mexico – Argentina ’78:
By the time the North African country filed out to face the North Americans on the 2nd of June in 1978 no African country had won a match. By half-time, it was going according to script as Mexico led by a Vaz Ayala penalty but the second half was a totally different match.
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Prompted by the impish skills of Tarek Dhiab and speedy directness of winger and skipper Temime Lahzahmi, Tunisia staged and impressive fightback. Goals by Nejib Ghommidh and defender Ali Kaabi gave them a 2-1 lead and as the Mexicans chased an equaliser a fabulous counter-attack ended with full-back Mokhtar Dhouieb crashing home the 3rd with 3 minutes left. It was a glorious performance by the Tunisians.
Algeria Vs West Germany – Espana ’82:
European Champions and captained by then European Footballer of the year Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, West Germany manager, Jupp Derwall promised to go home if his team were not good enough to beat Algeria.
Like Tunisia four years earlier, Algeria had qualified for the World Cup after defeating Nigeria 4-1 on aggregate and in Noureddine Kourichi, Ali Fergani, Lakhdar Belloumi, Rabah Madjer and Salah Assad, Algeria had with them one of the best squad of footballers to have come out of the continent.
So it was that in Gijon that afternoon, history was about to be made. Following a goalless first half, early in the second half, super passing movement sends Belloumi through on goal, Schumacher in goal blocks his effort but Madjer follows in the half-volley home. Rummenigge gets Germany level but the Algerians were not to be denied. Assad is sent free down the left where he leaves poor Felix Magath labouring in his wake. The winger gets to the bye-line and drives the ball hard and low across the box where Belloumi came in to slide home. It was a huge win
Northern Ireland Vs Spain – Espana ’82:
This match and the win gave the goalscorer a long career in Spain years after. Spain were always uncomfortable hosts of this first 24-team tournament and nothing showed their discomfort more than this game. Defender Mal Donaghy was sent-off, 17yr-old Norman Whiteside played well but the winning goal owed more to poor goalkeeping by Spain’s keeper and skipper, Luis Arconada than any great football.
Billy Hamilton’s lung-bursting run on the right for Northern Ireland ended with him sending in a speculative cross to really no one in the box, somehow Arconada chose to punch the cross away. The ball landed at the feet of Gerry Armstrong who took a touch, steadied himself thrashed the ball low and hard past the keeper and into the net. Northern Ireland’s first world cup and they have a win against the hosts no less.
Argentina Vs Cameroon – Italia ’90:
Argentina had won the world cup so thrillingly four years earlier in Mexico and their captain was one Diego Maradona. The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon had had an atrocious AFCON tournament in Algeria. So, who would have expected anything but a win for the World Champions?
Cameroon had a simple plan: kick anyone in an Argentina shirt in possession as this was war. A goalless first half was followed by a second half that started with Andre-Kana Biyik being sent-off – rather harshly considering the things that went on before. A man down, no problem because a free-kick was badly defended by the Argentines and as the ball looped up in the air, Andre’s younger brother, Francois, leapt incredibly high to head the ball. His header should have been gathered by Nery Pumpido in goal for Argentina, but it hit the keeper’s knee and into the net. That was the winner, but Cameroon still found time to have Benjamin Massing sent-off for an assault on Claudio Caniggia.
France Vs Senegal – Japan/South Korea ’02:
France arrived the tournament as World and European Champions plus the top goalscorers in the Italy, England and France top divisions. Senegal were at their first World Cup but coach Bruno Metsu had over a 3 year period been assembling a very good crop of players and former France junior internationals of Senegalese heritage. They were not overawed by the occasion nor playing against France’s best.
Midway in the second half, Senegal’s talisman and top scorer during the African qualifiers ElHadj Diouf was set free on the left, he drove past Frank Lebouf and crossed into the box. Manu Petit and Fabian Barthez got themselves into a muddle, the free ball was bundled home by big Papa Dioup. The World Champions, shorn of the injured Zidane, were not able to find an equaliser.
Saudi Arabia in Qatar have joined an illustrious group of countries. They must now ensure to follow the footsteps of Northern Ireland, Cameroon and Senegal in making the knock-out stages to cement this fantastic first group win.