Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia
We have our first upset of the tournament, and it’s a massive one! Argentina came out strong against Saudi Arabia, backed by tens of thousands of fans at the Lusail stadium (which will be the site of the final match of the World Cup). Just 10 minutes into the match, a crowd in excess of 88,000 witnessed VAR award a penalty to Argentina, which Lionel Messi converted to put his side into an early lead.
But as the first half continued on, the Argentinians lost momentum courtesy of a determined Saudi side that stymied the South Americans with fantastic tackles and interceptions.
Saudi Arabia returned from the intermission with the same fighting spirit, and continued to dog the Argentinians from end to end. Their grit soon paid off: Feras Al Brikan set up Saleh Al Shehri, who dribbled in to place the ball below Cristian Romero and into the back of the net.
Now inspired, the Saudis turned up the heat, and just five minutes later Salem Al Dawsari sent a rocket from the edge of the box into the far top corner of the net: 2-1 to the Saudis!!! Lionel Scaloni made three immediate substitutions to try to chase the game, but ultimately they made no difference, and Saudi Arabia recorded the first big surprise of World Cup Qatar 2022.
The defeat marked the first time since the 1930 final that Argentina lost a World Cup match after leading at the half.
Mexico 0-0 Poland
Yet another cautious approach and this time from Mexico and Poland for the whole first half. The world watched a bold Saudi Arabia defeat one of the World Cup favourites Argentina earlier today but neither Poland nor Mexico decided to take a real risk early in the group stage, instead opting to secure their defensive lines. Mexico was definitely more organised and forced a few saves from Juventus and Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
The second half saw a surge in energy by the Polish outfit that helped Robert Lewandowski earn a penalty awarded by VAR in the 58th minute. The Barcelona forward’s dream of scoring in the World Cup will have to wait though, since the one and only Guillermo Ochoa saved the penalty.
Subsequently most of the action remained in the middle save for a few negligible attempts from both sides. Poland inserted Arkadiusz Milik into the fold in an attempt to snatch the three points, but the substitution was too late to make an impact and the scoreline ended 0-0.
Denmark 0-0 Tunisia
Denmark and Tunisia also started their match with a cautious approach from both teams. Tunisia relied more on long balls forward while Denmark attempted quick passes which had the appearance of counterattacks but never unlocked the Tunisian defenses.
Denmark started to take more chances towards the end of the match, led by Eriksen and Maehle. They came close to scoring a couple of times but Tunisia's goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen smothered their attempts. During the eight minutes of added time, there were calls for a Danish handball inside the box, but the VAR ruled no penalty and the match ended in another scoreless draw
France 4-1 Australia
The World Cup winners’ curse is ruthless. The 2002 French World Cup team (the defending 1998 World Cup champs) bowed out of the competition in the group stage. This Cup’s French side, who are also the defending champs, were hit with a long injury list that left the likes of Paul Pogba out of squad selection. In the few days leading to the World Cup start, France forwards Christian Nkunku and Karim Benzema were also ruled out of the tournament due to injuries.
Today, ten minutes into their first match in Qatar 2022 against Australia, they conceded the game’s first goal and lost another key player to injury (Lucas Hernandez). The goal was a well-played counterattack initiated by right winger Mathew Leckie in the form of a low cross that found Australia’s left winger Craig Goodwin’s right foot.
Injured Hernandez was replaced by his brother and AC Milan left wing back Theo Hernandez. The French team (determined to lift the curse) kept on pushing forward until the substitute’s lobbed cross found Adrien Rabio’s header to score the leveler in the 27th minute. Five minutes later Rabiot capitalised on a defender’s mistake to set up Oliver Giroud to put the French up 2-1 with 13 minutes left in the first half.
After the intermission France extended its lead in the 68th minute courtesy of a Kylian Mbappe header assisted by Ousmane Dembele’s lovely cross. Three minutes later, Mbappe’s bombed down the left side of the pitch before crossing to Giroud, who nodded in for a brace.
At full time the French walked off the pitch 4-1 winners, relieved to have dodged the curse at least for today.