Well, who saw that coming? Third day of the 2022 World Cup (opens in a new tab) in Qatar started with one of the biggest shocks of the tournament, as Saudi Arabia came from behind to beat Argentina.
It was a disastrous start to what was expected to be a solid campaign for Lionel Messi’s men, but led to scenes of elation and even the declaration of a national holiday. (opens in a new tab) in Saudi Arabia as they celebrated their best ever result.
Denmark and Tunisia drew 0-0, before Mexico and Poland did the same – although Robert Lewandowski wasted a glorious chance to win when his penalty was saved by Guillermo Ochoa. (opens in a new tab)
Australia threatened a second major upset of the day by taking an early lead against France, but the defending champions reacted strongly to win 4-1, with Olivier Giroud scoring a brace that put him level with Thierry Henry at the top of the general classification of his country. time scoreboards. (opens in a new tab)
Here are five big takeaways from a busy day in Qatar.
Saudi Arabia’s high line takes advantage of new technologies
In Argentina’s first Group C clash against Saudi Arabia, the South American side had already scored four goals by half-time. However, three of them were ruled offside by automated offside technology, due to Saudi Arabia’s good defensive work.
Indeed, the Asian side bet on a high line throughout the game, a brave move, especially as Argentina had Lionel Messi in their ranks. While the Argentine’s through balls managed to penetrate the Saudi defence, nothing really materialized, with the offside being called repeatedly.
Their high line meant Saudi Arabia left no space for Messi to win the ball back in the positions we’ve become so used to seeing over the years, while Argentina’s lack of pace at the before also meant that Hervé Renard’s tactics were perfect.
So, with automated offside technology set to be introduced to football, could those high lines become a new craze that managers are about to embrace?
It wouldn’t come as a surprise – football works in cycles, and watching Saudi Arabia was reminiscent of defenses sprinting as soon as a player looked likely to play a pass in the early 1980s.
Argentina are not as good as we initially thought
As the 2022 World Cup approached, Argentina were touted as one of the tournament favorites (opens in a new tab) alongside fellow South American Brazil, unbeaten in 36 matches and winner of the Copa America in 2021.
However, if they fail to beat Saudi Arabia, how can they hope to beat Brazil in that highly anticipated semi-final they are supposed to play against each other?
Granted, Argentina dominated the first half against Saudi Arabia, but their lack of ideas once they fell behind is certainly concerning. Messi struggled to take control of the game, while Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria both looked sluggish in forward positions.
Pace is a necessity, but there are no players in the squad with that attribute, per se.
Lionel Scaloni now has something to work with his team. With Poland and Mexico yet to play in Group C – on paper stronger opposition than Saudi Arabia – even getting out of the group seems like a tough test.
Only Spain managed to win the World Cup after losing their first tournament match in their history, in 2010 against Switzerland. Argentina will have to defy those odds if they are to achieve glory in Qatar on December 18.
Lewandowski chokes on the World Cup stage again
Robert Lewandowski’s wait for a World Cup goal continues. But this time, he’s going to blame himself for ending the day without breaking his duck.
The Polish striker, who was so prolific in the club game with Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and now Barcelona, was given a golden chance from the penalty spot in his side’s opener against the Mexico.
But 37-year-old goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa guessed the right way, leaping left to fend off a kick that, in truth, wasn’t Lewa’s best.
One thing is certain – if Poland are to break out of Group C and make their mark in this tournament, they will soon need Lewandowski to scratch their World Cup itch.
The 34-year-old has now played 360 minutes of tournament football against Japan, Colombia, Senegal and Mexico without scoring, an eternity by his standards. He’s had 11 shots in that span, four of them on target, but the ball just doesn’t suit him.
Giroud ready to take center stage in Benzema’s absence
Olivier Giroud, aka the most handsome man in football, became France’s co-top scorer of all time when he notched his second and fourth of the night for France in a comfortable 4-1 win over Barcelona. ‘Australia.
Only Thierry Henry (you may have heard of him) can match Giroud’s 51 goals in one Blues shirt, and the veteran could soon surpass the Arsenal legend if recent form is anything to go by.
The 36-year-old has been in excellent form for his club this season, scoring nine goals in 19 appearances in all competitions, and his first outing in Qatar could calm some French nerves after Karim Benzema left the team on the eve of the tournament with injury.
The Ballon d’Or winner Real Madrid superstar is a huge loss but Giroud was ready to step in in his absence and by scoring a brace he already has more goals at Qatar 2022 than he managed at the last two World Cups combined.
Giroud was considered an unsung hero of France’s success four years ago, going into every game without scoring a single goal, but early signs here are that he is ready to step into the limelight.
𝐎𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐫 𝐆𝐢𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐝 𝐬𝐜𝐨𝐫𝐞𝐬 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝟓𝟎𝐭𝐡 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝟓𝟏𝐬𝐭 𝐠𝐨𝐚𝐥𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐅𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞! 🇬🇧 He is now the co-top scorer of all time for his country alongside Thierry Henry…#ITVFootball | #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/P75aa5hkG9November 22, 2022
Have we eliminated the 0-0 draws?
Four years ago, the World Cup was something of a goal celebration, as there was no 0-0 draw until France and Denmark hit a stalemate in their last group game.
Still, in Qatar, it took us until Matchday 3 to play back-to-back games without goals. The Danes were back, drawing with Tunisia, while Mexico and Poland played a stalemate.
Hopefully we now have our draw quota for this group stage.
One thing the Denmark game signaled was that, as talented and whimsical as this Danish side are, they lack a clinical finisher – and that could cost them dearly.
Poor Andreus Cornelius won’t want to look back when he failed to head from around a yard while Kasper Dolberg was substituted after an ineffectual game.
The Euro 2020 semi-finalists will be hoping to have their shooting boots when they take on France – a team they have already beaten twice this year in the Nations League – because if they don’t there’s will be a lot of pressure riding this latest clash with Australia.