Lionel Messi told his Argentina teammates there are “no excuses” for their shock defeat to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, 22nd of November 2022 at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar.
Messi, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, who carries the weight of his nation on his shoulders, admitted after the game that his team had few excuses after succumbing to Saudi Arabia.
Messi, however, insisted they had not taken their opponents lightly and told fans who have traveled to Qatar in their thousands that they will turn their World Cup campaign around when they face Mexico and Poland.
“My message to the supporters is to have faith,” Messi added. “We won’t leave them stranded”.
Saudi Arabia is now top of Group C with three points while Argentina is at the bottom.
Argentina arrived in Qatar as the reigning Copa America champions and on the back of a 36-match unbeaten run. They would have equaled Italy as the national team with the longest unbeaten run in history by avoiding defeat on Tuesday.
Argentina slipped to a 2-1 loss at Lusail Stadium despite leading in the first half through Messi’s 10th-minute penalty.
Notably, this was the first win for Saudi Arabia at the World Cup since 1994.
The result will go down as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the World Cup. But Messi has insisted that there is a way back for his team, one of the pre-tournament favourites if they can deal with the setback.
Even though FIFA initially announced that none of the Argentina players would speak in the mixed zone after their 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia, captain Lionel Messi did come out on behalf of all his teammates.
Asked how his teammates were feeling after the game, Messi said: “The truth? Dead. It’s a very hard blow because we did not expect to start in this way.”
“We expected to get the three points that would have given us calmness. “Things happen for a reason. We have to prepare for what is coming, we have to win, and it depends on us.
“There are no excuses. We are going to be more united than ever. This group is strong, and we have shown it. It is a situation that we haven’t gone through in a long time. Now we have to show that this is a real group.
“It’s a painful loss but we have to continue to trust ourselves,” he said. “We must turn the page and move on. We have to analyse what went wrong. Focus on the positives and turn our attention to the game against Mexico.”
Regarding the three Argentina goals disallowed for offside, the former Barcelona player assured that “they were very tight”, although he acknowledged not having seen the images.
Saudi Arabia manager Herve Renard suggested afterward that Argentina 48 places above his team in the world rankings was a motivation for his team.
Moreover, most fans and pundits believed La Albiceleste struggled in defence because coach Lionel Scaloni decided to bench Lisandro Martinez.
Martinez, who has 10 caps for Argentina, has been instrumental for Manchester United under Erik Ten Hag since making the switch to Old Trafford from Ajax. He was eventually brought on, but it proved to be too little too late.
On the other hand, Argentina captain, Lionel Messi, on Tuesday equaled one of Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo’s records after scoring a goal in his side’s 2022 FIFA World.
Coming into the tournament, Ronaldo had seven goals at the World Cup and Messi six. However, Messi moved on to seven goals after scoring a penalty in Argentina’s opening match against Saudi Arabia.
The 35-year-old converted an early penalty in Argentina’s World Cup Group C opener against Saudi Arabia after Saud Abdulhamid had fouled midfielder, Leandro Paredes, in the box.
Messi’s goal against Saudi Arabia means the Paris Saint-Germain forward now scored at four different World Cup tournaments, becoming only the fifth footballer ever to do so – after Pele, Uwe Seeler, Miroslav Klose, and Ronaldo.
Messi scored once in 2006, failed to score in 2010, recorded four in 2014, and added a goal in 2018 to enter the 2022 World Cup with six goals.
Ronaldo has an opportunity in Qatar to become the first player to score at five consecutive World Cups should he find the back of the net for Portugal, he scored one goal in 2006, 2010, and 2014, before getting four in Russia in 2018.
Messi’s eternal rival Ronaldo can become the outright record-holder if he scores at Qatar 2022.
Meanwhile, Messi’s early goal against Saudi Arabia was his 92nd international goal for Argentina.
The former Barcelona captain has now scored against 34 different national teams, including the likes of Bolivia, Uruguay, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Estonia, and Venezuela.
What’s Next for Messi?
Messi will now hope to lead Argentina to victory in their next game against Mexico on Saturday 26th of November 2022.