Argentina v Saudi Arabia: World Cup 2022 – live | World Cup 2022

That was a pretty enjoyable half of football, and not just because it’s 10.52am UK time nor because we’re all hopeless marks totally narcotised by the majesty of football. Argentina played some nice stuff, Saudi were enterprising too, and we’ve still got 315 minutes, (plus 692 of added time) awaiting us today.

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We’ve not seen the replay, but a fair while after Martinez celebrated inking his name into the annals of humanity, his goal was confiscated.

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And there it is. That high line is punished again, a straight pass from De Paul into the chasm behind the Saudi defence, Alowais comes out, and Martinez has a cup of maté then lifts over his dive. Lovely finish.

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Messi pigeon steps then hops, the keeper commits early and goes down right, so Messi rolls left and that’s the start Argentina wanted!

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Argentina 1-0 Saudi Arabia (Messi pen 10)”,”contributors”:[],”primaryDateLine”:”Tue 22 Nov 2022 06.01 EST”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Tue 22 Nov 2022 03.30 EST”},{“id”:”637ca0098f0888682fb9017f”,”elements”:[{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

9 min Yes, that’s a penalty; I wonder who’ll take it?!

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TO ARGENTINA!”,”contributors”:[],”primaryDateLine”:”Tue 22 Nov 2022 06.01 EST”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Tue 22 Nov 2022 03.30 EST”},{“id”:”637c90538f081b4f4147f27f”,”elements”:[{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

Argentina (4-3-3): Martinez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico; De Paul, Paredes, Gomez; Messi, Martinez, Di Maria. Subs: Armani, Rulli, Foyth, Montiel, Pezzella, Acuna, Palacios, Rodriguez, Mac Allister, Fernandez, Alvarez, Correa, Almada, Dybala.

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Saudi Arabia (4-3-3): Alowais; Abdulhamid, Altambakti, Albulaihi, Alshahrani; Kanno, Almalki, Alfaraj; Albrikan, Alshehri, Aldawsari. Subs: Alyami, Alaqidi, Madu, Alamri, Alburayk, Alghannam, Aldawsari, Alnajei, Alhassan, Otayf, Alabed, Alobud Bahbri, Asiri.

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Referee: Slavko Vincic (Slovenia)

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It was once put to Juca Kfouri, the Brazilian football writer, that Zico never won the World Cup. “Well,” he retorted, “that’s the World Cup’s bad luck”.

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And in a way, Brazil’s failure to lift the trophy in 1982 – and 1986 – actually elevates their standing, cementing them in our hearts because it’s easier to identify with tragic heroes than heroic heroes. Or, put another way, because – as we always are when we think we’re thinking about someone or something else – we’re really thinking about ourselves. But it’s also easier to identify with them because they stood for something important: “Beauty comes first, victory is secondary – what matters is joy,” was how Socrates put it.

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Which brings us onto Lionel Messi. Our relationship to him is different partly because Argentinian football culture is different to Brazilian football culture, its focus on winning by whatever means necessary. But it’s a personal thing, too – though Messi is perhaps the greatest player there’s ever been, he’s been so adept at concealing his essence that all we know of him is the genius we see on the pitch, meaning there’s no personal connection. So from our perspective – there we are again, punkt in the centre of things – he could do with inspiring a famous win here, so that people he neither knows nor cares for don’t think less of a bloke who’s 487 goals in 559 club games and 91 in 165 at international level; been awarded seven Ballon d’Ors; and won 10 La Liga titles, plus four Champions Leagues.

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Really, though, it’s nothing to do with us whatsoever: Messi needs to win this for himself, so he ends his career with no regrets. And the good news for him is that he’s got a decent chance: Argentina have a strong defence, solidity and creativity in midfield, and serious firepower up front. The bad news for him is that he might be carrying a knock, but reports suggest he’ll be fine.

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Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, were good in qualifying but have been less so since. They are, though solid at the back: in 12 games this calendar year they’ve conceded just six times, keeping clean sheets against Australia, USA and Ecuador, limiting Colombia and Croatia to just a single goal, and only letting in more than that once. Here we go!

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Kick-off: 1pm local, 10am GMT

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Key events

Half-time emails: “The first thought when a corner is given is now ‘ooh, might get a cheap penalty here’ rather than ‘might score an actual goal here’,” says Tom Hopkins. “I’m not sure how to change that without putting the VAR genie back in its box, but it doesn’t seem like an ideal state of affairs?”

On the other hand, David Sweet disagrees with me saying “I think I preferred it when refs could turn a blind eye because I don’t think that kind of thing should result in an almost definite goal,” replaying as follows: “But a foul is a foul and I think 99 fans out of 100 would prefer that ‘tussles’ did not happen – NO use of hands/arms on an opponent: ever. That would be in the spirit and laws of the game from the start.”

I’m not sure. David, I like the physical aspect of the game, so would always err on the side of preservation; Tom, I’d have binned VAR before it came in because of how it compromises goal celebrations, the greatest feeling known to mankind, but I’d always thought that penalties are too harsh a punishment for many of the offenses for which they’re given and this has intensified that.

HALF-TIME: Argentina 1-0 Saudi Arabia

That was a pretty enjoyable half of football, and not just because it’s 10.52am UK time nor because we’re all hopeless marks totally narcotised by the majesty of football. Argentina played some nice stuff, Saudi were enterprising too, and we’ve still got 315 minutes, (plus 692 of added time) awaiting us today.

45+3 mins Ach, I was wrong about Alfaraj. The Saudi captain departs grimacing and on the verge of tears, poor bloke – he must be hurt if he can’t last until the break – and Alabid replaces him.

Salman Al-Faraj departs early.  A big blow for Saudi Arabia.
Salman Al-Faraj departs early. A big blow for Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

45+1 min We’ll have five added minutes, and I’m going to sound like a total clown saying this, but the timekeeping is probably my favorite aspect of this competition so far – though I yesterday also enjoyed Christian Pulisic telling the ref to “relax” and Jude Bellingham calling Luke Shaw “Shawy”, in flagrant abuse of football’s nickname rules.

45 mins Paredes snaps a lovely ball out to Molina, disguising his intention to find his mate in space. But with men in the box at which to aim, instead he clips backwards and Saudi counter before running into traffic.

44 mins Aldawasari skips between two challenges like someone nipping onto the Tube as the doors close, then falls as Molina closes in to challenge; there’s a minor call for a penalty, but it’s not actually close.

42 mins Messi swings out towards Paredes and the ball’s cleared towards De Paul, advancing to the edge. He’s got time and space – lots of both – so back goes the head and up goes the shot, sailing way over the bar.

40 mins But as I type that, a ball over the top finds him down the side of the box, only for a poor touch to allow the defender in. Corner to Argentinawhich yields a free-kick in a better position when Almaki clatters Gomez for no benefit other than the sheer pleasure of inflicting pain

39 mins “When I sat down to watch this match,” emails Kári Tulinius, “I was suddenly struck by the melancholy thought that I’ll probably only see Messi play two or three dozen times again before he retires. I can remember him as a long-haired scamp tearing through defenses in dour era of football, like a Prometheus stealing joy from the football gods and bringing it to humanity. How lucky to have witnessed it.”

Yes, his and Ronaldo’s consistency is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. For years, I wasn’t sure of who he reminded me, but I got there in the end.

38 mins Alfaraj, the Saudi captain, is down with some kind of shin situation. He’s being sprayed, which suggests it’s impact rather than muscular and that he’s going to be fine.

37 mins Have Saudi got George Graham in as defensive coach? Their offside trap has been superb so far.

36 mins I cringe when I write this, but when I was at university, Nicolas Anelka scored a goal like that for Madrid, so I tried it in a game and scored … but twisted my ankle.

35 mins Oh man, again Lautaro gets in one-on-one, this time he steps over to commit the keeper before rolling in, and again the flag goes up.

Another offside flag for Martinez.
Another offside flag for Martinez. Photograph: Jose Breton/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

33 mins “Dearest Daniel,” begins my latest email – which long-time readers will know means MBM and OBO legend, Mac Millings. “The idea that the refs got told to give those kinds of penalties after the Maguire incident makes sense, but only in a world where we trust Fifa to learn from their mistakes.”

I’m trying to work out which tune to sing this to, or which rhyme-scheme I’m missing, but one thing on that: it seems like, despite the ludicrousness of this competition, that during it, football has finally decided to take timekeeping seriously. I’d still love to see the working for the added time we’ve been getting, and the clock displayed for all to see, but being dreadful at important tuff doesn’t necessarily preclude competence at the peripheral stuff. Maybe.

32 mins The ball comes in, and Martinez collects.

30 mins …they send menu up; watch for the counter if this goes wrong, but Argentina clear at the near post, then Saudi, who sustain the attack, find Kanno down the left, so De Paul crunches him. Another chance to put a ball into the box, prior to which Otamendi and Albulaihi shove each other.

30 mins Saudi win a corner down the right…

GOAL DISALLOWED FOR OFFSIDE!

We’ve not seen the replay, but a fair while after Martinez celebrated inking his name into the annals of humanity, his goal was confiscated.

…Or not.
…Or not. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

GOAL! Argentina 2-0 Saudi Arabia (Martinez 28)

And there it is. That high line is punished again, a straight pass from De Paul into the chasm behind the Saudi defence, Alowais comes out, and Martinez has a cup of mate then lifts over his dive. Lovely finish.

Lautaro Martinez lifts the ball over the keeper to make it two for the South Americans…
Lautaro Martinez lifts the ball over the keeper to make it two for the South Americans… Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

26 mins “A question regarding your proposed rule changes for penalties,” emails Ben Roylance. “Would you have awarded a penalty to Wales yesterday when Bale was fouled near the halfway line?”

I’d need another look, but I don’t think so, because the chances of him hitting a lob from there that went in were less likely than him not doing so. But I’d prefer to see one given for that than for the foul on Paredes.

24 mins “Who’s to say that the ball being played into the box, from a free kick or corner, wasn’t aimed for the man being fouled?” asks Sam Naden. “As such, I think a penalty should be given rather than a direct free kick.”

I’m happy for the ref to decide based on the flight of the ball and position of the fouled player.

22 mins Eeesh, there’s that space in behind again, a ball over the top – from Gomez I think – puts Messi in! This time, he doesn’t bottle it –(that’s a joke, @MessiSZN) – opening body to roll home. But the flag goes up and he was indeed offside, though not by much. I dare say he’ll score from a situation such as this before the morning/afternoon/evening/night is out.

Lionel is just offside.
Lionel is just offside. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

21 mins Argentina get it wide to Gomez, who has a look then thrashes a shot miles over and somewhere towards Selhurst Park.

20 mins “Sure, money is the blocker now,” returns Dom Jones on the topic of an equatorial African World Cup. “One hopes that won’t always be the case. I assume a competition in that part of the world would be played in winter, same as Afcon. I guess it’s less about temperature and more about rain.”

Yes, which I think depends – not everywhere round that way is hit too hard by the wt stuff such that a June/July edition would be impossible, I don’t think.

18 mins Now Argentina counter and Messi turns a lovely ball over the top for Martinez … who’s gone way too early. Still, the space in behind will have been lost on neither of them.

18 mins Argentina give it away in midfield and Aldawsari collects. He can’t pick a pass, but Saudi are also committing men forward, and this is brewing into a really enjoyable game.

16 mins Alshehri clatters into Tagliafico, who doesn’t like it, but it fine. Saudi, by the way, have been better these last few minutes, a nice interchange down the right allowing Abdulhamid to cross from the right; Martinez dives to collect.

15 mins Whatever one’s thoughts about the penalty, though, credit to Argentina for not mucking about. Men forward, well-spaced – and a big chance followed by a goal inside 10 minutes.

13 mins “The quote from Paredes on Messi,” tweets Avik, “reminded me of this from Yuvraj: ‘The whole team wanted to win the World Cup so badly, especially for Sachin because we knew it was his last World Cup.’”

The reverence of brilliant for genius is a beautiful thing.

11 mins I wonder if that goal came about because the refs were told about not letting fouls of that ilk go, following the yank on Harrance Maguire yesterday. It’s a real problem, I think, with the game, because of how hard it is to defend corners without getting physical. I think I preferred it when refs could turn a blind eye because I don’t think that kind of thing should result in an almost definite goal, which brings me back to the point I always make: any denial of a goalscoring opportunity, anywhere on the pitch should be a penalty; any foul in the box that does not deny a goalscoring opportunity should be a direct free-kick.

GOAL! Argentina 1-0 Saudi Arabia (Messi pen 10)

Messi pigeon steps then hops, the keeper commits early and goes down right, so Messi rolls left and that’s the start Argentina wanted!

Messi sends the keeper the wrong way and Argentina leads.
Messi sends the keeper the wrong way and Argentina leads. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Fans cheer Argentina's Lionel Messi as he celebrates after opening the scoring from the penalty spot.
The Argentina fans are rather pleased. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

PENALTY TO ARGENTINA!

9 mins Yes, that’s a penalty; I wonder who’ll take it?!

This is going in.
This is going in. Photograph: Annegret Hilse/Reuters

8 mins Messi looks for De Paul on the edge, he shoots into a defender, and then the ref goes to consult VAR because Abdulhamid might’ve hauled down Paredes!

Saudi Arabia's Salman Al-Faraj remonstrates with referee Slavko Vincic after he awarded Argentina a penalty.
Saudi Arabia’s Salman Al-Faraj remonstrates with referee Slavko Vincic after he awarded Argentina a penalty. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

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