World Cup day 3: Underdogs party, reigning champs stood tall

Day 3 of the World Cup Qatar was full of emotions. Suspension and surprises, it was like watching a series of thrillers directed by the eight teams from Group C and D playing today. Let’s take a look back at what happened.

Saudi Arabia’s miracle win against favorite Argentina

Legendary win for Saudi Arabia in the World Cup
Salem Al-Dawsari celebrating his goal versus Argentina. Photo Credit: REUTERS

What can we say? This is football heritage! An unbelievable upset from the boys in green on possibly one of the favorites to win it all. No one thought they could do it, especially after seeing how Qatar and Iran got manhandled in the first two days.

It started easy for La Albiceleste when Lionel Messi converted the penalty kick before the ten-minute mark passed. Everyone was expecting a walk in the park for Argentina. But Saudi Arabia remained disciplined, executing their offside traps to perfection. The Argentinian was marked offside 7 times in the first half – a tournament record for most by a team in a football half. Among those, Messi and Lautaro Martinez put the ball in the back of the net three times. Herve Renard’s players going to break only down by one.

The surprise began three minutes after the second-half kick-off. Saleh Al-Shehri, with a perfect left-footed shot, placed the ball hard enough for Emi Martinez to level the score for KSA. And five minutes later, Saudi Arabia’s maestro Salem Al-Dawsari scored a trademark Lionel Messi goal to give the Asian team a shocking lead. They continued to play phenomenal defensive football in the remaining minutes to keep the score unchanged till the final whistle. A win that put the whole world in awe. A team that suffered the biggest of defeats in the tournament history now knocked down the giants in Argentina. Congratulations, Herve Renard and company! And enjoy the national holiday, Saudi Arabia!

Two scoreless draws in Denmark vs. Tunisia and Mexico vs. Poland

Denmark and Tunisia in World Cup
Tough game for both Denmark and Tunisia. Photo Credit: Sporting News

The game between Denmark and Tunisia was supposed to keep the tone after an intense early window. Denmark was the favorite to win, especially after the form they displayed recently. But Tunisia was the team to take early control of the match with the motor of captain Msakni and Laidouni. Soon enough, the possession game went back to the Danish way. No chance was created as both teams headed to the tunnel scoreless. 

The second half witnessed the same scenario. But this time, Denmark created some excellent opportunities to go in front. But it only stopped at the chance, as Skov Olsen’s goal denied being marked offside while Cornelius missed from a hair-length distance.

Ochoa is Mexican World Cup hero
Memo Ochoa celebrating after pushing Lewandowski’s penalty. Photo Credit: Sky Sports

The match between Mexico and Poland was no better. A back-and-forth game saw both teams being dull on the attack. Mexico looked a bit better with a bright spot from Alexis Vega. In the second half, the same defensive game continued. Well, not really. Both teams had open space to execute their attack. But it was so bad that it made the defense look good. 

The match was in dire need of a superstar moment, and it came with Robert Lewandowski. A powerful play from the Barcelona striker forced Moreno to pull the shirt, forcing a penalty. Is it finally Lewandowski’s first-ever World Cup goal? The answer is no. Ochoa, per usual, turned into Spiderman when it was World Cup time and saved the penalty. No more chances were created, and the match ended without a score.

France looking strong

Reigning champion started great
Les Blues are on their way to protecting the title. Photo Credit: The New York Times

The World Cup curse for reigning champions is up and alive. The last three were eliminated from the opening stage of the competition. Considering the absence of key players in the French squad, the belief that France could be knocked out is more visible than ever.

It became more apparent when Australia pulled ahead 9 minutes into the game. Worse for France, Lucas Hernandez went down with a non-contact injury, which we feared might have been an ACL tear. But that lead didn’t last long. Lucas’ replacement and brother Theo Hernandez delivered a beautiful cross for Rabiot to equalize. And just minutes later, Rabiot dispossessed the ball near the Australian penalty area before dishing in for Giroud for an easy tap-in.

In the second half, Didier Deschamps’s squad still took complete control of the midfield and, especially, the wing. Dembele delivered a magnificent cross, and Mbappe beat a much taller Souttar to make it 3-1. Later, Kylian Mbappe, with a nice shake-and-bake, eliminated the Socceroos defender and put the ball on the plate for Giroud for four. That goal was Giroud’s 51st goal for the France International team, making him the joint-top scorer with Thierry Henry.

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