Footy Times

Saudis hope their team will reach the World Cup semis

Saudi fans share their dream of playing in knock-outs with Doha-based reporter AP Muhammed Afsal.

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“That second goal was totally unexpected,” says Yazeed Bashammakh, an Infrastructure engineer in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, amid celebrations of their national team’s win against the Lionel Messi-led Argentina continued unabated.

Saudi’s 2-1 victory on Tuesday against the world’s most admired side in Qatar’s Lusail Stadium shocked many, given Saudi’s status as a marginal player in global football.

Before this feat, Saudi Arabia had only won three World Cup matches. In the match’s second half, Messi’s 10th-minute penalty score was duly answered by Saudi’s Saleh al-Shehri and Salem al-Dawsari.

Saudis hope to get into the semi-finals if they continue the form in forthcoming matches

“I was speechless with joy when the last whistles blew,” Bashammakh said amid the noise of hooting and hugging.

The country’s sizeable foreign-worker population had always preferred Latin American and European teams, says Vaheed Saman, a senior journalist with Malayalam News, a daily published under the Arab Newsgroup. “It can’t be an understatement if we say the kingdom contains more Brazil-Argentina fans than the national team.”

So, this group stage match had torn people like Shafi Tuvvur, an Indian school teacher who has been a lifelong Argentine fan from Kerala’s football-mad Malappuram.

Lionel Messi stands disappointed beside Saudi players who just grabbed a 2:1 victory (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Nevertheless, he’s happy now. “Saudi team was not a big deal in the global football map. Now they beat the top dogs in the game. They became the first Asian country to defeat Argentina in the Fifa World cup,” he said, showing screenshots of holiday-declaring emails sent by companies.

“The top moment was when Saudi scored the winning second goal. This winning will strengthen the confidence and team spirit.” He said the credit no doubt goes to the goalkeeper and the coach.

“My top moment was the second goal; everything was perfect, including the commentary, which captured the beauty of the goal,” Bashammakh said.

Saudi Goalkeeper Muhammed Alowais was instrumental in bringing down the favourites in their opening game.

Cybersecurity engineer Osama Alquaymi said he expected the team to go past the group but no further. “But now, Insha Allah, the team will reach the quarterfinals, if not the semis.”

Alquaymi said he couldn’t give credit to a single player. “Everyone played their best. The coach Hervé Renard’s squad-picking was great. His tactics were amazing. He did risky things, but it was rewarding. Alhamdulillah.”

“Given the team spirit, we will continue to win against Poland and Mexico.”

“The performance and the result were fulfilling for all Saudis and residents and for the entire gulf region,” Iddrissuo Rashad Kpabia, a school teacher from Ghana, said.

Saudi players perform sujood- an Islamic prostration of thanksgiving- after a match-winning performance against Argentina.

“My top moment was when the players climaxed the game with the shukr-Sujood,” he said, referring to the Islamic prostration of thanksgiving. “The win silenced Argentine fans around the world. Their team had never been beaten to this manner and extent. This is a moment to behold.”

“The goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais managed to stop eighty per cent of the shots, including from the great Lionel Messi,” says Amir Alm Eldin from Egypt.

Saudi Arabia will next face Poland on Saturday and then take on Mexico next Tuesday in Group C.

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