Even though this is not how it should have ended, it always does. That hunched posture, that aloof look, and that dejected scowl. Argentina’s goal in participating in this World Cup was to immortalize Lionel Messi. For a while, it will recall it as one of its biggest humiliations in history.
A team that had gone 35 games without losing before arriving in Qatar, the glow of its first international victory in a generation still fresh in its memory, with arguably the greatest player of all time in top form and surrounded by teammates of the highest caliber, started its tournament with a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia, a team that was meant to be nothing more than a lamb to the slaughter.
The embarrassment, shame, and stigma that the defeat inflicted on Argentina will burn even more keenly because it was ultimately justified and served as adequate retribution for Argentina’s failure to overcome the Saudi opposition, maintain composure, and use all of its skills and experience to its advantage.
It’s possible that Saudi Arabia rode their luck in the first half. For the majority of the second, it preyed on an Argentina that had suddenly developed all of the old weaknesses and neuroses. Haunted by memories of Cameroon in 1990, this Argentina was fearful that this World Cup, which was meant to be different, may end up being the same as all the others.