Argentina 1-0 Saudi Arabia LIVE: Messi makes a lively start to his final World Cup as he slots home a penalty before the South Americans have THREE disallowed by tight offside calls in Doha

Follow Sportsmail’s live blog for the World Cup Group C clash between Argentina and Saudi Arabia. 

Host commentator

A healthy dose of added time to the added time but we have finally reached the break with Argentina leading Saudi Arabia 1-0.

In a bygone age, they’d be four to the good but VAR and that automated offside system have meant Saudi’s ridiculously high defensive line is just about in tact.

Three goals – two by Lautaro Martinez, one by Lionel Messi – have been chalked off but they still lead thanks to Messi’s early penalty – given by VAR – following some grappling in the box.

But Lionel Scaloni might be a bit irritated at half-time – Argentina should be home and hosed. They’ve also been sloppy with their passing at times. Plenty to work on.

45+4min: Saudi Arabia making a change here – It’s one of their leaders, Salman Al-Faraj, who hasn’t shaken off that knock from a little earlier and will have to admit defeat here. He gets a great reception from the Saudi fans as Nawaf Alabid comes on.

45+3min: Lovely ball into the box by Paredes picks out Di Maria on the right. He can’t quite steer the ball goalwards with enough power.

45min: The fourth official’s added time board becoming more and more of a spectacle at this World Cup. We will have the relatively modest five minutes of added time here.

42min: Argentina have a corner as we fast approach the interval. It leads to Papu Gomez being fouled by Abdullellah Al-Malki.

Messi to deliver the resulting free-kick and it’s cleared to De Paul on the edge of the box, who gets it all wrong as the ball flies into the stands.

39min: The Saudi captain Salman Al-Faraj down with an issue here. Good to see the magic spray remains a part of the game, even at the World Cup. It’s healing powers ensure Al-Faraj is soon back to his feet.

A reminder all this lost time for the stoppage will be added on at the end of the half. Given all those offside calls, we’re probably looking at 10 minutes.

That Saudi Arabia high line…

Argentina have been caught offside six times in this match already – that's more than any team at the 2018 tournament in a match or in this tournament so far.#FIFAWorldCup

35min: The automated graphic finally appears of that disallowed Lautaro Martinez goal. It’s just a tiny bit of his shoulder that would count as offside there – the t-shirt line as the rules state.

Meanwhile, Martinez breaks through to score once again. A bit more clear-cut that time – offside. That’ll be four times Argentina have had the ball in the net now, only one has counted.

The Lautaro Martinez offside 🤯

31min: Saudi Arabia attacking now and De Paul brings down Kanno close to the touchline to concede a free-kick in a threatening position. Surely their best hope of an equaliser comes from a set piece?

Not that time though, curled directly into the gloves of Emi Martinez.

The Saudis have been playing a very high line indeed and it’s proving suicidal. Argentina were just biding their time but now they’ve unlocked their opponents once again.

It’s Lautaro Martinez this time, slipping through, going around the keeper and chipping home.

But there will be a VAR check for offside and, unfortunately for Argentina, Martinez had just strayed a fraction offside running through there.

It remains 1-0 despite Argentina netting three times in the first 28 minutes.

4 – With his goal against Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦, Lionel Messi has become the first player to score in four World Cups with @Argentina (2006, 2014, 2018 and 2022), overpassing Gabriel Batistuta (1994, 1998 and 2002) and Diego Maradona (1982, 1986 and 1994). Poker.#ARG #FIFAWorldCup

22min: Just for a split-second there we thought Messi had doubled his tally – he gets in behind the Saudi defence, races through and coolly slots the ball home one-on-one, only to turn and see the raised flag from the assistant.

It’s the correct decision, Messi was just leaning forward beyond the last defender.

20min: Leandro Paredes sweeps the ball wide to the left, where Papu Gomez steps inside and decides to shoot. Wastefully as it transpires as it clears the bar by some distance.

18min: Argentina hustle the ball back in midfield following a spell of Saudi pressure and a ball over the top sets Lautaro Martinez free.

He blasts his shot wide and the offside flag was raised in any case. We do have the usual situation when the flag won’t go up until the last moment.

15min: So the game plan of containment now out of the window for Saudi Arabia, how do they approach this?

Are we already in damage limitation mode with an eye on the upcoming games against Mexico and Poland? Or will they look to attack and get back into this?

They have a free-kickabout 40 yards out but it’s dealt with pretty comfortably by Parades and then Tagliafico.

Well, talk about calm and collected. Messi simply strokes the penalty home, sending the keeper diving the wrong way. The perfect start to the game and the tournament for Argentina.

That is the PSG star’s 92nd international goal.

7min: Rodrigo de Paul is fouled and Argentina have a free-kick just to the left of the Saudi box that offers Messi an inviting chance to swing the ball in.

But there’s a pause because the referee has been summoned over to the VAR monitor for a penalty check. There was all manner of pushing when that corner was taken.

It was Paredes whose shirt was being grabbed and he was dragged down inside the box. Similar to the one Harry Maguire didn’t get yesterday.

And, yes indeed, there was an infringement in there. Argentina are awarded the penalty and Messi will have the chance to put them ahead from 12 yards.

6min: Papu Gomez this time picked out by a quarterback ball from deep. He wins Argentina a corner despite the best efforts of Saud Abdulhamid.

A bit of pushing and shoving but it’s decisively cleared.

2min: Argentina immediately into their groove and they should be ahead – Angel Di Maria is picked out on the right hand side and plays a pass into the centre, where it’s teed up perfectly for Lionel Messi. You’d expect him to score but it’s a strong hand by the Saudi keeper Al-Owais.

There had been some pre-tournament concerns that Al-Owais was lacking game time because he isn’t the first choice for Al-Hilal. He is for his country, however, and he was sharp with the low save there.

Messi, though, has to score surely.

The Saudi players don’t quite grasp there is a countdown to kick-off but we are belatedly underway.

Warm smiles and handshakes between the two coaches – Lionel Scaloni of Argentina and Herve Renard of Saudi Arabia.

Argentina in their iconic blue and white shirts, with the Saudis in their traditional green.

And so we’re ready to begin on day three of the World Cup and in Group C as well.

The decibel levels go up another level as the two sets of players walk out at the Lusail Iconic Stadium and line up for the anthems.

First, the Argentina player link arms for stirring the Himno Nacional Argentina.

That’s followed by the Saudi anthem ‘An-Nasid al-Waani as-Su’udi’ which translates as ‘Long Live the King.’ The Saudi player pivot towards their flag at one end of the stadium and place hands on hearts.

Argentina: Damian Martinez, Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico, De Paul, Paredes, Di Maria, Messi, Gomez, Lautaro Martinez
Substitutes: Armani, Foyth, Montiel, Pezzella, Acuna, Alvarez, Rulli, Palacios, Correa, Almada, Rodriguez, Mac Allister, Dybala, Jeremias, Lisandro Martinez

Saudi Arabia: Al-Owais, Abdulhamid, Tambakti, Al-Bulayhi, Al-Shahrani, Al-Shehri, Kanno, Al-Malki, Salem Al-Dawsari, Al-Faraj, Al-Buraikan
Substitutes: Al-Rubaie, Al-Ghanam, Madu, Al-Amri, Al-Burayk, Otayf, Al-Hassan, Al-Naji, Al-Abed, Bahbri, Al-Aboud, Al-Aqidi, Nasser Al-Dawsari, Asiri.

Referee: Slavko Vincic (Slovenia)

We are almost ready for the players to emerge at the Lusail Iconic Stadium as the announcer whips up a crowd that, to be honest, probably doesn’t need much encouragement.

A mass of green at one end, a sea of blue at the other as the opening ceremony begins.

We all know who the favourite is here as Messi’s Last Dance begins but the World Cup has shocked us before!

Argentina typically play a 4-2-3-1 shape which allows Messi to occupy that No 10 role but also a free rein to drift out to the flanks and weave his magic. Papu Gomez is likely to be on the left side, with Angel Di Maria on he left. Lautaro Martinez will lead the line.

Rodrigo de Paul and Leandro Paredes will be the link men in defensive midfield.

The Saudis are probably going to go with a 4-4-1-1. The two banks of four will have to work overtime to keep the Argentina side at bay. Firas Al Buraikan will lead the attack with Salman Al Faraj playing just off him, but will they get any service?

Mohamed Kanno and Abdulelah Al Malki in defensive midfield are going to have to play outstandingly well, likewise Al-Hilal keeper Mohammed Al Owais.

The players just finishing off their warm-ups as the crowd take their seats at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.

This is the first 1pm local time kick-off in the tournament and temperatures, while still around the 27C mark, are not unbearable for this one.

Lionel Messi will lead Argentina to World Cup glory if he emulates Gareth Bale’s match-winning prowess, which was on display during Wales’ crucial 1-1 draw against USA on Monday.

The Welsh captain won and dispatched a late penalty to equalise after Timothy Weah’s first-half opener, keeping Wales’ hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages very much alive in Group B.

Sportsmail’s Martin Samuel believes Messi must become for Argentina what Bale is for Wales, channeling the Welshman’s knack of stepping up in the biggest moments.


Basic geographical proximity will ensure that Saudi Arabia will be supported by thousands of green-clad fans during this tournament.

Drive south from Doha through the desert and you’ll eventually cross to border into Saudi Arabia.

It’s a relatively short journey for these fans and they have turned up in numbers for this one.


It would be unfair for Lionel Messi to retire without winning a World Cup.’ Those were the words of Spain manager Luis Enrique last week.

And it is a sentiment shared by many in Qatar, where there is an overwhelming desire for the brilliant Argentine to finally triumph on the biggest stage.

You do not need to venture far in Doha before you see someone wearing an Argentina shirt with ‘Messi 10’ on the back.


There’s an enormous cheer from the many thousands of Argentina fans already inside the Lusail Iconic Stadium as Lionel Messi leads the team out to begin the warm-ups.

Al Owais; Abdulhamid, Tambakti, Al Boleahi, Al Shahrani; Al Faraj, Kanno, Al Malki; Al Buraikan, Al Shehri, Al Dawsari

Martinez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico; De Paul, Paredes, Papu Gomez; Messi, Lautaro Martinez, Di Maria.

So a formidable-looking forward line of Messi, Martinez and Di Maria there for the Argentine’s opening game. But Man United fans will notice that there’s no Lisandro Martinez in the defence.


La Selección @Argentina ya se encuentra en el estadio.

Desde las 7, 🇦🇷 vs. 🇸🇦

It’s been quite the journey from League Two to the World Cup for Saudi Arabia’s French coach.

His record at the Abbey Stadium read five wins, seven draws and 14 defeats, seeing him sacked after just a few months – but it’s hardly stopped his career.

Find out all about him by clicking the link below.

Salem al-Dawsari, who goes by the nickname ‘the tornado’, is another Saudi player who could pose Argentina some problems if he gets chance today.

He scored their winning goal against Egypt at the 2018 World Cup and it will be his task to supply crosses from the right wing to the forwards.

The 31-year-old Al-Hilal player has racked up 71 appearances for his country since 2011 and was named the competition’s best player when his club won last year’s Asian Champions League.

Virgil van Dijk has hit back at claims the Netherlands and other countries have been spineless in the anti-discrimination armband controversy.

The Dutch were one of seven European nations, also including England and Wales, who planned to have their captains wearing the rainbow-coloured ‘OneLove’ armband at the World Cup.

The band is part of a year-long campaign but sent out an especially significant message in Qatar, a country which criminalises same-sex relationships.

However, the seven countries dropped their plans after tournament organisers FIFA threatened them with sporting sanctions including yellow cards for the captains if the bands were worn, instructing teams to wear a FIFA-approved ‘no discrimination’ band instead.

Oranje skipper Van Dijk told Dutch broadcaster NOS: “I play in a position where a yellow card is not useful. I became a football player and I want to play these kind of tournaments.

“There are people who say we don’t have a backbone, but that’s not how it works,” the Liverpool defender added.

“We just want to play football. I would have loved to play with that band, but not at the expense of a yellow card.”

England skipper Harry Kane spoke of his disappointment at not being able to wear the band during England’s opening victory over Iran on Monday, while his team-mate Jack Grealish said it was “a bit stupid” that Kane had been prevented from doing so.

The Football Association had been prepared to be fined over the band but its position – and that of the other associations – changed when it became apparent sporting sanctions were a realistic possibility.

FIFA has been heavily criticised over the matter. It only announced its plan for an approved armband on Saturday, and even then, it stated the ‘no discrimination’ part of its campaign would only begin at the quarter-final stage.

A picture from inside the Argentina dressing room showing the golden boots Lionel Messi will be wearing during their World Cup opener today.

The Adidas X Speedportal boots are primarily gold but with blue and white details to match the national flag, plus the names and dates of birth of Messi’s children.

You can read a little more about them HERE.

Scintillating, marvellous, magical. Those are just a few of the superlatives that have been used to describe Lionel Messi over the last 18 years.

Throughout his career the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has achieved what many players could only dream of. But one trophy has so far proved beyond his reach – the World Cup.

Messi, for much of his career, has suffered heartache with Argentina. In the 2010 World Cup he watched a host of his Barcelona team-mates experience glory with Spain after La Albiceleste were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Germany.

Four years later it was a 113th-minute strike by Mario Gotze that prevented him from lifting the big prize at the final hurdle despite being awarded the Golden Ball award.

The 2018 World Cup was another one to forget for Argentina. To put it bluntly, it was the Kylian Mbappe Tournament. The Frenchman scored a brace to help Les Bleus beat Messi and Co 4-3 in the Round of 16 before going on to become a world champion.


The two sides have met on four occasions, with Argentina winning twice and two draws.

The first two came as part of the Bicentennial Gold Cup in July 1988, with the first ending 2-2 and Argentina winning 2-0 in the second.

They played at the 1992 FIFA Confederations Cup, resulting in a 3-1 Argentina win.

Their latest meeting was in November 2012, a goalless draw.

Salman Al-Faraj is the captain and midfield stalwart around which the Saudi Arabian team revolves.

He is the heartbeat of the side and, at 33-years-old, boasts plenty of experience for both his country and club Al-Hilal.

He is a left-footed playmaker averaging 2.1 dangerous passes per game but is also effective at breaking up play.

Al-Faraj struggled with injury at the start of the year but has been finding form ever since and if he goes well, Saudi have a chance of snatching points where few give them hope.

Goalkeepers: Mohamed Al-Owais (Al-Hilal), Nawaf Al-Aqidi (Al-Nassr), Mohamed Al-Yami (Al-Ahly).

Defenders: Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal), Ali Al-Bulaihi (Al-Hilal), Abdulelah Al-Amri (Al-Nassr), Abdullah Madu (Al-Nassr), Hassan Tambakti (Al-Shabab), Sultan Al-Ghanam (Al-Nassr), Mohammed Al-Breik (Al-Hilal), Saud Abdulhamid (Al-Hilal).

Midfielders: Salman Al-Faraj (Al-Hilal), Riyadh Sharahili (Abha), Ali Al-Hassan (Al-Nassr), Mohamed Kanno (Al-Hilal), Abdulelah Al-Malki (Al-Hilal), Sami Al-Najei (Al-Nassr), Abdullah Otayf (Al-Hilal), Nasser Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal), Abdulrahman Al-Aboud (Ittihad), Salem Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal), Hattan Bahebri (Al-Shabab).

Forwards: Nawaf Al-Abed (Al-Shabab), Haitham Asiri (Al-Ahly), Saleh Al-Shehri (Al-Hilal) Firas Al-Buraikan (Al-Fateh).


Many of the £180-a-night cabins being marketed to World Cup fans are still being thrown together, with migrant workers on 14-hour shifts to complete them, Sportsmail can reveal.

A third of the Free Zone complex was still under construction on Monday, with some cabins still unfurnished shells. Unplumbed toilets were stacked outside them as workers hammered and drilled together cheap flat-pack beds and wardrobes to furnish them.

Two Indian migrant workers, who are earning just £25 a day, said site bosses were offering further ad-hoc bonuses of £25 to encourage them to work faster to get the work finished.



Argentina have already had to make some enforced changes to their 26-man World Cup squad because of injury issues.

Nicolas Gonzalez, the Fiorentina forward, withdrew and was replaced by Angel Correa of Atletico Madrid last Thursday.

On the same day, Joaquin Correa, the Inter Milan forward, also was taken out of the squad by coach Lionel Scaloni and Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada was brought in to replace him.

There was some concern among Argentina fans when star man Messi went to ground following a heavy challenge in their warm-up match against UAE last Wednesday but he seems to be fine.

Goalkeepers: Franco Armani (River Plate), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal).

Defenders: Marcos Acuna (Sevilla), Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), Nicolas Tagliafico (Lyon).

Midfielders: Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Enzo Fernandez (Benfica), Alejandro Gomez (Sevilla), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Leandro Paredes (Juventus), Guido Rodriquez (Real Betis), Thiago Almada (Atlanta United)

Forwards: Julian Alvarez (Manchester City), Joaquin Correa (Inter Milan), Paulo Dybala (Roma), Angel Di Maria (Juventus), Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid).

PETE JENSON: ‘Who knows if there isn’t another one after this,’ says Argentina full-back Nicolas Tagliafico of this being Leo Messi’s last attempt at winning the World Cup.

It’s a nice idea – Messi at 39 competing in the 2026 tournament. But speaking before Argentina’s opener against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday Messi confirmed this will be his last – it’s a good job he and the team are both flying then.

Argentina have now gone 35 games without losing and that run includes a 1-0 victory over Brazil that won them the Copa America last year.


Qatar’s World Cup organisers are coming under criticism after twice announcing highly dubious attendance figures for matches at the start of the tournament.

There have been a large number of empty seats at every game so far but you wouldn’t know it if you saw the ‘official’ numbers that were given out.

The host nation’s opener against Ecuador had 67,000 in the crowd according to the announcement made at the end of the game.

Even if it had been full that would have been a little strange considering the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor only holds 60,000.

And this now appears to be a theme with Holland vs Senegal having an official attendance of 41,721, despite being played in a 40,000-seater stadium.

Tuesday’s match will be played at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, which has a capacity of 80,000 and is therefore the largest being used at the tournament.

It is situated in Lusail, some 23km north of the capital city Doha, where the majority of the games will be played.

Construction on the Lusail Iconic Stadium began in 2017 and it was completed in November 2021, with the official inauguration coming on September 9 this year when it hosted the Lusail Super Cup.

It will host 10 matches during the World Cup, including the final on December 18.


Louis van Gaal insisted he was not entirely happy. He grumbled away about sloppiness in possession and excessive dribbling by this team but his delight was very clear enough as he waited to greet Cody Gapko.

It was the fourth minute of stoppage time and just 10 minutes earlier Gakpo had headed in the opening goal. His reward upon substitution was to be greeted with a beaming grin, a high five and a slap on the back from his hard-to-please boss.

Holland were far from their most fluent. Indeed, for spells in the game, Senegal were on top and craved out good opportunities before wilting.


Not too many are giving Saudi Arabia much of a chance today but they could be well-equipped to frustrate Argentina.

Their coach Herve Renard, 54, has bags of tournament experience, winning the Africa Cup of Nations with both Zambia and Ivory Coast. He was in charge of Morocco back in 2018 though they failed to get out of their group.

And they did, after all, finish above Japan and Australia in Asian qualifying.

Goals are at something of a premium – the last time Saudi Arabia managed to score more than once in a game was when they beat China 3-2 in qualification back in October last year. That was 20 games ago.

With that in mind, we can expect them to adopt a compact and defensive shape, offering little going forward, in a bid to negate Argentina’s star-studded attack. Concentration will be key.


It had always been a leap of faith to assume that Gareth Bale, a player who has started two club football matches these past six months, could power Wales to glory at this tournament, fuelled by emotional energy and patriotism alone.

For 80 long minutes, it didn’t work out that way. The set-pieces didn’t present themselves. A cold and chastening reality came into play. And then, after a half time strategic change that helped his side back into the match, an enormous moment presented itself.

Perhaps, Bale may reflect one day, the most enormous of his career football. He stood astride the football to take a penalty he had won, drove into his run up and smashed home the kick, to the goalkeeper’s right which leaves Wales to fight another day.


Some pretty cool light effects showing the Argentina stars back home last night. Images of Lionel Messi were projected onto the ‘Monumento Nacional a la Bandera’ in the city of Rosario, which seemed to go down well with the locals there.

Rosario is, of course, the Argentina captain’s home city.

Anyone who has watched the games so far will have noticed that most of them are going on far longer than usual.

Indeed, the first four games have seen a colossal 64 minutes of stoppage time added on by officials.

It’s gruelling for the players, especially given the Qatar heat, but there is a good reason for it. FIFA has been determined to clamp down on time wasting and ensure the ball is in play for longer.

It means that time lost for substitutions, penalties, celebrations, VAR and medical treatment – plus general time-wasting – will all see the clock stopped and be added on at the end.

That’s why England’s game with Iran saw 14 minutes added on in the first-half and 13 after the second following various injury stoppages.


Argentina have twice won the World Cup but 1986, the year of their last triumph in Mexico, does seem an awful long time ago now.

However, there’s a reason why, along with Brazil, many pundits and the bookmakers are considering them hot favourites to win in Qatar.

First of all, they have recent experience of tournament success, having won last year’s Copa America, and they come into the tournament in stunning form, having gone 35 matches unbeaten.

Then there’s the romantic sense that Lionel Messi’s final World Cup – the 35-year-old made it clear he wouldn’t play in 2026 a few months back – could end in a fairytale finale.

But perhaps most importantly, it’s the strong selection of players Lionel Scaloni has at his disposal. From Lisandro Martinez and Nicolas Tagliafico at the back to Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala – plus Messi of course – in attack, it’s a seriously strong side.

But Argentina have been well fancied and let us down in the past so plenty has to go right. It isn’t difficult to see, however, why they’re among the top tier of favourites.


He preferred Bukayo Saka to Phil Foden and Saka scored, twice. He stuck with Raheem Sterling, who also found the net, and Harry Maguire who did everything but.

He brought on Marcus Rashford and he got the fifth with his first involvement in the game, while Callum Wilson combined unselfishly with another substitute, Jack Grealish, for the sixth. Harry Kane was the first man to make two goals in a World Cup match for England in 16 years.

So it was a clean sweep. All that can be asked of a manager is that he gets the big calls right and there was no shrewder judge than Gareth Southgate.

This was England’s biggest win in the opening game of a major tournament and only the second time in competitive tournament history England have scored six. The first time was Southgate’s doing, too – against Panama in 2018.


We’re into the first of several four-game days at the Qatar World Cup today with Groups C and D kicking off.

First up, it’s Argentina taking on Saudi Arabia in the first Group C fixture, which starts at 1pm local time or 10am in the UK.

After that, the first match in Group D at 1pm UK as Denmark take on Tunisia.

We then hop back to Group C for the 4pm UK game as Mexico play Poland.

Finally, the defending champions France start their World Cup at 7pm UK as they face Australia.

The second day of the World Cup saw England smash Iran for six, sending hopes of glory in Qatar soaring all over the land.

Now it’s day three and we’re going to see two of the tournament favourites open their campaigns.

The reigning champions France take on Australia a little later but first it’s Argentina taking on Saudi Arabia as Group C gets underway.

Their star and inspiration Lionel Messi has already made clear this will be his fifth and final World Cup, adding a little more pressure but also raising the possibility of a Hollywood ending to his extraordinary script.

But Messi certainly has a talented team around him and this Argentina look as strong as they’ve been for several years, coming into the event on a formidable 35-game unbeaten run.

They’ll hope to rack up a few goals against Saudi Arabia to get the ball rolling.

Welcome along to our live coverage.

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