2022 World Cup Newsletter: Lionel Messi and Argentina suffer World Cup upset for the ages; what now for USMNT?

If you’re bummed about USMNT’s draw to Wales yesterday, fret not. It could be worse. You could be from Argentina, who suffered an upset for the ages. I’m Mike Goodman, and this is the Golazo Starting XI newsletter. While you were waking up still processing what happened to the United States men’s national team, you missed the upset of the tournament so far as Saudi Arabia shocked the world with a 2-1, come-from-behind win over Lionel Messi and heavyweights Argentina.

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Let’s get to it with today’s slate and much, much more:

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⚽  The Forward Line

How in the world did Argentina lose?

The soccer gods were not kind to Messi, my friends. Any upset of this magnitude takes a lot of things going right, a few thing going horribly wrong and a whole bunch of relatively random breaks lining up. And sure enough, that’s what happened. 

Saudi Arabia needed to play well and get lucky to get this historic result. Three total shots taken resulted in a 2-1 win for the Saudis. And it’s not like those three shots were amazing counterattacking situations. They were all from tight angles, with defenders between the attacker and goal in situations where Argentina should have felt relatively unthreatened. But in a five-minute span Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari scored the goals of their lives. Both players struck the ball past Emiliano Martinez in goal toward the corner of the frame. Ultimately, plenty of credit goes to the underdogs for those moments, but it’s hard to find much blame for Argentina either. Sometimes soccer happens.

Things were somewhat more complicated on the other end for Argentina. It’s true that by the end of the match, they racked up a pretty impressive stat line with 15 shots, 2.23 expected goals (xG) and in general a performance that usually ends with more than one goal scored. In the process, they forced five saves. Argentina also had three goals called back for offsides, including one from a VAR review. And that’s where we need to give a tremendous amount of credit to the underdogs. Saudi Arabia sprang an incredibly effective offside trap that caught the South American side on the wrong side a WHOPPING 10 times, seven of which came in the first half. In fact, for all the xG that Argentina put on the board, not a ton of it actually occurred from open play. There was the first-half penalty where Argentina scored their lone goal via Messi and then a bunch of other set pieces which had them knocking on the door, but from open play they only generated 0.24 xG.

As always, when you’re the underdog like Saudi Arabia, the answer to the question of whether you’d rather be lucky or good is a resounding “both.”

More on Saudi Arabia’s upset over Argentina:

🔗  Midfield Link Play

Now what for USMNT?

Getty Images

It was the best of halves, it was the worst of halves. The USMNT dominated possession and took a one-goal lead into halftime on Monday. Then the match was flipped upside down and a late Walker Zimmerman penalty on Gareth Bale allowed Wales’ best player to tie it up from the spot. Yesterday, I told you that a win would put the USMNT in the driver’s seat for qualification, while a loss would put them in serious trouble of making it out of the group. They did nether. So where does that leave them? Well, it’s complicated. 

The good news is that the U.S. will have a fine chance of advancing even if they lose to England on Matchday 2. A loss, followed up by a win against Iran would — in theory — be enough to get through in many circumstances. And there really were a lot of positives from the Americans performances. Tim Weah’s goal, the first for the team in the World Cup in eight years, was exactly how Berhalter drew it up with Josh Sargent’s hold-up play leading to Christian Pulisic running at the back line and playing Weah through. Tyler Adams was immense. The sky isn’t falling for the USMNT, and whatever happens against England on Friday, it won’t be falling after that match either. Though they should probably try to avoid Iran’s fate.

Listen below and follow In Soccer We Trust: A CBS Sports Soccer Podcast where your three favorite former USMNT players cover everything you could possibly want to know about the United States men’s national team during the World Cup in Qatar.

Let’s get to some links:

Craving more World Cup coverage? Listen below and follow House of Champions, a daily CBS Sports soccer podcast, bringing you top-notch analysis, commentary, picks and more during the big games in Qatar.


💰  The Back Lines

Best bets

Let’s pick some World Cup matches!

All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

  • France vs. Australia, Tuesday, 2 p.m. ET 
    💰 THE PICK: Under 2.5 Goals (+100). Struggle ball, thy name is France. Australia are not a good team but that just means France will score and then shut it all down. This isn’t a side that runs up the score in the best of times, and given the long list of injuries Didier Deschamps is currently dealing with, expect him to rely even more on the conservative approach of kicking it to Kylian Mbappe and letting him do just enough to score ore create one or maybe two goals max.
  • Germany vs. Japan, Tuesday, 8 a.m. ET 
    💰 THE PICK: Japan to win (+650). Let’s take a swing on a big underdog. Japan are an underrated team. They’re tough, physical and absolutely miserable to play against. Takefusa Kubo can be electric on the wing or up top and Daichi Kamada is a high quality goal scorer. Japan play a myriad of formations and try to kick the crap out of you in absolutely all of them. Germany should be the favorite, but this is a very big price.

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