Saudi players and women supporters celebrate their victory at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, on Tuesday. AP
A skyscraper in downtown Doha was lit up with the image of Saudi Arabia's flag on Tuesday night as fans throughout the Middle East celebrated the unexpected victory.
In London, the Saudi-owned newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat read: "The Green Magicians Defy Expectations.” So just who are these guys?
Saleh Alshehri celebrates scoring their first goal in Doha. Reuters
While Saudi Arabia, the second lowest-ranked team in the tournament, doesn’t have a big star like Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, many of the players were also part of the squad that went to the 2018 World Cup. But none play outside of their home country.
Saleh Alshehri and Salem Aldawsari became instant national heroes with second-half goals in the 2-1 victory over the Argentines. Both play for Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia's top league, as does goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais, who preserved the win with a pair of late saves. All three also played in Russia four years ago.
Saudi Arabia fans wave flags during the match in Riyadh. Reuters
In fact, 12 players on the team's 26-man roster are with Al Hilal, which has won a record 18 Saudi league championships and is coached by Ramon Diaz of Argentina. Al Nassr boasts six national team players.
Aldawsari scored the winner in the 53rd minute against Argentina, celebrating with a cartwheel and a backflip. He's one of the best known players on Saudi Arabia's squad. While he has played for Al Hilal since 2011, he was briefly loaned to Spanish club Villarreal and made one appearance.
Now he owns one of the nation's biggest-ever goals, joining Saeed Al Owairan, who scored the lone goal in a victory over Belgium at the 1994 World Cup.
The Saudi team is led by Renard, a 54-year-old French coach who has jumped around a bunch of national teams.
Saudi players celebrate scoring their second goals in Doha. Reuters
Before taking over at Saudi Arabia in 2019, he coached Morocco at the 2018 World Cup. He is the only coach to have led two different national teams to African Cup titles: Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast three years later.
When Renard was starting his coaching career, he worked as a janitor and eventually opened his own cleaning company.
"When you are coming into a World Cup, you need to believe in yourself. Everything can happen in football. Sometimes the opponent isn’t at their best motivation," Renard said. "This has happened to us when playing a lower-ranked team. This is what other people don’t understand."
CLUB WORLD CUP
Al Hilal is one of Asia's top clubs. Based in Riyadh, the team went to the Club World Cup semifinals in February. But Chelsea beat Al Hilal 1-0 on Romelu Lukaku’s close-range goal in the 32nd minute. Chelsea went on to win the event, beating Palmeiras in the final.
After besting Messi, Saudi Arabia gets a shot at another of the game's biggest stars, Robert Lewandowski, on Saturday against Poland.
Poland settled for a scoreless draw with Mexico in its Group C opener after Lewandowski's second-half penalty attempt was stopped by Guillermo Ochoa.
The Green Falcons, currently at the top of the group, wrap up the opening stage on Wednesday against Mexico.Associated Press
"I’ve never attended a football match in my life so I had to take this chance,” said Mariam, a student of international relations who like other Iranian women at the match declined to give her last name for fear of government reprisals.
"From Qatar, from the Arab world, I welcome everyone to the World Cup 2022," he said in a speech in a tent-shaped stadium. "How lovely it is that people can put aside what divides them to celebrate their diversity and what brings them together all at once."
"I love soccer, what I do. I enjoy being part of the national team, the group. I want to enjoy a couple of more matches being a world champion.” Messi has won the Ballon d'Or award for the best player in the world on seven occasions.
The committee directed the referees to allow any Muslim player to break the fast during the evening matches during the month of Ramadan.
Lions Led by Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan's breezy half-centuries Asian Lions scored an emphatic seven-wicket victory with 23 balls to spare.
The Team Games Co. in Hatta Sports Club organizes the championship, held annually during the Holy Month of Ramadan, with the support of Dubai Sports Council.