Since losing to Brazil in the 2019 Copa America, Argentina had embarked on a national record 36-game unbeaten run, and as reigning South American champions, arrived among most pundits’ favourites for the final four at least.
Yet, all that momentum counted for little on the first day of their World Cup campaign, as Lionel Scaloni’s side let an early advantage slip from their grasp during the space of six second-half minutes at Lusail Stadium.
Leading through Lionel Messi’s opener from the penalty spot, the Albiceleste seemed in control of affairs at half time, having seen three other ‘goals’ ruled out for offside.
Two Saudi Arabian strikes shortly after the interval turned the game on its head, however, and Group C’s underdogs held out to record a result that will echo through the ages.
With the last of their global triumphs coming back in the summer of 1986, Argentina were already under pressure to deliver a first World Cup trophy for approaching 40 years – particularly in what is set to be Messi’s swansong on the game’s grandest stage.
Therefore, Scaloni must quickly rally his troops before they tackle the nation that hosted their last success at this level: a Mexico side who sit one point above Argentina in the standings.
Having beaten El Tri in the World Cup’s first-ever edition in 1930, the Argentinians have more recently eliminated their Latin rivals twice in the last 16, and they also remain undefeated in the countries’ last 10 meetings dating back to 2004.
All of which plays in their favour if precedent is any guide, but the world will now be watching with anticipation as they respond to their seismic shock against the Saudis.