Lionel Messi’s quest to add a World Cup title to his resume did not begin as smoothly as hoped with Argentina suffering stunning a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
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The result of the tournament opener for both sides did not sit well with Argentina’s captain, who scored on a penalty in the 10th minute to give his side an early 1-0 lead.
“It is a very hard blow for everyone. We did not expect to start this way,” Messi told reporters. “Things happen for a reason. We have to prepare for what is coming. We have to win, and it depends on us.”
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The Paris Saint-Germain forward – playing in his fifth World Cup – expressed the importance of Argentina shaking off the early setback in which Saudi Arabia scored twice in a five-minute span early in the second half.
“There are no excuses,” said Messi. “We are going to be more united than ever.
“This group is strong, and we have shown it. It is a situation that we haven’t gone through in a long time. Now we have to show that this is a real group.”
Messi, 35, offered reassurance to Argentina’s supporters, while also giving Saudi Arabia credit for the win.
“My message to the supporters is to have faith. We won’t leave them stranded,” said Messi. “We knew that Saudi Arabia is a team with good players, that they move the ball well and that they push the [defensive] line a lot.
“We worked on it, but we rushed a bit. We have to go back to the base of who we are. We have to think about what’s next.”
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni lamented the loss but expressed the importance of not dwelling on the match.
“It’s a sad day today, but we need to have our heads up and continue,” Scaloni said. “We are hurt but we need to turn things around and win our next games.”
Argentina returns to the pitch against Mexico on Saturday and closes out Group C play against Poland on Nov. 30.