LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Jubilant fans across the Arab world were in high spirits Tuesday after Saudi Arabia’s shock World Cup victory. Defeat Argentina.
From Syria and Jordan to this year’s World Cup hosts Gaza and Qatar, fans rejoiced at Saudi Arabia’s success, one of the biggest upsets. in the history of the competition.
Saudi fans who witnessed the match flooded the streets outside Lusail Stadium immediately after their team’s 2-1 win, waving their country’s green and white flag, singing and chanting and even hugging Argentina fans..
“I’m speechless,” said Saudi fan Sultan Alharti. “I can’t even explain how happy I am because we didn’t expect to win.
Qatar’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, attended the match and draped the Saudi flag around his shoulders. Two years ago, when Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries boycotted Qatar over a political dispute, the moment was captured on video and shared widely.
Residents of northwestern Syria, a rebel stronghold in the war-torn country, gathered in cafes after the final whistle to celebrate. It was a welcome change for the enclave, where millions have been hit by airstrikes and impoverished.
In Idlib, Ahmad Al-Absi said the Saudi victory was a much-needed morale boost for Syrians and Arabs in the Middle East, despite seeing his favorite football team lose.
“It shows we have talent who can succeed on the world stage,” Argentina fan Al-Absi told The Associated Press. “We dream of a better future as Arabs, and this spirit reminds us that nothing is impossible.”
On the streets of Amman, Jordan, dozens of Saudis and Jordanians held Saudi flags or placed them on their cars, honked their horns and celebrated in the streets.
In the Gaza Strip, Palestinians rejoiced that they were with Saudi Arabia in a footballing moment. “They are with us politically and socially, so these festivals are mutual events,” said Abu Khalil, a resident of Gaza.
In Saudi Arabia, King Salman announced a surprise holiday for all workers and students in the kingdom to celebrate the victory.
Spectators in the fan zone of the capital city of Riyadh jumped and cheered at the end of the game. Drivers celebrated by honking their horns. Saudi authorities have also allowed free participation in state-run sports and entertainment events.
The gravity of victory will eventually sink in. Before Tuesday’s game, Saudi Arabia had only won the World Cup three times in their history. Argentina, who won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986, is one of the favorites this year.
“One is for the books,” Saudi coach Herve Renard said. “Sometimes things are crazy.”
Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais, who made two key saves late in the game, was almost overwhelmed at the end, perhaps not realizing the extent of the upset.
“We’re very happy to get the result against this great team,” Alloways said. “We prepared ourselves. We were 100 percent ready and we hope for better results in the future.”
After trailing 1-0 at half-time after Lionel Messi’s 10th-minute goal from perhaps the greatest footballer of all time, Saleh Alshehri and Salem Aldawsari managed to score a goal each early in the second half.
Then at the end of the match, including extra time at the referee’s discretion, it took more than 50 minutes to catch one of the tournament favorites.
“All the stars aligned for us,” said Renard, who coached Zambia to the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012 and then won it again with Ivory Coast in 2015.
Renard also coached Angola and Morocco at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He took over Saudi Arabia in 2019.
“We made history in Saudi football,” said Renard. “It will stay forever. That’s the most important thing. But we have two very difficult games, so we have to think about moving forward as well.”
Renard said he asked the players to limit their celebrations to 20 minutes after the game.
“That’s all,” he said. “But there are still two or more games.”
They face Poland on Saturday and then face Mexico in Group C next Tuesday. Both were hurt against Saudi Arabia but are probably still favourites.
He also suggested another possible truth: Messi and Argentina may have underestimated Saudi Arabia, which is only 51st in the FIFA rankings. Argentina is the 3rd place.
“But you know the motivation is not the same as playing against Brazil,” he added.
Isabel DeBre and John Gambrell in Doha and Karim Chehayeb in Beirut contributed to this report.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports