Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni insisted on Tuesday his team had not taken Saudi Arabia lightly ahead of their shocking 2-1 World Cup defeat in Qatar.
Argentina came into the tournament on a 36-match unbeaten run and were one of the favourites to win the entire tournament, let alone Tuesday’s Group C opener against the Asian minnows.
“We fully respect Saudi Arabia as we do with other teams, that’s not the reason for our defeat,” said Scaloni, whose team had not lost since July 2019.
“They are a good team with technical players, they are very well prepared physically.”
Despite suffering one of the big World Cup shocks, Scaloni said he was sure all was not lost with Group C matches against Mexico and Poland still to come.
In 1990, then-champions Argentina lost their opening World Cup match 1-0 against Cameroon — another of the tournament’s greatest shocks — before bouncing back to reach the final.
“What comes ahead is to rise up, to face Mexico. They will be tough, as everyone is at the World Cup. Now we need to win two games to move on.
“Of course this is difficult but regardless of the result today we would anyway try to win all the games.”
Scaloni had no complaints about the three goals his side scored in the first half that were then disallowed for offside.
But he said those razor tight decisions were what cost his side the match.
“The reasons were millimetric. The offsides, they have a high defensive line, we knew that any goal situation would go for or against us,” said Scaloni.
“In this case, the semi-automatic offside technology took a goal away from us.
“That’s the way it is, we congratulate our rivals.”
Argentina struggled to create much after the break having dominated the first half, giving nothing away.
“It’s hard to take. We could have been 2-0 up, but in two sudden moments, the game changed.”
Saudi Arabia’s rapid-fire double after the break seemed to catch Argentina napping and for a handful of minutes, the South American champions were reeling.
“Four or five minutes (after the break) they scored two goals, their only two shots on target,” said Scaloni.
“Today is a sad day but as we always say, head up and carry on.”
He added: “We played well in the first half, but in two specific moments the game changed. We could have done better but we need to pick ourselves up.”