The Arab world celebrates Saudi Arabia’s victory over Argentina in the World Cup

LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) – Overwhelming crowd celebrations erupted across the Arab world on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia’s shock World Cup. victory over Argentina.

From Syria and Jordan to Gaza and Qatar – hosts of this year’s World Cup – fans reveled in Saudi Arabia’s achievement, one of the biggest surprises. in the history of the tournament.

Immediately after their team won 2-1, Saudi fans who watched the match in person poured into the streets outside Lusail Stadium waving their country’s green and white flags, chanting, singing – and even hugging the stunned Argentina fans..

“I am speechless,” said Sultan Al Harthy, a Saudi fan. “I can’t even explain how happy I am, because I didn’t expect that we would win.

The match was attended by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the Saudi flag was draped over his shoulders. The moment, captured on online video and widely circulated, would have been unimaginable nearly two years ago when Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries boycotted Qatar over a political row.

In northwest Syria, a rebel stronghold in the war-torn country, residents gathered in cafes, cheering and celebrating after the final whistle. It was a nice change for the pocket, where millions suffer from frequent airstrikes and poverty.

In the city of Idlib, Ahmed al-Absi said the Saudi victory was a much-needed morale boost for Syrians and Arabs across the Middle East, even if it meant losing his favorite soccer team.

“It shows that we have talented people who can make things happen on the world stage,” Al-Absi, an Argentina fan, told the Associated Press. “We dream of a better future as Arabs, and this spirit reminds us that nothing is impossible.”

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In the streets of Amman, Jordan, dozens of Saudi and Jordanian citizens celebrated in the streets, carrying Saudi flags or placing them on their cars and blowing trumpets.

In Gaza, the Palestinian population rejoiced, saying they stood by Saudi Arabia in its moment of football glory. “They stand with us politically and socially, so these celebrations are a kind of reciprocity,” said Abu Khalil, a resident of Gaza.

In Saudi Arabia, King Salman declared an early public holiday for all workers and students in the kingdom in celebration of the victory.

People watching the match in the fan zone in the capital, Riyadh, jumped with joy and cheered as the match ended. The drivers honked their horns in celebration. Saudi authorities also allowed free entry to a state-sponsored sports and entertainment festival.

Eventually, the gravity of the victory will sink in. Saudi Arabia is the team that has only won three World Cup matches in its history going into Tuesday’s game. Argentina, who won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986, is – or was – one of the favorites this year.

“One of the books,” Saudi national team coach Hervé Renard said. “Sometimes things are absolutely crazy.”

Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais, who made two key saves late in the game, was about to calm down at the end, perhaps not grasping the scale of the collapse.

“I am very happy with this result that we were able to achieve against such a storied team,” Al Owais said solemnly. “We prepared ourselves. We were 100% ready and hopefully we can do better in the future.”

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Despite trailing 1-0 at half-time after a 10th-minute goal from Lionel Messi, perhaps the greatest footballer of all time, Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dosari managed to score each other early in the second half.

Then came over 50 minutes, including extra time at the end of the match at the referee’s discretion, to keep one of the tournament favourites.

“All the stars have joined us,” said Renard, who won the Africa Cup of Nations as coach of Zambia in 2012 and then again with Ivory Coast in 2015.

Renard also coached Angola and Morocco, leading them to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He assumed leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2019.

“We made history for Saudi football,” said Renard. “It will be forever. That is the most important thing. But we also need to think about looking forward because we still have two very difficult games for us.”

Renard said he told his players to limit the post-game celebration to 20 minutes.

“That’s it,” he said. “But there are still two games left – or more.”

They still have to face Poland on Saturday and then face Mexico next Tuesday in Group C. Both may still be candidates against Saudi Arabia – despite the annoyance.

He also suggested another possible fact: Messi and Argentina may have underestimated Saudi Arabia, which is only 51st in the FIFA rankings. Argentina is No. 3.

“But you know the motivation is not like you’re playing for Brazil,” he added.


Isabelle Debre and John Gambrel in Doha and Karim Chehayeb in Beirut contributed to this report.

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