Saudi Arabia’s historic World Cup win over Argentina in the Group C opener came at a cost.
While defending their 2-1 lead in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Saudi Arabia goalie Mohammed Alowais inadvertently struck teammate and star defender Yasser Al-Shahrani in the face with a flying knee as he came storming off his line to punch away an Argentina cross.
Alowais and other teammates immediately looked concerned for Al-Shahrani as they frantically waved trainers to rush out to him lying on the ground. A 30-year-old who plays for club side Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia, Al-Shahrani appeared to be bleeding as he was tended to.
Unable to walk off the pitch under his own power, Al-Shahrani was carried off on a stretcher.
As a result of the injury and the game being paused for a few minutes, Saudi Arabia was forced to defend their now-famous lead for a few extra minutes. Despite referee Slavko Vincici originally awarding eight additional minutes, the final whistle was not blown until the 11th minute of stoppage time.
One of the most experienced on the team, it would be a massive blow for Saudi Arabia – who now suddenly has legitimate hope to advance to the knockout stage – if Al-Shahrani’s injury forces him to miss any time. Saudi Arabia next plays Poland on Saturday.
Al-Shahrani’s injury comes just one day after Iran’s goalie, Alireza Beiranvand, stirred controversy after taking a blow to his head in the country’s opening loss to England. After the collision, Beiranvand appeared seriously injured and stayed on the ground while being treated by doctors. Although backup goalie Hossein Hosseini was warming up and ready, Iran opted to leave Beiranvand in the game without coming off the field. (Injured outfield players are allowed to temporarily come off the field while play resumes to test their fitness before being officially subbed out, but goalies can’t really leave their goal unattended.)
As soon as play resumed, however, Beiranvand went back to the ground and was subsequently replaced by Hosseini.
Entering the tournament as the second-biggest underdog only to host-nation Qatar, Saudi Arabia scored two second-half goals to secure their comeback over Argentina – and one of the biggest World Cup upsets in the competition’s history.