Saudi Arabia shock the world; Ronaldo exits Manchester United

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with The Irish Times sports team

One of the greatest shocks in World Cup history occurred yesterday as one of the favourites for the competition Argentina were beaten 2-1 by Saudi Arabia. Ken Early writes nearly 70,000 people came to the Lusail Stadium expecting they could boast for the rest of their lives that they had witnessed Lionel Messi delivering a masterclass in his last World Cup. They ended up seeing something rarer and maybe more precious: a World Cup upset. In today’s subscriber only article, columnist Kevin Kilbane writes Salem Al-Dawsari’s thunderbolt and somersaulting celebration at the Lusail stadium will be the Kevin Sheedy moment for Saudi Arabia’s children. Writing about Fifa boss Gianni Infantino’s opening speech, he says: “Millions around the world continue to feel the tremors of European colonialism, so they will drink Infantino’s Kool-Aid, but I hope enough people see that he is imitating all these modern-day Strong Men. His grotesque speech has enhanced the issues Fifa and the Qataris wanted to suppress. The clash of cultures will not abate.”

The other main game of yesterday was France getting their campaign off to an impressive winning start against Australia. Kylian Mbappé thrilled as Olivier Giroud scored twice as the defending champions made light of the loss of Karim Benzema in the opening win. The other two games were scoreless, as Robert Lewandowski’s World Cup goal drought rumbles on as his penalty miss proved costly for Poland against Mexico.

In non-World Cup soccer news, Manchester United had quite the day, with announcements that Cristiano Ronaldo had left the club and the owners, the Glazer family, was exploring the sale of the club. The Glazer family has announced it is “commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives” for the Red Devils, potentially bringing an end to their 17-year ownership. Meanwhile, the Portuguese forward has left Manchester United by “mutual agreement” after the serious allegations he made in an interview, in an ignominious end to a supremely successful career at the club. He has left without a pay-off and there are no restrictions on who he can play for next.

Since it is World Cup season, Seán Moran writes how the GAA learned to cope with the biggest sports event on Earth. Coming to terms with global soccer’s showpiece has been a consistent challenge as well as an influence on the association’s evolution. “This time around, the more intimate attractions of club matches will have to do battle with Japan-Costa Rica, Belgium-Morocco, Croatia-Canada and a second-round match. Evidence suggests that the GAA will survive.” Kilmacud Crokes are looking to keep the treble dream alive beyond Dublin. After their breakthrough wins in Dublin and Leinster, Crokes’ women’s team face a tough assignment against formidable Ulster champions Donaghmoyne. Meanwhile, the East Kerry football board have confirmed their nomination of David Clifford as Kerry senior football captain for the 2023 season.


In rugby, Gordon D’Arcy writes Australia were not cautious enough with Nic White after his heavy blow to the head. A series of doctors who should have intervened missed apparent signs of concussion in the game against Ireland. D’Arcy writes he was “surprised and perturbed” by the decision. Johnny Watterson writes Leinster enjoy an embarrassment of riches in hookers Dan Sheehan and Rónan Kelleher. Andy Friend is delighted with Connacht’s input to Ireland’s November success. The head coach says Mack Hansen is a “long shot” to make the Munster game but the head coach will bring in other Ireland stars.