Saudi Arabia player flown out for surgery and crowd figures explained — the five talking points of day 3 of the World Cup

Saudi Arabia player flown out for surgery and crowd figures explained — the five talking points of day 3 of the World Cup

Remember that time the Socceroos were up 1-0 against reigning champs France at the Qatar World Cup?

They were heady old times weren’t they? Packed full of hope and dreams of a major upset to rival the earlier match between Saudi Arabia and Argentina.

That now feels like years ago after the second half unpleasantness, and the less said about it the better (unless you want the full blow-by-blow of the whole mess, in which case we have you covered here).

So what happened on day 3 in Qatar other than Australia’s implosion? From an horrific face injury to the quirky attendance numbers explained, these are the other talking points coming out of Doha.

1. Public holiday declared as Saudi Arabia downs Argentina

They were facing anywhere from 150/1 to 1000/1 odds depending on which bookie you believe, but somehow, in one of the great upsets in World Cup history, Saudi Arabia took down the might of Argentina

Clawing back the Argentinians after going 1-0 down to run out eventual 2-1 winners, the streets of Riyadh erupted as the second-lowest ranked team in the World Cup finals shocked the football world.

One excited fan even pulled the door off his house in a frenzy of celebration, although it’s not entirely clear why.

“One for the books,” Saudi Arabia coach Hervé Renard said after the match.

“Sometimes things are completely crazy.”

Directly after the clash, King Salman declared a national public holiday by royal order on the advice of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a conversation that was likely along the lines of: “Dad, my football team just won, can everyone have a day off?” to which the response of: “OK, but just this once” likely followed.

The result also led to the good old internet conspiracy theory that Argentina had tanked in order to not face Brazil in the semi-finals. With a veritable tsunami of water to go under the bridge before that stage of the tournament, it would have been an incredibly bold and unnecessary move.

2. Brutal collision halts Saudi celebrations as player faces surgery

While everyone else in Saudi Arabia was having a great old time, Yasser Al-Shahrani was facing the prospect of emergency surgery.

The defender copped a knee to the face after colliding with goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais in a sickening clash in the dying moments of the game.

With Al-Shahrani laying unresponsive on the ground, referee Slavko Vincic made the bizarre call to allow play to continue, in another controversial moment after Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand was allowed to play on despite his own sickening head clash in their match with England.

Yasser Al-Shahrani (centre) had to be stretchered off after this collision with his goalkeeper.(Getty Images: Lionel Hahn)

Al-Shahrani was eventually stretchered off and gave the thumbs up to the crowd as he left, but the extent of his injuries were revealed once he got to hospital — and it wasn’t pretty.

He was diagnosed with a fractured jaw, broken facial bones and internal bleeding, leading the crown prince to order that the player be taken to hospital in Germany via a private jet for emergency surgery.

It was a major dampener on what was otherwise Saudi Arabia’s greatest result in the history of its football team.

3. Frappart makes history for female referees

Stéphanie Frappart made soccer history as the the first woman to officiate a men’s World Cup match after taking the field as the fourth official in the otherwise pretty dull 0-0 draw between Mexico and Poland.

The Frenchwoman, along with Japan’s Yamashita Yoshimi and Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga, are the first women selected as referees for soccer’s biggest tournament. They were among the 36 total referees for the tournament in Qatar.

Stephanie Frappart
Mexico coach Gerardo Martino holds a friendly conversation with referee Stéphanie Frappart, who became the first woman to officiate in a men’s World Cup match.(Getty Images: Christian Charisius)

Brazil’s Neuza Back, Mexico’s Karen Diaz Medina and American Kathryn Nesbitt are among 69 assistant referees at the World Cup.

Frappart has already worked men’s games in World Cup qualifying, and the Champions League, and also handled the 2019 Women’s World Cup final.

4. Eriksen returns to the field after terrifying Euros heart attack

Christian Eriksen was back playing a major tournament less than a year and a half after his cardiac arrest at the European Championship.

Eriksen started in his customary playmaker position for Denmark’s opening game at the World Cup against Tunisia in Group D and played the full 90 minutes of a 0-0 draw.

And he nearly won it for Denmark when he produced a dangerous long-distance shot on goal in the second half that Tunisia goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen had to bat away.

After Eriksen collapsed during Denmark’s opening Euro 2020 group game against Finland in June of last year, medics used a defibrillator to restart his heart as a horrified nation — and much of the soccer world — watched on as he lay lifeless on the field at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.

Eriksen’s appearance at the World Cup is the latest step of a remarkable comeback that has already seen him return to elite soccer in the Premier League, first with London club Brentford and then Manchester United — showing he is still among the world’s best playmakers.

He made his national team comeback in March, scoring two minutes after coming on as a substitute in a 4-2 loss to the Netherlands. He also netted with a 25-yard shot against Croatia in the Nations League in September.

Meanwhile, the draw gave Australia a glimmer of hope that they could progress through the group stages, even after that diabolical loss to France

5. Crowd numbers explained as paper tickets are handed out

On day two of the World Cup, pundits started to realise that the official crowd numbers being reported via organisers were significantly higher than the official capacity of each stadium.

And the same thing appeared to be happening on day three, with 88,012 spectators reported to have attended the Argentina and Saudi Arabia match in an 80,000-seat stadium.

Organisers would go on to clarify that the capacity of each of their stadiums is actually larger than what we all thought, due to a thing called “killed seats”, which is a seat in the stadium that cannot be sold either because it is blocked by installations, or the view is restricted, or the person using the seat could obstruct the view of a camera — unless none of that is relevant, and the seat is actually sold to an actual person, which organisers actually believe accounts for the massive overs they’re reporting.

Meanwhile, handwritten paper tickets were given to some fans to enter the Socceroos game as hundreds more in Qatar struggled to retrieve their digital passes amid problems with FIFA’s mobile application for a second day.

The Associated Press witnessed a FIFA staffer writing out replacement tickets from white paper in an attempt to help fans waiting in line outside the match about 40 minutes before the start in Al Wakrah.

Other fans were advised to show security staff their emails from FIFA confirming a ticket purchase and seat number in order to get in Al Janoub Stadium ahead of kick-off. The line had consistently been about 100 people long since two hours before the game.

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