Pope Francis prays for the World Cup after Argentina suffered humiliating 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia

Well, Argentina DO need a miracle! Pope Francis prays for the World Cup after the pontiff’s national team suffered humiliating 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia

Argentina once needed a ‘Hand of God’ miracle to progress in the World Cup.

And now they might need another slice of divine intervention to just make it out of the group stage after suffering an embarrassing defeat to Saudi Arabia in their opening game.

Fortunately the ardent fans have God’s representative on earth on their side, and Pope Francis told his audience today the tournament was in his thoughts.

The pontiff, who hails from the South American country where Catholicism and football compete for supremacy, is a life-long fan who believes the sport promotes solidarity and fraternity.

Speaking at the end of his weekly Wednesday general audience, Francis sent greetings to World Cup players, fans and spectators watching from afar.

Pope Francis touches his face during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican today

Pope Francis touches his face during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at The Vatican today

Lionel Messi holds his head in his hands during Argentina's humiliating defeat to Saudi Arabia yesterday

Lionel Messi holds his head in his hands during Argentina’s humiliating defeat to Saudi Arabia yesterday

Die-hard supporters in the football-loving nation that was one of the pre-tournament favourites were left speechless

Die-hard supporters in the football-loving nation that was one of the pre-tournament favourites were left speechless

Lionel Messi of Argentina looks on in disbelief as Saudi players celebrate their goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia

Lionel Messi of Argentina looks on in disbelief as Saudi players celebrate their goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia

He said: ‘May this important event be an occasion for meeting and harmony for nations, favoring brotherhood and peace among peoples. 

‘Let’s pray for peace in the world, and the end of all conflicts.’

Yesterday, Argentina were the victims of one of the greatest upsets in the history of the World Cup when they 

Saudi Arabia have defeated Lionel Messi‘s Argentina in the opening game of their World Cup campaign in what is arguably one of the greatest sporting upsets in history.

The Gulf state is currently ranked a lowly 51st in the world behind hosts Qatar and came into the tournament with low expectations in a group with Argentina, who were one of the favourites for the trophy.

The pontiff, who hails from the South American country where Catholicism and football compete for supremacy, is a life-long fan

The pontiff, who hails from the South American country where Catholicism and football compete for supremacy, is a life-long fan

Argentina soccer fans wearing Lionel Messi shirts can only watch on as their hero fails to inspire his team to victory against Saudi Arabia

Argentina soccer fans wearing Lionel Messi shirts can only watch on as their hero fails to inspire his team to victory against Saudi Arabia

A woman wipes tears from her eyes as fans in Buenos Aires watch the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia

A woman wipes tears from her eyes as fans in Buenos Aires watch the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia

Argentina players show their dejection after the 2-1 loss during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia at Lusail Stadium on November 22, 2022

Argentina players show their dejection after the 2-1 loss during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia at Lusail Stadium on November 22, 2022

But in a truly stunning turn of events, the underdogs sent the team ranked number three in the world crashing to the bottom of Group C with a stellar 2-1 victory.

In doing so, they snapped Argentina’s 36-match winning streak and all but shredded 35-year-old Messi’s dream of winning the World Cup in what could well be the maestro’s final ever international competition. 

The country’s media decried the humiliating victory, saying the tournament had already gone ‘from a dream to a nightmare’, as their qualification to the knockout rounds now hangs in the balance. 

The team will have one loyal fan cheering them on from the Vatican with the football-loving Pope hoping his countrymen will claim their first World Cup since 1986.

The 85-year-old is a card-holding fan of the Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo.

And in 2013, Lionel Messi and his teammates received a special blessing at the Vatican during a private audience.

The Pope has also been presented with a shirt by his fellow countryman Diego Maradona. 

He has previously been presented with a shirt by his fellow countryman Diego Maradona (pictured in 2014)

He has previously been presented with a shirt by his fellow countryman Diego Maradona (pictured in 2014)

The Pope, pictured with Lionel Messi and Gianluigi Buffon in 2013, once declared the Argentinian the best footballer of all time

The Pope, pictured with Lionel Messi and Gianluigi Buffon in 2013, once declared the Argentinian the best footballer of all time

After they won the Copa Libertadores in 2014, the South American equivalent of the Champions League, San Lorenzo travelled to the Vatican to present the trophy to the ardent fan.

Francis has also recalled playing football with a ball made of tied-up rags during his impoverished childhood in Buenos Aires.

He said he played with other children in a city square, but admitted his footballing skills were limited and he was even dubbed ‘stiff leg’.

He said: ‘ There wasn’t always someone with a leather ball, so we played with a ball made of rags, a pelota de trapo. 

‘Playing in goal was a great school of life for me. The goalie has to be ready to respond to threats, which can arrive from every side.’  

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