Argentina’s World Cup ambitions hinge on their performance against Mexico in Saturday’s Group C match. Central American team escaped a fright to draw with Poland on Tuesday. The Albiceleste lost their first game in their quest for a third world championship to relatively nobodies Saudi Arabia.
Argentina vs Mexico Group C Match Preview
The incumbent South American champions Argentina hasn’t lost in 36 games since their 2019 Copa America loss to Brazil. On the first day of the World Cup, Lionel Scaloni’s squad blew a 1-0 advantage in only six minutes of the second half at Lusail Stadium.
Albiceleste led 3-0 at halftime thanks to three “goals” scored while offside and a penalty kick by Lionel Messi. But two goals scored by Saudi Arabia after the break swung the game, and the underdogs from Group C ultimately prevailed.
Especially considering this was Messi’s last World Cup, Argentina was under a lot of pressure to win the tournament. So, Scaloni has to get his team together quickly to take on Mexico, which sits only one spot higher in the standings than Argentina and plays home to their previous victory at this level.
The Argentinians are undefeated in their previous ten matches dating back to 2004, and they have eliminated El Tri twice in the last 16. If precedent is any indicator, this is all to their benefit, but the world will watch their response to their seismic shock against the Saudis with great interest.
Mexico’s tournament-opening game resulted in a goalless draw against Poland on Tuesday. The squad captained by Tata Martino was relieved to get a draw.
After Hector Moreno tripped Robert Lewandowski within the box, veteran goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa made a save on the ensuing penalty attempt. After that result, El Tri hopes to go to the knockout stage again.
To make it to the quarterfinals, Mexico and its ex-Argentine coach Martino will have to defy expectations since the team has been ousted in the round of 16 in each of their previous seven World Cup appearances.
In 1986, the team playing on Saturday won the championship in Mexico thanks to a performance by Diego Maradona. For this year’s squad to have any shot of duplicating last year’s success, they may need to win a second game in Lusail.
Argentina vs Mexico Group C Team News
Even though Lionel Messi, Argentina’s best player, practised separately from his teammates on Thursday, Lionel Scaloni is likely to start the 35-year-old playmaker from the get-go this weekend.
The Albiceleste captain’s biggest worry is his left leg, although Papu Gomez is not expected to step in for him on Saturday. Therefore, an offensive trident consisting of Messi, Lautaro Martinez, and Angel Di Maria would be optimal.
Having been forced to start on the bench due to a fitness problem, Scaloni may insert Lisandro Martinez into the starting lineup at center-back in place of either Cristian Romero or Nicolas Otamendi. Alexis Mac Allister and Gonzalo Montiel are other candidates.
Meanwhile, other team members are looking to make their finals debuts, including attackers Angel Correa and Paulo Dybala (the latter of whom has just recently returned from injury).
Raul Jimenez of Mexico, another attacker who has just recovered from injury, will also be pushing for a recall to the starting lineup. The Wolverhampton Wanderers star returned to action on Tuesday in El Tri’s last friendly after an almost three-month layoff.
However, Tata Martino might use Henry Martin again, with Hirving Lozano and Alexis Vega covering the wings.
Pachuca’s Luis Chavez, who didn’t play in the CONCACAF qualifiers but had an impact in recent friendlies, should keep his spot on the left side of a midfield three in Martino’s 4-3-3, while Ajax’s Jorge Sanchez takes the field on the right side.
- Argentina Possible Starting Lineup: Montiel, Romero, E. Martinez, Li. Martinez, Martinez, Tagliafico, Paredes, Mac Allister, De Paul, Messi, La. Di Maria.
- Mexico Possible Starting Lineup: Sanchez, Montes, Ochoa, Moreno, Gallardo, Herrera, Chavez, Lozano, Alvarez, Martin, Vega.
Argentina vs Mexico Group C Prediction (2-1)
The last time Argentina lost their first World Cup encounter was in 1990 before Maradona led them to the championship game. Albiceleste, headed by Messi, can now score a crucial first victory of the 2022 edition. However, it will not prove a simple operation, given the pressure of meeting the expectations of a football-mad country and a Mexico squad in transition.