A shock defeat for Argentina in Matchday 1, means they currently sit bottom of Group C. Can La Albiceleste find a win against Gerardo Martino’s Mexico side this weekend?
I don’t think anyone anticipated to see what they saw on Tuesday morning. Argentina took an expected lead against Saudi Arabia, but two second-half goals saw Saudia Arabia walk away with all three points and 1st place in Group C.
That result would have given both Mexico and Poland a boost going into their encounter later the same day. If either side picked up three points, they would have been in an excellent position to top the group ahead of Argentina. Like a few games already this World Cup, neither side could take advantage, and both had to settle for a point a piece and left the door open for Argentina to jump into pole position.
WHEN & WHERE?
Where: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Qatar.
When: Saturday 26th November.
Time: 19:00pm BST.
Fortunately for Lionel Scaloni, his team didn’t pick up an injury in their embarrassing midweek defeat. Argentina will be able to call upon a fully fit squad ahead of their now crucial encounter with Mexico. However, I don’t think we will see a similar side to the one that started against Saudi Arabia. The backline looked incredibly suspect on Tuesday morning and looked incapable of dealing with the threat of the Saudi Arabia attack. Going forward, Argentina also didn’t look too convincing with a lot of attacks caught offside by the Saudi high line, which suggests more changes could be needed higher up the pitch.
For Mexico, it’s very much a similar story they managed to get through their first fixture unscathed, but numerous poor performances could see Gerardo Martino make changes. Raul Jimenez – more on him later – is one man who could be in line to start after Mexico struggled when going forward against Poland.
Where to begin with Argentina? They came into the World Cup having gone 30-games unbeaten, beating European Champions Italy in the process. many had them touted to be finalists and yet they were pulled apart by Saudi Arabia. Where did it go wrong? All across the pitch, there were glaring issues for the La Albiceleste. Defensively they looked poor with Saudi Arabia running wide and getting in behind and what was once a fluid attack couldn’t seem to link together.
Looking at the difference in quality between Saudi Arabia and Mexico, if these issues still persist it could be a short World Cup for Lionel Scaloni’s side. Hirving Lozano, who broke onto the scene in the 2018 World Cup could be set for a big game against their South American opponents. Lozano was fantastic getting forward against Poland, making neat one-two passes to get in behind. With the lack of pace in this Argentina backline, it does give Lozano and co a significant advantage.
Still, we can’t look past the overall quality of Argentina. Assuming Tuesday’s result was just a blip, Argentina will be back at their best on Saturday and that’s enough to strike fear into any team. Going forward, Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi, and Lautaro Martinez all looked like a threat and if it wasn’t for a few mistimed runs then the upset would never have happened. A few small creases need to be ironed out, but if this attack starts singing, they could easily dispatch Martino’s side.
As ever, with Lionel Messi on the side, a good performance is never out of the question. For club and country, the magician always seems to produce some form of magic to see his team through. Things didn’t work out for him on Tuesday, but they might do it on Saturday morning. In what will be his last ever World Cup, Messi is going to do everything in his power to see it doesn’t end prematurely.
PLAYS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Argentina: Julian Alvarez
There are a handful of Premier League players who have been called up to Scaloni’s side. Emiliano Martinez, Cristian Romero, Lisandro Martinez and Alexis Mac Allister, to name a few. Romero and Martinez could both be worth selections for the next game – if the latter starts – as they will both be looking to improve from Tuesday night’s poor defensive outing, but I want to shine some light on Manchester City wonderkid Julian Alvarez.
I think Alvarez has gone under the radar for City this season, he’s often used as a substitute but has still managed to find the back of the net seven times for the Cityzens. His versatility allows him to play across the front three and his skill set makes him a tough opponent to come up against. Against Saudi Arabia, Alvarez came on with half-an-hour remaining, but he still managed to catch my attention. The 22-year-old also came incredibly close to scoring, if it wasn’t for an incredible save from the Saudi shot-stopper.
Don’t expect him to start, it’s far more likely for him to come in later in the game. When he is introduced, his fresh legs and ability on the ball will cause problems for Mexico. If the games are not out of sight before he comes on, expect him to influence the game in Argentina’s favour.
Mexico: Raul Jimenez
Mainly because I didn’t have much other choice, Raul Jimenez is the Mexican player to look out for. He’s struggled for form since his terrible head injury two years ago, but he’s still better than Mexico’s other options up top and is used to battling it out against some of the best defenders in the World.
His physical stature would lend itself well when going up against two very aggressive defenders in Nicolas Otamendi and Romero. He is still nursing a groin injury, which could see him sidelined for the game against Argentina, however, his cameo appearance against Poland could be enough to see him handed a start, with some excellent link-up play helping his side get forward.
Argentina starting 11 vs Mexico: Martinez, Tagliafico, Martinez, Romero, Molina, Gomez, De Paul, Paredes, Di Maria, Martinez, Messi.
Mexico starting 11 vs Argentina: Ochoa, Gallardo, Moreno, Montes, Sanchez, Chavez, Alvarez, Herreram Vega, Jimenez, Lozano.