The FIFA World Cup brings with it the possibility of surprises, unforeseeable circumstances and the gnashing of teeth of controversy. It also brings the contenders to a table that has often allowed only European and South American nations as diners. Before the competition begins, the mail and guardian will analyze each group to determine which nation could replace France as world champions. Group C includes Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland.
What’s your deal?
It looked bleak for Argentina in 2018 after their dressing room disintegrated during the World Cup. They barely edged past their group and were edged out by eventual winners France in the last 16.
This time, the Argentines enter the tournament with arrogance. They have won two major trophies in the past year and come into the tournament on an unbeaten streak dating back to July 2019.
This Argentine team also loves to fight for their captain, Lionel Messi. We witnessed his teammates rush to him to celebrate his Copa América victory, and knowing it could be his last World Cup, they wore themselves out to see the best player in their country, and perhaps soccer, lift the world Cup.
Argentina begins their campaign against Saudi Arabia before two difficult tests against Poland and Mexico. However, they should comfortably win this group.
Argentina certainly looks like a complete unit this time around. There is no doubt that they will feel more comfortable at the back than in 2018. Lisandro Martínez and Cristian Romero will be crucial for La Selección to provide the solid base for a team that has many attackers.
The key man, however, as obvious as it may seem, will be Messi. After a disappointing past season in Paris, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has finally settled in the City of Love. This season, like most of his career, he has produced almost ridiculous statistics, scoring 12 times and assisting 14 times in just 18 matches.
He won the ballon d’or at the 2014 World Cup, but that year Argentina narrowly lost in the final.
The nation’s hopes will once again rest on the little wizard’s shoulders, and with the help of his teammates, Argentina could go a long way in this year’s World Cup.
What’s your deal?
Making their sixth World Cup appearance, Saudi Arabia have only made it out of the group on one occasion. That was in the United States in 1994, but they have since become group stage dealers.
They could be the scapegoats for this group if they are not careful. However, their recent results show that they don’t score much, nor do they concede much. If they can keep it up and frustrate their opponents in the pool, who knows, maybe they can break through and grab a match or two.
The only problem for Saudi Arabia is that in two of the three games they play, their defense will have to deal with Robert Lewandowski and Messi. It is a difficult task and it could be a very short tournament for them.
While the Arab nation will have to remain defensively strong, its main threat comes from the left. Playmaker Salem Al-Dawsari features unique traits that can help increase Saudi Arabia’s chances in attacks.
Well paced, with excellent vision and the ability to use both feet, the opposition won’t want to give you any space to find a pass or finish. It might be beyond him to guide Saudi Arabia to the next round, but if they’re going to cause an upset or two, he’ll be the key.
What’s your deal?
In the last World Cup, they were responsible for starting the fall of the Cup champions, Germany. They have also found a way to get past the group stage in the last seven World Cups, but they are an invaluable team. You never know what you can get.
They line up in a traditional 433 formation and like to move the ball wide to get their fast wingers to the full-backs. This could benefit them in the group they are in, since neither nation has fast defenses.
Their opener against Poland might just be a six-pointer, as Argentina are favored to win the group and Saudi Arabia is poised to finish last. A good performance against Poland and the Mexicans could well be on their way to the next round.
Hirving Lozano’s pace is sure to worry defenses and bring a winning mentality to the national team when he arrives from unbeaten Serie A Napoli. Edson Álvarez will also be crucial for Mexico in central midfield by dividing up play and triggering those transitions. fast in possession that can free up the likes of Lozano and Roberto Alvarado.
Álvarez is capable, but it won’t be a walk in the park, as both the Polish and Argentinian teams have physical midfielders who could try to take him out of the game.
What’s your deal?
Poland is very similar to Mexico: difficult to predict. They are prone to getting beaten by the top teams as recent history shows, but the Poles can always score goals with the attack they have.
They have failed to make it past the group stage in their last three World Cup appearances, but they enter the tournament without any pressure to deliver. If they fail, it’s business as usual for them at the World Cup, but if they make it through this group, they could be dark horses.
They have a good team, with many well-known players playing in the top five leagues in Europe, and probably the best number nine in the world. Their opener against Mexico will reveal if they’re just there to make up the numbers or if it’s a nation you might need to keep an eye on.
Needless to say, Lewandowski is Poland’s main man. Just give him the service and he will deliver it to you. Consistently one of the best in Europe over the past decade, the Barcelona striker will be begging the likes of Piotr Zieliński and others to find him on the pitch when football kicks off in Qatar.
If that can be done, and Poland can establish some heart at the back, they could progress to the group stage for the first time since 1986.