FIFA World Cup Group C preview: Is this the year Messi takes Argentina to the top?

FIFA World Cup Group C preview: Is this the year Messi takes Argentina to the top?

For all the talk of “groups of death,” Group C may be the hardest to predict at the 2022 World Cup.

Between CONMEBOL heavyweights Argentina, CONCACAF giants Mexico, Robert Lewandowski’s Poland and Saudi Arabia, who beat Japan in the final round of AFC qualifying, it’s all up for grabs.

Here’s everything you need to know about Group C at the World Cup.

Group C Schedule:

Nov. 22: Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia (5 a.m. ET)
November 22: Mexico vs. Poland (11 a.m. ET)
November 26: Poland vs Saudi Arabia (8am)
Nov. 26: Argentina vs. Mexico (2 p.m. ET)
Nov. 30: Poland vs. Argentina (2 p.m. ET)
November 30: Saudi Arabia vs Mexico (2pm)

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the teams

Argentina
FIFA World Ranking: No. 3
Top scorers in qualifying: Lionel Messi and Lotaro Martinez (seven goals)
World Cup Winning Odds: +330 (via Sports Interact)
Odds to win the group: -259

Previous World Cup matches: 17
Best Shows: Winners (1978 and 1986)
2018 World Cup: Round of 16 (beat France)

Editor: Lionel Scaloni
Possible formation: 4-3-3
Probable starting XI: Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa) – Nahil Molina (Atletico Madrid), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Nicolas Taglifico (Lyon) – Alexis McAllister (Brighton), Guido Baez, Redrido, Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid) – Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Lotaro Martinez (Inter Milan), Angel Di Maria (Juventus).

Big question: Is this squad, with the best depth of quality they’ve had in years, the one who will finally lift Argentina to the top?

Pulse: This will be Lionel Messi’s last World Cup, so the pressure is on Argentina to win it all, but there are always high hopes. With so much depth of quality across the pitch, this could be the best-equipped squad to do so. It only raises these assumptions.

The X Factor: Alexis McAllister. The Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder could earn a place in Lionel Scaloni’s side after Giovani Lo Celso was injured. Mac Allister has scored five goals in 14 games and is involved in 2.32 shots per 90 minutes. FBRef.com. The 23-year-old may do better than his original numbers but if Scoloni wants a direct attacking replacement for Lo Celso, then McAllister is the right choice.

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Breakout Candidate: Julián Alvarez Argentina’s attack will certainly be running throughout the tournament, so Alvarez will get opportunities off the bench or as a starter. A lethal finisher who is comfortable playing out wide or up top, the 22-year-old Manchester City striker will be a key figure for this. La Albiceleste.

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Saudi Arabia will look to Salim Al-Dussari for his more attacking brilliance. (Kamran Jibrili/AP)

Saudi Arabia
FIFA World Ranking: No. 51
Top scorers in qualifying: Saleh Al-Shehri and Salim Al-Dossari (seven goals)
World Cup Winning Odds: +44,900 (via Sports Interact)
Odds to win the group: +2,100

Previous World Cup appearances: Five
Best Show: Round of 16 (1994)
World Cup 2018: Group Stage

Editor: Hervé Renard
Possible formation: 4-2-3-1
Probable starting XI: Mohamed Al-Owais (Al-Hilal) – Mohamed Al-Barik (Al-Hilal), Abdullah Al-Omari (Al-Nasser), Ali Al-Balahi (Al-Hilal), Yasir Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal) – Mohamed Kanno (Al-Hilal), Abdullah Al-Maliki ( Al-Hilal) – Hattan Bahbri (Al-Shabaab), Salman Al-Faraj (Al-Hilal), Salem Al-Dossari (Al-Hilal) – Saleh Al-Shehri (Al-Hilal).

Big question: With Saudi Pro League champions Al Hilal looming large, can Saudi Arabia build on their show after winning one of their three matches in 2018?

Pulse: Saudi Arabia are favorites to finish top of Group C, but the AFC side have been a defensive force throughout qualifying, conceding just 0.51 goals per 90 minutes. Offensively, there are question marks but the Green Falcons will be tough.

The X Factor: Salim Al-Dosari. Fahad Al-Mawaald was removed from the team According to the report Because of the doping scandal. Al-Mulawad is one of the country’s most covered players, and Al-Dussari has been one of the leading goalscorers in terms of ability, so he will need to pick up the slack.

Breakout Candidate: Fras Alberican. At the age of 22, Alberican already has 26 caps for his country and has either moved forward with Saleh Al-Shehri, or formed a partnership and is understandably so. Al-Barikan averaged 0.79 goals per 90 and 0.46 expected goals (xG) per 90 in the Saudi Pro League with Al Fatah.


Mexico’s Herring Lozano comes to the World Cup playing at a high level with his club Napoli. (Eduardo Verdugo/AP)

Mexico
FIFA World Ranking: 13 no
Top scorer in qualifying: Henry Martin and Alexis Vega (two goals)
Odds to win the World Cup: +9,010 (via Sports Interact)
Odds to win the group: +495

Previous World Cup appearances: 16
Best appearances: Quarter-finals (1970 and 1986)
World Cup 2018: Round of 16

Manager: Gerardo “Tata” Martino
Possible formation: 4-3-3
Probable starting XI: Guillermo Ocho (USA) – Kevin Alvarez (Pachuca), Cesar Montes (Monterrey), Hector Moreno (Monterrey), Jesus Gallardo (Monterrey) – Carlos Rodriguez (Cruz Azul), Edson Harrez (Edson Harrez), Houston Dynamo) – Roberto Alvarado (Chivas), Henry Martin (USA), Hierwin Lozano (Napoli).

Big question: Can beat Mexico in the end quinto partido (5th game) Damn?

Pulse: Inconsistency and injuries have led to a lack of confidence in coach Tata Martino to help Mexico progress to their first quarter-finals in 36 years. even if El Tri Reaching the knockout stage, it will likely set up a meeting with France, which could mean the curse lives on.

The X Factor: Napoli winger Hervin Lozano was one of the breakout stars of 2018, playing a key role as Mexico beat Germany to reach the last 16. Lozano enters the World Cup on a high, having also recorded a goal and two assists in the final against Napoli. Two games before the tournament.

Breakout Candidate: Roberto Alvarado. The 24-year-old was a shining talent at Cruz Azul. A big move to Chivas hasn’t quite worked out but Alvarado is in place to replace the injured Jes Corona, which could be the chance he needs to reach his potential.


One striker who doesn’t need to defend the opposing team at the World Cup: Poland captain Robert Lewandowski. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Poland
In FIFA World Ranking: 26
Top scorer in qualifying: Robert Lewandowski (nine goals)
Odds to win the World Cup: +8,960 (via Sports Interaction)
Odds to win the group: +464

Previous World Cup appearances: Eight
Best Show: Third Place (1974 and 1982)
World Cup 2018: Group Stage

Editor: Czeslaw Michniewicz
Possible formation: 3-5-2
Probable starting XI: Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus) – Jan Bednarik (Aston Villa), Kamil Glic (Benento), Jakub Cuvier (Spezia) – Matty Cash (Aston Villa), Zimon Zurkowski (Fiorentina), Grzegorz Alsababakovi, Piotr Zielinski (Napoli) ), Nikola Zelewski (Roma) – Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona), Arkadiusz Malik (Juventus).

Big question: Will Robert Lewandowski lead the line by himself or as part of a strike that has varying degrees of success?

pulse: Poland is one of the exciting teams in the World Cup. It has world-class strikers and a few elite youngsters, but it still relies on inconsistent veterans like Kamil Glik and Grzegorz Krychovic. The talent is there to reach the knockout stage, especially with Mexico in Group C at odds with Mexico.

The X Factor: Piotr Zielinski When given a free role to roam the pitch for club or country, Zielinski is a devastatingly effective player, as he proved with Napoli in Serie A this season.

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Breakout Candidate: A product of Roma’s academy, Nikola Zelewski, the 20-year-old is a regular starter for Poland. His vision in the final third, quick feet and ability to beat defenders off the dribble should be exciting.


A bold prediction for Group C

Mexico will be eliminated from the group stage for the first time since 1978, while Argentina and Poland will advance to the round of 16.

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