Argentina vs Mexico: Preview and Prediction
Argentina will look to make amends for a shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia when they take on Mexico at Lusail Iconic Stadium. La Albiceleste failed to impress in the Group C opener, and, as a result, they face a must-win situation against El Tri.
The Mexicans, on the other hand, were more than fortunate to share the spoils with Poland in their opener as Robert Lewandowski failed to convert a penalty. Since Tata Martino’s men were anything but impressive in the first group game, we are tempted to put our belief in Lionel Messi and Co, who are surely capable of recovering from the embarrassing defeat.
Manchester City attacker Julian Alvarez should be recalled to the starting XI, while there are no fresh injury worries on either side as fit-again Wolverhampton attacker Raul Jimenez is widely expected to return to Mexico’s starting XI.
Since losing to Brazil in the 2019 Copa America, Argentina had embarked on a national record 36-game unbeaten run, and as reigning South American champions, arrived among most pundits’ favourites for the final four at least.
Yet, all that momentum counted for little on the first day of their World Cup campaign, as Lionel Scaloni’s side let an early advantage slip from their grasp during the space of six second-half minutes at Lusail Stadium.
Leading through Leo Messi’s opener from the penalty spot, the Albiceleste seemed in control of affairs at half-time, having seen three other ‘goals’ ruled out for offside. Two Saudi Arabian strikes shortly after the interval turned the game on its head, however, and Group C’s underdogs held out to record a result that will echo through the ages.
With the last of their global triumphs coming back in the summer of 1986, Argentina was already under pressure to deliver its first World Cup trophy in the last 40 years – particularly in what is set to be Messi’s swansong on the game’s grandest stage.
One of several goalless stalemates in the opening week of Qatar 2022, a 0-0 draw with Poland set Mexico’s tournament off to a relatively steady start on Tuesday, and in some respects, a single-point haul was gratefully received by Tata Martino’s men in the end.
That result sets up a potentially pivotal encounter in terms of qualification from Group C this weekend, as El Tri aims to reach the knockout phase once again.
Head to Head Record
This will be the 36th encounter played between Argentina and Mexico in an international football game. Argentina dominates this head-to-head encounter by winning 16 of those games while Mexico has won mere five wins in this fixture. 14 games in this fixture have ended in a draw.
Argentina is in fact unbeaten in their last 10 meetings with Mexico (eight wins, two draws), with their last loss to El Tri coming in 2004. The last competitive meeting between the sides was Argentina’s 3-1 win in the 2010 World Cup Round of 16 while the two sides last met in a friendly in 2019 that the South American nation won by a 4-0 margin.
Indeed, these two teams have met each other thrice in World Cups prior to this encounter with the Albiceleste winning each of those games – 6-3 in 1930, 2-1 in 2006 and 3-1 in Mexico.
While Argentina’s talisman Lionel Messi trained away from the rest of his teammates on Thursday, the 35-year-old playmaker is expected to play from the start this weekend, thus sparing Lionel Scaloni a serious selection headache.
The Albiceleste captain’s left leg is his main source of concern, but it seems unlikely that Papu Gomez will be asked to deputise on Saturday. Therefore, Messi should headline an attacking trident also featuring Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria.
Having started on the bench in the loss to Saudi Arabia following a fitness issue, Lisandro Martinez could come in for either Cristian Romero or Nicolas Otamendi as part of Scaloni’s back four. Gonzalo Montiel and Alexis Mac Allister are also in contention.
Meanwhile, forwards Angel Correa and Paulo Dybala – the latter only just back from injury – are among several squad members hoping to play their first minutes of the finals, most probably from the bench.
Another striker recently returned to fitness, Mexico’s Raul Jimenez will aim for promotion to the starting XI. The Wolverhampton Wanderers star made his first appearance for almost three months in El Tri’s final friendly and featured from the bench on Tuesday. Tata Martino may instead turn to Henry Martin again, though, with Hirving Lozano and Alexis Vega offering support from the flanks.
Pachuca’s Luis Chavez – who played no part in the CONCACAF qualifiers but worked his way into the team during recent friendlies – should continue on the left side of a midfield trio in Martino’s 4-3-3 formation, while Ajax defender Jorge Sanchez starts at right-back.
Predicted Playing XIs
Argentina (4-3-3): Emiliano Martinez; Gonzalo Montiel, Cristian Romero, Lisandro Martinez, Nicolas Tagliafico; Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, Alexis Mac Allister; Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria
Mexico (4-3-3): Guillermo Ochoa; Jorge Sanchez, Cesar Montes, Hector Moreno, Jesus Gallardo; Edson Alvarez, Hector Herrera, Luis Chavez; Hirving Lozano, Henry Martin, Alexis Vega
The last time Argentina were beaten in their first World Cup match was back in 1990 when Maradona ultimately went on to lead his side to the final. Faced with both the expectation of a football-mad nation and a transitional Mexico team, this Messi-led Albiceleste can now earn a vital first victory of the 2022 edition but it will not be a straightforward procedure. We backed Argentina to win the game comfortably by a 2-0 margin.