Match Preview: Argentina vs Saudi Arabia
Tuesday’s early kick-off starts with Argentina taking on Saudi Arabia in Group C of the FIFA World Cup 2022. The fifth match of the competition is held at Lusail stadium, which is set to be the venue for the final of the tournament. Argentina is playing in the World Cup finals for the 18th time, while their opponents have qualified on five previous occasions and are playing second time in a row.
Lionel Scaloni’s men are coming into the World Cup after winning the Copa America tournament for the 15th time last year, which makes them the joint-record holder with Uruguay and the Finalissima. Confidences are high in La Albiceleste’s camp as they are on an unbeaten streak of 36 matches. Avoiding defeat in their opening match on Tuesday will see Scaloni’s men going level with Italy for holding the record for the longest unbeaten streak in International football. Also, this tournament will be the last one for Argentina’s talismanic captain and one of the greatest players of all time, Lionel Messi, who revealed about his retirement from international football last month.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia came into the World Cup as underdogs in Group C, alongside Argentina, Poland, and Mexico. The green falcons under Hervé Renard, qualified as group winners ahead of Japan and Australia to reach the World Cup finals. The Saudis will be looking forward to repeating their 1994 World Cup heroics, after reaching the round of 16 that year for the first time in their history.
Although key players such as Giovani Lo Celso, Nicolás González, and Joaquin Correa are missing out through injury, Argentina still has a strong team with a mix of experience and youth. Real Betis midfielder Guido Rodríguez and Brighton and Hove Albion play-maker Alexis Mac Allister will be in contention to fight for the place in midfield to replace the injured Lo Celso.
Julian Alvarez is among those to keep an eye on, after his impressive performance for River Plate last season saw him earn a move to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side. Enzo Fernández is also among those to watch out for, after showing promising performances for the Portuguese club Benfica. Fernández has three goals and four assists for Benfica this season.
Saudi Arabia suffered a huge blow when Fahad Al-Muwallad, their joint-highest top scorer was left out of the squad due to his pending doping case. Meanwhile, Salem Aldawsari and skipper Salman Al-Faraj, and Al Hilal Midfielder Mohamed Kanno are available. Scoring has been an issue for the Saudis lately, though. The team has come up empty in four consecutive friendlies. 29-year-old Saleh Alshehri has the most goals among the attackers in the squad, with ten goals to his name.
Argentina has played against Saudi Arabia on four previous occasions, managing to win two of them, with the other two ending in draws.