With their World Cup hopes already on the line, Argentina seek to overcome their opening game calamity, as they tackle Group C rivals Mexico on Saturday. 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 Lionel 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.
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. After Hector Moreno was deemed to have felled Robert Lewandowski in the box, the Polish marksman failed to convert his golden chance from the penalty spot, as veteran goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa pulled off a crucial save. That result sets up a potentially pivotal encounter in terms of qualification from Group C this weekend, as El Tri aim to reach the knockout phase once again.
Now making their eighth consecutive World Cup appearance, the Mexicans have been eliminated at the last 16 stage in each of their last seven attempts, and ex-Argentina coach Martino is the man tasked with bringing a halt to that trend by defying expectation and making the quarter-finals. Before this year's squad can dream of emulating such a feat, though, they may well need to at least secure a second point in Lusail, or their hopes of progressing will be left hanging by a thread.