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Argentina got back on track with a 2-0 victory over Mexico on matchday two
Poland are on four points and will advance to the knockout stage with a draw
Argentina must win this match to guarantee a place in the round of 16
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Despite the Saudi Arabia scare, we are backing Lionel Scaloni’s side to finish top of Group C.
Back Argentina to beat Poland and both teams not to score - in other words, a win to nil for the South Americans. (+106)
Argentina are still alive. A shock 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia on matchday one, a result which immediately went down as one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament, left Lionel Scaloni’s side on the brink of an early exit. A loss to Mexico on Saturday would have sent the two-time world champions crashing out.
That would have been nothing short of disastrous for a national team that began World Cup 2022 as the second-favorites to triumph with the best online sportsbooks. From the start of the match against Mexico, it was clear that Argentina’s players were suffering from nerves.
After plenty of blood and thunder (and not much quality) in the opening 45 minutes, Argentina produced two moments of magic after the break to win the game and keep their hopes of progression alive. To the surprise of no one, the first was supplied by Lionel Messi, who rifled a shot into the bottom corner from just outside the box. Enzo Fernandes’ brilliant bending shot wrapped up the points late on.
Media reports state that Argentina celebrated the win in the dressing room for around an hour after the final whistle. That might seem innocuous enough, but Scaloni must ensure his charges remain on an even keel emotionally. It will be hard to win the World Cup if Argentina are veering from euphoric highs to dismal lows every few days.
On the pitch, question marks remain too. There has been little in the way of cohesive, structured attacking soccer from Argentina so far. They have instead relied heavily on individual contributions - and even with Messi, that might not be sustainable.
Even their own fans would concede that Poland have underwhelmed at recent tournaments. Picked out as potential dark horses ahead of both World Cup 2018 and Euro 2020, Robert Lewandowski and co. were knocked out in the group stage on both occasions. But they now have their fate in their own hands going into matchday three of the competition in Qatar.
Following a tie with Mexico and a victory over Saudi Arabia, Poland will reach the round of 16 by avoiding defeat on Wednesday. That would be a fine achievement for a country that has not participated in the knockout phase of a World Cup since 1986 when they lost 4-0 to Brazil in the round of 16.
In truth, however, Poland have not exactly set the world alight in Qatar. The Eagles were poor in a dour 0-0 draw with Mexico, even though they were a Lewandowski missed penalty away from victory. A 2-0 win against Saudi Arabia might sound comfortable, but their opponents were probably the better team on the day.
Still, Poland have found a way to pick up points and they now have a decent chance of making it out of Group C. Even a narrow defeat could suffice as long as Saudi Arabia do not beat Mexico, although it would then come down to goal difference.
With Lewandowski on this side, we cannot rule anything out. It would be disrespectful to call Poland a one-man team - they have some very good players in other positions - but Czesław Michniewicz’s men would probably not have even qualified for Qatar without their captain and talisman.
The more optimistic members of the Argentina fan base have pointed out in recent days that the last time the Albiceleste lost their first game of a World Cup, they went on to reach the final. No one is looking that far ahead right now, though. First, Argentina must win this match to ensure a safe passage through to the last 16.
Scaloni must ensure his players remain patient. Poland will sit deep and play the ball long up to Lewandowski and potentially Arek Milik, who could partner the Barcelona star up front. They will probably try to waste time when the score is level and will aim to make life as difficult as possible for Argentina.
We fancy Scaloni’s side to overcome the challenge, though. They have not sparkled yet but Argentina are not in the worst position heading into matchday three, and they will draw confidence from the fact that their defense has actually given up very few chances so far. Saudi Arabia scored from pretty much their only two clear-cut opportunities last week.
That, together with Poland’s insipid attack against Mexico, suggests a clean sheet is well within reach for Argentina. Back the favorites to win and both teams not to score at Stadium 974 in Doha.
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Teams: Poland vs Argentina
Location: Stadium 974, Doha, Qatar
Time: Wednesday, 30 November 2022, 2:00 PM EST
How to Watch: Fox Sports, Universo, fuboTV
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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