The World Cup 2022 action continues on Saturday, as Argentina look to bounce back and France seek a second victory.
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Australia were outclassed by France last time out, going down 4-1 at the Al Janoub Stadium despite taking the lead through Craig Goodwin. The Socceroos’ effort and application could not be questioned, but they were ultimately undone by France’s superior individual and collective quality.
Tunisia, meanwhile, held Denmark to a 0-0 draw in what was, quite frankly, a dull game on Tuesday. Still, the North Africans were pleased with a result that has given them a fighting chance of reaching the round of 16.
Tunisia will probably need to win this game given they face France next, but do not expect them to go gung-ho in search of a victory. The North Africans still have a tendency towards caution, so we could see a tight first half with little in the way of goalmouth action.
Argentina were stunned by Saudi Arabia in Group C’s opening game on Tuesday. Herve Renard’s side fell behind to a Lionel Messi penalty in the 10th minute, but two quick-fire goals early in the second half turned the game on its head. The Green Falcons held on for a 2-1 win, which instantly went down as one of the biggest upsets in the history of international soccer.
Poland were disappointing in their first match against Mexico. Robert Lewandowski had a penalty saved by Guillermo Ochoa, but the Europeans struggled to create chances from open play. Poland were unable to play the ball through midfield and resorted to hitting long balls forward to their attackers, a tactic which did not bear much fruit.
With Lewandowski in their side, though, Poland always have a chance to find the back of the net. Saudi Arabia were surprisingly bold against Argentina, so they will be confident of scoring again here.
After falling behind to Australia on Tuesday, France turned on the style on their way to a 4-1 win. Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele were electric on the flanks, while Olivier Giroud boosted his chances of finishing as World Cup 2022 top scorer by finding the net twice.
Denmark were altogether less convincing going forward against Tunisia. The North Africans defended gamely and got in the faces of their opponents, who had plenty of the ball but did not do enough with it. Kasper Hjulmand’s side will need to turn in a much-improved performance against France, whom they recently beat twice in the Nations League.
Denmark should have more joy against a team that will push higher up the pitch than Tunisia did, but they will have to guard against the devastating speed of Mbappe and Dembele out wide. This promises to be an entertaining affair.
Argentina will be eliminated from the World Cup if they lose to Mexico, a scenario that does not bear thinking about for Messi and co. Lionel Scaloni’s side thought a game against Saudi Arabia represented a gentle start, but that shock defeat means they now have no margin for error.
It is important that Argentina remain calm and play their natural game. They are more than good enough to beat El Tri, who may be left to rue their failure to beat Poland last time out. Tata Martino’s side lacked a cutting edge in attack in that match, a familiar problem that they are yet to solve.
Indeed, although Argentina were not convincing defensively against the Saudis, they may well keep a clean sheet against a Mexico attack that looked blunt on Tuesday.
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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