ARGENTINA VS SAUDI ARABIA
Argentina comes into this competition as favorites, the Lionel Messi factor and the fact that they are current South-American champions. Contrasting fortunes for both teams here as the Saudis are nowhere near the class of their opponents in this fixture. It will be a shocker to see things pan out differently and to be honest, expect nothing but complete domination from the Argentines who already tested a nation from the Middle East in a friendly few days ago where they dispatched the UAE by 5-0.
Tottenham defender Christian Romero is out with a calf injury and is a doubt for this fixture so expect Nicholas Otamendi to possibly partner in form Manchester United star man Lisandro Martinez in center back. In midfield, the trio of Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes and Brighton’s Alexis MacAllister will probably get a shout while Lionel Messi leads the front three with Lautaro Martinez and veteran Angel Di Maria.
For there to be a chance of any sort of upset at all, Abdulelah Al Malki and Mohamed Kanno both hold the key to any source of creativity for Herve Renards’ men. The French man has led both Zambia and Ivory Coast to Afcon titles and will be looking to take Saudi Arabia to their first knockout round stage since USA 94. To do that, striker Feras Albrikan must be at his best and take half chances.
Expect Argentina to have all the possession with Renard’s men setting up with 5 men at the back while looking to exploit the wing backs of Argentina on a counter. However, the immense quality the South American champions possess will overpower even the best of teams at this competition so if they score as much as 4 or 5 unreplied goals in this game, it shouldn’t be surprising nor embarrassing.
Both teams have only met once in a friendly which ended goalless in 2012; this however is a completely different affair, there will be goals in this one for Argentina and don’t bet on Saudi to score more than 1 if they do. For the records against teams in the Middle East region at the world cup, most recently, Argentina needed a moment of magic from Messi to break the resilient Iranian side in 2014 on match day 1, I can guarantee you of a more similar outcome in 2022.
Can Lionel Sebastian Scaloni’s men fail to win their first world cup game as they did in 2018? It’d be a huge scalp if Saudi can get something from this one but as they say, there are no minnows in football.
ARGENTINA 3-0 SAUDI ARABIA
(12noon Nigerian Time)
Written by Charles E. Ofili