Argentina and Lionel Messi face decisive game against Poland

By | November 30, 2022



CNN
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It was supposed to be Lionel Messi’s crowning moment for Argentina – the tournament where he steps out of Diego Maradona’s shadow into the national team – but the 2022 World Cup has been a mixed experience for the 35-year-old so far.

Argentina were stunned by Saudi Arabia in their first game before resuming their campaign with a 2-0 win over Mexico, in which Messi scored the opener.

That means that, with just one game left in Group C, Argentina are still in contention to progress to the knockout stages of Messi’s fifth World Cup campaign.

Argentina are in second place on three points, one point behind Group C leaders Poland, knowing that a victory in the last game against the Poles will guarantee their qualification.

Defender Lisandro Martinez said the team, including Messi, is only getting better.

“It all comes down to details,” Martinez said Tuesday at a news conference. “We saw that with Messi’s goal. Before that the match (against Mexico) was very tight”.

“We know what we are capable of. We can play better and we know that we haven’t reached our best level yet. But we are trying,” she added.

Messi may have thought this tournament would be the moment he stepped out of Maradona's shadow - but things didn't go entirely to plan.

Next, Argentina take on Poland, with Robert Lewandowski, pictured, celebrating his national team's second goal during the Group C match between Poland and Saudi Arabia.

Argentina are up against a Poland team led by their own iconic striker, Robert Lewandowski, who scored his first World Cup goal in the last game against Saudi Arabia.

Lewandowski, 34, who is also his nation’s top scorer as Messi, missed a penalty in a 0-0 draw against Mexico in Poland’s opening game, but redeemed himself with a second in the 2-0 win over to Saudi Arabia.

And Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni praised Lewandowski, calling him a “top player”.

“It will be a privilege and a pleasure to see him up close as a football fan,” said Scaloni. “Is he on the same level as Messi? You just have to enjoy such a great player. Why compare one player to another. It doesn’t help.

After their famous victory over Argentina, a victory for Saudi Arabia over Mexico will secure their first place in the Round of 16 since 1994, while a draw would mean they would need Poland to beat Argentina.

Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard said his team had already exceeded expectations.

“No one in the whole world thought we could play at this level. Yes, in Saudi Arabia we know the players well, but they are unknown to fans all over the world”, said Renard in a press conference after the game against Poland. “We’re still alive.”

Mexico’s hopes are much lower, needing to beat Saudi Arabia by at least three goals, with Poland unbeaten by Argentina.

The other group climaxing on Wednesday is Group D, which sees Australia take on Denmark and Tunisia take on France.

The reigning World Cup champions, France, have already secured their place in the next phase with two wins in as many games.

However, the rest of the group remains even, with Australia on three points and Denmark and Tunisia on one point each.

Australia have a strong chance of advancing to the Round of 16 for the first time since 2006 – a win will secure their place, although a draw will suffice if Tunisia fail to beat France.

Striker Mathew Leckie looked back on the Australia team’s success in Germany 16 years ago ahead of Wednesday’s decisive match.

Mathew Leckie of Australia head-butting Aissa Laidouni of Tunisia during the Group D match between Tunisia and Australia.

“We always believe that we can create something special,” Leckie said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“When the Socceroos left the group in 2006 I was a proud fan and now we have the opportunity to be players and do that.

“We’ve seen how proud it makes people at home. So we are doing this for the country, for ourselves, for our friends, for our family and that is motivation in itself.”

Australia will be up against a Danish side that have struggled to create clear openings despite looking defensively solid

Having scored 30 goals in 10 World Cup qualifiers, Denmark have scored just once in Qatar, prompting Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand to jokingly suggest he might have to call up Norwegian striker Erling Haaland.

A day before Denmark’s key fixture against Australia, Hjulmand kept his cards close to his chest when it came to the team he could pick on Wednesday.

“As it stands now, everyone is ready,” Hjulmand told the media. “We have 26 players who all deserve to play. They are good enough and deserve to play.

“All we have to see is what kind of technical approach we should take tomorrow, what structure we should play with, who we know fits.

“I trust all the players we’ve brought in, so there are many ways to do that.”

Australia v Denmark: 10am ET

Tunisia v France: 10am ET

Poland v Argentina: 2pm ET

Saudi Arabia v Mexico: 2pm ET

US: Fox Sports

United Kingdom: BBC or ITV

Australia: SBS

Brazil: SportTV

Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom

Canada: BellMedia

South Africa: SABC

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