Qatar has three million people and are hosting the 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup for one simple reason: to see Lionel Messi play on their home soil.
Messi will lead Argentina at his last World Cup and the gulf nation will have the honor of being the last ground where Messi competed for the world title.
Even though the Paris Saint-Germain forward has stated that this would be his last World Cup, whether this actually be his last one, nobody really knows. The statements from everybody associated with the Argentina national team seem to suggest that plans are in motion to keep Messi for longer.
Regardless, Qatar are prepared to be the place where Messi will be once again the key player and the world is ready to experience it to the full. All of Argentina’s Group C games were the first to be sold out, long before the tickets were ready.
It puts a lot of pressure on Argentina to perform, even more than their opponents, who will have a large percentage of the neutral match goers and viewers at home cheering for every Messi touch. One would not be wrong to call Group C (and the 2022 World Cup) the Messi show.
And to kick things off in the group will be Argentina against Saudi Arabia on November 22 in the early kickoff.
The rest of the article will preview the group and predict the final standings of each team, taking their strengths and weaknesses.
Table of Contents
Strengths and Weaknesses
Only those with a lack of football understanding will argue against Argentina being the outright favourites to top this group. They have tons of strengths going for them, but more importantly, they have got Lionel Messi.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has fully adapted to his new surroundings in Paris and is playing at a level comparable to his Barcelona days. He has also been the catalyst behind their incredible run of form which has seen them go undefeated for 35 straight games.
Messi also happens to be their biggest weakness.
Lionel Scaloni has been unable to find a way to play without Messi. Seeing as the superstar’s fitness is not what it used to be, he will need to have contingencies in case anything happens.
The Green Falcons have been referred to in the past as the Brazilians of the desert. While their performances of late have not done the nickname any justice, they have never lost their flair.
Saudi Arabia is a team of players who possess technical quality. They are also a team with an abundance of young talent who are more than hungry to make up for lost time in their confederation as well as on the world stage.
Herve Renard, however, has some work to do on their defence. Saudi Arabia struggle to put in commanding displays at the back and any team worth their salt can punish them every time the go forward.
Mexico is a team who have always excited at the World Cup. Fans are always in for a treat because El Tri are a fun team to watch.
Their unpredictability is their greatest strength. They have players who can turn the game on its head at any point in time with a witty play or a brilliant run in behind. Sometimes, their defence – especially their goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa – performs at a level so high, it fazes other teams.
Transition from the back to the front remains their biggest problem, however. Their style is a lot direct, but if they are forced to move the ball around, it could spell doom for them.
Poland have no identifiable strengths going into the tournament as they are still getting accustomed to how Czesław Michniewicz wants them to play.
They have been poor in every tournament they have participated in since the 1986 World Cup, with their most recent outing in the Euros seeing them finish with one point in the group stages.
It is a team full of weaknesses, but Michniewicz is using a backbone of youth to prop the side up. This is a strength they can build on as they try to make it out of the group stages for the first time in 36 years.
Match previews and predictions
Argentina will play the first game of the group against Saudi Arabia on November 22. Mexico will take on Poland on the same day in the late kickoff.
La Albiceleste will face Mexico in their second match before rounding up their group stage against Poland. Mexico will round off against Saudi Arabia, who will have faced Poland for their second group game.
Argentina are the team to beat and are expected to come out with three wins from three. Mexico are the next best team in the group and their rivalry with Argentina could see them fight to the death in that match, which could actually define who tips the group.
Poland and Saudi Arabia are unlikely to cause an upset. However, it will capture the headlines if the AFC team beats the European team.
Final group places prediction
Argentina and Mexico will finish in first and second. Third and fourth is harder to predict, but Saudi Arabia looks likelier to end up in third due to their form going into the tournament.