Favourites Argentina kick off their World Cup campaign on Tuesday morning at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar against middle-eastern opponents Saudi Arabia.
With an unbeaten run of 36 matches since their loss to Brazil in the 2019 Copa America semi-final and two titles in between, the Albiceleste approach Saudi Arabia as clear favourites. This will be the final chance for Lionel Scaloni and his men to celebrate Lionel Messi’s career and accoutre him a perfect retirement by winning the coveted trophy at the end.
Unlike Argentina, Saudi Arabia doesn’t hold many expectations from the World Cup and also due to the fact that they are the second lowest-ranked team (51st) in the competition. “When you are one of the smaller teams in the tournament, you must rely on shock results,” remarked Saudi coach Renard ahead of the World Cup and this is certainly one of the matches to which his statement was directed to.
Results in the last five matches in all competitions:
W W W W W
L D W W D
For Argentina, centre-back Cristian Romero remains the doubt as he couldn’t make the squad for his team’s pre-World Cup warm-up fixture against UAE. The Premier League defender has also missed four weeks of gameplay through injury for Tottenham.
Paulo Dybala has returned from his injury but is expected to start from the bench.
For Saudi Arabia, coach Herve Renard will be relieved after having back star forward Salem Al-Dawsari in their warm-up match against Croatia.
Argentina (4-3-3): Martinez; Molina, Otamendi, Martinez, Acuna; De Paul, Paredes, Mac Allister; Messi, Lautaro Martinez, Di Maria.
Saudi Arabia (4-3-3): Al-Owais; Al-Ghanam, Al-Amri, Al-Bulaihi, Al-Shahrani; Al-Najei, Sharahili, Al-Faraj; S Al-Dawsari, Al-Buraikan, Bahebri.
GWFN | Trambak Bhattacherjee