We have a bumper day of action at the FIFA World Cup on Tuesday and it all begins in Lusail when we have the opening match in Group C being played out when one of the favoured teams for the tournament in Argentina take on Saudi Arabia.
This looks like something of a mismatch on paper and it might well prove to be that on the pitch as well. Argentina will be out to lay a real marker down while Saudi Arabia will be looking to set themselves up to come good in the later part of the group.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the ITV 1 channel for us in the UK to enjoy. The build-up to the Group C opener begins at 9am and the kick off comes at 10am.
The Copa America champions begin their quest to be world champions on Tuesday afternoon and they look to have the ideal opponent to get their campaign underway against. All eyes will be on Lionel Messi in this tournament and that certainly will be the case in this first match as he has the chance to set the tone for his nation here. Argentina will want a convincing win here ahead of the two tougher matches to come in the group.
One thing Argentina certainly don’t lack going into this competition is form. They haven’t lost any of their last 36 matches which is an incredible record, similar to what Italy had in the Euros last year when they used that foundation to win the title. Argentina have seven clean sheets in their last eight matches so they are keeping things tight at one end of the pitch and flourishing much more at the other end than in previous years.
Saudi Arabia will have been determined to make it into a World Cup which is almost on home soil. They have achieved that aim and now that they are here they will be looking to make hay and show that they aren’t just here to make up the numbers. If they are going to do that then they are going to have to pull off one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history but Argentina have lost to minnows in this tournament before.
The one thing the Saudis are going to have to do if they are to have any chance here is prove they are better than the two Asian sides we have seen in the tournament to date. They have both looked well off the pace and that is a real concern. Generally under Herve Renard, Saudi Arabia are defensively tight but there won’t have been many tests to their defence like the one they are going to face here.
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Argentina expect Cristian Romero to be fit for this opening match but some of their plans were changed late on when Nicolas Gonzalez and Joaquin Correa were ruled out of the tournament. Thiago Almada and Angel Correa have come in but aren’t likely to play.
Herve Renard will need to check over the fitness of two players in their squad for this match. Riyadh Sharahili and Hassan Tambakti could be given a fitness test ahead of the game to determine whether they are fit.
It would be something of a surprise if Argentina don’t win this match but for me the question is how early they will break Saudi Arabia down and that might determine how easily they win this match. We saw in the opening two games that Asian sides were dead and buried before half time and it wouldn’t be a shock if that was the case here despite the Saudis defensive record. Whether Argentina score early or not I fancy a late goal here.
The longer this one goes on the more Saudi Arabia are going to get worn down by chasing the ball around in the heat and humidity of the day in Qatar. That won’t be helped by the options that the Copa America champions have to bring off the bench. There is going to be some seriously good attacking players miss out on the starting XI here and when they come on they will want to make an impression to force their way in for future matches. All three matches on Monday had a goal after 76.59 mins and that is where the line for the last goal in this one begins. With the amount of injury time that is getting added in this tournament we could feasibly have 20 minutes of time from that point onwards for a goal and I expect someone to notch in that time.
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