Can Argentina bounce back to keep their World Cup hopes alive?

Having suffered a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in the opening game, a draw or a defeat against Mexico would push the two-time world champions to the brink of elimination in Qatar

By Rituraj Borkakoty in Doha

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

 

Reuters
Reuters

Published: Sat 26 Nov 2022, 3:42 PM

The football-mad Argentinians, who mourned the second death anniversary of Diego Maradona on Friday, would be hoping for some divine blessings from their late icon when Lionel Messi’s team lock horns with Mexico in a make-or-break World Cup clash at the Lusail Iconic Stadium on Saturday.

Having suffered a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in the opening game, a draw or a defeat against Mexico would push the two-time world champions to the brink of elimination in Qatar.


After arriving in Qatar on the back of their incredible 36-match unbeaten run, the reigning Copa America champions are now facing an epic test of character.

Lionel Messi, who has never managed to earn the same status as Maradona back home in Argentina for his World Cup heartbreaks, faces a big battle to keep his dream of winning the only trophy that is missing in his cabinet.


Technically, Argentina are still a very good team. Not quite as strong as Brazil and France, but coach Lionel Scaloni has found a good system that allows Messi to play with freedom in the final third of the pitch.

ALSO READ:

But on Saturday, their challenge will be not on the technical side of the game. It’s their mental toughness that will be tested against Mexico.

Can they bounce back from that demoralizing defeat to Saudi Arabia who outplayed them with a clinical display of aggressive football?

Mexico have never beaten Argentina in a World Cup game. But they will never get a better opportunity to break their duck against the South Americans who looked rattled by the raw strength of Saudi Arabian players.

The Mexicans will also be helped by an Argentinian. Gerardo Martino, one of the most astute Argentinian coaches in the game today, has been managing Mexico since 2019.

Having coached Argentina and Messi in the past, Martino is well aware of loopholes in the Argentinian system.

But it’s the not the same Argentina that relied heavily on Messi in the past. It’s a team that is capable of playing eye-catching football.

“We will not change our style after what happened on Tuesday,” Scaloni said.

“For a long time, everything was perfect for us. Everything was joy,” he added, referring to the team’s 36-match unbeaten run.

“I was the first to be ready for that blow. Luckily enough, that came in our first match. What’s important for us is facing every match like it’s our last one. A match can be lost but it’s how you bounce back, how you rise up.”

ALSO READ:

That indeed will be the biggest challenge for Scaloni in his career as a coach. The former West Ham United winger has never been in this kind of vulnerable position before.

Now he has to quickly find solutions to keep Argentina’s dream of ending their 36-year drought for the World Cup alive.

There is one stat, though, they can take inspiration from.

Martino’s biggest defeat as a Mexico manager came against Argentina when he lost 4-0 in 2019.

But on Saturday, Argentina will happily accept even a scrappy 1-0 result.

ALSO READ:


More news from Sports