The Albiceleste are expected to sweep aside the Green Falcons in the opening game in Group C at Lusail Stadium.
Who: Argentina vs Saudi Arabia, Group C
Where: Lusail Stadium
When: Tuesday November 22 at 22:00 (19:00 GMT)
FIFA Ranking: Argentina (3), Saudi Arabia (51)
In the opening match in group C of the World Cup, Argentina will take on Argentina Saudi Arabia on Tuesday at the 80,000-seat Lusail Stadium.
Led by superstar Lionel Messi, the Argentines have been widely tipped to challenge strongly for a third World Cup victory. Coach Lionel Scaloni’s charge knows that a convincing victory against the Gulf side is expected – even demanded – by their legions of fans.
Their hopes of glory were forged on an incredible 36-game unbeaten run dating back to 2019 and have become increasingly sharp after recent indications from Messi that this will be his last World Cup.
The diminutive 35 years old has been in sparkling form for club and country over the past year, starting his second season with Paris Saint-Germain with 12 goals and 14 assists in 19 games so far.
Considered by many to be the greatest footballer of his generation, he will be joined in Qatar by a range of supporting talent, including forwards Ángel Di Maria and Lautaro Martínez, and midfielders Rodrigo De Paul and Leandro Paredes.
Argentina also has a stingy defense, dampening the prospects of the Green Falcons going upset and adding to predictions by some that the South American side may be back at Lusail Stadium for the World Cup final on December 18.
But Saudi Arabia will be determined to try and frustrate the Albiceleste, who were last crowned world champions in 1986.
If they are to have any success, the Saudis will need to be flawlessly organized in their own half and be ready to hit the Argentines at the break when opportunities for a counter-attack arise.
Manager Herve Renard will be fully aware of the magnitude of the challenge ahead, with tough matches against fellow Group C challengers Poland and Mexico. However, he and his players will take heart from an excellent qualifying campaign, which saw them secure a place in this year’s tournament with two matches remaining, securing a sixth World Cup appearance since their first appearance in the 1994 edition.
Talisman Salem Al-Dawsari will be Saudi’s biggest threat with his creative winger, coming into the league after the most prolific season of his career to date, having scored heavily for Riyadh-based club Al-Hilal.
The 31-year-old is unlikely to lack support from the stands, with tens of thousands of Saudi Arabia fans expected to attend the first-ever World Cup in the Middle East. will be among them Abdullah Alsulmiwho has traveled more than 1,500 km (930 mi) on foot from the Red Sea port city of Jeddah to Qatar, to cheer on his party.
But regardless of the results, the team’s performance at the tournament alone means victory for the supporters. For more than three years, Riyadh has led a regional economic blockade of Qatar that threatened to undermine Saudi Arabia’s participation in the competition, and some feared the tournament itself.
That is now history: the blockade was finally lifted in early 2021. Saudi Arabia and Argentina will focus on next month from Tuesday.