Argentina will face Poland in their final Group C match on Wednesday night.
La Albiceleste have been a mainstay in the World Cup knockout stages since their shock 2002 group stage exit. But to ensure they will reach the round of 16 for the fifth successive time, they need to win at Stadium 974. On the other hand, Poland only need to avoid defeat to seal a spot in the next phase of the tournament.
Despite being one of the best strikers of his generation, Robert Lewandowski did not have a World Cup goal to his name until Saturday. The Barcelona ace broke his duck in his fifth World Cup match as he fired in Poland’s second goal against Saudi Arabia.
The Green Falcons produced another convincing display following their surprise win over Argentina in the first match. But Poland took advantage of Saudi Arabia’s wastefulness in front of the goal and claimed the full three points in a 2-0 win.
Piotr Zieliński opened the scoring for the Red and Whites in the first half before Lewandowski put the final nail in Saudi Arabia’s coffin.
Poland had picked up a point in their opening match in a goalless draw against Mexico.
They now have four points under their belt and occupy the top spot in Group C. Another stalemate will be enough to send them through.
A draw might also be sufficient for Argentina, but that depends on the outcome of the Saudi Arabia-Mexico match.
Also, it would potentially set up a round of 16 tie with France, who are the current World Cup holders and knocked out the Latin American nation from the 2018 World Cup.
Argentina fell short of expectations in the first two matches. They were considered one of the favourites to win the World Cup before the tournament started, but they could not live up to the hype so far.
Lionel Scaloni’s side were beaten by a well-drilled Saudi Arabia side in their World Cup opener.
They did pick up a win against Mexico in the next match, but they were far from impressive for most of the match. The stardust of Lionel Messi helped them break the deadlock before Enzo Fernández eased the nerves with an 87th-minute strike. Argentina won, but it was not a compelling display.
Poland manager Czesław Michniewicz might not change the winning formation.
Arkadiusz Milik and Robert Lewandowski will pair up in the front. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny will have the protective barrier of Matty Cash, Kamil Glik, Jakub Kiwior, and Bartosz Bereszynski in front of him.
The experienced Grzegorz Krychowiak should get his 97th cap for Poland as he will partner Krystian Bielik in the midfield pivot. Piotr Zieliński and Przemysław Frankowski will play on the wings.
But Argentina might shake things up to find a more fluid system. After two lack-lustre performances from the fullback positions, Scaloni might try a different combination in the Poland game.
Gonzalo Montiel, Nahuel Molina and Juan Foyth are the options at right-back. On the opposite flank, Scaloni will have to choose among Nicolas Tagliafico and Marcos Acuña.
Enzo Fernández will hope to get his first start after two impressive off-the-bench appearances.
Leandro Paredes might get back to the fold after being dropped to the bench against Mexico.
Lisandro Martínez expects to keep his place alongside Nicolás Otamendi in defence. Julián Álvarez might come in to lead the line instead of Lautaro Martínez, who failed to convince in the last two matches.
Argentina have the quality in their squad, it’s all about finding the right balance.
Poland have the ammunition to sink Argentina’s World Cup ambitions, but should find it difficult to stop a determined Argentina side.
We are expecting a 2-1 win for Argentina.
Date: December 1
Kickoff Time: 12:30 AM IST
Venue: Stadium 974.