There are very few around the world that would have thought South American powerhouse Argentina would be facing elimination going into the second round of group stage fixtures at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but that is the reality at hand for Lionel Messi and company as La Albiceleste are still reeling after their 2-1 shock opening loss to Saudi Arabia.
In what was meant to be a potential swansong for one of the greatest players to ever grace a football pitch, Lionel Scaloni’s vaunted outfit came into the tournament on the back of a 36-match undefeated run that lasted for over three years.
No one would have ever expected aṣ-Ṣuqūr Al-ʿArabiyyah to pull off one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history four days ago at Lusail Iconic Stadium, which now puts Argentina’s back against the wall tonight against a tricky Mexico outfit that can consign Messi to an embarrassing exit from the international stage.
Many felt as though Argentina would have been a shoo-in for the knockout stage while Poland and Mexico would have been made to fight for second in the group, and no one gave Saudi Arabia hope or a prayer to take even a point out of group play.
Poland’s 2-0 win over Hervé Renard’s men sees them top the group at the time of writing, with Saudi Arabia sitting second. Not only are Argentine facing elimination, but they cannot count on a Mexico outfit lacking in motivation as their World Cup dreams also hang in the balance.
Should Argentina win, Mexico would not be eliminated but their task would be immeasurably harder given the circumstances. Should that transpire, Mexico would then have to beat Saudi Arabia on the final day of group play while also hoping for either a Poland win over Argentina or an Argentina win that would then see matters come down to goal difference.
For Messi, there is now no greater motivation to set the record straight than tonight, and as the course of his glistening career has shown, so often he has single-handedly carried results on the back of his otherwordly gifts on the pitch, but should he once again fail to produce the goods for his country, many in Argentina will remain adamant that he has never been the same player for his country millions in Europe have witnessed over the last eighteen years.