Three days after their dramatic group stage exits, Argentina vs Australia will play at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in the round of 16.
After the Albiceleste’s comeback from their shocking opening loss to Saudi Arabia and Australia’s victory over Denmark in the midweek match, both countries advanced to the World Cup knockout rounds.
To fulfil Lionel Messi’s goal of winning the World Cup for the first time, Argentina is favoured to win against Australia.
On Saturday, though, they will know better than anybody not to count out the determined Socceroos.
Argentina’s initial loss to Saudi Arabia was one of the greatest surprises in World Cup history. Still, they bounced back to overcome Mexico and Poland confidently and advanced to the round of 16.
While Australia is rated 35 places lower than Argentina, they have already defied the odds by winning twice to secure a spot in one of the greatest games in their history at Qatar’s Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
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In their second Group C match, Argentina, buoyed by their battling win against Mexico, defeated a weak Polish.
Despite losing their star player, Lionel Messi, to a controversial first-half penalty miss, the South American champions were rewarded for 90 minutes of domination by moving ahead of their European opponents in the group rankings.
A goal from Alexis Mac Allister, who had been inserted into the starting lineup as one of many alterations made by coach Lionel Scaloni, came only seconds after halftime, and a goal from Julian Alvarez in the 67th minute guided the Albiceleste to their second straight 2-0 victory.
Even though his squad and their next opponents will be playing in identical circumstances, Scaloni is not happy about having to play again after just a little over two days of recovery. This is especially true after what must have been an emotionally demanding journey to the top of Group C. However, the critical public in Argentina will not tolerate any lame explanations from him.
Though Messi still does most of the heavy lifting in terms of creativity, the Copa America-winning coach can depend on other brilliant players who have come from the edges of his team, like Mac Allister, Alvarez, and Benfica’s Enzo Fernandez.
Undoubtedly, Argentina’s irreplaceable playmaker will be crucial again as they try to advance to a quarterfinal against the Netherlands or the United States. Still, they’ll also need a lot of aid from the rest of their team after their 36-game undefeated run was snapped only last week.
It’s hardly surprising that Australia has lost their past four matches against Argentina, given the massive gap in footballing power between the two countries. However, the Socceroos did manage to win 2-0 when the two teams met in the Olympics in Tokyo last year.
But Graham Arnold’s squad is riding high as they go to Al Rayyan for their destiny, which will see them compete in the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since the legendary “golden generation” of 2006.
The underdog Socceroos surprised everyone by winning two of their three games and finishing second in Group D, behind only the reigning champions France on goal differential. They defeated Tunisia and the eventual runners-up at Euro 2022, Denmark.
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Despite a tenacious defensive effort by Harry Souttar and Mat Ryan in goal, the latter was only defeated by a single goal at Al Janoub Stadium in the 60th minute, thanks to a magnificent strike from Matthew Leckie.
A pragmatic Australian squad, mostly comprised of players on the margin of things at their European clubs, will be well aware of the step up in quality that awaits on Saturday despite the excitement their historic triumph generated.
Arnold’s well-drilled squad will be underdogs to beat Argentina and advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in history after being swept away by a fluid French team, who won the initial match 4-1.
Sydney, Adelaide, and beyond would rival the ecstatic sights of supporters rejoicing on the streets of Melbourne early on Thursday morning.
Argentina vs Australia Team News
Lionel Scaloni may feel compelled to make lineup changes again because of the short turnaround time between games, despite his reluctance to mess with a good squad.
As a result, Lisandro Martinez may challenge for a starting spot in the center of defence. At the same time, Nicolas Tagliafico of Lyon will try to displace Marcos Acuna on the left side.
Enzo Fernandez is expected to stave off the challenge of Leandro Paredes, who has been relegated to the bench for both of Argentina’s opening two games at the championships despite making significant contributions as a substitute in both games (against Poland and Mexico).
Meanwhile, Lautaro Martinez was among a deep treasure of offensive resources beginning on the bench on Wednesday night. Still, Julian Alvarez’s goal may give him the advantage in a quest to join veterans Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria (plagued by a thigh ailment).
While Nathaniel Atkinson and Fran Karacic (who began the first and second games, respectively) are in contention to lead Australia’s right-back rotation against Denmark, Milos Degenek (who started in the middle of the field) may make a few substitutions.
After a gruelling first half against the Danes, Craig Goodwin was taken off the field and replaced by Keanu Baccus, who seamlessly inserted himself into the heart of Australia’s offence with Aaron Mooy. It would be a bold move for Graham Arnold to start the St. Mirren midfielder on Saturday despite his lack of experience.
Mitchell Duke, who had played club football in Japan’s second division, now commands the starting lineup again.
Argentina vs Australia Possible Lineups
Argentina’s possible XI:
E. Martinez; Molina, Otamendi, Romero, Acuna; Mac Allister, Fernandez, De Paul; Alvarez, Messi, Martinez.
Australia’s possible XI:
Ryan; Karacic, Souttar, Rowles, Behich; Mooy; Leckie, Irvine, McGree, Goodwin; Duke
Argentina vs Australia Prediction
Argentina will beat Australia 2-1 Margain.