Argentina vs Saudi Arabia Prediction
22nd November 2022
13:00 Qatar Time/10:00 GMT
Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Current Form (Last Five Matches):
World Cup Head-to-Head Record
Argentina vs Saudi Arabia Prediction Match Overview
On the third day, South American champions Argentina (one of the tournament’s favourites) come up against Middle Eastern nation Saudi Arabia in Group C. The Saudis are massive underdogs in this match, but they will do everything they can to avoid defeat. The game will take place at 1 pm local time, so early in the day. Therefore, it should be hot.
Argentina have won all of their previous five games, in which they scored 19 goals and conceded none. Indeed, they are on a 36-game undefeated streak and are flying high coming into this tournament. They are arguably in the best shape they have been for many years on entering a World Cup. They are ranked third in the world.
Saudi Arabia are in mixed form. They have won one, drawn three and lost one of their last five games. The highlight was a 1-0 win over Iceland in the United Arab Emirates. All of these games have been very low-scoring. They are ranked 51st.
Injuries and Suspensions
Will Not Play:
Might Not Play: Cristian Romero, Marcos Acuna
Argentina vs Saudi Arabia Prediction Analysis
Argentina are likely to line up in a 4-3-3 formation, whereas Saudi Arabia will probably play 4-2-3-1. However, the Saudis know they cannot be too adventurous or risk being torn apart. Nawaf Al-Abed will, therefore, likely play a more defensive and reserved role than he would like. Mohamed Kanno could start as a more natural central player in midfield. Nicolas Tagliafico and Gonzalo Montiel will provide the width for Argentina. They will look to drive forward from full-back while Guido Rodriguez and Leandro Paredes protect the defence. The defence is likely to be Nicolas Otamendi and Cristian Romero, but Lisandro Martinez could start too. Giovani Lo Celso has been ruled out, or he would have been a sure starter in midfield. Indeed, he had built an excellent relationship with Paredes and Rodrigo De Paul. However, Rodriguez or promising youngster Enzo Fernandez can come in.
The Argentinean midfield will look to exert their dominance over Saudi Arabia, with the three players pressing and swarming Salman Al-Faraj and Abdullah Otayf in midfield. The Saudi Arabians will find this difficult to cope with as wide forward Angel Di Maria often comes back into midfield to make it a four. Indeed, the Argentina team is flexible, and Di Maria, Lionel Messi, and De Paul can interchange quite often. Indeed, De Paul’s running beyond and into forward areas is a crucial source of success for them. Star player and talisman Messi will knit the team together. He will look to find little pockets of space where he can pick the ball up and drive at the Saudi Arabian defence, beating two or three players as he has all his career. He is also a massive threat with his long diagonals over the top into wide areas for Tagliafico and Montiel. Yasser Al-Shahrani on the left and particularly Sultan Al-Ghanam on the right will have to be very wary of this.
Messi’s passing and finishing with his wand of a left foot are of the all-time-great standard, so Saudi Arabia know they must limit how much he has the ball within 25 yards from goal. He is also a supreme danger at free-kicks, so they will have to be careful in making fouls close to their own goal. Argentina have many other threats than Messi, however. Di Maria is also a tricky customer with great passing, vision, and shooting. Equally, Lautaro Martinez is a high-pressing, industrious, and technically gifted forward. Martinez, Messi, Di Maria, and De Paul will look to link up and use their undoubted creativity to break the Saudi resistance. Mohammed Al-Owais is likely to have a busy day in goal for the Saudis.
Saudi Arabia know they have little chance in this match, but if they are to produce a shock, they have a few weapons they can implement. First, there is Al-Shahrani as left-back. He will be pushed back because of Messi’s threat, and the Saudis won’t have much of the ball. However, on the few occasions they can get forward, he must drive at Argentina to try to put crosses in for the buzzy young Firas Al-Buraikan up front. The latter is a good finisher and a possible source of goals. The line of three behind him is also talented. As stated, Al-Abed will have to be more disciplined in this match. However, Hattan Bahebri and especially Salem Al-Dawsari on the flanks are exciting wingers. Al-Dawsari can cut in from the left on his right foot to take shots at goal or link up with Al-Shahrani on the overlap. Bahebri can attack the line and provide crosses. Both are very tricky and will seek to exploit the space when Argentina’s full-backs go forward. Al-Abed will likely play behind the striker, though this line of three is very fluid. They can interchange, and on the few occasions they get the ball, they are capable of causing problems for an aged Otamendi and a young and still sometimes rash Romero. If they do get through, Emi Martinez has been a recent solution to Argentina’s goalkeeping woes. He is a quality shot-stopper, as well as possessing excellent distribution. Therefore, he can prevent goals from happening and start attacks in the opposite direction. Saudi Arabia are goal-shy, so Martinez should have little to do.
Both teams have options if they wish to change things. As said, Argentina have Lisandro Martinez, who can come on as either a left-sided centre-back or a left-back. Enzo Fernandez could be an option to start ahead of Rodriguez in midfield. He is very good at controlling games and a quality passer of the ball. There is a plethora of reinforcements in attack. Julian Alvarez could come on to stretch games with his dribbling, or Paulo Dybala (if fit) could come on to help link play more. The elegant Alexis Mac Allister is also an option. For the Saudis, Mohammed Al-Breik could replace Al-Ghanam at right-back. Kanno is an option instead of Al-Abed to be more defensive. Striker Saleh Al-Shehri also gives Al-Buraikan competition.
Argentina Key Players
Even at Messi’s advanced age, Al-Shahrani has his hands full in dealing with him. Against this imposing Argentina side, he knows he will be on the back foot a lot. Messi will drift all over the Saudi half. He will come into contact with all of their defenders, particularly Al-Shahrani. If he can get past the left-back, he can come on to the centre-backs and try to get shots away as he moves closer to goal. Messi will try to use all of his sublime passing, dribbling, and playmaking abilities to set the tempo for Argentina. He will link up with the other Argentina attackers and seek to exploit gaps in the Saudi defence, shooting at goal himself and testing Al-Owais. Messi still has tremendous ability, and the Saudis have much to do to cope with him.
Rodrigo De Paul
De Paul is a talented all-round midfielder. He is a quality passer, has good vision and a great engine, and can get involved in a physical battle. His 33 goals in 177 league appearances at Udinese highlight his eye for goal, even if he has been more restrained at a more conservative Atletico Madrid. Against the Saudis, he might play as the most advanced of the midfield three. The onus will be on him to win the ball from Otayf and Al-Faraj and create opportunities to drive forward and get the ball to Messi and Di Maria. He will link up with the front three to put the Saudi defence under significant pressure. He will also be important defensively on the rare occasions the Saudis attack, as he has the stamina and work rate to get up and down the pitch. Don’t be surprised to see De Paul get on the scoresheet in this game.
Saudi Arabia Key Players
Al-Owais is an experienced goalkeeper, and he should start. Indeed, he is a decent shot-stopper and can play out from the back. In this game, however, he is likely to be put under much pressure by a rampant Argentina team. Argentina are likely to have a massive amount of possession as they seek to find a way past the stubborn Saudi defensive line. Al-Owais is expected to face shots peppering his goal and crosses coming into the box. He must be aware and not switch off for a moment if Saudi Arabia are to escape from this match with a shock result. Indeed, Di Maria, De Paul, and Messi are all capable shooters, so Al-Owais will likely have to make some good saves in this match. His performance will be crucial in determining the result.
Al-Shahrani is a very talented left-back with much technical ability. The Saudi Arabian is happiest going forward to create and provide. However, against this imposing Argentina side, he knows he will be on the back foot a lot. He must try to stop Messi with intelligent tackling and intercepting. On the few occasions Al-Shahrani can get forward, he must link well with the talented Al-Dawsari. That left side is critical if Saudi Arabia are to trouble Argentina, particularly as Messi does not track back much (though the Argentine defensive midfielders will cover for him). How Al-Shahrani deals with Messi will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this match. Messi will likely destroy the Saudis with his passing, dribbling, shooting, and creativity if Al-Shahrani cannot cope with him.
Argentina vs Saudi Arabia Prediction
We don’t see any upsets here. In the opening match of Group C, Argentina will likely have at least 70 per cent possession as they look to break down a stubborn Saudi Arabia rearguard. The Saudis will have to be diligent (even their more creative players) if they are to stop Argentina from scoring goals. Ultimately, we don’t think they will be able to. Argentina have toyed with better teams than Saudi Arabia in recent times, and we see them getting their tournament off to an emphatic start.