Saudi Arabia vs Mexico Prediction
30th November 2022
22:00 Qatar Time/19:00 GMT
Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
World Cup Head-to-Head Record
Saudi Arabia vs Mexico Prediction Overview
Saudi Arabia vs Mexico sees both teams vying for second-round qualification. Mexico’s prospects are somewhat slimmer following a 0-0 draw against Poland and a 2-0 defeat against Argentina in their previous match. Due to Mexico’s inferior goal difference, if Poland – Argentina results in a draw, then Mexico would likely require a four-goal victory to progress ahead of the Argentineans. If Argentina beat Poland, Mexico also require a victory with the required margin dependent upon the margin of victory in the other group match. If Poland pull off a shock victory, then any kind of victory would suffice for the Mexicans.
Saudi Arabia could progress with a draw if Poland can defeat Argentina, while a draw would be sufficient to progress in the event of an Argentina victory if Argentina win by three goals or more and Saudi Arabia score. If Poland and Argentina draw, Saudi Arabia will need to defeat Mexico due to their inferior goal difference.
Injuries and Suspensions
Might not play:
Will not play: Al Faraj, Al Shahrani, Al Malki, Sharahili (Saudi Arabia); Guardado (Mexico)
Saudi Arabia vs Mexico Prediction Analysis
Possible Changes, Some Enforced
Saudi Arabia have suffered some rotten luck when it comes to injuries, with Yasser Al Shahrani suffering from a broken cheekbone and captain Salman Al Faraj leaving the stadium on crutches following their historic 2-1 victory over Argentina. Mohammed Al-Breik deputised against Poland at left-back and is expected to feature here, too. Midfielder Abdulelah Al Malki is suspended after accumulating two yellow cards in the previous two matches, so we’re thinking that Ali Al Hassan could get the nod here – Al Malki’s replacement in the previous match, Nawaf Al Abed is more of an attacking player so we’re going against what most news outlets are reporting.
For Mexico, captain Andres Guardado is likely to be unavailable following his withdrawal due to injury late in the first half of their match against Argentina. We expect that Ajax’s Edson Alvarez has recovered from his knock and will come in again as a defensive midfielder to cover the back four. The Mexicans have failed to find the net so far during the tournament and with Wolves’ Raul Jimenez pushing for full inclusion following his injury, we’re anticipating a change in attack with Alexis Vega dropping to the bench. Vega has been in relatively poor goalscoring form this season and although Vega offers more than a goalscoring threat, Mexico find themselves in a win-or-go-home scenario so goals are the order of the day.
The Contest for the Midfield
Al-Malki will be missed here for the Saudis, and as they’re unlikely to re-jig their formation to include three central defenders, they’re going to be bringing in a defensively-minded midfielder in his absence. Mexico are usually strong at getting their share of possession, as demonstrated by their 61% possession against Poland and 42% against Argentina, so Saudi Arabia will have their work cut out to ensure that the Mexicans don’t strangle the game in midfield.
Mexico are likely to revert to a back four here to add an extra midfielder, with Alvarez now available again. Their decision to line up with a back-five against Argentina was understandable and also partially successful as the Argentineans failed to register a shot on target until the second half. This game presents a different challenge though, as Mexico now have to go for it while also being wary of the significant threat that Saudi Arabia pose on the counterattack. Therefore, we expect to see a controlled build-up without too much in the way of risk-taking. Although Mexico are largely dependent upon the result in the other group match, they won’t want to risk making their task that bit harder by conceding cheap goals.
Handbrake Off vs Counter Attack
As previously stated, the outcome of this match would seem to hinge upon whether or not Mexico decide to push early for a goal and risk rapier counterattacks from a Saudi side that has consistently proven to be capable of hurting the opposition when given the right opportunity. Mexico can’t completely rely on the result of the other group game, because if Poland vs Argentina ends in a draw then Mexico will need a big margin of victory, so surely they must go for it here. If they decide to go for it early, then it’s not just the attackers that come into focus – a large measure of their success will be predicated upon their proficiency at breaking up the counter and regrouping to limit the damage. This is where the likes of Alvarez and the veteran presence of Hector Herrera will come into play, as they can be relied upon to make the correct positional decisions.
Saudi Arabia will be content to cede possession to the Mexicans in relatively harmless areas and will look to pick them off if and when they commit too many bodies forward in attack. They have proven that they can do this to great effect, and while they won’t be operating with a low block, instead preferring to play a high line at times to utilise the offside trap, they will conserve energy and only press and condense the play when the Mexicans cross the half-way line with purpose. From there, the Saudi attackers prefer to either play the direct pass into a dangerous area or carry the ball themselves to force an opportunity. Endless sideways passes and probing possessions aren’t a feature of this Saudi Arabia team so Mexico will need to be prepared for the Saudis to come at them at every opportunity while out of possession.
The Need for Goals
As a consequence of both sides’ relatively poor goal difference when compared with Poland and Argentina, both sides will feel that they need to go for it here, and they’re well equipped to do so. For Saudi Arabia, both goalscorers from the Argentina match – Salem Al Dawsari and Saleh Al Shehri, are both in fine form and consistently dangerous, and despite failing to find the net against the Polish they created many opportunities and were perhaps unfortunate to be on the other end of a superb Szczesny double-save following a missed penalty attempt from Al Dawsari.
Mexico need to change things up here, they haven’t carried a potent attacking threat so far and in our opinion, Hirving Lozano will benefit more from playing with a number 9. So we foresee Raul Jimenez coming in to lead the line. This will afford the Mexicans the option of some more direct play and to play in others which is a dimension to their play that has been sorely lacking for them during this tournament.
Saudi Arabia Key Players
Salem Al Dawsari
Saudi Arabia will be hoping that their talismanic forward can produce more of the same here against Mexico, which may leave significant amounts of space to attack into. It’s crucial that Al Dawsari puts the penalty miss against the Polish out of his mind and concentrates on the task at hand. The Saudi game plan will not change – get the ball into the talented inside-forward whenever possible, and rely on his prodigious dribbling skills to enable him to play on the outside or cut inside to run at the heart of the Mexican defence.
Kanno’s energetic midfield performance was one of the bright spots for Saudi Arabia following their disappointing defeat against a pedestrian Poland side and will be required to produce more of the same here to disrupt a Mexican side that likes to be comfortable in possession. Kanno will do his utmost to ensure that Herrera, Alvarez and Chavez don’t have it all their way in the middle of the park and his role will also be crucial in ensuring that the Saudi front men don’t become starved of service as the Mexicans look to control the game.
Mexico Key Players
Mexico need goals. On the back of two rather impotent performances, the Mexicans will be thankful that Jimenez seems to be able to start following his return from a groin injury. Jimenez offers something that the other Mexican forwards don’t, namely the ability to play as a number 9 and lead the line. In addition to Jimenez’s eye for a goal, secondary benefits include the ability to play others in and create space, which has been sorely lacking in this Mexican attack.
Carrying on from the previous key player assessment, we think the Napoli man could come into his own here now that he will be afforded the opportunity to play with a real number 9. Lozano was one of Mexico’s bright spots in an otherwise poor second-half showing against the Argentineans, and he could be the primary beneficiary of Mexico adopting a more attacking, direct approach as they go in search of the goals they need to emerge from this group.
Saudi Arabia vs Mexico Prediction
We expect Mexico to take the game to Saudi Arabia here, and for that, they will need to be disciplined in their positioning to shut down the Saudi threat once an attack breaks down. We predict that Mexico will produce the goods – while Saudi Arabia played well against Poland, they were unable to find a breakthrough and Mexico are frankly a better team than this Polish side as demonstrated in their group opener. When we add the returning Jimenez to the starting lineup, we feel that Saudi Arabia’s run will peter out and they’ll exit the tournament having done themselves proud but ultimately exiting at the group stage.