Argentina had started a record-setting 36-game unbeaten streak since losing to Brazil in the 2019 Copa America, and as the defending South American champions, they were one of the favourites to make the final four at the very least when the tournament began.
However, on the opening day of their World Cup campaign, Lionel Scaloni’s team let a first-half advantage slip from their grasp over the course of six second-half minutes at Lusail Stadium.
Two Saudi Arabian strikes shortly after the interval turned the game on its head, and Group C’s underdogs held out to record a result that will echo through the ages.
The last time Argentina won a FIFA World Cup was in the summer of 1986, so there was already pressure on them to win the World Cup, which would be Messi’s final appearance on the biggest stage in sports.
Scaloni must therefore quickly gather his team before taking on a Mexico team that is one point ahead of Argentina in the standings and the country that hosted their last success at this level.
The Argentinians have recently eliminated their Latin rivals twice in the round of 16, and they are still unbeaten in the last 10 meetings between the nations going back to 2004. They defeated El Tri in the World Cup’s inaugural edition in 1930.
All of which plays in their favour if precedent is any guide, but the world will now be watching with anticipation as they respond to their seismic shock against the Saudis.
Mexico’s tournament got off to a relatively steady start on Tuesday with a 0-0 draw with Poland, one of several scoreless draws in the opening week of Qatar 2022. In some ways, Tata Martino’s team was grateful for the single point they earned in the end.
Robert Lewandowski was denied a goal from the penalty spot after Hector Moreno was adjudged to have fouled him in the box, thanks to a crucial save by veteran goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
That outcome sets up a potentially crucial matchup in terms of Group C qualification this weekend, as El Tri seek to advance to the knockout stage once more.
The Mexicans, who are competing in their eighth straight World Cup, have lost in the last 16 in each of their previous seven appearances. Former Argentine coach Martino is charged with changing that trend by defying expectations and reaching the quarterfinals.
In 1986, when Saturday’s opponents went on to win the trophy thanks to a Diego Maradona masterclass on Mexican soil, La Seleccion last reached that stage of the competition as the hosts.
The team from this year may need to at least earn a second point in Lusail before they can hope to replicate such a feat, otherwise their chances of moving on will be hanging by a thread.
1X2 Betting Odds
Argentina are the favourites to win this one, with the odds of 1.57.
Mexico, although hopeful, come into this contest the underdogs with the odds of 6.8.
The odds of points shared stands at 4.2.
The last time Argentina were beaten in their first World Cup match was back in 1990, when Maradona ultimately went on to lead his side to the final. Faced by both the expectation of a football-mad nation and a transitional Mexico team, this Messi-led Albiceleste can now earn a vital first victory of the 2022 edition – but it will not prove a straightforward procedure.
Total goals over/under
The odds that the total number of goals score will be over 2.5, stands at 2.00.
While the odds that the total number of goals will be under 2.5, stands at 1.90.