Defending champion France has already advanced to the knockout stages in Group D with a full six points from its opening two games. Australia sits next with three points, while Denmark and Tunisia trail with one point each. Australia will qualify with a win, or a draw unless Tunisia beats France. Denmark needs to win and hope that Tunisia doesn’t beat France. Australia is counting on France performing well against Tunisia.
Saudi Arabia vs Mexico
12.30 am (Thursday), Lusail Stadium
At every World Cup since 1994, Mexico have reached the last 16. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, haven’t gone beyond the group stage since 1994.
On Wednesday, something’s got to give.
The ripples of Saudi Arabia’s shock win over Argentina can still be felt in the way Group C is shaping up heading into its final matchday. All four teams still have a shot at qualifying for the Round of 16.
To progress, Lionel Messi and Argentina will have to overcome the group’s only unbeaten team, Poland, who can top the pool by upsetting the Albiceleste. In their shadows, Saudi Arabia will be hoping to script history by beating Mexico, who’ll need a divine intervention to stay alive in the tournament.
It would have taken a brave person to predict that in a group comprising South and North American giants, along with a European middleweight, the Saudis would be the most entertaining and adventurous side.
Herve Renard’s men have shown a great appetite for risk: enthralling the spectators with their ridiculously high defence line, teasing and baiting their opponents to get past it, snatching possession and then hitting them on the counter.
Had Argentina got their runs right, the scenario would have been very different now. However, despite disallowed goals and the constant threat of Messi running through, again and again, Saudi stuck to their plan and for that, they should be credited. [Read More]