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Argentina and Mexico meet again at the 2022 Qatar World Cup | sports

Lionel Messi and Raúl Jiménez, from Argentina and Mexico.
Lionel Messi and Raúl Jiménez, from Argentina and Mexico.EFE/AFP

What may be the last World Cup for Lionel Messi, 34, will have to go through the booth of Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia. The Albiceleste, champion of the Copa América, will face a Mexican team that he has historically dominated. Both teams will play on Saturday, November 25, on the second date of the World Cup, in what will be the biggest confrontation between teams in Latin America.

Argentina will land in Qatar with a clear conscience. Those led by Lionel Scaloni have the Copa América as their distinguished medal, which they won in Brazil, on the legendary Maracana pitch. Also because they had a clean tie in South America with 14 wins, three draws and no losses. They finished seconds, below the canarinha. Messi, in veteran captain mode, has been key to assembling the new Argentine generation: Rodrigo de Paul, Leandro Paredes, Guido Rodríguez, Nico González. Rosario has been well connected with his country, although not at PSG. In the goal they have found an ideal guardian named Emiliano drawing Martínez, in a completely different situation from the one that occurred in Russia 2018 when the then coach, Jorge Sampaoli, was torn between Willy Caballero and Franco Armani due to the lack of a leader in the goal.

Even with the relative nature of predictions and favoritism in football, Argentina accepted the draw with good humor, including its confrontation against Mexico. But more than a supposed relief for playing against Gerardo’s selection daddy Martino, the current champion of the Americas, took it as a positive wink that will avoid an early duel against the European teams that made up that group, such as the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. “We can’t complain, but we can’t be happy either,” Scaloni said on Friday.

Due to the arrangement that governs the current world soccer calendars, Argentina and the rest of the American teams can very rarely face the Europeans. Of the 31 undefeated games that Scaloni’s team has had since 2019, a record in the history of the albiceleste, 30 were against representatives of their own continent. Will the parade that Argentina showed in America in these years serve you against teams from other geographies? In that sense, the Group C finale against Poland will be an interesting test.

The Albiceleste will debut in the World Cup against Saudi Arabia, one of the rivals with the least international pedigree: in the five World Cups they participated in, only in one, the United States 1994, did they reach the round of 16. In 49th place in the FIFA ranking, all of its players participate in the local league for clubs that are powerful at the Asian level but have no friction with the rest of the continents. Confident in an uncertain but probable classification, Argentina will aspire to finish in first place in the group so as not to collide in the round of 16 against France, the favorite to win. Argentina will have its first game on Monday, November 21 against Saudi Arabia and will close against the Polish team on the 29th.

In terms of numbers, Mexico has carved out a decent path to Qatar, finishing second in the standings to surprise Canada. The problem for the Mexicans has been the performance of the team. Tata Martino, who took over in 2019, has struggled to take advantage of a new crop of youngsters. The Argentine coach separated the scorer Javier Chicharito Hernández for causing problems in the locker room; Carlos Vela gave up playing and the Giovani brothers and Jonathan Dos Santos had a nosedive in the game. The United States was the biggest stumbling block for Martino by stripping him of the regional titles of the Gold Cup and the Nations League, important for the FIFA ranking. El Tri won their games by the minimum and at the last minute. That opened the gap between the coach and the fans. Even when they qualified for the World Cup, there was no party at the epicenter of celebrations: the Angel of Independence.

The debut of the Mexicans will be against the tough Poland of Robert Lewandowski, on November 21. His last game will be against Saudi Arabia. The barrier that the Mexicans seek to break is the round of 16 phase, which has become the Mexican trauma every four years since 1994. “[Es] difficult, I think there is no easy group in a World Cup. But facing Poland and Argentina are great challenges and facing Saudi Arabia is something of an unknown factor”, declared Yon de Luisa, president of the Mexican Federation.

In the first World Cup in history, in 1930, Argentina and Mexico shared a group. In the match the Argentines thrashed 6-3. That time, El Tri sank to the bottom of the group by losing all of their games. In 2006, Argentina broke Mexico’s heart in the round of 16 when they won in extra time with a period goal from Maxi Rodríguez (2-1) despite the great Mexican approach, which at that time was led by the Argentinian Ricardo La Volpe. Four years later, in South Africa, Mexico was overwhelmed by Diego Maradona’s Albiceleste (3-1) and before a timid strategy by Javier Aguirre. Qatar will bring them back together. Argentina, for the moment, breathes; Mexico suffers.

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