College football and soccer analyst
Argentina are the favorites to win this group, so the real story is, who comes second? Mexico and Poland are likely to battle for that spot, although Saudi Arabia are no slouch as opponents. Robert Lewandowski leads a strong Polish side, while El Tri have the potential to go far in the tournament, especially with a rowdy fan base. Meanwhile, the Saudis are confident in Qatar’s approach after winning their Asian qualifying group and leveling the United States in a friendly in September – can they pull off an upset group stage?
Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Highest finish: 2 World Cup titles (1978, 1986)
Finish 2018: Round of 16
FOX betting odds: +550
Key players: Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria, Lautaro Martinez
What we’re excited to watch: Messi, of course. He’s already one of the greatest ever to play football, but can the 35-year-old win a title in what he’s already said will be his last World Cup?
What success looks like: Winning the World Cup would further cement Messi’s legacy and alienate fans forever comparing him to Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup. Perhaps the time has finally come. After all, the Albiceleste have won 35 consecutive games since 2019, including the 2021 Copa America title with a win over Brazil.
Achilles’ heel: Years and years of sorrow. Messi has played in five World Cups with extremely talented teammates and what have Argentina got to show for that? Zero titles. Will this tournament be different?
X factor: It’s all about Messi and all bets are off when you have the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner in your squad.
Three things to know about Argentina
Alexi Lalas breaks down three things you need to know about Argentina ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Coach: Herve Renard
Highest finish: Round of 16 (1994)
Finish 2018: Group stage
FOX betting odds: +75000
Key players: Salem Al-Dawsari, Saleh Al Shehri, Salman Al Faraj
What we’re excited to watch: Saudi Arabia is the third lowest ranked team in this tournament (apart from Ghana and Qatar). But who knows? Maybe the Saudis can surprise this group with a strong fanbase in the stands.
What success looks like: Saudi Arabia scored just two goals at the 2018 World Cup and finished third in their group. They lost to Russia 5-0 in the opening game of the tournament, so getting out of the group this time would be a huge improvement.
Achilles’ heel: Renard recently called up goalkeepers Mohammad Al-Owais, Fawaz Al-Qarni and Nawaf Al-Aqidi for friendlies before traveling to Qatar, none of whom are regular starters at his club. If the Saudis want to make some noise in the group, they’ll need a solid choice at the back to stop shots from Messi and Lewandowski.
X factor: Salem Al-Dawsari is the best player to watch. The 31-year-old winger scored seven goals for Saudi Arabia in qualifying and netted a career-high 18 goals for Al-Hilal last season.
Three things you need to know about Saudi Arabia
Alexi Lalas gives the three things you need to know about Saudi Arabia ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Coach: Gerardo “Tata” Martino
Highest finish: Quarter-final (1970, 1986)
Finish 2018: Round of 16
FOX betting odds: +15000
Key players: Hector Herrera, Raul Jimenez, Guillermo Ochoa
What we’re excited to watch: Mexico v Poland on November 22, which should be an early indicator of who will come out of the group behind Argentina.
What success looks like: Skip the round of 16.
Achilles’ heel: Raul Jimenez is suffering from a persistent groin injury. Will he be back in top form when Mexico take on Poland? El Tri will need the help of his 6-foot-3 forward to make a run.
X factor: Don’t underestimate the power of fans. There’s a reason why Azteca is one of the toughest places to play and Mexico fans will travel. Can they create an advantage on the pitch in Qatar?
Three things you need to know about Mexico
Alexi Lalas gives the three things you need to know about Mexico ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Coach: Czeslaw Michniewicz
Highest finish: Third place (1974, 1982)
Finish 2018: Group stage
FOX betting odds: +20000
Key players: Robert Lewandowski, Piotr Zielinski, Kamil Glik
What we’re excited to watch: Lewandowski scored everywhere he played except in the World Cup. As Poland’s all-time top scorer – 74 goals in 134 caps – he should be able to find the back of the net.
What success looks like: Leave the group.
Achilles’ heel: Wojciech Szczesny, the experienced starting goalkeeper, has been struggling with injuries which have limited his playing time with Juventus.
X factor: Can Lewandowski lead Poland to the round of 16 for the first time since 1986?
Three things to know about Poland
Alexi Lalas gives the three things you need to know about Poland ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and football for FOX Sports. She has previously written for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman”, released in the spring of 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
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