General

Argentina among favorites to lift trophy as Messi plays in World Cup for last time

Under the helm of Lionel Scaloni, The Albicelestes are unbeaten in 35 matches, a run kicked off after a semifinal loss to Brazil at the 2019 Copa America.

Argentina, who won the World Cup twice, in 1978 and 1986, are seeking their crowning achievement by winning the most prestigious trophy in football.

Having ample experience to fulfill the dreams of their fans, the team has a lot of talented and impressive players such as Julian Alvarez, Angel Di Maria, and Paulo Dybala apart from Messi.

Argentina came into the World Cup by finishing the CONMEBOL World Cup qualification as runners-up with 39 points -- six points behind Brazil after 17 matches.

Argentina's World Cup squad

Goalkeepers:

Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal), Franco Armani (River Plate)

Defenders:

Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), Cristian Romero (Tottenham Hotspur), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Marcos Acuna (Sporting CP), Nicolas Tagliafico, (Lyon), Juan Foyth (Villarreal)

Midfielders:

Rodrigo De Paul, (Atletico Madrid), Leandro Paredes (Juventus), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton & Hove Albion), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis), Alejandro Gomez (Sevilla), Enzo Fernandez (Benfica), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen)

Attackers:

Angel Di Maria (Juventus), Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan), Julian Alvarez (Manchester City), Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Joaquin Correa (Inter Milan), Paulo Dybala (AS Roma), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain).

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, who failed to qualify for the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, will make their sixth appearance at the World Cup since they debuted at the 1994 edition in the US.

Collecting 23 points in the Asian qualifying group, the first-place Saudi team earned direct qualification for Qatar 2022, one point ahead of Japan in 10 matches.

The Herve Renard side produced their best showing in the 1994 edition, where they reached the round of 16.

All members of the modest team are comprised of home-based footballers in the Saudi Professional League with the majority making appearances for Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal

Winger Salem Al-Dawsari, midfielder Salman Al-Faraj, and defender Yasser Al-Shahrani will be Saudi Arabia's trump cards.

Mexico

The national team has been a regular in the knockout stage at the World Cup for the last seven editions, advancing to at least the last 16.

They reached Qatar after coming second in the CONCACAF qualifiers behind Canada on goal difference.

The Mexicans have qualified for 16 World Cup tournaments.

Their best performance came in the 1970 and 1986 editions, respectively, after advancing to the quarterfinals, hosting both of those tournaments.

The team is managed by Gerardo Martino.

Poland

Poland earned a free pass through the playoff semifinals, then clinched a 2-0 victory against Sweden to seal a ticket to the event. Russia were disqualified from participating by FIFA because of Moscow’s war against Ukraine.

There is no doubt that the biggest weapon for Poland is Robert Lewandowski from Barcelona.

The 34-year-old is Poland’s most-capped star with 134 appearances and the country’s top goal scorer with 76.

The team was third in the 1974 and 1982 World Cups and last reached the knockout stage in 1986.

Argentina is favored to clinch the group but the second spot will most likely be between Mexico and Poland.

The group phase will be played Nov. 20-Dec. 2 and the Round of 16 will kick off Dec. 3-6

The quarterfinals will be held Dec. 9-10 with the semifinals Dec. 13-14. The third-place match will unfold on Dec. 17 -- one day before the final.

The 64 matches will take place at eight venues, including Al Bayt Stadium, Khalifa International Stadium, Al Thumama Stadium, Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Lusail Stadium, Stadium 974, Education City Stadium, and Al Janoub Stadium.

Source: Anadolu Agency