Before diving into todays matches, a quick look at the matches from Monday as Group A wrapped up their first match and Group B played their first games.
England 6 - 2 Iran
England showed their class and ran over the team representing the oppressive regime of Iran that is experiencing massive protests at home. Even their own players did not sing their national anthem. If England doesn’t win group B it will be a shock.
Senegal 0 - 2 Netherlands
Cody Gakpo struck in the 84th and Davy Klaassen added the insurance goal in the 99th. The score is not indicative of the match with it being more even overall. Netherlands had the possession and the goals, but Senegal had more shots and a higher XG. Netherlands will probably win the group as expected and Senegal still has a good chance to finish second.
United States 1 - 1 Wales
The Yanks missed out on a chance to take the inside lane to at least finishing second and advancing out of group B. After taking a 1-0 lead and an excellent first half, they did not respond well when Wales changed tactics in the second half. The US was the superior team in the first half taking the lead when Timothy Weah was deftly played in by Christian Pulisic. A stupid challenge by Walker Zimmerman gave Wales the perfect opportunity for Gareth Bale to be a hero and nail his penalty.
Tuesday, Nov. 22
Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia, 4 a.m. on FS1 and Telemundo
Argentina FIFA rank – 3rd
Lionel Messi…. I could just stop there…. But I won’t. Messi last World Cup probably and his last chance to get the trophy to add to his overwhelming number of achievements. Manager Lionel Scaloni’s side was undefeated in qualifying although a match in Brazil was canceled. Argentina was 11-6-0 in qualifying with a +19 differential.
Argentina has enough talent they can let Messi wonder around the field and play where he wants. The tend to be high possession with a high line with full backs in the attack and that leaves them vulnerable to counters at times.
Will the ghost of Maradona propel them to the final?
Saudi Arabia FIFA rank – 51st
French coach Herve Renard is the Saudi national team’s manager and he led them to win Group B in the Asian Football Confederation going 7-2-1 with a +6 goal differential.
The Green Falcons should have tremendous support in Qatar with easy travel from just next door but is still one of the weaker overall sides in the tournament.
If Argentina does not win by multiple goals they will have laid a giant blue and white striped egg.
Argentina 4-1 Saudi Arabia
Denmark vs. Tunisia, 7 a.m. on FS1 and Telemundo
Denmark FIFA rank – 10th
Denmark went 9-0-1 with a +27 goal differential in qualifying. Kasper Hjulmand has been lauded for his handling of the Christian Eriksen incident during qualifying.
Speaking of Eriksen, what a dramatic and touching story for him to be back on the pitch at the World Cup.
Hjulmand has worked with his players to be able to easily make tactical shifts in games to change the rhythm of play and unsettle the opponent.
Denmark can score but does not have one main goal scorer so that can be a strength and a weakness.
Tunisia FIFA rank – 30th
After going 4-1-1 with a +9 goal differential, Tunisia beat Mali 1-0 in the fourth round to qualify for the World Cup. They have one of the cooler nicknames, “The Eagles of Carthage.”
Manager Jalel Kadri has a squad that should have a good midfield that is known for grit.
The Red and Whites should handle The Eagles of Carthage and set themselves up to advance out of the group with another result.
Denmark 3-1 Tunisia
Mexico vs. Poland, 10 a.m. on Fox and Telemundo
Mexico FIFA rank – 13th
Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has been under a lot of pressure from El Tri’s fans and media in Mexico for the team not playing well enough, losing to the United Stated in both the Gold Cup and the CONCACAF Nations League Finals. Mexico did finish above the US in qualifying but came in behind Canada, so fans were still not happy.
Mexico has a talented team and went 8-4-2 with +9 in qualifying and that highlights one of their issues. Both the US and Canada outscored their rivals to the south. Mexico creates chances but do not finish at a high rate.
Poland FIFA rank – 26th
Manager Czesław Michniewicz took over when Poland’s previous manager left to coach in Brazil. Poland finished as a runner-up to England and Michniewicz was tasked with getting the squad through the playoffs. Poland received a “walkover” when Russia was suspended for invading Ukraine but then went on to beat Sweden to qualify for a trip to Qatar.
Poland should have a well-organized team and Robert Lewandowski may be showing his age but will draw opponents attention, creating openings for others in the squad.
Difficult game to predict, both teams are good and both have their flaws.
Mexico 1-1 Poland
France vs. Australia, 1 p.m. on Fox and Telemundo
France FIFA rank – 4th
One of the top teams in the tournament. Didier Deschamps has won as a player and as a manager and will try to add that achievement with another trophy.
Losing Karim Benzema right before the tournament is a blow but it is softened a bit by still having Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann. Combined with other injuries, France is without two of their best central midfielders and two of their best defenders…. And Benzema.
Maybe they are not as strong as their ranking.
Australia FIFA rank – 38th
Graham Arnold led his team through qualifying and the Inter-confederation playoff over Peru. Australia has a strong midfield but a number of injuries do not have them at their best.
Both teams are missing some players so the advantage goes back to France.
France 3-0 Australia