FIFA World Cup 2022 Round of 16 Match 50 Australia vs Argentina Match Details and Game Prediction

Dec 3, 2022

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Having overcome a faltering start to their latest World Cup campaign, an Argentina squad fuelled by a hard-fought victory over Mexico in their second Group C fixture secured a spot in the last 16 by bettering a limited Poland side on Wednesday.

The South American champions saw talisman Lionel Messi spurn the chance to open the scoring from a contentious first-half penalty, but were ultimately rewarded for 90 minutes of dominance by leapfrogging their European opponents at the top of the group standings.

After Alexis Mac Allister – who had been promoted to the starting lineup as one of a handful of changes made by coach Lionel Scaloni – made the breakthrough only seconds after the interval, a 67th-minute strike from Julian Alvarez helped the Albiceleste to post a second successive 2-0 win.

As a result, for the 11th time in the last 12 finals, the two-time world champions have progressed to the knockout phase, and they remain among many pundits’ favorites to lift the World Cup trophy later this month.

While conditions will be the same for both his team and their next opponents, Scaloni has bemoaned the fact they will return to action after just over two days rest – particularly having followed such an emotionally draining route to the top of Group C. However, he knows that no excuses will be accepted by an expectant public back home in Argentina.

To combat concerns about fatigue, the Copa America-winning coach can call upon several talented players to have emerged from the fringes of his squad, such as Mac Allister, Alvarez, and Benfica’s Enzo Fernandez, though of course Messi still shoulders much of the creative burden.

Argentina’s irreplaceable playmaker will surely be integral again, as they attempt to set up a quarter-final with either the Netherlands or the United States, but he will need plenty of help from the supporting cast that put on a 36-game unbeaten streak that only ended last week.

Given the gulf in stature between the two nations in football terms, it comes as no surprise that Australia have lost each of their last four meetings with Argentina – though the Socceroos earned a 2-0 win when two very different squads clashed at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Yet, Graham Arnold’s men are riding the crest of a wave before they arrive in Al Rayyan for a date with destiny that sees them taking part in the World Cup knockout rounds for the first time since the fabled ‘golden generation of 2006.

The unfancied Socceroos defied expectations to finish second in Group D behind defending champions France, doing so only on goal difference after winning two of their three fixtures – against Tunisia and then Euro 2022 semi-finalists Denmark.

Beating the latter 1-0 at Al Janoub Stadium required both a fiercely-fought rearguard action led by Harry Souttar and goalkeeper Mat Ryan and a wonderful winning goal from Matthew Leckie, which broke the deadlock in the 60th minute and ultimately sent them through to the last 16.

Realism is never far away from a pragmatic Australian side, largely made up of players on the fringe of things at their European clubs, so for all the euphoria, their historic victory unleashed, they will be acutely aware of the step-up in class that awaits on Saturday.

Already swept aside by a fluent French team, who ran out 4-1 winners in the sides’ opening fixture, Arnold’s well-drilled unit will be outsiders to topple Argentina and make the final eight for the first time.

If they could somehow do so, jubilant scenes of fans celebrating on the streets of Melbourne in the early hours of Thursday morning would surely be matched – even surpassed – in Sydney, Adelaide, and beyond.

TEAM NEWS

Though surely loath to change a winning team, Lionel Scaloni could feel the need to alter his starting lineup once again, given a rapid turnaround between games.

Lisandro Martinez could therefore come into contention for a place in central defense, while Lyon’s Nicolas Tagliafico aims to usurp Marcos Acuna at left-back.

After making a substantial impression as a substitute in both of Argentina’s first two matches at the finals, Enzo Fernandez is set to hold off the challenge of Leandro Paredes, who has been consigned to the bench against both Poland and Mexico.

Meanwhile, Lautaro Martinez was among a deep trove of attacking riches starting on the sidelines on Wednesday night, but Julian Alvarez’s goal may give him the edge in a battle to join stalwarts Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi up front.

Australia may also make a limited number of changes, as Nathaniel Atkinson and Fran Karacic – who started the first and second games respectively – compete with Milos Degenek, who then took up the reins at right-back against Denmark.

Craig Goodwin endured a tough 45 minutes versus the Danes and was replaced by Keanu Baccus at halftime, and the latter effortlessly slotted into the Aussies’ engine room next to Aaron Mooy. Graham Arnold could therefore make a brave call to include the relatively inexperienced St Mirren midfielder on Saturday.

Up front, Mitchell Duke leads the line again, having so far exceeded his modest status as a man who plays his club football in Japan’s second tier.

Argentina’s possible starting lineup:

E. Martinez; Molina, Otamendi, Romero, Tagliafico; Mac Allister, Fernandez, De Paul; Alvarez, Messi, Di Maria

Australia’s possible starting lineup:

Ryan; Karacic, Souttar, Rowles, Behich; Mooy; Leckie, Irvine, McGree, Goodwin; Duk

Players to Watch

Argentina: Alexis Mac Alister

Brighton playmaker Mac Allister was named man of the match in the win over Poland, primarily for his opening goal which settled Argentinian nerves.

Having not started the opening game against Saudi Arabia, the Premier League star has played the last two and has profited from the space created by teams focusing their efforts on stopping Messi.

Australia: Mathew Leckie

Leckie scored his 14th goal for the Aussies in all competitions (first at the World Cup) against Denmark. His importance is demonstrated by the fact that’s at least five more than any other player in the squad.

The 31-year-old has been directly involved in two of Australia’s three goals at the 2022 World Cup (one goal, one assist). He’s one of only three players to score and assist in a single World Cup for Australia, along with Tim Cahill (two goals, one assist) and John Aloisi in 2006 (one goal, two assists).

Argentina vs Australia Prediction

Argentina’s gradual improvement since their shocking second-half display against Saudi Arabia means they are finally performing like one of the pre-tournament favorites. Australia is hard-working, honest, and determined but it’s virtually impossible to think the Socceroos’ journey won’t end on Saturday.

This is the first head-to-head meeting between Argentina and Australia since September 2007 friendly, won 1-0 by the South American nation thanks to a goal from Martin Demichelis. This, however, will be the first time that they’ve ever met at the men’s FIFA World Cup.

Our match prediction model gives Graham Arnold’s men just a 5% chance of causing an upset with Argentina rated with an 81.8% chance of making it to the quarter-finals. The chance of the game going to extra time, with a draw at 90 minutes is rated at just 13.2%.

Argentina to win the match.

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