Argentina take on Poland in their last group game at Stadium 974 on Wednesday, and the midfield, not Lionel Messi, is the difference maker.

After beating Mexico 2-0 on Saturday evening, the Albiceleste must avoid defeat against the Poles to qualify for the Round of 16 in Qatar.

The South American outfit could also go through with a draw depending on results from the Saudi Arabia and Mexico encounter. However, finishing second likely sets up a fixture with defending Champions France in the first knockout round. Lionel Messi and company can still finish as group toppers should they beat Poland.

Argentina came into the World Cup as of the pre-tournament favorites. Then, a shock loss against the Saudis in the first game raised several concerns. Its 36-match unbeaten run snapped, and, despite the win against Mexico, Argentina struggled. Head coach Lionel Scaloni’s side is far from the brilliant best that beat Brazil in the Copa America Final or Italy in the Finalissima.

The midfield has been the biggest area of concern. Scaloni must fix the holes in the middle of the park before it gets too late.

Argentina midfield plays big role against Poland

Giovani Lo Celso’s absence has been a huge miss for the two-time World Champions. On top of that, Leandro Paredes struggled against Saudi Arabia. The Juventus midfielder was left out against Mexico while Rodrigo De Paul has had two forgettable encounters.

Argentina started with Real Betis midfielder Guido Rodriguez and Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister alongside De Paul. The idea behind Scaloni’s thought process was clear, disrupt the opposition attack and transition quickly with vertical passes in attack.

Even though the Albiceleste hardly dominated in the middle of the park against Mexico, they were better in ball circulation and retention. Attacking passes and through balls were rarely seen and Argentina’s game play was of start contrast of the team that Scaloni has built over the last three years.

Enzo Fernandez was the shining light with his cracking right foot curler. Fernandez came on as a substitute, but his time on the pitch yielded a starting role against Poland. The Poles are yet to concede in this tournament.

Mac Allister should also keep his place in the starting eleven. De Paul, however, must raise his game. The Atletico Madrid star has been shockingly below par in the first two games. But, his willingness to run and do the dirty work for the team will come in handy against a Polish side dangerous on the flanks.

Other formation decisions

In defense, Nicolas Otamendi and Lisandro Martinez had great outings against Mexico. They are essentially locks to be in the heart of the defense.

Marcos Acuna, too, should start in the left wing back role however Nahuel Molina could replace Gonzalo Montiel in the right back position. Up front Lionel Messi will start alongside Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria.

It was Lionel Messi who inspired the Argentine against Mexico. Now, the time is here for the supporting cast to raise its game and take the country through to the knockout stage.


Guide to World Cup 2022

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TV Schedule: All the info on where and when to watch every game
The Groups: We breakdown each group and all the teams
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Predictor: Play out every scenario with our World Cup Predictor
World Cup Bracket: Map out the entire tournament, from the groups to the final