Friday’s World Cup action saw the teams enter their second matches of the group stage. Loads to unpack from the England-USA draw, and Qatar become the fastest host nation to be knocked out of the tournament.
A surprise team looking to avoid the same fate is Argentina, who face Mexico on Saturday in what is essentially a must-see situation for Lionel Messi and his team.
Be sure to check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest news from Qatar. Here’s what you might have missed from Friday’s World Cup events.
– World Cup news, features, previews and more
– Stream FC Daily and Futbol Americas on ESPN+
After the draw with England, the United States turn to Iran
There was so much banter and hype for Friday’s World Cup game between the United States and England that you might have mistaken it for the final itself. In the end, there were few big moments from the scoreless draw, but there was still plenty to watch.
The Americans played credibly as their defense was solid enough to nullify the England midfielder. Star forward Christian Pulisic had a rocket that blasted off the woodwork and goaltender Matt Turner made some key saves. The youngest team in the tournament held their own against a side that had great players like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Harry Maguire at times.
The silver lining for US coach Gregg Berhalter is that the game circled in bright red on the schedule is over, and they’re better off for it. Now all eyes are on the next game against Iran. There is a history between these two countries (obviously both sporting and political), but the United States knows they are in control of their own destiny, and a win next Tuesday will see them through to the next round. Simply put, the United States is where it wants to be.
Oh, by the way, England still haven’t beaten the USA at the World Cup. The great “football against football” debate continues.
Mark Ogden says Phil Foden must start against Wales after having zero playing time against USMNT.
Are Mexico aiming for a ‘Memo’ win over Argentina’s Messi?
We’ve all heard the old adage that you shouldn’t let a match beat you twice. That’s what Lionel Messi and Argentina – losers to an unsung Saudi side earlier this week – hope to avoid in Saturday’s tiebreaker against Mexico.
Argentina is in a delicate situation. Lose and the team is eliminated. No World Cup redemption story for Messi, and one of the tournament favorites will pack his bags early. But old school Argentine fans have seen this before. In the 1990 World Cup in Italy, it was the team led by Diego Maradona who lost their opening group stage match against Cameroon before correcting the ship and progressing to the final.
Mexico is also in a precarious position. Sorting played in a scoreless draw against Poland and are still aiming to find a reliable way to score goals. With the point taken against Poland, Saturday’s game is not decisive for Mexico, but they will be on very thin ice if Argentina come out with something to prove.
A few things are going in favor of Mexico. First of all, the Sorting fans arrived in force in Qatar. Expect a raucous finals atmosphere at Lusail Stadium that could turn the tournament’s biggest stadium into an Estadio Azteca by proxy. Secondly, Mexico can rely on goalkeeper Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa to try and pull off some more incredible saves against the Argentine playmakers.
Today’s best reads
Would you like to sleep in a shipping container to watch football? In Qatar, the fans are not bothered.
The scenes of unfinished fan camps in Qatar and shipping containers for rooms seemed shocking, but so far the people staying there are enjoying themselves.
World Cup goal music: Each team’s song choices, with Gala’s ‘Freed From Desire’ number 1
England fans aren’t the only ones dancing to the 90s classic ‘Freed From Desire’ when their national team scores a World Cup goal.
Adrien Rabiot talks to ESPN about France’s role, World Cup target and his club’s future
The Juventus man is a fit man and anchors Blues‘ midfielder in Qatar. What’s next for him?
Your best bets (odds via Caesars Sportsbook)
If you’re looking to bet on the World Cup, ESPN contributors Paul Carr, Dan Thomas and Dalen Cuff are here to give you key advice on odds, options and futures.
Here’s what we have for Saturday’s matches.
Tunisia vs Australia (Tunisia +115, Draw +210, Australia +265)
Paul Carr: I’m leaning Tunisia in this one, simply because they looked better in the opener than Australia, even taking into account the opposition difference. Both teams faded in the second half as Australia didn’t shoot in the second half and Tunisia didn’t shoot after the 53rd minute. But with France looming in the final, it’s a virtual must for Tunisia.
Poland vs Saudi Arabia (Poland -130, Draw +255, Saudi Arabia +375)
Carr: I like a draw here at +255. Under 2.5 goals is -135, so the game should be low-scoring, and 0-0 or 1-1 looks very likely. The Saudis did well to limit Argentina’s scoring chances, keeping them at 1.5 expected goals from 14 shots (excluding penalties), and half of that xG came on Nicolas Tagliafico’s close-range deflection. Poland were abysmal in attack against Mexico, with five free shots worth 0.15 expected goals, meaning their average shot was 50% worse than a typical shot. Given Poland’s struggles in big tournaments, I have no faith in them until proven otherwise, so I’ll play the draw. Betting it with less than 2.5 is good if possible too.
France vs Denmark (France -125, Draw +240, Denmark +375)
Carr: France really looked like a good France against Australia, at least after the first 20 minutes, and Denmark had plenty of chances against Tunisia, despite the scoreless draw. Denmark have already beaten France twice this year in the Nations League, and each team had at least 1.6 goals expected in each game. Denmark will want at least a draw to position themselves best for the group final against Australia, and a draw isn’t the worst thing for France with Tunisia waiting for the next game, so I’m expect both teams to push for at least one goal. I will even take money from both teams to score (+100).
Argentina vs Mexico (Argentina -170, Draw +280, Mexico +490)
Carr: Despite the result, Argentina weren’t terrible against Saudi Arabia. Everything went the way of the Saudis, and nothing rebounded for Argentina. It looks like a good game for Argentina, against a Mexican side that still haven’t solved their attacking problem. Henry Martin started at center forward, but had six touches in the attacking third, tied for seventh on the team. Raul Jimenez doesn’t look ready for an extended run either. But I still think Mexico strikes out a goal or gives up a bucket to Argentina, who may have to up the score for goal difference purposes. Give me more money on over 2.5 goals (+105).
News and notes
After yesterday’s 2-0 win over Serbia, Brazilian Neymar was seen limping off the pitch. The Brazilian Football Association confirmed on Friday that Neymar and right-back Danilo will miss the next game against Switzerland on Monday due to ankle injuries. Sources also told ESPN that they could both miss the final group game against Cameroon on Friday. Neymar has scored 75 times in 122 games for Brazil and is now just two goals away from breaking Pele’s goalscoring record for the men’s national team.
Lionel Messi is ready to face Mexico in Argentina’s key Group C World Cup match on Saturday, according to coach Lionel Scaloni. “He feels good but more than ever we need everyone,” Scaloni said. “We have no questions about [Messi’s] physically, and emotionally he feels good, so no problems there.” Argentina lost in a shock 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday and need a win against Mexico to keep his World Cup hopes alive.Scaloni said Messi, 35, trained with the rest of the squad on Thursday and is ready for the challenge on Saturday.
On the second anniversary of Diego Maradona’s death, former teammates gathered at the World Cup in Qatar on Friday to pay their respects to the legendary player and reminisce about better days as Argentina recovered from their loss to Saudi Arabia. Considered one of the greatest players in history, Maradona died at the age of 60 on November 25, 2020.
Matches scheduled for Saturday
– Group D: Tunisia vs Australia (Al Janoub Stadium; 5am ET)
The Socceroos lost 4-1 to France in their World Cup opener, while Tunisia played a goalless draw with Denmark in their opener. It will be a tight game as there is not much to separate the two teams looking for their first wins of the tournament.
– Group C: Poland vs Saudi Arabia (Education City Stadium; 8 a.m. ET)
Saudi Arabia shocked the world by beating Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Now the next question is whether this team is real and can beat Robert Lewandowski and Poland, who struggled in attack against Mexico and saw a penalty saved.
– Group D: France vs Denmark (Stade 974; 11 a.m. ET)
France topped Australia in a 4-1 win on Tuesday and will be looking to do the same against Christian Eriksen & Co. Kylian Mbappe scored against the Socceroos and will be eyeing the Golden Boot. Meanwhile, Denmark are hoping to bounce back from their poor draw against Tunisia. The Danes simply didn’t do enough against the Tunisians and face a big challenge against the French.
– Group C: Argentina vs Mexico (Lusail Stadium; 2 p.m. ET)
It’s an essential match for Messi’s Argentina. If they lose, they will be eliminated from the competition. Meanwhile, Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa played a heroic role against Poland after saving Lewandowski’s penalty to earn a point. If Mexico win, they will be well positioned to reach the round of 16 before facing Saudi Arabia.
What else caught our eye
Brazilian striker Richarlison scored twice against Serbia on Thursday to give us the first goal of the tournament as they cruised to victory. With the help of an industrious set of Legomen, check it out one more time.
Richarlison’s opener, as well as his acrobatic goal for Brazil against Serbia at the World Cup recreated in Lego.