Lionel Messi and Argentina appear to have an easy start to the World Cup on Tuesday, based on their recent form and Group C opponents Saudi Arabia’s history of drubbings in tournament openers.
The South Americans are unbeaten in 36 games, and top scorer and captain Messi is playing in his final World Cup, hoping to win the prize that would grant him immortality at home alongside Diego Maradona.
“I see him as always: eager to enjoy the World Cup,” said head coach Lionel Scaloni, trying to ease some of the pressure on his main man ahead of the game at Lusail Stadium.
“He’s enjoying his teammates, training sessions, the stay and the whole process.”
Saudi Arabia who are ranked 48 places lower than Argentina, lost to Venezuela, Colombia and Croatia in a mixed bag of friendlies.
Lionel Messi training with Argentina 🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/TpHZnzz3Gd
— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) November 20, 2022
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They have a dismal record at opening games including losing 5-0 to Russia in 2018 and 8-0 to Germany in 2002.
Yet they have pedigree too: this is their sixth World Cup. They reached the last-16 in 1994, and they made it to Qatar by topping their group ahead of Japan.
“I saw a country full of young, talented players. We achieved our first target, let’s work together for the rest,” said their French coach, Hervé Renard.