Argentina will face Mexico on Saturday night, still reeling from one of the World Cup’s major shocks.
“We are dead,” Lionel Messi said in the aftermath of Argentina’s 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia. Lionel Scaloni has just four days to revive his squad for a match that has grown in importance.
For Mexico manager Gerardo Martino, the importance of this tie was guaranteed regardless of the opening results. The Rosario-born boss led Argentina to two Copa America finals, losing both to Chile on penalties before resigning in 2016.
Here’s everything you need to know about a high-stakes meeting for everyone involved.
Argentina vs Mexico H2H Results (All Time)
Current form (last five games)
Argentina team news
While their reputation was certainly tarnished, Argentina appeared to be recovering from the humbling loss to Saudi without new injury concerns.
Paulo Dybala was one of many attacking options that Scaloni overlooked on Tuesday, leaving Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Messi to work for the full 90 minutes.
Argentina from 11 (4-3-3): E Martinez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Acuna; DePaul, Paredes; Di Maria, Messi, Alvarez; La Martinez.
Bank: Armani, Rulli, Foyth, Tagliafico, Montiel, Pezzella, Li Martinez, Palacios, Gomez, Rodriguez, Fernandez, MacAllister, Gonzalez, Correa, Dybala.
Mexico team news
Martino fell for Henry Martin for Raul Jimenez against Poland and introduced the Wolverhampton Wanderers striker for the last 20 minutes.
Having returned to fitness following his injury-plagued start to the season, Jimenez could be in line for his first game start since August.
Mexico from 11 (4-3-3): ochoa; Sanchez, Montes, Moreno, Gallardo; Chavez, El Alvarez, Herrera; Lozano, Jimenez, Vega.
Bank: Talavera, Cota, Araujo, Vasquez, Arteaga, G Alvarez, Romo, Rodriguez, Gutierrez, Pineda, Guardado, Antuna, Alvarado, Martin, Funes Mori.
Scaloni’s side may have lost their unbeaten title, but Argentina’s run of 36 unbeaten games in the competition cannot be entirely brushed aside. The Albiceleste have never lost consecutive games under Scaloni. After its first defeat at the helm, Argentina even defeated Mexico in their next game.
After the initial gloom, Messi’s post-match thoughts quickly turned to his next opponents, who were the better team against Poland, but relied on Robert Lewandowski’s missed penalty to escape by a point. “Now is the time to focus on strength and group unity,” he stressed. “It’s time we were more united than ever. It’s time to calm down.”
If they can rediscover the serenity that underpinned their unbeaten run, Argentina should be able to bounce back against El Tri. Though they haven’t stuck to the script so far.
Prediction: Argentina 2-1 Mexico