During the action of the World Cup on Friday, the teams started their second match of the group stage. Loaths to unwrap the England-USA draw, and Qatar become the fastest host nation to be eliminated from the tournament.
A surprise team looking to avoid the same fate is Argentina, who take on Mexico on Saturday in what is essentially a must-win situation for Lionel Messi and his team.
Make sure to check in with ESPN during the tournament as we bring you all the latest news from Qatar. Here’s what you may have missed from Friday’s World Cup events.
– World Cup news, features, previews and more
– Stream FC Daily and Futbol Americas on ESPN+
After a draw with England, the US turns its eyes to Iran
There was so much banter and hype ahead of Friday’s World Cup match between the United States and England that you could mistake it for the final itself. In the end, there were few big moments from the goalless draw, but there was still plenty to watch.
The Americans performed credibly as their defense was solid and enough to nullify England’s midfield. Star striker Christian Pulisic had a missile ricochet off the woodwork and keeper Matt Turner made some important saves. The youngest team in the tournament held their own against a team that had big players like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Harry Maguire all on their heels at times.
The bright side for USA coach Gregg Berhalter is that the game circled in red on the calendar is over and they are in better shape. And now all eyes are on the upcoming game against Iran. There is a history between these two countries (both sporting and political, of course), but the US knows it determines its own destiny and a win next Tuesday will take them to the next round. Simply put, the US is where it wants to be.
By the way, England still hasn’t beaten the US at the World Cup. The great “football vs. football” debate continues.
Mark Ogden says Phil Foden should start vs. Wales after zero game time against the USMNT.
Mexico aiming for ‘Memo’ rhable victory over Argentina, Messi?
We’ve all heard the old saying that you shouldn’t let one game beat you twice. That’s what Lionel Messi and Argentina – losers from an unknown side of Saudi Arabia earlier this week – hope to avoid in Saturday’s crucial game against Mexico.
Argentina is in a tricky place. Lose and the team is eliminated. No World Cup redemption story for Messi, and one of the tournament favorites will pack early. But old-school Argentinian fans have seen this before. At the 1990 World Cup in Italy, it was the side led by Diego Maradona that lost the group stage opener to Cameroon before correcting ship and advancing to the final.
Mexico is also in a precarious position. El Tri played to a scoreless draw against Poland and is still aiming for a reliable goal-scoring goal. With the point taken against Poland, Saturday’s match is no do-or-die for Mexico, but they will be on very thin ice if Argentina has anything to prove.
A few things go in Mexico’s favor. First, the El Tri fans have arrived en masse in Qatar. Expect a finale-like, raucous atmosphere at Lusail Stadium that could turn the tournament’s largest stadium into a proxy Estadio Azteca. Second, Mexico can count on goalkeeper Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa to make more incredible saves against Argentina’s playmakers.
The most read articles today
Would you sleep in a shipping container to watch football? In Qatar, the fans don’t care.
The scenes of unfinished fan camps in Qatar and shipping containers for bedrooms looked shocking, but so far the people staying there are having fun.
Music for World Cup Goals: Each Team’s Song Choices, Met Gala’s ‘Freed From Desire’ No. 1
England fans aren’t the only ones who will dance to the 1990s classic “Freed From Desire” when their national team scores a goal at the World Cup.
Adrien Rabiot talks to ESPN about France’s role, World Cup focus and his club’s future
The Juventus man is a man of form and anchors Les Bluesmidfield in Qatar. What’s next for him?
Your Best Bets (odds via Caesars Sportsbook)
If you want to bet on the World Cup, ESPN contributors Paul Carr, Dan Thomas and Dalen Cuff are here to give you top tips on odds, options and futures.
This is what we have for Saturday’s games.
Tunisia vs. Australia (Tunisia +115, Draw +210, Australia +265)
Paul Carr: I’m leaning towards Tunisia on this one simply because they looked better than Australia in the opener, even taking into account the difference in opposition. Both teams faded in the second half as Australia had no shot in the second half and Tunisia had no shot after the 53rd minute. But with France lurking in the final, this is a virtual must-win for Tunisia.
Poland vs. Saudi Arabia (Poland -130, draw +255, Saudi Arabia +375)
Carr: I like a draw here at +255. Less than 2.5 goals is -135, so the game is expected to score little and 0-0 or 1-1 seems very likely. The Saudis did well to limit Argentina’s scoring opportunities by holding them to 1.5 expected goals after 14 shots (not including the penalty), and half of that xG came on Nicolas Tagliafico’s outright deflection. Poland were terrible in attack against Mexico, with five non-penalty kicks worth 0.15 expected goals, meaning their average shot was 50 percent worse than a normal shot. Given Poland’s struggles in major tournaments, I’m not confident until proven otherwise, so I’ll play the draw. Parlaying it with under 2.5 is also good if possible.
France vs. Denmark (France -125, draw +240, Denmark +375)
Carr: France certainly looked good France against Australia, at least after the first 20 minutes, and Denmark had many chances against Tunisia, despite the goalless draw. Denmark has already beaten France twice this year in the Nations League and each team had at least 1.6 expected goals in each match. Denmark wants at least a draw to best position themselves for the group final against Australia, and a draw isn’t the worst for France, with Tunisia waiting in the next match, so I expect both teams to go for at least one goal to go. I take some money for both teams to score (+100).
Argentina vs. Mexico (Argentina -170, Draw +280, Mexico +490)
Carr: Despite the result, Argentina was not terrible against Saudi Arabia. Everything just went the way of the Saudis, and nothing bounced right for Argentina. This feels like a draw for Argentina against a Mexican side who still haven’t solved their striker problem. Henry Martin started at striker but had six touches in the attacking third, tied for seventh on the team. Raul Jimenez doesn’t look like he’s ready for a long run either. But I still think Mexico either scribbles away a goal or gives up a bucket full to Argentina, who may have to up the score because of the goal difference. Give me plus money on more than 2.5 goals (+105).
News and notes
After yesterday’s 2-0 win over Serbia, Brazilian Neymar stumbled off the field. The Brazilian Football Federation confirmed on Friday that both Neymar and Danilo, the right-back, will miss Monday’s next match against Switzerland due to ankle injuries. Sources have also told ESPN that they could both miss Friday’s final group game against Cameroon. Neymar has scored 75 times in 122 appearances for Brazil and is now just two goals away from breaking Pele’s scoring record for the men’s national team.
Lionel Messi is ready to face Mexico in Argentina’s most important World Cup match in Group C on Saturday, according to manager Lionel Scaloni. “He feels good, but more than ever we need everyone,” Scaloni said. “We have no more questions [Messi’s] physically, and emotionally he’s feeling good, so no problems there.” Argentina lost in a shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday and need a win against Mexico to keep their World Cup hopes alive. Scaloni said Messi , 35 years old, trained with the rest of the team 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 tribute to the legendary player and reminisce about better days as Argentina recover from their loss to Saudi Arabia. Considered one of the greatest players in history, Maradona passed away on November 25, 2020 at the age of 60, after years of battling drug and alcohol abuse.
Matches on tap for Saturday
– Group D: Tunisia vs. Australia (Al Janoub Stadium; 5 a.m. ET)
The Socceroos lost 4–1 to France in their opening match of the World Cup, while Tunisia drew goallessly against Denmark in their first match. This will be an exciting match as there is little difference between the two sides 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 whole world when they beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Now the next question is if this squad is real and if they can beat Robert Lewandowski and Poland, who struggled against Mexico in attack and got a penalty saved.
– Group D: France vs. Denmark (974 Stadium; 11 a.m. ET)
France dominated Australia in a 4-1 win on Tuesday, and will look to do the same against Christian Eriksen & Co. Kylian Mbappé scored against the Socceroos and will have his eyes on the Golden Boot. Meanwhile, Denmark hopes to recover from the bad draw against Tunisia. The Danes simply did not do enough against the Tunisians and face a major challenge against the French.
– Group C: Argentina vs. Mexico (Lusail Stadium; 2 p.m. ET)
This is a must-win match for Messi’s Argentina. If they lose, they are out of the competition. Meanwhile, Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa performed heroics against Poland after saving Lewandowski’s penalty to pick up a point. If Mexico wins they will be in a good position to reach the round of 16 before facing Saudi Arabia.
What struck us even more
Brazil striker Richarlison scored twice against Serbia on Thursday, making us an early goal-of-the-tournament contender as he scissored his way to victory. With some help from a diligent set of Lego men, try again.
Richarlison’s opener, as well as his acrobatic goal for Brazil against Serbia at the World Cup recreated in Lego.