Reigning champions France and big favorites Argentina start their campaign on day three of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Didier Deschamps’ side, who won the 2018 World Cup after beating Croatia in the final, are looking to become the first team to win the tournament in a row since Brazil in 1958 and 1962. The Blues begin their defense against Australia with the other Group D opener seeing Denmark take on Tunisia.
Matchday three begins with Argentina and Lionel Messi’s quest to win the World Cup as they begin their Group C campaign against Saudi Arabia, followed by Mexico against Poland in the same group.
World Cup schedule – November 21
- Argentina v Saudi Arabia – Group C, kick-off 10 a.m.
- Denmark vs Tunisia – Group D, kick-off 1 p.m.
- Mexico vs Poland – Group C, kick-off 4 p.m.
- France vs Australia – Group D, kick-off 7 p.m.
Argentina Star Lionel Messi has played down injury rumors ahead of the tournament as his country prepare to face Saudi Arabia.
The PSG star has been seen with padding on his right ankle in training for the past few days, but Messi says he’s not wearing anything ahead of the Group C opener.
“No problem,” said Messi, who was pictured in training with extra padding inside his right ankle.
“I heard there were rumors that I had to miss part of training or be absent from the team because of a knock, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
Saudi Arabia Coach Hervé Renard is not worried about the lack of playing time of two of the team’s goalkeepers this season before their match against Argentina.
Renard has not announced the name of the goalkeeper who will lead the Green Falcons starting lineup, but Muhammad Al-Owais has played 42 times for the national team, compared to just seven internationals for Muhammad Al-Yami.
“The goalkeeper who will play tomorrow’s game has played 17 World Cup qualifiers, so there is absolutely no problem,” the Frenchman told a press conference on Monday. The team’s third goalkeeper, Nawaf Al-Aqidi, is still awaiting his debut with the national team.
Renard also stood by his decision to exclude veteran goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, who announced his retirement in 2019 before reversing his decision and saying he was available for selection.
from Denmark The World Cup opener with Tunisia will mark a personal victory for playmaker Christian Eriksen, who suffered cardiac arrest in his Euro 2020 opener in Copenhagen last year but has since completely recovered.
“We are all happy and grateful that Christian is here after what happened,” Denmark captain Simon Kjaer said.
“As a footballer he is probably one of the best I have ever seen in terms of quality and love of the game. Every minute he plays is just a plus for Denmark .”
Tunisia have two players in the Danish league, Anis Ben Slimane at Brondby and Issam Jebali at Odense.
The latter says he was unable to give any particular insight into Tuesday’s opponents as the Tunisian technical team was meticulous in their planning.
“We have a great technical staff and they prepared well for the game,” Jebali said. “We know the Danish setup, how they play and even how they think. We have very good chances, we are a good team. We are strong, we trust each other and have a good team spirit.”
Mexico Striker Raul Jimenez’s fitness remains a concern ahead of his opener against Poland.
Jimenez hasn’t played for Wolves since August due to a groin injury. He had a 45-minute run in a friendly against Sweden last week but looked uncomfortable in a recent training video.
Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa said: “It’s unfair that they took five seconds from a video and said he wasn’t good.
“He looked very good in training. In Raul I see a lot of motivation, hunger and huge ambition to be on the pitch.”
Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny backs team-mate Robert Lewandowski to make a huge impact at Qatar 2022.
Despite his prolific record for club and country, Polish striker Lewandowski is yet to score in a World Cup final.
Speaking at a press conference, Juventus goalkeeper Szczesny said: “It’s definitely a very important tournament for him. I can see that he is very motivated for this championship.
“There is no doubt that he is, if not the best, at least one of them. He would like to fulfill his ambitions not only at club level, but also with the national team.
“I hope years later we will remember Robert’s great performance at the World Cup in Qatar.”
France have been hit by a string of injuries, which ruled out key midfielders N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, and most recently Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, who left the squad in the early hours of Sunday after retired with a thigh injury, and central defender Presnel Kimpembe.
“We still believe in our chances, in our team. Last-minute withdrawals, especially Karim’s, didn’t help,” France captain Hugo Lloris told a press conference. “But I want to think the team will move on.”
Deschamps must reshuffle his attacking line in Benzema’s absence, with veteran Olivier Giroud likely to start as a lone striker.
At the back, Deschamps will be able to rely on centre-back Raphael Varane, who he says has recovered from a hamstring injury that kept him out of training with the team last week.
“He is fine and available for tomorrow’s game,” Deschamps said.
Australia Coach Graham Arnold’s plans for their opener with France were shattered when winger Martin Boyle withdrew on Sunday with a knee injury.
Boyle has a decent goalscoring record with five goals in 19 appearances for Australia.
“We all feel for Martin and this is a cruel blow for him,” Arnold said. “He was an integral part of our journey to get to Qatar.”
To be continued on Tuesday: Aurelien Tchouameni
Opta stats: Argentina unbeaten against Saudi Arabia, France in opener
- Argentina are unbeaten in their four previous meetings with Saudi Arabia (W2 D2), this is the first meeting between the two teams at the FIFA World Cup.
- Argentina have gone past the first round in 12 of their last 13 World Cup appearances, with the only exception coming in 2002.
- All six of Lionel Messi’s FIFA World Cup goals have come in the group stage, never finding the net in 756 minutes during the tournament’s knockout stage. Meanwhile, Messi is also the only player to register an assist in each of the last four World Cup tournaments.
- France have qualified for their 16th FIFA World Cup. This is their seventh consecutive appearance, their longest streak.
- Since 1998, France have reached the FIFA World Cup final in three out of six editions (1998, 2006, 2018), more than any other nation at that time.
- France have won their opening game in just three of the last 12 editions of the FIFA World Cup (D4 L5) – Germany in 1994 and Brazil in 1998 and 2006
Elsewhere at the World Cup
Cristiano Ronaldo says he’s ‘bulletproof and ironclad’ following his explosive interview last week and says he’s ready for Portugal’s World Cup opener against Portugal. Ghana on Thursday.
He said: “The mood is great, no problems, we’re completely focused. You can help by not talking about me. I’m completely bulletproof and bulletproof.
“If you ask other players about Cristiano Ronaldo, I would be upset. If you want to ask him about the World Cup and the team, I would like you to do so.”
He added, “In my life, the best timing is always my timing.
“I don’t have to think about what other people think. I talk when I want. The players have known me very well for many years and know the type of person I am.
“They’re an ambitious, hungry and focused group. So I’m sure they [the interview] will not shake the focus and concentration of the dressing room.”
Germany winger Leroy Sane will miss his World Cup Group E opener against Japan on Wednesday after suffering a knee injury.
The 26-year-old didn’t take part in their last training session in northern Qatar and it was unclear how long he would be out.
The Germans will also face Spain on Sunday before concluding their group matches against Costa Rica on December 1.
Four-time champion Germany, who suffered a shock exit in the first round of the 2018 World Cup, also took striker Niclas Fullkrug out for a few days with the flu, but he has since returned to training.