Argentina vs Australia — Preview

Match Preview

Argentina couldn’t have made a worse start in their bid to win a third World Cup, suffering a stunning loss to 25/1 shots, Saudi Arabia in their opening game — ending their 36-game unbeaten run. They were unlucky in that match, having three goals ruled out for offside, and the Expected Goals statistic favoured La Albiceleste by 2.30 to 0.15. For over an hour Argentina failed to breach Mexico’s defence before two bits of magic, one from Lionel Messi and the other from Enzo Fernández got their World Cup campaign back on track. Argentina still needed a win against Poland to be sure of a place in the Round of 16 — a feat they achieved with two second-half goals. Remarkably, Argentina had 12 shots on target in that game, while Poland had none. Lionel Scaloni’s side dominated possession during the Group Stage, with 67% of the ball, and recorded 20 shots on goal, while allowing only three.

Australia came into the tournament with modest ambitions, and that pessimism looked justified after a 4-1 defeat at the hands of France. However, the Socceroos beat Tunisia thanks to a first-half effort from Mitchell Duke and gained the win they needed to secure a first appearance in the knockout phase since 2006 after another 1-0 victory against dark horses, Denmark. Graham Arnold’s team have only averaged 37% possession, and have managed seven shots on target in their three matches, while allowing 14.

Scaloni switched from his standard 4-4-2 formation to a 4-3-3 system against Poland, with a first World Cup start for Fernández — who became Argentina’s second-youngest goalscorer at a World Cup, behind Messi, and an opportunity for Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister. Most significantly, he replaced Lautaro Martinez with Julián Álvarez in attack. Oliver, meanwhile, has stuck to a 4-4-2 formation for Australia, who will be seeking a first win against Argentina since their inaugural meeting in 1988. Since then, five of the past six games have gone the way of the South Americans, and the team ranked number three in the world will start as big favourites against a side ranked 38th.

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