Messi and Co. can secure progression to the next round with a win but will head home if they suffer defeat in this crucial fixture.
All eyes will be on this clash! Argentina and Poland will lock horns in a decisive FIFA World Cup showdown tonight as one of these two nations could bow out of this competition, meaning this Stadium 974 fixture could be farewell for one of Lionel Messi or Robert Lewandowski.
Both countries enter this clash on the back of crucial victories, but it was La Albiceleste's win that dominated the headlines. The South American giants took on Mexico in their most recent match and due to the result from Poland vs. Saudi Arabia, it was a do-or-die fixture for Scaloni's men.
Defeat to El Tri would have sent Argentina out of the tournament, and while a draw would have sufficed, only a victory would have left them in a strong position. After the first 45 minutes of that showdown, this did not look achievable for the Copa America champions, but fortunately for them, they have a certain player named Lionel Messi in their team.
The PSG superstar struggled to get into the game, as did his teammates, but in one moment of magic, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner latched onto a lovely Angel di Maria pass and unleashed a brilliant shot into the back of Guillermo Ochoa's net to break the deadlock.
Enzo Fernandez, who came on as a second-half substitute, grabbed Argentina's second in the final few minutes of the game to secure the three points, leaving La Albiceleste's fate in their own hands.
Nonetheless, the nature of their last two performances will cast doubt in everyone's mind. In their opening game against Saudi Arabia, Scaloni's men were poor and struggled tremendously in the second half of that tie. Against Mexico, a similar theme played out except with a different end result, with Messi and Co. winning in the latter tie.
Defeat in this game will eliminate the South American giants and while a draw can be enough – more on that later – the two-time World Cup champions know that a victory against the Polish is the only way to guarantee progression to the round of 16.
As for the European outfit, they are currently top of the group and are best positioned to make the last 16. Lewandowski and Co. could seal progression irrespective of Wednesday's result, though the other match will have to go their way should they suffer a defeat, leaving the Eagles with wiggle room.
Poland kicked things off with their clash against Mexico. Czesław Michniewicz's men looked to capitalize off of Argentina's slip-up against Saudi Arabia but were unable to beat El Tri, with Lewandowski missing a crucial penalty en route to a goalless draw.
Their following game was against the Middle Eastern side and while the Green Falcons dominated the affair, it was the European nation that emerged triumphant, winning 2-0. Lewandowski got his first FIFA World Cup goal in that fixture, albeit courtesy of an error from an opposition defender.
Poland could play for the draw in order to ensure progression as a defeat could get them eliminated. However, there is no bigger story than beating Argentina and eliminating one of the favorites in the group stage in what is Lionel Messi's final FIFA World Cup,
Poland: The Eagles are unlikely to make changes, meaning Arkadiusz Milik should start alongside Lewandowski. Grzegorz Krychowiak and Krystian Bielik will be the midfield men while Napoli ace Piotr Zielinski will maintain his spot in the starting eleven.
Argentina: Scaloni will have decisions to make, especially in attack and midfield as there are calls to bring Julian Alvarez and Enzo Fernandez into the lineup. This means one of Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez could be sacrificed. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see whether Romero or Lisandro Martinez partners Otamendi in defense as La Albiceleste are expected to play a back four.
A win will secure Argentina their ticket to the next round while a defeat will send them out of the competition. A draw will suffice if Mexico and Saudi Arabia play out a draw or if Mexico win by less than four goals. Poland, meanwhile, are through if they avoid defeat and can make the next round even with a loss if Saudi Arabia fail to beat Mexico.
BDST: 1208 HRS, NOV 30, 2022