Football and college football analyst
Argentina are favorites to win this group, so the real narrative is, who takes second place? Mexico and Poland are likely to battle it out for that spot, although Saudi Arabia is no slouch as an opponent. Robert Lewandowski leads a powerful Poland side, while El Tri have the potential to go far in the tournament, especially with a boisterous fan base in tow. Meanwhile, the Saudis are confident heading into Qatar after winning their Asian qualifying group and drawing the United States in a September friendly – can they pull off an upset group stage?
Coach: Lionel Scaloni
Higher finish: 2 World Cup titles (1978, 1986)
End 2018: Round of 16
FOX betting odds: +550
Key players: Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria, Lautaro Martínez
What we are excited to see: Messi, of course. He is already one of the greatest ever to play the game, but can the 35-year-old win a title in what he has already said will be his last World Cup?
What does success look like: Winning the World Cup would further cement Messi’s legacy and alienate fans from always comparing him to Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup. Perhaps the time has finally come. After all, La Albiceleste have won 35 games in a row since 2019, including the 2021 Copa America title with a win over Brazil.
Everything from Achilles: Years and years of heartbreak. Messi has played five World Cups with highly talented teammates and what does Argentina have to prove? Zero titles. Will this tournament be different?
X Factor: It’s all about Messi and all bets are off when you have the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner in your team.
Three things you need to know about Argentina
Alexi Lalas explains three things you need to know about Argentina ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Coach: Hervé Renard
Higher finish: Round of 16 (1994)
End 2018: Group stage
FOX betting odds: +75,000
Key players: Salem Al-Dawsari, Saleh Al Shehri, Salman Al Faraj
What we are excited to see: Saudi Arabia are the third lowest ranked team in this tournament (outside of Ghana and Qatar). But who knows? Perhaps the Saudis can cause an upset in this group with a strong fan base in the stands.
What does success look like: Saudi Arabia scored just two goals at the 2018 World Cup and finished third in their group. They lost to Russia 5-0 in the opening match of the tournament, so getting out of the group this time would be a big improvement.
Whole Achilles: Renard has recently called up goalkeepers Mohammad Al-Owais, Fawaz Al-Qarni and Nawaf Al-Aqidi for friendlies before leaving for Qatar, none of whom are regular starters for their clubs. If the Saudis are going to make any kind of noise in the group, they will need a solid option at the back to stop the shots of Messi and Lewandowski.
X Factor: Salem Al-Dawsari is the best player to watch. The 31-year-old winger scored seven goals for Saudi Arabia during qualification and scored a team-high 18 goals for Al-Hilal last season.
Three things you need to know about Saudi Arabia
Alexi Lalas offers the three things you need to know about Saudi Arabia ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Coach: Gerard “Tata” Martino
Higher finish: Quarter-finals (1970, 1986)
End 2018: Round of 16
FOX betting odds: +15,000
Key players: Hector Herrera, Raul Jimenez, Guillem Ochoa
What we’re excited to see: Mexico vs. Poland on November 22, which should be an early indicator of who exits the group behind Argentina.
What does success look like: Surpassing the round of 16.
Whole Achilles: Raul Jimenez has been dealing with a nagging groin injury – will he be back to full fitness when Mexico play Poland? El Tri will need help from their 6-foot-3 forward to make a run.
X Factor: Don’t underestimate the power of fans. There’s a reason Azteca is one of the toughest places to play and Mexico fans will travel. Can they create a home advantage in Qatar?
Three things you need to know about Mexico
Alexi Lalas offers the three things you need to know about Mexico ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Coach: Czeslaw Michniewicz
Higher finish: Third place (1974, 1982)
End 2018: Group stage
FOX betting odds: +20000
Key players: Robert Lewandowski, Piotr Zielinski, Kamil Glik
What we are excited to see: Lewandowski has scored everywhere he has played, except in a World Cup. As Poland’s all-time top scorer (74 goals in 134 games), he should be able to find the back of the net.
What does success look like: Exit the group.
Whole Achilles: Experienced first-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has struggled with injuries that have limited his playing time for Juventus.
X Factor: Can Lewandowski lead Poland into the knockout round for the first time since 1986?
Three things you need to know about Poland
Alexi Lalas offers the three things you need to know about Poland ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in the spring of 2022 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
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