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World Cup Predictions: Argentina vs Saudi Arabia

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South American champions Argentina will meet Saudi Arabia at Lusail Stadium to begin their quest for the first World Cup trophy since 1986.

Saudi Arabia are one of the strongest football forces in Asia, having worn the crown of continental supremacy no less than three times, but they will enter the fray as underdogs against La Albiceleste.

Lionel Messi has announced that this will be his last World Cup journey.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or-winner will have one last attempt at the only trophy that has eluded him in his illustrious career, the World Cup.

Messi came agonisingly close to ending his nation’s World Cup drought in 2014, but the heartbreak of a 1-0 loss in the final to Germany prompted him to retire from international duty.

He would return later, but back-to-back final losses to Chile in the Copa América before a humiliating round-of-16 exit from the 2018 World Cup heaped more misery on the mercurial forward.

But then came Lionel Scaloni.

The Scaloni effect

Scaloni was a unproven name when he took charge of Argentina following the 2018 World Cup catastrophe.

He laid the foundations of a formidable team with excellent chemistry between the players.

The former Lazio defender became the first Argentina manager to win an international title since Alfio Basile (1993 Copa América) when he oversaw Argentina’s Copa América-winning campaign in 2021.

Now Scaloni would hope to become the third Argentina manager after Carlos Bilardo and César Menotti to win the World Cup.

He has a vitalised squad at his disposal with the perfect blend of youth and experience.

Argentina would like to get their World Cup mission running with a big win and extend their unbeaten run to 37 matches and match Italy’s world record for the longest unbeaten streak in international football.

Saudi Arabia’s track record

Saudi Arabia played in the inaugural match of the 2018 World Cup, but Al-Saqour will not be keen to relive that memory as they lost 5-0 against the hosts, Russia.

They will be keen to avoid a similar result this time around as they face an even stronger opposition.

The Asian side only progressed beyond the group stages once.

Apart from the round of 16 appearance in the 1994 World Cup, Saudi Arabia never managed to make it into the knockout stages.

Hervé Renard’s team will face an uphill battle to avoid that fate once again as they are scheduled to play against Argentina, Mexico, and Poland in their three group matches.

Saudi Arabia can’t look at their recent results for inspiration either.

They warmed up for the World Cup with a one-all draw with Panama and a narrow 1-0 defeat to Croatia. Over the last ten matches, the Falcons have emerged victorious only twice.

The only advantage Saudi Arabia have over Argentina is that they are more familiar with Qatar’s desert climate than their Monday afternoon oppositions. So, they will hope to take advantage of the sweltering midday heat.

Team News

Lionel Messi’s absence of training sparked rumours that he might not be available for the Group C opener, but the latest reports rubbush such claims and say that the PSG ace will be available to line up alongside Lautaro Martínez and Ángel Di María.

Inter Milan forward Joaquín Correa went back home after sustaining an injury in training. Atalanta’s Thiago Almada took his place in the squad.

In defence, Scaloni might sacrifice Lisandro Martínez in favour of a natural left foot-right foot centre-back pair of Nicolás Otamendi and Cristian Romero.

The latter was doubtful for the Saudi Arabia match, but concrete reports have surfaced that Romero will be fit to start.

 Saud Arabia midfielder Riyadh Sharahili has picked up a muscle injury during training which could not only keep him out of the Argentina match, but also end his World Cup campaign.

Defender Hassan Tambakti was not seen in training on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia already had suffered a massive blow to their World Cup ambitions when they were compelled to send Fahad Al-Muwallad, one of their best forwards, back home as his doping test results came back positive.

Our Predictions

Saudi Arabia have two draws in their four encounters with Argentina, but both of those draws came in friendlies, and the World Cup is different gravy.

Argentina have been on red hot form lately, so we expect them to pick up a dominant 4-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

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FOOTBALL

WATCH: Cristiano Ronaldo performs obscene gestures as fans chant Lionel Messi’s name

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Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi

During the Saudi Pro League game between Al Shabab and Al Nassr, Nassr skipper Cristiano Ronaldo was seen making obscene gestures towards rival fans. The Shabab fans were chanting Ronaldo’s biggest rival Lionel Messi’s name. Not for the first time though, some Saudi football fans do prefer Messi over the Portuguese player. Meanwhile, during the game on Sunday, the Portugal international crossed all the limits as he made some obscene gestures.

Watch the video here

Talking about the game, the Yellow Brigade, Nassr won against Shabab. Ronaldo gave his team as he made the most of the penalty in the 21st minute of the game. However, in the injury time of the first half, Yannick Carrasco scored an equalizer before going into the break. In the first minute of the second half, Anderson Talisca gave a lead to Nassr. In the 67th minute, Carlos scored the equalizer for Shabab, and the game looked like ending in a tie before Talisca scored the match-winning goal in the 86th minute.

Meanwhile, the former Real Madrid player is set to face disciplinary action. As per the Saudi writer and television host, the disciplinary committee might take action.

“The disciplinary committee is facing the biggest test. We will wait and see. Everything has its limits, no matter how famous you are. This is how the major leagues are” Waleed Al Farraj, a prominent Saudi writer and television host, said on X.

Cristiano Ronaldo faced disciplinary action during his stint with Manchester United

A few months before the FIFA World Cup 2022, he threw a fan’s phone when he was part of the English club, Manchester United. He was banned for a few games which meant that he missed a few games for his current club, Nassr. However, the ban didn’t apply in the World Cup as he was available for selection during the tournament, in which his team lost the Quarterfinal to Morrocco.

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FOOTBALL

Virgil Van Dijk’s late strike in extra time helps Liverpool beat Chelsea in Carabao Cup final

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Liverpool emerged victorious in the Carabao Cup final in 2024. In a thrilling game which was full of twists and turns, Liverpool managed to beat Chelsea to clinch the cup. Jurgen Klopp’s men were awarded with the winner’s medal as they edged out Chelsea in a low-scoring thriller that went to extra time. The defence of both sides was good to watch.

The match had many edge-of-the-seat moments. In the first half, Liverpool attempted a lot of shots over Chelsea. While some were out of target, some were in the target, but stopped by the goalkeeper. Cody Gakpo was unlucky to find the ball hit the goalpost. The strike of the youngster went in vain as the first half did not witness any goal.

Liverpool’s skipper was brilliant in the game. He martialed his troops well and got the coordination going for a long time. He in fact nearly had a goal in the first half, only to be ruled out by the VAR, which was highly controversial. There is a debate for the legitimacy of the goal which was not given despite the help of the technology. Liverpool did not get carried away with the moment.

Captain brilliant Virgil Van Dijk steps up in crunch moments

Klopp deployed younger players as substitutes in the 2nd half. It helped Liverpool a lot as they were able to not just put pressure on Chelsea but also create a lot of chances. While none of them were converted to goals in the second half, they ensured that Chelsea’s players were in check. At one stage, the absence of Mohammad Salah in the middle was felt.

The match went to the extra time, where things got a bit closer. Chelsea attempted to score goals but ended up giving more advantage to Liverpool. The younger legs marked well and provided good assists to the forwards. The moment came in the 118th minute of the game, when Van Dijk netted the goal and helped Liverpool to win the prestigious title.

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Virat Kohli picks his ‘Sporting GOAT’

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Virat Kohli was asked to pick his ‘Sporting GOAT’ in a recent interview. The star cricketer was interviewed by Team Blue Rising who asked him to name the greatest sportsperson of all time. “Who is your Sporting GOAT?” asked the host to the star batter. Kohli did not hesitate to take the name of one of the greatest Football players as his pick for the question.

The Indian batter claimed Cristiano Ronaldo to be the greatest Football player of all time. “For me, it’s Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Virat in the interview. It came as no surprise to the fans, as Virat has always been a huge admirer of the star Footballer. Even in the past, the 35-year-old has expressed his admiration for the star player from Portugal.

In many instances, the Indian batter has claimed Ronaldo to be his favourite player. Ronaldo has been one of the best players the sport has ever seen. Many claim him to be arguably the greatest Sportsperson of all time. Virat has joined the list of those to claim him to be the greatest athlete in the sports world. Ronaldo has some records to back his claim for the title.

Legacy of Cristiano Ronaldo and Virat Kohli

The Portuguese Footballer has the greatest number of goals for an international team. He also has the greatest number of international caps for a player. The star player is the only player to win four major cups with two different clubs. He did it with Manchester United and Real Madrid. Cristiano has the second most number of Ballon d’Or titles (Five) after Lionel Messi.

Virat, on the other hand, is a great cricketer. He has the greatest number of hundreds for a batter in ODIs. Virat has the greatest number of hundreds in ODIs while chasing. He is also the highest run scorer for India in T20Is. Kohli has the most runs for a batter in the IPL. He has the greatest number of POTT awards for a player in the T20 WC and the ODI WC.

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