Mexico and Poland will meet in a Group C encounter that could potentially shape their group stage fate on Tuesday evening.
Mexico have been a mainstay in the World Cup lately, having featured in each of the last seven editions.
They played knockout football in all of those campaigns but failed to progress beyond the round of 16. Poland have not been that regular in the competition and did not make it out of the group stages since 1986 when Mexico hosted the World Cup.
World Cup track record
Ex-Barcelona and Argentina manager Gerardo Martino will draw the blueprint to end their round-of-16 hoodoo and take them to the last eight of the competition for the first time since they did on home soil in 1986. In fact, Mexico made it to the quarterfinals only twice, and both times they were the hosts (1970 and 1986).
So, if Mexico can make it to the quarterfinals in Qatar, it will be the first time Mexico will do it in a World Cup outside their borders. A win against Poland will be a significant first step towards fulfilling that target.
Under Martino, Mexico have won the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2019 but failed to defend it in 2021.
They had a stellar qualification campaign under the Argentinian tactician as they trailed table-toppers Canada by only goal difference.
Poland stunned the world by finishing third in the 1974 and 1982 World Cups. But they have failed to match those heights in subsequent years.
In their last three World Cup campaigns, which came in a span of 16 years, they could not get to the knockout stages.
Czeslaw Michniewicz is yet to complete his first year at the Poland job, but the ex-Legia Warsaw man has already risen to the ranks of a national hero in the country.
He oversaw Poland’s 2-0 playoff victory against Sweden, which confirmed the Baltic nation’s first back-to-back World Cup appearances since 1986.
Once again, Robert Lewandowski will shoulder Poland’s World Cup expectations. The Barcelona forward could not find the target in 2018, so he will be keen on getting on the scoresheet on Tuesday evening.
Raúl Jiménez did not get a lot of gametime lately because of his continuous injury struggles.
After a long head injury layoff, his career fell into limbo once again in August when he suffered another lengthy injury. The 31-year-old got off the bench in Mexico’s 2-1 friendly defeat to Sweden last week, but he did not seem to be back to his best yet. So, Club América striker Henry Martín is likely to lead the line for Mexico from the start.
Sevilla winger Jesús Corona will not be involved as he had to return home with an ankle injury.
Poland also had to let go of Adam Buksa, Bartłomiej Drągowski, and Jacek Góralski because of injuries.
Lewandowski did not come off the bench in Poland’s last World Cup warm-up game against Chile as Michniewicz wants his best attacker fully rested before the crunch clash with Mexico.
Matty Cash will be available for selection after the right-back recovered from a shoulder injury.
Robert Lewandowski could be the only differentiating factor between these two teams. Otherwise, the squad strength look similar.
We think Lewandowski will get his first World Cup goal and grab a memorable victory for his nation. Our prediction is a 2-1 win for Poland.