Argentina v Saudi Arabia: World Cup 2022 – live | World Cup 2022

Argentina (4-3-3): Martinez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico; De Paul, Paredes, Gomez; Messi, Martinez, Di Maria. Subs: Armani, Rulli, Foyth, Montiel, Pezzella, Acuna, Palacios, Rodriguez, Mac Allister, Fernandez, Alvarez, Correa, Almada, Dybala.

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Saudi Arabia (4-3-3): Alowais; Abdulhamid, Altambakti, Albulaihi, Alshahrani; Kanno, Almalki, Alfaraj, Albrikan, Alshehri, Aldawsari. Subs: Alyami, Alaqidi, Madu, Alamri, Alburayk, Alghannam, Aldawsari, Alnajei, Alhassan, Otayf, Alabed, Alobud Bahbri, Asiri.

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Referee: Slavko Vincic (Slovenia)

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It was once put to Juca Kfouri, the Brazilian football writer, that Zico never won the World Cup. “Well,” he retorted, “that’s the World Cup’s bad luck”.

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And in a way, Brazil’s failure to lift the trophy in 1982 – and 1986 – actually elevates their standing, cementing them in our hearts because it’s easier to identify with tragic heroes than heroic heroes. Or, put another way, because – as we always are when we think we’re thinking about someone or something else – we’re really thinking about ourselves. But it’s also easier to identify with them because they stood for something important: “Beauty comes first, victory is secondary – what matters is joy,” was how Socrates put it.

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Which brings us onto Lionel Messi. Our relationship to him is different partly because Argentinian football culture is different to Brazilian football culture, its focus on winning by whatever means necessary. But it’s a personal thing, too – though Messi is perhaps the greatest player there’s ever been, he’s been so adept at concealing his essence that all we know of him is the genius we see on the pitch, meaning there’s no personal connection. So from our perspective – there we are again, punkt in the centre of things – he could do with inspiring a famous win here, so that people he neither knows nor cares for don’t think less of a bloke who’s 487 goals in 559 club games and 91 in 165 at international level; been awarded seven Ballon d’Ors; and won 10 La Liga titles, plus four Champions Leagues.

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Really, though, it’s nothing to do with us whatsoever: Messi needs to win this for himself, so he ends his career with no regrets. And the good news for him is that he’s got a decent chance: Argentina have a strong defence, solidity and creativity in midfield, and serious firepower up front. The bad news for him is that he might be carrying a knock, but reports suggest he’ll be fine.

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Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, were good in qualifying but have been less so since. They are, though solid at the back: in 12 games this calendar year they’ve conceded just six times, keeping clean sheets against Australia, USA and Ecuador, limiting Colombia and Croatia to just a single goal, and only letting in more than that once. Here we go!

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Kick-off: 1pm local, 10am GMT

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Key events

So Lionel Scaloni goes for Otamendi and Romero at centre-back, which tells us how highly he rates them given Martinez is also available. In midfield, he’s got a really interested mix of solidity, with Paredes, general purpose activity in De Paul, and unpredictability in Gomez – though I wonder if Fernandez might force his way into the reckoning at some point. I hope so, because he is very special. Meanwhile it’s as expected in attack – though I’d not be surprised to see Julian Alvarez affect this tournament from the bench.

I make it six minutes of coverage before ITV started banging on about England.

Our teams!

Argentina (4-3-3): Martinez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico; DePaul, Paredes, Gomez; Messi, Martinez, Di Maria. Subs: Armani, Rulli, Foyth, Montiel, Pezzella, Acuna, Palacios, Rodriguez, Mac Allister, Fernandez, Alvarez, Correa, Almada, Dybala.

Saudi Arabia (4-3-3): Alowais; Abdulhamid, Altambakti, Albulaihi, Alshahrani; Kanno, Almalki, Alfaraj, Albrikan, Alshehri, Aldawsari. Subs: Alyami, Alaqidi, Madu, Alamri, Alburayk, Algannam, Aldawsari, Alnajei, Alhassan, Otayf, Alabed, Alobud Bahbri, Asiri.

Referees: Slavko Vincic (Slovenia)

Good news for all the preamble writers out there: Lionel Messi starts for Argentina.

Preamble

It was once put to Juca Kfouri, the Brazilian football writer, that Zico never won the World Cup. “Well,” he retorted, “that’s the World Cup’s bad luck”.

And in a way, Brazil’s failure to lift the trophy in 1982 – and 1986 – actually elevates their standing, cementing them in our hearts because it’s easier to identify with tragic heroes than heroic heroes. Or, put another way, because – as we always are when we think we’re thinking about someone or something else – we’re really thinking about ourselves. But it’s also easier to identify with them because they stood for something important: “Beauty comes first, victory is secondary – what matters is joy,” was how Socrates put it.

Which brings us onto Lionel Messi. Our relationship to him is different partly because Argentinian football culture is different to Brazilian football culture, its focus on winning by whatever means necessary. But it’s a personal thing, too – though Messi is perhaps the greatest player there’s ever been, he’s been so adept at concealing his essence that all we know of him is the genius we see on the pitch, meaning there’s no personal connection. So from our perspective – there we are again, punkt in the center of things – he could do with inspiring a famous win here, so that people he neither knows nor cares for don’t think less of a bloke who’s 487 goals in 559 club games and 91 in 165 at international level; been awarded seven Ballon d’Ors; and won 10 La Liga titles, plus four Champions Leagues.

Really, though, it’s nothing to do with us whatsoever: Messi needs to win this for himself, so he ends his career with no regrets. And the good news for him is that he’s got a decent chance: Argentina have a strong defence, solidity and creativity in midfield, and serious firepower up front. The bad news for him is that he might be carrying a knock, but reports suggest he’ll be fine.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, were good in qualifying but have been less so since. They are, though solid at the back: in 12 games this calendar year they’ve conceded just six times, keeping clean sheets against Australia, USA and Ecuador, limiting Colombia and Croatia to just a single goal, and only letting in more than that ounces. Here we go!

Kick-off: 1pm local, 10am GMT

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