History beckons for Saudi Arabia as they take on Mexico in their last 2022 World Cup Group C encounter on Wednesday at 7.00 pm.
Deemed group underdogs at the start of the Qatar showpiece, Herve Renard’s team pulled off a sensation on matchday one, turning a 1-0 half-time deficit into a 2-1 victory over almighty Argentina.
Unfortunately for the Green Falcons, they failed to build on what many consider one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, falling to a disheartening 2-0 loss to Poland in the following round.
Standout performer Salem Al-Dawsari, whose banger sunk La Albiceleste, spurned a spot-kick against the Poles, significantly derailing Saudi Arabia’s hopes of making it out of the World Cup group stage in Qatar.
However, victory against Mexico, even though it will have to come at long odds, would seal the Islamic Republic’s first foray into the competition’s round of 16 for the first time since 1994.
On the other hand, nailed to the bottom of the group after failing to trouble the scoresheet in both outings in Qatar (D1, L1), El Tri come into proceedings languishing on the cusp of their first group-stage exit since 1978.
While Gerardo Martino’s men could be forgiven for losing 2-0 to Argentina on Saturday, there’s no excuse for attempting just two shots on target during a tepid 0-0 draw with Poland on day one.
No longer in control of their destiny, the Mexicans need to beat Saudi Arabia and hope Poland topple Argentina in the other Group C contest to hand them a helping hand.
Renard has to address the elephant in the room if Saudi Arabia are to increase their chances of beating Mexico, with a lack of defensive prowess continuing to plague his men.
The Green Falcons have registered just one shutout in their 18 World Cup matches to date, conceding a whopping 42 goals across those fixtures, at an average of 2.33 per game.
With each of their previous 18 outings at the tournament coming against different opposition, facing Mexico for the first time could present them with a clean slate.
Winless in their last four World Cup contests (D1, L3), the Mexicans are experiencing their longest run without winning at the tournament since failing to win their first 12 matches between 1930 and 1962.
An absence of cutting edge up front is a more pressing issue, with Mexico failing to get on the scoreboard in each of those four games since Javier Hernandez Chicharito’s goal against South Korea in 2018.
Therefore, conceding first could be their undoing in Qatar, but with the last 12 goals they’ve conceded at the World Cup coming beyond half-time, there’s hope they can avoid that fate.
Saudi Arabia vs Mexico Head-to-Head
Saudi Arabia and Mexico have squared off five times so far, with El Tri registering an eye-catching four wins and a draw across those meetings.
However, it’s worth noting each of those five matches took place between 1995 and 1999, rendering the H2H stakes meaningless.
Saudi Arabia vs Mexico Potential Line-ups
Saudi Arabia (4-3-3): Mohammed Al-Owais; Mohamed Al-Breik, Ali Al-Bulaihi, Hassan Tambakti, Saud Abdulhamid; Abdulellah Al Malki, Mohamed Kanno, Nawaf Al-Abed; Salem Al Dawsari, Saleh Al-Shehiri, Firas Al-Buraikan.
Mexico (4-3-3): Guillermo Ochoa; Jorge Sanchez, Hector Moreno, Cesar Montes, Jesus Gallardo; Hector Herrera, Edson Alvarez, Luis Chavez; Hirving Lozano, Raul Jimenez, Alexis Vega.
Saudi Arabia vs Mexico Prediction
Both sides need a win in Lusail to progress beyond Group C, suggesting an end-to-end contest could be on the cards.
While Saudi Arabia’s performances against Argentina and Poland showed they are not scared of venturing forward in numbers, we’ve yet to see anything from Mexico in this regard.
Unless El Tri want to complete their lacklustre Group C campaign without scoring, they’d be better off lining up bodies in the front third from the get-go.
So even though goal-fests have been a rarity in Qatar, this encounter could buck that trend despite the massive stakes as we back the Saudis to upset the apple cart.
Saudi Arabia 2-1 Mexico
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