Some might say this MBM is somewhat of the Tony Gubba/Ralph Dellor option this evening. For those wanting the Motson/Davies ‘big one’ between Argentina and Poland, it’s right here with Michael Butler.
There’s a great moment in one of the Guardian World Cup podcasts earlier this week when Paul MacInnes meets two female Saudi footballs fan in Doha. Have a listen (23 minutes in) and a read.
Paul: “What can female football fans bring to a previously all-male crowd?”
Changes for both teams. Saudi Arabia would appear to be lining up in a 3-4-3 formation due to the suspension of Abdulelah Al Malki, the usual shield in front of the defence. Al Malki picked up a second yellow against Poland.
Hassan Tambakti is part of a three-man defence while Sultan Ghannam and Ali Al Hassan also come in.
Mexico are one of just two teams without a goal in this World Cup and, understandably, they’ve mixed things up in attack.
Henry Martin is the focal point while Alexis Vega, Orbelin Pineda and Hirving Lozano are the three in behind for El Tri in what appears to be a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Jorge Sanchez and Edson Alvarez also get starts but Wolves’ Raul Jimenez has to settle for a place on the bench again.
Saudi Arabia: Al-Owais, Tambakti, Al-Amri, Al-Bulayhi, Al-Ghanam, Al-Hassan, Kanno, Abdulhamid, Al-Buraikan, Al-Shehri, Salem Al-Dawsari.
Subs: Madu, Otayf, Al-Naji, Al-Abed, Bahbri, Al-Aboud, Al-Aqidi, Nasser Al-Dawsari, Asiri, Sharahili, Al-Rubaie.
Mexico: Ochoa, Sanchez, Montes, Moreno, Gallardo, Edson Alvarez, Chavez, Lozano, Pineda, Vega, Martin.
Subs: Talavera, Araujo, Vasquez, Arteaga, Romo, Rodriguez, Jimenez, Funes Mori, Cota, Gutierrez, Herrera, Guardado, Antuna, Alvarado, Kevin Alvarez.
Referee: It’s the Premier League’s very own Michael Oliver.
Possible scenarios in this most open of groups…
Poland: Poland qualify with a win or a draw against Argentina. They are not necessarily eliminated if they lose, provided Saudi Arabia don’t beat Mexico.
Argentina: Argentina must beat Poland to be sure of going through. A draw will be enough if Saudi Arabia and Mexico draw, or unless Mexico win that game by four or more goals
Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia qualify with a win. A draw will be enough if Poland beat Argentina.
Mexico: Mexico qualify if they win and Poland beat Argentina. If Poland and Argentina draw, and Mexico win, it has to be by four goals or more to overhaul Argentina’s goal difference.
Mexico manager Gerardo Martino goes by the nickname ‘Tata’. And, yes, here it comes… it could be ta ta to his team after today’s Group C action at the World Cup. Silence… taps mic… whistly feedback. Okay, that’s lame. But lame is an apt word to describe the Mexicans so far. Two games, one point, no goals. El Tri have made it out of the group stage (before going out in the last 16) in each of the last seven World Cups. That streak is now in grave danger.
Mexico must win against Saudi Arabia to have any chance of reaching the knockout stages and that would have seemed a reasonable ask before this weirdest of World Cups got underway. But the Saudis have been bright, sending shockwaves around the sporting world by beating Argentina 2-1 in their opening game. Despite further evidence of being a decent outfit, they couldn’t follow it up against Poland, losing 2-0, but the Green Falcons remain in the hunt to make the last 16 for the first time since 1994. They head to the Lusail Stadium (situated in the north of Qatar according to my When Saturday Comes wallchart) with their fate in their own hands.
The two sides have played each other five times previously, with Mexico winning four of those head-to-heads. All took place between 1995 and 1999 so that’s hardly form to rely on. What matters is the here and now so let’s get this thing on.
1pm: Mexico City