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Argentina 2-0 Mexico: World Cup 2022 – as it happened

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2022-11-26

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9.16pm GMT

Nick Ames’ match report has landed , so I’ll leave you with that. Goodnight!

Related: Messi ignites Argentina’s World Cup before Fernández finishes off Mexico

9.08pm GMT

“Why are the CONCACAF teams so bad?” asks Kurt Perlerberg.

I’m not sure they are – Canada were fantastic against Belgium and the USA have played pretty well in both games. Mexico and Costa Rica, not so much.

9.08pm GMT

We’re just seeing replays of the two goals. They were both so classy – not just the finishes but the touch (or in Fernandez’s case the shimmy) to set themselves up.

9.04pm GMT

And now for something completely different

Related: FA Cup: Chesterfield and Wrexham lead non-league push into third round

9.03pm GMT

“How are Mexico so bad?” says Adam Hirst. “Even for football’s great underachievers, they’ve underachieved here.”

I thought Lozano and Vega looked pretty bright up front, but for a lot of the game the formation was almost 8-0-2. They really missed Edson Alvarez in midfield as well. But yeah, this is the worst Mexican team I’ve seen at a World Cup, although I wasn’t there in 1954.

9.00pm GMT

Here’s how Group C looks

  • Poland 4pts, GD+2

  • Argentina 3pts, GD+1

  • Saudi Arabia 3pts, GD-1

  • Mexico 1pt, GD-2

The final games are Poland v Argentina and Saudi Arabia v Mexico.

Poland need a draw, though they could go through with a defeat

Argentina need a win to be sure, though they could go through with a draw

Saudi Arabia need a win to be sure, though they could go through with a draw

Mexico need a win to have any chance

8.58pm GMT

Full time: Argentina 2-0 Mexico

Peep peep! Argentina are still in the World Cup. It was an ugly victory secured by two beauteous second-half goals from Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez. It was a desperate game, and Kylian Mbappe won’t be losing any sleep, but they did the necessary and that was by far the most important thing.

Mexico aren’t out of the competition yet, but their toothless performance suggests they will struggle to keep up their record of qualifying for the last 16 in every World Cup since 1994.

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The Argentina players celebrate their victory with their fans. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Updated at 9.25pm GMT

8.55pm GMT

90+4 min Messi is lucky not to be booked for a poor tackle on Moreno.

8.52pm GMT

90+2 min Six minutes of added time. They could play for six millenniums and Mexico wouldn’t score.

8.52pm GMT

90+1 min If Argentina beat Poland on Wednesday, they’ll go through – probably as group winners, which would mean avoiding France in the last 16. If they draw, they’ll be at the mercy of the result in the other game.

8.50pm GMT

90 min Alvarado is booked for taking his frustration out on Otamendi’s face.

8.50pm GMT

Argentina took a short corner on the left and fed the ball into Fernandez on the left corner of the area. He beat Gutierrez through sleight of hip, then shaped an extravagant curling shot across goal. It beat the leaping Ochoa and nestled in the far corner.

Updated at 9.10pm GMT

8.48pm GMT

GOAL! Argentina 2-0 Mexico (Fernandez 87)

Enzo Fernandez seals victory – and gives Argentina a potentially crucial goal-difference boost – with another beautiful goal!

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Enzo Fernandez’ strike sails past Ochoa. Photograph: Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

Updated at 9.02pm GMT

8.47pm GMT

86 min Argentina break promisingly but De Paul’s heavy touch allows Gallardo to nip it in the bud.

8.46pm GMT

85 min Corner to Mexico on the left. Chavez curls it to the near post, Romero heads clear. Mexico have been so poor.

8.43pm GMT

82 min Chavez’s inswinging free-kick from the right is headed across the area by an Argentina defender then back across goal by Moreno. It’s too close to Emi Martinez, who claims comfortably.

8.42pm GMT

81 min Although they are having a lot of the ball now, Mexico look pretty toothless.

8.40pm GMT

79 min Not that Argentina will or should care, but this has been a hideous game.

Updated at 8.40pm GMT

8.38pm GMT

77 min Palacios releases Alvarez down the left. He charges into the area and cuts the ball back towards Messi, who can’t quite ther before the defender. Moments later Messi’s cutback is kicked away by Ochoa.

Updated at 8.39pm GMT

8.36pm GMT

74 min Mexico have been slightly better since the goal, though in truth they don’t particularly look like scoring. It’s been their problem since World Cup qualification began in September 2021.

8.34pm GMT

73 min Mexico bring off Hirving Lozano, which is a bit of a surprise. Roberto Alvarado is on in his place.

8.33pm GMT

72 min Goal difference may also be a factor, so a second Argentina goal could be deceptively significant.

8.33pm GMT

72 min If it stays like this, Argentina could qualify with a draw against Poland on Wednesday, depending on the result in Saudi Arabia v Mexico. It’s all pretty complex. Mexico won’t be out if they lose either.

8.31pm GMT

70 min Acuna’s cross finds its way through to Molina, who slashes over from the edge of the area. That was half a chance.

8.31pm GMT

8.30pm GMT

69 min: Double substitution for Argentina Cristian Romero, who was supposed to be injured, and Ezequiel Palacios replace Alexis Mac Allister and Angel Di Maria. That might mean a switch to a back five.

8.29pm GMT

68 min Antuna plays a one-two and threads a low cross that is booted behind. No matter, Antuna was offside.

8.28pm GMT

67 min Hector Herrera is booked for a cynical foul.

8.28pm GMT

66 min Double substitution for Mexico: Raul Jimenez and Uriel Antuna replace Alexis Vega and Kevin Alvarez. That means a switch to a back four.

8.27pm GMT

65 min The finish was unerringly precise but the touch to set it up was even better. Any lighter and he wouldn’t have been able to get sufficient momentum into the shot; any heavier and he’d have been smothered by the outrushing defenders.

Updated at 8.29pm GMT

8.26pm GMT

It was a goal out of nothing . Di Maria cut inside from the right and shaped a good pass into Messi, inexplicably unmarked 25 yards from goal. His first touch was perfect, setting himself up for the shot, and he rifled a low drive into the bottom corner. That’s a lovely goal.

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Lionel Messi raises a fist after scoring at last. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Updated at 8.32pm GMT

8.25pm GMT

GOAL! Argentina 1-0 Mexico (Yep 64)

Lionel Messi puts Argentina in front!

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Lionel Messi strikes the first blow. Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

Updated at 8.30pm GMT

8.25pm GMT

64 min “I don’t think that any World Cup matches of the modern era have been played in filthy rain and mud, but it would improve this one immeasurably,” says Charles Antaki. “ Also dense fog.”

8.24pm GMT

63 min: Double substitution for Argentina Julian Alvarez and Nahuel Molina replace Lautaro Martinez and Gonzalo Montiel.

8.23pm GMT

62 min A draw is a better result for Mexico, and that’s reflected in the balance of play. Mexico are playing almost exclusively on the counter-attack now.

8.21pm GMT

60 min A booming free-kick from Vega is headed away really well by Otamendi, running towards his own goal. The second half has been a bit better, even if we’ve still had only one shot on target in the whole game.

8.20pm GMT

59 min Messi stabs a dangerous through pass towards Lautaro Martinez that is well read by Araujo. There’s no eye in the Mexican needle.

8.18pm GMT

57 min: Argentina substitution Enzo Fernandez replaces Guido Rodriguez.

8.17pm GMT

57 min This is a decent spell for Argentina, probably their best of the match.

8.17pm GMT

56 min Di Maria gets round the back on the right and pulls the ball back dangerously. Mac Allister, arriving late in the box, is about to shoot when Chavez makes a vital interception.

Updated at 8.18pm GMT

8.15pm GMT

54 min There’s a bit more intensity from Argentina in this half, but not as much as you’d expect in the circumstances. They look like a team who had a pamper at half-time rather than a hairdryer.

8.14pm GMT

53 min “Boxing is a notoriously difficult sport to exit on a high but two British fighters managed it this century,” says Max Williams. “Carl Froch knocked out George Groves at Wembley Stadium (in front of 80,000 people, supposedly) and Lennox Lewis resisted the temptation of a rematch with Vitali Klitschko after beating the Ukrainian challenger (and 2022 war hero) via a slightly fortuitous TKO. Both retired as world champions – undisputed in the case of Lewis.”

Ah yes, Froch is a perfect example – the last punch of his career was also the best.

8.12pm GMT

52 min It’s a poor free-kick from Messi, clipped well over the bar.

8.12pm GMT

51 min The free-kick is slightly to the right of centre, maybe 22 yards from goal. In other words, the perfect position for a left-footed genius.

8.11pm GMT

50 min A sudden, thrilling burst from Messi, who scurries to the edge of the D and is taken out by Gutierrez. He’s booked.

Updated at 8.12pm GMT

8.09pm GMT

48 min The referee ignores a dive from Lautaro Martinez and Mexico break. Lozano cuts inside and hits a long-range shot that is blocked.

8.06pm GMT

46 min Peep peep! Argentina begin the second half. If it stays like this, they’ll need to beat Poland by at least two goals to be sure of reaching the last 16. And Mexico would need to beat Saudi Arabia by any score to progress.

Updated at 8.08pm GMT

8.05pm GMT

Your nominations for people who did got out at the top Rocky Marciano, Steffi Graf, Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Didier Deschamps, Garry Kasparov, Basil Fawlty.

8.04pm GMT

“The first half in summary,” writes Richard Byrne.

8.02pm GMT

“I have a rough and ready way of judging which team is on top by adding the attempts on and off target and the corners, then subtracting the fouls,” says Richard Hirst. “I think this is the first time I’ve ever known both teams have a negative total.”

7.57pm GMT

“I bought a 65-inch new telly to watch this twaddle,” says Paul. “This game has sent my wife and the cat to sleep.”

Fifa have got some nerve scheduling a World Cup during Black Friday.

7.54pm GMT

“Mexico playing five across the back when Argentina have the ball and two defensive mids in front of that, giving Messi no spaces to run into and forcing him deeper,” says Rick McGahey. “Martino knows his opponent.”

There’s no eye in the Mexican needle, that’s for sure. I’m surprised Argentina haven’t looked for their full-backs more.

7.53pm GMT

Half-time reading

Related: Kylian Mbappé double fires France into last 16 with victory over Denmark

7.52pm GMT

Half time: Argentina 0-0 Mexico

That was probably the worst 45 minutes of the tournament, but the tension and importance of the game made it must-see TV. There was only one shot on target, a free-kick from the lively Alexis Vega that was saved comfortably by Emi Martinez. See you soon for the second half.

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A first half summed up. Photograph: Ronald Wittek/EPA

Updated at 8.07pm GMT

7.51pm GMT

45+6 min Di Maria gives it to Messi, who plays in the overlapping left-back Acuna. He hammers a dangerous low cross that is put behind at the near post. That was good defending, even if I’m not sure whodunnit.

7.50pm GMT

45+5 min Vega smashes a half-volley into orbit from about 25 yards. He’s a confident boy.

7.49pm GMT

45+3 min “This match,” says Chris Holborn, “reminds me of West Ham under David Moyes this season except for the sombreros.”

There’s more of a fedora culture at the London Stadium isn’t there.

7.48pm GMT

45+2 min Messi reminds us of his presence by, er, fouling Gutierrez. He looks thoroughly hacked off.

7.47pm GMT

45+2 “Surely if we’re talking about people who’ve gone out on top, Ash Barty’s a shoo-in?” writes Charan. “Winning a grand slam then retiring at the grand old age of 25 is probably the way to do it.”

7.46pm GMT

45+1 min There will be five minutes of added tension.

Updated at 7.46pm GMT

7.45pm GMT

45 min Vega curls a good free-kick over the wall, and Emi Martinez flies to his right to make a fairly majestic – and camera-friendly – two-handed catch.

Updated at 7.46pm GMT

7.44pm GMT

43 min The substitute Gutierrez is fouled 25 yards from goal by Montiel, who is booked. It was an absurd tackle, an agricultural hack to the shins when Gutierrez got to a loose ball first.

Updated at 7.44pm GMT

7.42pm GMT

41 min: Mexico substitution Ah, this is sad. Andreas Guardado, who has played in every World Cup since 2006, is going off injured. He’s replaced by Erick Gutierrez.

7.41pm GMT

41 min The corner is taken short to Di Maria, whose inswinging cross is headed wretchedly high and wide by Lautaro Martinez. He’d been penalised for a push, so it wouldn’t have counted, but it was a really poor header.

7.40pm GMT

40 min Montiel’s cross goes behind for a corner. Since you asked, Messi has done nothing, but really that applies to all the attacking players. Lozano has looked quite bright for Mexico; that’s about it.

7.40pm GMT

39 min “Regarding the 9th minute, really, who does go out on top?” says Travis Giblin. “I’ll nominate Zidane, but maybe that wasnt quite the definition of ‘the top’ that Nick Parmenter is looking for.”

It’s fascinatingly rare in all sports. Even utter geniuses like Don Bradman, Usain Bolt and Phil Taylor couldn’t manage it.

Zidane wins the David Chase award for best on-my-terms ending.

7.38pm GMT

37 min See 27 min, apart from the bit about the cross. It’s rubbish .

7.37pm GMT

36 min Lisandro Martinez goes down holding his face. This time, with good reason: Lozano accidentally booted him in the jaw. Teak-tough 5ft 9ins defender that he is, Martinez is fine to continue.

7.36pm GMT

34 min Messi swings it under the crossbar, where Ochoa punches the ball up in the air. He goes for the second ball, feels a bit of contact from a Martinez, don’t ask me which one, and goes down. It was probably a foul to be fair.

I’ve just realised that Ochoa is dressed like a Nathan Barley character.

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Totally Mexico. Photograph: Ronald Wittek/EPA

7.34pm GMT

33 min De Paul is fouled by Vega on the right wing, close to the corner flag. Messi wanders over to get involved…

7.32pm GMT

32 min I can’t wait to hear Roy Keane’s views on this at half-time. He’ll be reaching for the sh-word, and I don’t mean shithousery.

Updated at 7.33pm GMT

7.31pm GMT

31 min Nothing’s happening. It’s a great occasion let down only by the football.

7.31pm GMT

29 min “Just want to remind all Argentina fans that if Argentina draw this match, they will definitely meet the French in the last 16,” writes Anis Aslaam. “That’s assuming that they can defeat Poland first.”

Good point. Maybe, as Zafar wrote in the 23rd minute, it is 2018 all over again.

7.29pm GMT

28 min Messi heads miles over from Acuna’s cross, but it wouldn’t have counted as Acuna had already been penalised for plunging his studs into Alvarez’s leg. It was accidental, I think .

7.28pm GMT

28 min The player of the match so far is this little rascal.

7.27pm GMT

27 min Kevin Alvarez hoofs a cross straight out of play. In terms of quality and entertainment, this is muck. In terms of tension and importance, it’s exquisite.

7.26pm GMT

26 min “This,” says Alexandra Fullerton, “is like watching Costa Rica...”

CR7, as they’re now known.

Updated at 7.30pm GMT

7.25pm GMT

25 min After good play from Messi and De Paul (I think), Montiel’s first-time cross drifts out of play beyond the far post. He was offside anyway.

7.23pm GMT

23 min “Could it be that Argentina are simply not very good?” says Zafar. “This looks very much like the 2018 team.”

It could indeed, though I suppose the 2018 team didn’t go 35 games without defeat. They haven’t looked good so far, that’s for sure; their passing has been especially poor.

Updated at 7.23pm GMT

7.23pm GMT

22 min Araujo is booked for a lunge at Acuna. He got the ball but followed through, studs up, so it was a fair decision.

7.21pm GMT

21 min Mexico try a training-ground free-kick, but the final ball is too close to Emi Martinez.

7.20pm GMT

20 min The effervescent Lozano wriggles away from Otamendi and is fouled. Free-kick to Mexico, 30 yards from goal…

7.20pm GMT

19 min It’s tense. It was always going to be tense. Apart from the first 4-5 minutes, Argentina have struggled to keep the ball.

7.18pm GMT

18 min There’s some nascent shithousery, with a few players making the most of any contact. Guardado runs into Lautaro Martinez, shoulder-first, and goes down holding his head.

7.16pm GMT

16 min A terrible pass is nicked by Lozano just outside the area. He makes for goal and is well tackled by Otamendi.

7.15pm GMT

15 min Mexico look bright, especially in transition, with Vega and Lozano playing as split strikers rather than a conventional front pair.

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takes on the Argentine defence. Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

Updated at 7.23pm GMT

7.13pm GMT

12 min There’s a delicious intensity to this game, and Guardado and De Paul slide into an old-fashioned 50/50 with abundant relish. Both bounce straight to their feet, looking for the next one.

7.12pm GMT

11 min A reminder that (unless I’ve miscalculated), Argentina don’t have to win tonight. Their fate will still be in their own hands if they draw, but they would need to beat Poland by two goals on Wednesday to be certain of going through. I think.

7.10pm GMT

10 min Almost a chance for Mexico. An outswinging free-kick from the left is helped on and bounces past the man sliding in at the far post.

7.09pm GMT

9 min “It’s been vaguely discussed but what if Messi DOES go home early tonight?” says Nick Parmenter. “Always hoped him and Ronaldo wouldn’t go through the human phase of their career at the end, wanted them to retire at the very top like so few others do!”

Who do you think they are, Eric Cantona?

7.09pm GMT

9 min The corner is a hot mess.

7.08pm GMT

8 min Mexico are starting to settle into the game. Lozano makes a good run down the right and wins a corner off Lisandro Martinez.

7.07pm GMT

7 min “It’s refreshing to see that with Mac Allister in the starting XI, Argentina have Brighton-ed things up a little,” says Peter Oh.

7.07pm GMT

6 min I thought Montiel made the most of it but he was down for a fair while and is still feeling his jaw, so maybe I did him a disservice.

7.06pm GMT

5 min Vega breaks dangerously down the left, just past the halfway line, and holds off Montiel, who goes down holding his face. The referee gives a foul, and Argentina’s players ask for a card. It’s not forthcoming. It was a 50/50 decision, the foul that is, and Vega would have been clear in the inside-left channel.

7.04pm GMT

4 min A positive start from Argentina, who have had most of the possession in the early doors. The noise in the stadium is incredible.

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Angel di Maria recieves a hefty challenge from Kevin Alvarez. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Updated at 7.47pm GMT

7.03pm GMT

3 min “Has anyone actually ever seen Ochoa play for a club side?” says Matt Dony. “I’ve heard stories, there are Wikipedia entries, but I’m sure it’s all propaganda. He only plays for the national side, and almost all of his appearances are at the World Cup. He’ll definitely be there in 2026, and he’ll still be 37.”

He spent three years at Ajaccio, and you couldn’t make that up .

7.00pm GMT

1 min Peeeeeeeeeeeeep peeeeeeeeeeeeep! Mexico kick off from right to left as we watch.

Updated at 7.00pm GMT

6.59pm GMT

6.57pm GMT

Surely Argentina can’t go out of the World Cup inside the first week. We’re about to find out.

6.56pm GMT

Opinions are like foibles

6.55pm GMT

Here come the players . With profuse apologies to Qatar v Ecuador, this feels like the first huge occasion of the World Cup. The atmosphere is spec tac ular.

Updated at 6.57pm GMT

6.50pm GMT

A reminder of the teams

Argentina (possible 4-4-2) E Martinez; Montiel, Otamendi, Lisandro Martinez, Acuna; Di Maria, De Paul, Rodriguez, Mac Allister; Messi, Lisandro Lautaro Martinez.
Substitutes: Armani, Rulli, Foyth, Tagliafico, Paredes, Pezzella, Alvarez, Romero, Palacios, Correa, Almada, Gomez, Dybala, Fernandez, Molina.

Mexico (possible 5-3-2) Ochoa; K Alvarez, Araujo, Montes, Moreno, Gallardo; Herrera, Chavez, Guardado; Lozano, Vega.
Substitutes: Talavera, Cota, E Alvarez, Vasquez, Arteaga, Romo, Rodriguez, Jimenez, Funes Mori, Gutierrez, Pineda, Sanchez, Martin, Antuna, Alvarado

Referee Daniele Orsato (Italy)

6.49pm GMT

This happened earlier today . Doesn’t sound like too much damage was done, aside from the obvious.

Related: Fire breaks out in Qatar near Lusail’s World Cup stadium

6.45pm GMT

Two years ago yesterday, Diego Maradona died at the age of 60. Here’s a piece on the World Cup that gave us the greatest insight into his character: Italia 90.

6.34pm GMT

“Just take it easy, Lionel”

“I’m perfectly calm, Dude”

“Yeah, making five changes after one freak result?!”

“Calmer than you are”

“Will you just take it easy?”

“Calmer than you are”

Related: ‘We’re calm’: Argentina bruised but not broken before crunch Mexico test

6.21pm GMT

“Big fan of Lisandro Martinez (surely for Otamendi rather than Romero),” writes Stewart, “but asking him to play both 6 and 9 is asking a helluva lot.”

That was a mistake waiting to happen, and boy did I make it happen. I think Romero’s injured by the way, though he is also officially on the bench.

6.20pm GMT

The permutations

I’ve probably got at least one of these wrong, because my brain ain’t what it used to be, so here’s a pre-emptive mea culpa.

Argentina


If they win tonight
, a victory by any score against Poland on Wednesday night will put them through to the last 16. A draw might be enough.

If they draw tonight , they will need to beat Poland – possibly by two goals, depending on the result of Saudi Arabia v Mexico – to qualify.

If they lose tonight , they will be booked on flight DO 1 to Buenos Aires.

Mexico


If they win tonight
, a draw against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday would ensure a place in the last 16. They could go through with a defeat against Saudi Arabia if Argentina beat Poland, though it would depend on goal difference.

If they draw tonight , they will only qualify if they beat Saudi Arabia.

If they lose tonight , they need to win against Saudi Arabia and hope Poland beat Argentina. If Poland draw with Argentina, it’ll come down to goal difference.

6.20pm GMT

Group C latest

Earlier today, Poland beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 to move top of the group, and a 34-year-old man ticked something off his bucket list.

Related: Robert Lewandowski gets first World Cup goal as Poland beat Saudi Arabia

6.17pm GMT

History corner

The best part (okay, not the best part) is the dull thud when his left boot connects with the ball.

Related: World Cup 2022 briefing: what history tells us about Argentina v Mexico

6.00pm GMT

Team news: five changes for Argentina, no Alvarez for Mexico

Lionel Scaloni has decided to rip it up and start again, with five changes from the defeat to Saudi Arabia. Gonzalo Montiel, Lisandro Martinez, Marcos Acuna, Guido Rodriguez and Alexis Mac Allister replace Nahuel Molina, Cristian Romero, Nicolas Tagliafico, Leandro Paredes and Papu Gomez.

Mexico are without the Ajax midfielder Edson Alvarez, arguably their best player. I assume he’s injured, though he is officially listed among the substitutes. He’s replaced by the legendary Andres Guardado, who will win his 36th cap at the age of 179. Wait, hang on.

Guardado for Alvarez is one of three changes from the draw with Poland. Kevin Alvarez replaces Jorge Sanchez and Nestor Araujo is in for Henry Martin, which probably means a switch to 5-3-2. Raul Jimenez remains on the bench.

Argentina (possible 4-4-2) E Martinez; Montiel, Otamendi, Lisandro Martinez, Acuna; Di Maria, De Paul, Rodriguez, Mac Allister; Messi, Lisandro Lautaro Martinez.
Substitutes: Armani, Rulli, Foyth, Tagliafico, Paredes, Pezzella, Alvarez, Romero, Palacios, Correa, Almada, Gomez, Dybala, Fernandez, Molina.

Mexico (possible 5-3-2) Ochoa; K Alvarez, Araujo, Montes, Moreno, Gallardo; Herrera, Chavez, Guardado; Lozano, Vega.
Substitutes: Talavera, Cota, E Alvarez, Vasquez, Arteaga, Romo, Rodriguez, Jimenez, Funes Mori, Gutierrez, Pineda, Sanchez, Martin, Antuna, Alvarado

Referee Daniele Orsato (Italy)

Interactive

Updated at 6.43pm GMT

5.30pm GMT

Preamble

<Big Brother> Day seven, and Argentina are up for eviction.</Big Brother> Lionel Scaloni’s Messi’s side were supposed to cruise through Group C and begin their World Cup proper with a last-16 tie against Denmark and France. But their astounding, wallchart-busting defeat to Saudi Arabia on whatever day it was, there are no days of the week during the World Cup group stage means that, less than a week into the tournament, they are fighting for their metaphorical lives.

The situation is simple, just like in the old days: if Argentina lose to Mexico in Lusail tonight they will be out, and Messi will never score a goal in the knockout stages of a World Cup, never mind win the thing. Argentina have gone out at the first group stage on only three occasions: 1958, 1962 and, most famously/recently, 2002, when Marcelo Bielsa’s side were groupofdeathed by Sweden and England.

Tonight they could be eliminated by one of their own – Tata Martino, former coach of Argentina and Barcelona among others, is in charge of Mexico. Things aren’t quite as critical for his side. They won’t be out if they lose tonight, though they would need a big favour from Poland on Wednesday. Mexico, as any fule kno, are supposed to reach the last 16 and go no further; that’s what has happened in the last seven World Cups.

They started with a watchful but not especially watchable 0-0 draw against Poland, in which Robert Lewandowski’s penalty was saved by Guillermo Ochoa. Mexico’s big problem is goalscoring – they managed just 17 in 14 games during qualification, and they would sell their soul to have the old, pre-skull fracture Raul Jimenez back.

Kick off 7pm GMT, 10pm in Lusail, 4pm in Buenos Aires, 1pm in Mexico City.

Updated at 5.47pm GMT

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